Thursday, July 31, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Hague YUKOS Decision Less About Money than Principle, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 31 – Many have been transfixed by the size of the 50 billion US dollar judgment by the international court in the Hague against Moscow in the YUKOS case, but the real threat to Russia lies not from that vast sum but rather in the principle that the international court has articulated, according to Vladimir Pastukhov.


             In a commentary published by “Novaya gazeta,” the St. Antony’s scholar argues that one needs to look beyond the number and recognize that even if it were only one dollar, “the historic significance of this decision would be no less and perhaps would be even greater” (


            The decision of the Hague court represents, he continues, “a doctrinal breakthrough,” one that reflects a triumph of the liberal legal doctrine that Moscow partially accepted two decades ago but has since moved away from, retreating toward the formalist principles on the basis of which the Soviet state.


            The liberal position holds that a law must be legal, that is, it must be part of a general quest for justice and that its application is possible only if this broader context is taken into consideration.  The formalist position holds that the text of any law must be enforced regardless of this context.


            That somewhat abstract difference, Pastukhov continues, has enormous practical consequences.  The formalist position was the basis of Stalin’s Great Terror. Regardless of why charges were being brought or how a law was being used, if an individual was judged to have violated a particular law’s provisions, he was guilty.


            The liberal position, in contrast, argues that the political use of a law can be the basis for deciding that its provisions should not be applied in a particular case because that case would not be in that case “legal” but rather “political.” 


            Until the YUKOS decision, the Russian government has been successful in defending itself in cases where it is involved by insisting on the letter of the law and rejecting any consideration of the context in which it has been applied.  Now, the Hague court has rejected that position, something that opens up “a Pandora’s box” of problems for Russia, Pastukhov says.


            Moscow had defended itself against suits like the YUKOS one by arguing that the firm had not paid taxes and that any other issue was irrelevant. Even when it acknowledged that there were “numerous procedural violations,” the Russian government successfully returned to its point that the law had been violated because the taxes had not been paid.


             The Hague arbitration court in this case, however, “did not limit itself to a formal consideration of the facts but viewed them in a broad legal context and as a result came to opposite conclusions” to the ones it would have reached if it had continued to accept Moscow’s formalist approach.


            That makes the current decision “important not just in and of itself,” Pastukhov argues. Rather, it has “enormous importance as precedent” and changes the legal framework under which Europe will consider Russian legal practice and thus Russia as a whole. And that “will have consequences for Russia much more serious than the loss of 50 billion dollars.”


            At least “potentially,” Pastukhov says, “this is a much more rapid path to the organization of the complete isolation of Russia than even sectoral or other sanctions” because it means that in any case involving Russia, “issues of legality will be considered not formally but in terms of context and with an account of the legal correctness of the goals pursued by the sides.”


Window on Eurasia: After Ukraine, Moscow’s Closest Allies Refusing to Follow Kremlin Line

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 19 – The two countries Moscow views as its closest partners, Belarus and Kazakhstan, have refused to join its sanctions campaign against Moldova, another indication, the editors of “Nezavisimaya gazeta” say today, that as a result of its recent actions, “Moscow is losing its allies.”


            And that in turn suggests two things, the editors say. On the one hand, it calls into question Moscow’s brave talk about the real existence of a customs union among the three. And on the other, it means that Moscow needs to review and revise its policies toward neighboring countries lest it continue to drive them away (


            Chisinau officials say that they are very pleased by the decisions of Mensk and Astana not to join the sanctions against Moldova Moscow has announced, the paper says. They note that when Moscow imposed a wine embargo against Moldova in 2006, Belarus ignored it and purchased Moldovan wine on a bilateral basis.


            But today, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” points out, “the situation is different.” Supposedly, since 2010, there is a Customs Union, of which Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are members, and its decisions are supposedly taken by consensus. But on Moldova, there is no consensus; and that casts doubt on claims that the Customs Union “exists.”


            The present case, the paper continues, “is not unique.” In April, Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka proposed delaying the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union for ten years because the potential members were not “ready.”  And Astana has been concerned that the absence of Ukraine and Moldova in such an organization reduces its value to Kazakhstan.


            With Ukraine and Moldova now oriented toward Europe, the editors say, “the integration unions on the post-Soviet space in which Russia is participating either have already collapsed or are at the edge of that.” The CIS is in particular trouble. Georgia has left. Now Ukraine is doing so. And Moldova has declared its intention to head to the exits.


            But now, as the positions of Belarus and Kazakhstan show, the Customs Union is in trouble as well. And the paper notes that “not one of them supported Moscow when the European Union and the United States introduced sanctions against the Russian Federation.” As a result, Moscow’s plans for a Eurasian Economic Union are unlikely to go forward.


            This represents a major defeat for Putin. As “Nezavisimaya gazeta” notes, “in nine of the ten” messages of the Kremlin leader to the Federal Assembly, he has declared that increasing cooperation among and integration with the post-Soviet states is “a priority of the foreign policy of the country.”

            Despite these repeated declarations, the CIS is “gradually falling apart,” and any “illusions” about that have been finally dispelled after what has been happening in Ukraine.  Given that, Moscow needs to review its policies toward the region if it is to have any chance of reversing this decline.


            “Without that,” the paper concludes, “Russia risks remaining a pariah on the territory which it has traditionally considered a zone of its influence.”




Window on Eurasia: Moscow Using Refugees from Ukraine to Shift Ethnic Balance in Non-Russian Republics, Bashkir Historian Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 31 – Moscow is directing predominantly ethnic Russian refugees from the fighting in southeastern Ukraine into non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation in a transparent effort to change the ethnic balance in those republics and further Russianize them, according to Marat Kulsharipov, a historian at Bashkortostan State University.


            In an interview to RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service, Kulsharipov said that those who are fleeing from Eastern Ukraine “are not sent to Rostov, Kursk Belgorod or other [predominantly] Russian regions [which are close to Ukraine] but to Bashkortostan, which is thousands of kilometers away” (


            Some of them, he continued, “are being accommodated in the summer camps” of local universities. Others are “being sent to different towns all over Bashkortostan, a Muslim Turkic republic in the Middle Volga.  That inevitably raises the question as to “why so many of them have been sent to [the non-Russian republics] rather than distributed equally throughout Russia.”


            In his judgment, Kulsharipov said, what is being done reflects a decision by Moscow to “change the ethnic mix” in the non-Russian republics, boosting the number of ethnic Russians and thus reducing the share of the titular nationalities. That is clearly part of a broader Moscow strategy to create a single “Russian” nation.


            There is another aspect to this Moscow-arranged flow: it has created unfunded mandates and sparked new ethnic tensions in the republics, the historian said.  “The refugees get money from the republic budget, and they get housing and jobs.” But “they’ll never take a hard and low-paying job.  People who live here are insulted by that.”


            The reason for the feelings of the Bashkirs, he said, is “that this is being done [by Moscow] on purpose. If the refugees were being sent to other regions as well, [they] wouldn’t be so frustrated.”  The Bashkirs are angry because they view this policy as “targeting the non-Russians.” The republic president probably understands this but “can’t say anything.”


            RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service reports that Bashkortostan is slated to receive up to 5,000 Russian refugees from Ukraine, a number that is not huge but one that can tip the ethnic balance were the share of the population of various nationalities is relatively evenly balanced as in many parts of that Middle Volga republic and to a certain extent for Bashkortostan as a whole.


                The policy Kulsharipov points to represents a continuation of Soviet practice.  When members of ethnic groups have returned from abroad, they were often settled not where they wanted but where Moscow thought this would do the most good for its policies of maintaining control.


            The most notorious of such Soviet actions, of course, was Moscow’s decision to settle Armenians returning from abroad after World War II in parts of the Armenian SSR and then invoking their need for space as the basis for expelling Azerbaijanis from the region, an action that still rankles in the southern Caucasus.


            But there is an equally clear case, albeit a negative one, of such policies elsewhere in post-Soviet Russia. Moscow has sought to block the return of Circassians to their historical homeland in the North Caucasus lest that shift the ethnic balance against the Russians and undermine central control of that restive region.

Window on Eurasia: Russian Census in Crimea to Be Detailed But Unlikely to Be Accurate

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 31 – The census in Crimea that the Russian occupation authorities plan to conduct in October will be extremely detailed but may not be accurate because Moscow experts have already indicated that they believe that there are far more Russians in Crimea and far fewer Crimean Tatars than have been counted hitherto.


            Such suggestions, made most prominently by Academician Valery Tishkov, a former Russian Federation nationalities minister and director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, almost certainly will be treated by Crimean officials as a mandate to come back with figures showing precisely that.


            And those Crimean officials will be able to do so because the census they plan will be based as most censuses are not on documents but rather on declarations and these declarations, which may be extremely varied, will be grouped by those who process the census information according to their own rules.


            Moreover, it seems very likely that just as many Russian speakers in Ukraine shifted their declared national identity from Russian to Ukrainian after the Soviet Union disintegrated, many of this group will now reverse themselves in Crimea, believing that the annexation will be permanent and that declaring oneself a Russian in that case is more beneficial.


            Krymstat, the Russian occupation authority’s statistical body, announced this week that the census it plans to conduct in October will include 33 questions, including date and place of birth, citizenship, ethnic origin, migration, sources of income, marital status, and residence (


            The statistical agency said that census takers will not require documentary confirmation for any of the declarations, that it will include foreigners resident in Crimea (although it did not indicate how they would be counted or grouped), and that it will focus in particular on those from abroad who have come to Crimea to work or study.


            Each of these elements introduces additional possibilities for falsification and obtaining the results that the Russian authorities want.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Window on Eurasia: What a Nationalist Movement Looks Like in Russia Where Elections are Still Allowed

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 30 – Vladimir Putin has eliminated elections at the regional levels at least in part to ensure that nationalist parties do not have the opportunity to challenge his hand-picked party of power officials. But some nationalist groups are using elections at the city level to advance their cause.


            In Karelia, Yekaterina Yemelyanova and Ilya Vereshchagin, two candidates of the Republic Movement of Karelia running for the city parliament in Petrazovodsk, have issued their election program, one that combines concerns typical of such local elections with broader issues as well (


            The majority of the planks are typical “good government” programs: a call for a greener and cleaner city, better road repairs, more transparent city planning, elimination of traffic jams, a better port and yachting harbor, increased security on trains and trucks carrying dangerous cargo through the city, and more assistance to young people, pensioners, and invalids.


But two of the planks have what some might view as a “national” or even “nationalist” dimension: preservation of the city’s historical center by excluding commercial development there and “broadening of international ties both by sister city programs and via municipal organizations from other countries.”


By including these planks in the campaign of its candidates to a city council, the Republic Movement of Karelia which seeks greater autonomy from Moscow is remaining true to its core principles albeit with the restrictions that Putin’s regime has imposed. And it is thus laying the groundwork for a more ambitious promotion of its ideas when that becomes possible.


Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Orthodox Churches Deserted While Its Streets are Filled with Muslims

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 30 – This year, the Russian Orthodox Day of the Baptism of Rus coincided with Muslim holiday of Uraza Bayram. On Monday, in what many will see as symbolic, Moscow’s churches, with the exception of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, were largely empty, while the streets around the capital’s five mosques were filled with Muslims.


            In a commentary for the religious affairs site,, Feliks Shvedovsky says that this picture “would be funny if it were not so sad” and if it were not the case that this is “nothing new but on the contrary typical” of the situation in the Russian capital, all the talk about the return of Orthodox notwithstanding (


            The Union of Muftis of Russia has been emboldened by this to renew its request that the Moscow authorities reverse themselves and allow the construction of at least one mosque in each of the ten administrative divisions of the city, something Mayor Sobyanin has said he will not do because of the reaction of Muscovites.


            At the same time, of course, Sobyanin has gone alone with the Russian Orthodox Church’s plans to build 200 new churches in the Russian capital, even though there have been at least as many protests about what such construction projects will do to parks, neighborhoods and traffic patterns as there have been about the possible building of mosques.


            But, feeling themselves increasingly numerous and thus strong, Shvedovsky says, many Muslims in Moscow are now joking at least among themselves about “the fate of numerous Orthodox churches in Constantinople, which is now called Istanbul,” after the Muslims took over that city and made it the capital of the caliphate …


            Unfortunately, the Russian religious commentator says, Moscow officials are nonetheless unlike to accede to the Muslim requests but rather adopt what he calls “a ‘Crimean’ scenario,” in which, instead of optimizing what already exists, “the authorities will unite new territories” under the control of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.”


            Moreover, they will invest ever greater funds “into propaganda of ‘Orthodox-patriotic values’ which have nothing in common with faith and spiritual live” and not oppose “the further demonization of the image of Islam at the day to day level.”  That reflects a judgment by those far above Sobyanin’s pay grade that they can re-ignite Islamophobia after Ukraine.


            Within the Russian Orthodox Church, one might have expected believers and hierarchs to be most concerned by the passing of Metropolitan Vladimir who had been the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. But instead, it appears, most were upset that Patriarch Kirill hadn’t been able to travel to Kyiv for this anniversary.


            As a result, Shvedovsky says, the center for the celebration of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus had to take place in Moscow where “it immediately became obvious that this is already almost a Muslim city and that the chimeras of ‘the Russian world’ haven’t existed since Crimea was taken from fraternal Christians.”


            “Nature” in this as in all things “abhors a vacuum,” the commentator says, “and in place of a transparent chimera” of the Russian Orthodoxy offered by the Moscow Patriarchate was the Moscow Muslim community including gastarbeiters which is now vital and full of energy.  That is a contrast few in the Russian government or the Patriarchate can be comfortable with.




Window on Eurasia: Russian Nationalist Says Ukraine is Finished Even If It Defeats Militants

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 30 –Some Russian nationalists are already looking beyond the defeat of the militants in eastern Ukraine by the Ukrainian military and arguing that “even if the revolt in Novorossiya is suppressed, Ukraine will no longer exist,” an assessment now less about pushing Moscow to intervene than about trying to put the best face on a defeat.


            In an article on the Russian nationalist today, Maksim Kalashnikov adds that “even if a time of troubles begins in the Russian Federation, Ukraine will not survive” in anything like what either Ukrainians or Russians expect and that “it is possible now to speak about ‘the former Ukraine’” (


            Ukrainians may think they are winning, Kalashnikov says, but “what will happen next?” The answer, he says, is a disaster. The IMF will impose serious requirements on Kyiv in exchange for loans. Those will lead to the closing of enterprises “the south-east of the ex-Ukraine.”  Even elsewhere in what he calls “Banderastan,” there won’t be work or aid and “the spiral of poverty” will become much worse. 


            At the same time, “in the former Ukraine, as a result of the low birthrate, the number of pensioners will grow while the share of young and working age people will fall.” In addition, he says, “millions of young people will leave to work as gastarbeiters in the European Union and cease to pay taxes or work in the former Ukraine.”


            To try to pay its bills, Kalashnikov continues, Kyiv will raise taxes on businesses which will lead the latter to close and cause foreign companies to shift their trade elsewhere, including to the ports of Romania. As a result of all this, “even a ‘victorious’ Ukraine faces the collapse of its economy and the impoverishment of its population.


            That in turn will lead to “new Maidans and revolts and to a rapid overthrow of one government after another … Separatism will again make an appearance: the South-East will again try to separate.” And that trend becomes even more likely because there will be witch hunts against the militants when the Ukrainian army marches in.


            That is what awaits “the new Ukraine,” Kalashnikov says, “even with the taking of Donetsk and Luhansk and even if the event of a time of troubles in the Russian Federation.”  In such a situation, “Bandera will no longer help,” regardless of “the banners under which they run.”


            Ukraine and the Russian Federation as well are on their way to becoming “failed states of the impoverished third world” because they like the other post-Soviet countries are, in Kalashnikov’s vision of the future, “condemned” to death.