Thursday, April 17, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Why Did Ethnic Russians Not Become Volksrussen Before This? Moscow Commentator Asks

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 17 – Many analysts expected in the early 1990s would become a major problem for the region, much as the Volksdeutsch did in Central Europe in the 1930s, a Moscow commentator says, but they failed to recognize that up to now, the Russian Federation did not become a nation state and did not appeal to ethnic Russians as such.

            Instead, Aleksandr Khramov writes in “Svobodnaya pressa” today, Moscow pursued a course intended to make friends with the newly independent states and to avoid defending the ethnic Russian communities there lest it provoke the non-Russian governments into opposing the Russian Federation (

            But now, having concluded that Russians and non-Russians “will never be brothers,” Moscow under Vladimir Putin is taking steps to defend ethnic Russians beyond its borders, confident that “Russia no longer has any allies on the post-Soviet space except the [ethnic] Russian people.”

            Indeed, he argues, it is now possible to update the tsarist observation and say that “Russia has no other allies except the army, fleet and ethnic Russian communities abroad.” And if Moscow is prepared to recognize that – and some will find that a bitter lesson – then the Russian government will have to pursue a fundamentally different foreign policy.

            “Why” despite the expectations of many analysts in Moscow and the West “were Russian speakers” in the former Soviet republics “not transformed into Volksrussen” Khramov begins by asking. And then he suggests the reason lies in unwillingness and inability of Russia to become a nation state out of the misplaced hope that it could  reassemble something like the Soviet Union.

            For 20 years, he continues, “the Kremlin consciously ignored the [ethnic] Russians in the post-Soviet space in the name of its own imperial ambitious. But now everything has changed, and the genie has been let out of the bottle.”

            Although not everyone is prepared to admit it, “the Crimea and the Donbass have buried the neo-Soviet integration project finally and irretrievably.” Ukraine will never join the Customs Union now, and Kazakhstan is unlikely to be willing to stay in it given Vladimir Putin’s comments about “the divided Russian people” and the four million ethnic Russians in the north of Kazakhstan.

            Already now, Khramov says, “Russia will never be able to convince its former allies about its fraternal intentions given that their territories could become the goal of the net Anschluss.”  That concerns in the first instance Belarus and Kazakhstan, Khramov says, but not just them.

            The Kremlin isn’t going to acknowledge “this bitter truth” soon. Instead, it will continue to feed its own imperial ambitions.  But “whether Putin wants to or not” – and Khramov says he suspects that the Kremlin leader doesn’t – he will be viewed on the territory of the former Soviet space in the first instance as the defender of the ethnic Russian Volksdeutsch.”

However Putin feels, however, “the mirage” of the restoration of the Soviet Union has now dispersed.  What must happen, Khramov argues, is the creation of a new country like the one Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described in 1990, a country that would include only that which could be called Rus.

Such a country would include what is now the Russian Federation, Belarus and most of Ukraine and also the islands of ethnic Russian communities elsewhere.  Indeed, Khramov says that Moscow should copy the approach of Greece, which sought to control Greek communities off the mainland but not the territories which had other ethnic groups on them.

That policy was called “enosis,” and Khramov says it can show Russia the way forward. Promoting its unity, he says, doesn’t require tanks. It requires soft power and support. Moscow must come forward and help organize these communities so that they will look to Russia and not to anyone else in the future.

At present, he continues, Moscow isn’t doing this, citing the comments of one Russian activist in Mariupol that “the weakness of [ethnic] Russians is that [the Americans and the West] have financed pro-Western NGOs but no one has financed pro-Russian ones” (

Moscow still has time “to correct the situation,” but changing its foreign policy alone won’t be enough.  It needs to transform the Russian Federation into a Russian nation state.  Unless it does so, “Russian speakers [abroad] instead of being transformed into Russian Volksdeutsch, will become good Kazakhs ( with somewhat larger eyes), Latvians or Ukrainians, as has already happened with many of them.”

In short, Khramov concludes, “in order to return Russian lands to Russia, one must first of all return Russia to the Russians,” a tall order given that the non-Russian nations within the borders of the Russian Federation form an increasing share of the population of that country and will not meekly accept the diminution of their status such a change would require.

Window on Eurasia: Russian Separatists in Donetsk Reportedly Order Jews to Register or Face Expulsion

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 17 – Ukraine’s Donbass news agency is reporting that three masked men in clothes unmarked except for Russian Federation flags distributed on Tuesday broadsides outside the Donetsk synagogue ordering Jews to register or face forcible expulsion and the confiscation of property (

                It is, of course, possible that this is a provocation – it is virtually certain that Russian officials will describe it as such and for evidence that is at least a fake, see – but the content of the flier, a photocopy of which is included in the report, is extremely disturbing, especially if it reflects the views of the Moscow-backed insurgents and their intentions.

            An informal translation of the text follows.

Respected citizens of Jewish nationality!  Given that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine support the Banderite junta in Kyiv and are hostile to the Orthodox Donetsk Republic and its citizens, the Main Staff of the Donetsk Republic orders the following:

All citizens of Jewish nationality over the age of 16 who live on the territory of the sovereign Donetsk Reublc must before May 3, 2014, appear before the Donetsk Republic commissar for nationality affairs in Room 514 of the government’s offices.  The cost of registration is 50 US dollars.

In addition to the sum of 50 US dollars, those registering must bring their passports so that their religious affiliation can be entered, documents about the members of their families, and also notarized documents about all the real estate and means of transportation you own.

Those who refuse to register will be deprived of citizenship and forcibly expelled from the republic and their property will be confiscated.

Window on Eurasia: Immigrants Will Form Half of Russian Federation’s Population in 2050, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 17 – If current trends continue, half of the population of the Russian Federation in its current borders will consist of immigrants, according to a new Moscow study, a conclusion clearly intended to feed anti-immigrant feelings and, more speculatively, designed to promote a discussion of what can and should be done, including the changing of those borders.

            If half of the country’s population in 2050 does in fact consist of migrants, that country will have a Muslim majority, given the share of indigenous Muslim peoples already there.  On the one hand, that is a frightening prospect for many Orthodox Russians.  But on the other, especially in the current climate, it has more immediate foreign policy consequences.

            Were Moscow to annex the two Slavic republics, Ukraine and Belarus, the Russian Federation would retain a non-Muslim majority for far longer, but were it to absorb countries in the Caucasus or Central Asia as part of some restored empire, it would become a Muslim-majority state far sooner.

            The Moscow Institute of National Strategy, Vitaly Soletsky reports in yesterday’s “Novyye izvestiya,” has prepared a report which concludes that if current demographic trends continue, migrants and not indigenous nations, including the ethnic Russians, will form half of the population of the country (

            According to the authors of the report, the number of immigrants in Russia is approaching 30 million, an estimate given that various official sources give widely disparate numbers. But one thing on which all agree is that the ethnic composition of this group has changed from the 1990s.

            In the first decade after the disintegration of the USSR, most of the migrants were ethnic Russians or other Slavs.  Now, they are overwhelmingly Central Asians or people from the Southern Caucasus, groups which have lower levels of Russian language knowledge and which are more culturally distinct and, in the view of many, less adaptable to Russian conditions.

            Igor Beloborodov, one of the authors of the new study, says that it is entirely possible to predict that “by 2050, not less than half of the population of Russia will consist of immigrants,” given relatively low fertility rates among ethnic Russians and other nations indigenous to the Russian Federation. At a minimum, he adds, that will lead to more ethnic conflicts.
            Russian government officials recognize that the country will need more workers given low domestic fertility, Beloborodov says, but they believe that they can maintain the necessary size of the labor force by attracting ever more immigrants. Indeed, that is a provision of the government’s current concept paper on migration issues out to 2025.

            Igor Bogdanov, the director of the Center for the Sociology of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Social-Political Research, agrees with Beloborodov’s conclusions.  And he calls for Moscow to focus in particular on the influx of Chinese into Siberia and the Far East, of Caucasians and Central Asians in central Russia, and radical Muslims into the Middle Volga.

            The Academy of Sciences scholar says the Russian government could solve the problem by using laws already on the books, but it has chosen not to do so because of the current difficult economic situation. If migration were to be restricted, that would further depress production in a number of industries.

            “The recent inclusion of Crimea into the Russian Federation in one instant increased the population of the country by more than two million,” the “Novyye izvestiya” journalist notes. But the authors of the report say that this did not improve the country’s demographic situation, despite the hopes of some.

The possibility that border changes might have that effect, however, has been suggested by some of the leaders of Russia’s Muslim community. They note that the annexation of Crimea added at least 300,000 Muslims to the Russian umma. But because the percentage of Muslims in Ukraine’s Crimea was smaller than that of Muslims already in Russia, their share of the Russian population has in fact declined slightly (

Window on Eurasia: Putin Family Values

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 17 – Given the Kremlin’s promotion of traditional family values and Russian interest in all things Putin, a distant relative of the Kremlin leader has put out a second edition of his genealogy of the family, the presentation of which in Moscow this week speaks volumes about Vladimir Putin’s real family values.

            Reporting on, Vladimir Shvedov notes that in 2002, Aleksandr Putin put out in a small print run a volume about the Putin family tree, a book that called attention to the fact that there are “according to various assessments, only two or three thousand Putins” in Russia (

            Now, Aleksandr Putin, a businessman and distant cousin of the Russian president, has reissued it in a glossy and high-priced format – 1500 rubles (45 US dollars) even with a discount – in the hopes of exploiting popular interest in Putin the president and in his family.  And this week, Aleksandr, not Vladimir, presented it at the Biblio-Globus trade center in Moscow.

            With a cover showing the Kremlin, the Russian tri-color and the countryside, the book promises, Shvedov says, to trace “the history of the family of V.V. Putin, the president of the Russian Federation” on the basis of archives and family sources.  The editors include “an impressive list of doctors of science.”

            But despite that, the journalist says, there were many empty seats at the presentation and apparently little demand for the purchase of the book. He read it, the reporter continued, because one of the sales clerks allowed him to leaf through the volume without having made a purchase.

            Some of Shvedov’s discoveries are instructive.  According to the book, he says, extended families “are gradually returning to the consciousness of our much-suffering people,” because in Russia as “in any country, “the greatness of the nation and the state is built upon the ancient foundation of the old families.”

            Filled with pictures and family trees, the book also shows where various Putins live: they are to be found “most of all” in Astrakhan oblast, in Kamchatka and in Magadan, the latter two places of course being the location of some of the largest and most infamous GULAG camps in Stalin’s time.

            Moreover, the book traces the name of Putin to a Russian saying which Shvedov freely translates as meaning that “the most extreme measures” have to be taken against outsiders “if the population does not accept their views.”

            Forty minutes late, the author Aleksandr Putin finally showed up. “A smiling gray-haired man in no way like the president,” this Putin thanked those who came and distributed copies of the “Slovo” newspaper for the audience to read.  In them, he tells the story of how and why he came to write the book.

            In Shvedov’s words, “the author on the whole was neutral and almost ironic.”  In Aleksandr Putin’s words, “Putin is someone with a peasant character’” who is engaged in the titanic work of “correcting an historic injustice” by restoring the country torn apart in 1991.  If he succeeds, Aleksandr Putin said, he will be remembered as “an in-gather of the Russian land,” like Ivan Kalita or Joseph Stalin.”

            The journalist also notes that the “Slovo” newspaper also featured articles with headlines like “The Enemies of Putin are the Enemies of Society.”

            According to Aleksandr Putin, Vladimir Putin at one time “looked at” the book and gave his approval, although Aleksandr admitted he hadn’t met Vladimir for some time.  But Aleksandr said that he hoped that what he had done would help his distant relative with his enormous tasks as well as help others understand the importance of family values.

            The problems with the presentation began when Aleksandr Putin opened the floor for questions. One historian asked a critical one about sources and was encouraged to leave by a staffer who said “we didn’t invite you. You appeared here and are now giving some kind of critical comments.”  The historian left without protest.

            The historian was followed a someone in a costume who began talking about “the difficult situation with Ukraine.  He denounced the slogans of the Maidan and was applauded. He then said, “We are Russians and we are accustomed to discuss and criticize our rulers, and therefore it is wonderful if there is support and an objective work by authoritative people, and he was applauded again.

            Eventually, the master of ceremonies announced that Aleksandr Putin was tired and wouldn’t take any more questions, but “all those who wanted to could come up and get his autograph.”  Some in the audience who were members of the Biblio-Globus Club that had sponsored the event did so.  Others didn’t bother.