Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Despite His Suspicions about the Internet, Putin may Soon Begin to Tweet, Gontmakher Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – Vladimir Putin is deeply suspicious of the Internet, viewing it as a source of “disinformation and manipulation,” Ekho Moskvy editor Aleksey Venediktov  says ((echo.msk.ru/blog/pressa_echo/1985746-echo/). But he is also a very clever politician who recognizes that there are some things he must adapt himself to, Yevgeny Gontmakher observes.

            The Internet is one of those things, the sociologist insists in an interview with Roza Tsvetkova of Nezavisimaya gazeta today, and thus the Kremlin leader is likely to make use of it in various ways, including Youtube interviews and Tweets, in the future – and possibly sooner than anyone now thinks (ng.ru/ng_politics/2017-05-23/9_6993_twitter.html).

            Before the electronic age, the sociologist begins, a politician’s success depended on his ability to use oratory and the print media to reach and mobilize voters. After television appeared, he or she had to learn how to use it. “Now there is the Internet,” something no longer “exotic” even in Russia, “a Rubicon has been crossed,” and political leaders must adapt to it.

            “For the new generation of Russian politicians,” Gontmakher says, “the Internet is the only variant available to promote himself … A Politicians must be able to interact with people via the Internet, to get their reactions back.” Up to now, however, the number of leaders who can do that can “be counted on one’s fingers.”

            Gontmakher says that he “does not exclude that in the nearest future, not in these presidential elections but for example in the next parliamentary ones, television debates, which no longer interest anyone, will be shifted to the Internet, online,” where people will be able to react and far more will watch.

            He says that he does not exclude that “in the Internet will be presented some exclusive materials with Putin, perhaps in the form of the Youtube.”  Putin is “carefully studying the experience of the American elections,” and so are other (e.g., ng.ru/ng_politics/2017-05-23/9_6993_party.html), as are leaders of the LDPR and the KPRF.

            The Internet is one of those irreversible forces, one that has profound consequences for both society and the powers that be.  It helps promote the former because “social networks are the most horizontal links, the most civic society.” But for that reason, the powers that be as a vertical find themselves “in a certain sense” at odds with this.

            Some among the powers may want to ban it, but doing so in Russia, with its millions of users, would provoke a crisis, Gontmakher says.  And thus they must adapt because “to go against the flow would be deeply counter-productive.”  And that process of adaptation will only accelerate.

            Why isn’t Putin on Twitter now? the sociologist asks rhetorically. The reason likely is that Putin, Medvedev, the ministers and the head of the Presidential Administration are politicians. And for them, the time when as they though politics was only in the offices of those at the top … is already passing – and doing so irreversibly!”

Moscow Patriarchate has More Parishes in Ukraine than Its Kyiv Counterpart but Fewer Followers



Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church routinely says that it has more parishes in Ukraine than does the Kyiv Patriarchate, a statement that it true but that ignores the fact that it has far fewer followers and parishioners than does the Ukrainian church.

            Archhbishop Yevstraty Zoyra, the secretary of the Holy Synod of the Kyiv Patriarchate, points out to Russian specialist on religion Roman Popkov that there is “a lack of correspondence between the number of registered communities of the two patriarchates and the real quantity of [their] supporters” (openrussia.org/notes/709710/).

            For historical reasons, there are “more than 10,000 communities” registered with the state as subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate,” the churchman says, while the number of communities attached to the Kyiv Patriarchate are only about half as many. But those statistics don’t tell the real story.

            “Invoking these statistics,” Archbishop Yevstraty says, “the Moscow Patriarchate asserts that it is ‘the largest church in Ukraine.’”  But that is “in part untrue.”  It is the case that there are 10,000 “registered” parishes but “a certain part of these communities exist only on paper and are ‘dead souls.’” 

            The parishes loyal to the Kyiv Patriarchate are more active and larger than the Moscow ones, he continues, a reflection of the fact that Ukrainians identify with the former rather than the latter according to sociological surveys. A recent study found only 17 percent of Ukrainian believers identify with the Moscow Patriarchate while 46 percent do so as part of the Kyiv one (pewforum.org/2017/05/10/religious-belief-and-national-belonging-in-central-and-eastern-europe/).

                Thus, the archbishop says, “when those in the Moscow Patriarchate declare that they supposedly are the largest confession [in Ukraine], this isn’t true.” They have the most parishes but “by the number of believers,” they are “at a minimum two or even two and a half times smaller confession than that of the Kyiv Patriarchate.”

            It is also the case that many Ukrainians in parishes registered with the state as part of the Moscow Patriarchate would change their affiliation if given the chance and that the Ukrainian government is being entirely reasonable in creating legal means for their making such changes given the Moscow Patriarchate’s opposition to any change without its sanction.

            (For a discussion of these draft laws and their implications, see  windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/05/new-ukrainian-legislation-about.html.)

            The Kyiv Patriarchate has called on the Moscow Patriarchate to take part in dialogue on how to resolve these problems.  But the Moscow church doesn’t want to because it insists that “we have no problems” and therefore have nothing to discuss, the archbishop says.  And it has launched a virulent propaganda campaign against the Ukrainian church.

            “But in fact,” Yevstraty says, “there is a conflict within the Moscow Patriarchate between those who want to remain in [it] (typically a minority) and those who want to go over to the jurisdiction of the Kyiv Patriarchate.” If a majority in the Moscow parishes wants to remain, he continues, there will be no conflict: the minority who wants to leave will simply have to do so.”

            “A conflict will arise inside the communities of the Moscow Patriarchate” only when a majority wants to shift to the Kyiv Patriarchate and a minority does not.  “The Moscow Patriarchate does not want to resolve this issue in any ways,” the Ukrainian churchman suggests.

            “From my point of view,” Yevstraty concludes, “the Moscow Patriarchate is using this objective reality in order to generate within itself a sense of a besieged fortress. There is such a psychological technology which is used in those structures certain religious specialists call sects: enemies are all around and thus their members must form up ever closer to a single center.”

Long Haul Drivers Converged on Russian Capital from Five Regions Last Weekend



Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – Long haul truck drivers from Daghestan, Ryazan, Saratov, Orenburg and St. Petersburg converged on Moscow over the weekend only to be blocked near the Russian capital by the police and OMON forces, charged with failing to obey traffic officers and fined or remanded to the courts.

            Because the central government-controlled media have not covered this latest labor action, details are only coming to the surface now; but such reports show that Moscow’s claims that the strike has exhausted itself, is over and that there is no need for negotiations are baseless (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/303106/).

            The drivers had come to Moscow in order to support their union representatives who were scheduled to have a meeting with transportation ministry officials under the auspices of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society, but at the last minute as before, the transportation ministry refused to take part.

            The Council’s working group on the strike issued a declaration saying that the large size of the truckers’ strike and “the general worsening” of economic conditions in the industry are “the result of insufficiently thought-through measures carried out by the government and branch agencies.” 

            The group called for holding “in the immediate future,” a special session of the Council on the problems surrounding the resolution of the conflict” between the drivers and the government.  The transportation ministry has not yet reacted to this call, but it seems unlikely that it will agree to take part.

            Indeed, in the past 24 hours, there has been a general hardening of the government’s position against the drivers, with some media outlets seeking to blame the truckers for the absence of repairs to the roads (1istochnik.ru/news/33516) and others suggesting that the West opposes the drivers (gosnovosti.com/2017/05/европарламент-уничтожает-дальнобойщ/).