Thursday, May 26, 2016

Russian Pressure Leading More North Caucasians to Fear War and Think about Independence, Shmulyevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – Moscow’s imperialist, centralist and assimilationist policies are leading ever more people in the North Caucasus to think about and even prepare for a new war there and to consider, many for the first time, that the only way they can secure their future is if they gain independence from Russia, according to Avraam Shmulyevich.

            The Israeli specialist on the region, after completing a recent visit to the Caucasus, told a Ukrainian news portal says that things are very much in flux in the North Caucasus because Moscow “has adopted the course to assimilation, russification, and the dissolution of the non-Russian peoples” (

            Moreover, he continues, Moscow is opposing “both the creation of elements of civil society and the development of modern national cultures,” it is overturning the federal principles of its constitution and transforming the country into “a unitary and Moscow-centric state” in which the non-Russians will truly be second-class citizens.

            But despite that, even in the North Caucasus, “so far no one except the Chechens supports independence,” the Israeli analyst says. But that is today. In the near future, “Moscow’s actions may lead all the peoples of the North Caucasus to the conclusion that their future also must be beyond the borders of the Russian Federation.”

            As of now, he says, “the national movements of the other peoples have more modest goals” of keeping their nations alive.  “The Circassians speak not about independence but about greater autonomy corresponding to the provisions of the Russian Constitution. [They] also seek their unification into a single [federal] subject,” rather than remaining in the four they are in n.

            According to Shmulyevich, “the elites in the Caucasus feel that Russia’s time is passing. Now, they are on the side of the Russian authorities, but they are in massive numbers buying property, in Moscow if they are wealthier and in Stavropol if they are poorer.” And the republic governments are preparing for war.

            “In Osetia,” he notes, “school children are being prepared in special military-sports camps. The Ingush are not lagging behind on this. In Chechnya, the republic has established its own army. [And] there is unconfirmed information that Kadyrov is preparing fortified regions” in the event that Russian forces move against him.

            The Circassians, he says, “are the only people which are not conducting military preparations,” although like the Crimean Tatars they are often not given any credit for their moderate position. Instead, they are denounced in the crudest terms by Russian propagandists and attacked by officials.

            There is a widespread sense across the region that there will be a war in the North Caucasus soon. “In Chechnya, they fear that this will be yet another Russian-Chechen war” given that “Putin is not able to do anything except fight. Thus, “it is completely possible that in the Caucasus will be created a front to distract attention from Ukraine and Syria.”

            At the same time, Shmulyevich continues, “there are many people in the Caucasus who know wht war is and want to avoid it, to solve all problems in a peaceful manner. There is a chance that good sense and the survival instinct of the Caucasians will triumph. They are ancient peoples who have lived together for a long time.”

            “But,” the Israeli analyst says, he very much “fears that Moscow in the case of its withdrawal will do everything to ignite the flames of inter-ethnic clashes,” including restarting those in Abkhazia, Osetia, and Karabakh.

            The Circassians find themselves in an especially difficult situation given that what they most want -- a single republic – clashes with Moscow’s desire to keep any large republic within Russia or within the former Soviet space from having access to the sea. The Kremlin knows that those with such access will drift away from  it; those without it will find that hard to do.

Fusion of Crime and Political Power was Also a Hallmark of Early Soviet Times, Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – Many people have bemoaned the fusion of the criminal world and the Russian state since the end of the Soviet Union, but a new study points out something that should not be forgotten: the coming together of the criminal and political worlds was a hallmark of the first years of Soviet power.

            In a heavily footnoted 5700-word article on the Russkaya liniya portal, historian Aleksey Teplyakov documents the explosive rise of crime at the end of the imperial period and the start of the Bolshevik one and the ways in which these two worlds fused together in the years after 1917 (

            Not only is it important to recognize this to counter those who, like Patriarch Kirill, are now saying that the Soviet system was “more Christian” than the West; but, Teplyakov says, “the complete ignoring of these lessons of the past made possible the new criminal revolution in the 1990s” with all the problems that has for Russia today.

            The historian cites the conclusion of investigator P.M. Zorin that “from the first years of October, there appeared a real danger of the splicing together of the interests of the criminal world and the law enforcement organs on the basis of total theft of formally socialized economics.”

            Other historians have shown that criminals were an important component of the Cheka and that “corruption ‘penetrated all levels of local power’” and formed a criminal arrangement that consisted in the mutual protection of ordinary criminals and officials in the Bolshevik party and the Soviet state.

            Teplyakov says that his research has “demonstrated the inevitability of a criminal revolution in period of the sharpest social dislocations and on the objective and subject causes of high levels of criminality in government structures (party-soviet, military and law enforcement) in order to explain the sympathies” of the Soviet state for the criminal world.

            It is common ground, he continues, that “during modernization of a traditional society, the level of criminality grows significantly.” Between 1900 and 1913 in Russia, property crimes doubled and crimes against people increased 2.5 times.”  That development could not but interact with the rise of revolutionary forces and then the combination of the two after the revolution.

            That was especially likely, Teplyakov says, because party officials adopted an amoral and completely utilitarian approach in their assessments of action. If something was good for the revolution, then it was not to be criticized, however much it violated established moral codes of behavior.

             “Massive red banditism,” he points out, was welcomed because it undermined the enemies of the Bolsheviks, but it meant that criminals found it easy to cooperate with, escape punishment from, and even penetrate the Red Army, the Cheka, the militia, the revolutionary committees, rural soviets, and communist party cells.

                Teplyakov offers dozens of examples of this, footnoted not only to the works of recent historians but also to contemporaries of these events.  Among his most intriguing observations is that the combination of criminality and state organs “manifested itself with particular force in the [non-Russian borderlands].”

            (“For the sake of objectivity,” he acknowledges, in those areas under control of anti-Bolshevik forces, “analogous processes of the criminalization of local power also occurred.”)

            The combination of the criminal and political worlds not only was “’the birthmark’” of the Bolshevik state, the historian says; it contributed to the continuing tendency of Soviet officials to view ordinary criminals as “socially close” when they were dealing harshly with political ones who were viewed as truly alien.

            Teplyakov’s words and the many examples of this he cites deserve to be attended to by those who believe that the explosion of criminality in Russia after 1991 was something new or that the fusion of the criminal world and the political one in that country then and afterwards is unprecedented.

Now that Nadya is Back, Some Worry Ukrainians Will Soon Forget Her and the West Forget Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – A day after Nadya Savchenko returned to a hero’s welcome in Ukraine and when many are predicting she will re-energize Ukrainian political life and even ultimately become president of that country, some are worrying that Ukrainians will soon forget her and that the West will forget Ukraine.

            Vladimir Putin may be counting on both, hoping that his decision to send her home, however unpopular it may be among many Russians now and however much attention she is receiving from Ukrainians and people around the world, will contribute to confusion in Kyiv and ever less willingness in the West to support Ukraine against his aggression.

            Either of these things would be a tragedy, but neither can be excluded given the short attention spans of people in both places. Instead, they can be blocked only by recognizing that they are real dangers and that Moscow and pro-Moscow groups in Russia, in Ukraine and in the West will do everything they can to promote them.

            Two articles on the Novy Region 2 portal today thus provide a necessary warning of what may happen after the celebrations die down, as well as an important part of the explanation as to why Putin released the Ukrainian pilot now.

            In the first, journalist Viktoriya Matviyenko cites the words of Russian military commentator Arkady Babchenko that the Ukrainians love to elevate someone to the status of hero and then overthrow them (

            There will be “weeks of euphoria,” and then quietly and in an almost unnoticed fashion, “a process of de-hero-ization” in which this or that politician or journalist will complain about this or that word spoken by Savchenko or action taken by her and in which Ukrainians will simply turn away and focus on other issues.

            Matviyenko also cites the argument of Ukrainian political analyst Aleksey Golobutsy that Savchenko’s return was critically important for Ukraine and now the most important task is that she “remain a moral authority for all of Ukraine,” rather than being drawn into the political fray and inevitably reduced to a politician like any other.

            In the second article, Ukrainian commentator Oleg Shro suggests that the return of Savchenko will only accelerate the turning away of the United States from Ukraine, something Moscow has long sought and that would give Putin a victory that he certainly does not deserve (

            Indeed, he argues, her return may be a turning point or at the very least a warning bell for Ukrainians.  “There is the opinion that the US State Department was involved in the pardoning of Nadezhda Savchenko, and it is not excluded that John Kerry and Victoria Nuland used their influence on Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

            In that event, Shro says, “it is completely real that Russia by this action engaged in a kind of bargaining to extinguish its [current] sharp conflict with the EU and the US” which involves sanctions.  These aren’t going to be lifted immediately, he continues, “but the sharpness of the conflict will be extinguished and the Russian-Ukrainian war frozen.”

            The reasons for this are obvious, he continues. The US “is not ready for decisive and tough actions toward Russia,” and many in Washington believe that it should cede the Ukrainian problem to Europe and “distance itself from all European problems focusing instead on its domestic problems” given that Ukraine has not reformed as much as Washington wanted.

            Moreover, Shro says, the US has other geopolitical problems, including ISIS, the future of the EU if Britain votes to leave that bloc, as well as ethnic and religious problems within Europe.  In this situation, he argues, “freezing” the Russia-Ukraine conflict and thus putting it on the back burner looks like a good choice.

            And all this is complicated by the US presidential elections. President Barack Obama hasn’t been prepared to take decisive actions against Russian aggression, Shro says, but it is far from clear whether his successor will change that vector or perhaps decide to “sacrifice” Ukraine in order to restart relations with Moscow.

            In that event, Shro says, Ukraine will be cast in the role of “’a swamp for Russian tanks’” while NATO builds up its “’Eastern Wall’ in the Baltic countries, Poland and Romania,” an arrangement that would leave Ukraine in a dangerous position.Of course, he concludes, “support for Ukraine won’t stop, but its role will be as a ‘gray zone’ buffer between NATO and Russia.”