Internal https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/6256/all/feedall cached version 08/02/2019 20:35:12 en Russia’s reluctant elections https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/thomas-rowley-maxim-edwards-mikhail-kaluzhsky/russia-s-reluctant-elections <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The results may be predictable, but Russia’s parliamentary elections hint at the next stage of regime mobilisation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02939501.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>18 September, 2016: residents young and old vote in Ekaterinburg. (c) Pavel Lisitsyn / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“Don’t vote” was the implied message, “but if you have to, vote for Putin” - the caveat. Yesterday, Russia went to the polls for legislative elections, which were, on the whole, some of the least “agitated” in 25 years of independence.</p><p>The turnout was 47%, with big (and potentially rebellious) cities like Moscow, Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Novogorod and Novosibirsk hovering between 20-30%. “Putin”, of course, meant the ruling party United Russia, which received a majority at 51% of the votes. There are some minor changes in the systemic opposition, meanwhile — the Communists received a surprisingly low 14% (down from 19%), whereas the Liberal Democratic party (don’t be fooled) rose slightly to 13.9% and Just Russia - 8.1%.&nbsp;</p><p>In many ways, these elections were <a href="http://www.the-village.ru/village/people/city-news/245465-vibory">superficially more “democratic”</a> — the vote barrier for entering parliament was lowered, a section of the opposition was allowed to participate, and, in general, a range of parties registered in the protest years of 2012-2013 were involved. At the post-election morning briefing, Ella Pamfilova, the new head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, said that the commission hadn’t expected the results to turn out as they did.&nbsp;</p><p>Yet this contest comes on the heels of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/jim-kovpak/review-marc-bennetts-i-m-going-to-ruin-their-lives-inside-putin-s-war-on-russia">five years of pressure against the opposition</a>. Russia’s last parliamentary contest, which brought people out on to the street in 2011, kicked off a concerted campaign by the state to bully, discredit and atomise the country’s politically active segment. The “Crimea consensus”, which has held since 2014, has been used to ramp this pressure up, putting the country on a war footing against enemies inside and outside.&nbsp;</p><p>Two liberal opposition parties, Yabloko and PARNAS, not only finished the night with no deputies. They also failed to beat the 3% threshold needed to guarantee state funding for their campaigns.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Anecdotally, many people weren’t even aware that an election was happening</p><p>Strangely enough, though, there’s been little attention paid to these elections. United Russia’s “primaries” in the spring soaked up a lot of cash, and for the autumn the regime opted for a low turnout (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/19/russia-stays-loyal-kremlin-election-record-low-turnout">and got it</a> — in Moscow it was 28.6%), swamping potential rebel districts such as Irkutsk and St Petersburg with agitprop (to confuse!) and public sector pressure (to mobilise!) while generally keeping a low tempo in most regions (why bother?). Here, there was little in the way of election materials on the street or “public events”. Anecdotally, many people weren’t even aware that an election was happening.</p><p>Instead, Russia’s electorate was exhorted to vote for United Russia, the party of Putin, to ensure the country’s ever-elusive “stability” — the basis of the Russian regime. In conditions of economic downturn, however, stability for many people outside the capital is defined by increasing precarity at work, rising shadow-sector employment and uncertainty about the country’s economic future.&nbsp;</p><p>Aside from the serious amount of electoral falsifications, the fact that the public campaign was based almost exclusively around personalities rather than the country’s future <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/luca-anceschi/end-of-nazarbayev-dream">shows the potential limits of authoritarian management</a>: the regime may be flexible, but consistent crisis management eventually puts you in a dead end.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As the results were verified, business daily Kommersant reported that the Kremlin is preparing to introduce a new security ministry&nbsp;</p><p>So far, 2016 has seen the Russian economy continue its downward spiral. As rent-seeking elites have doubled down to defend their gains, Russian workers continue their protests. Whether it’s <a href="https://globalvoices.org/2016/09/15/after-months-of-protest-russian-coal-miners-finally-get-paychecks/">hunger-striking miners in Rostov</a> or <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svetlana-bolotnikova/pitchforks-are-coming-russia-protests">farmers from the Kuban region</a>, labour unrest, much of it related to unpaid wages, <a href="http://seansrussiablog.org/2016/09/09/mapping-russian-labor-conflict/">has increased during the second quarter of the year</a>.</p><p>Recently there’s been some speculation about <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/3/8/11179332/russia-communist-party">a more confrontational Communist Party (KPRF)</a> that could force the Kremlin’s hand on at least some pressing domestic issues. With a poor showing for the KPRF on Sunday, it seems that there are scant hopes for Russia’s social protest to find a voice in the Duma. If, indeed, that was ever possible.&nbsp;</p><p>The alarming rise of the Liberal Democratic party speaks to more than the theatrics of its demagogic nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Russia prepares for presidential elections in 2018, and the regime is bunkering down for a long fight. Street nationalism has a real presence in Russia, and the extreme chauvinism of the regime’s choreographed “opponents” on the right has come to serve as grudging justification for enduring Putinism. Putin isn’t just a moderate compared to them, the spin doctors will claim; he’s the only moderate you’ve got left.</p><p>If current trends continue, writes Tatyana Stanovaya, the Kremlin <a href="http://carnegie.ru/commentary/?fa=64603">could face embarrassment at the presidential elections in 2018</a> (namely, a second round of voting for Putin.) Avoiding that could mean moving presidential elections forward to September 2017, when Putin could garner around 60% of the vote. In this case, groundwork would mean building a pliant Duma filled with equally pliant deputies, eager to take a place in yet another Putin administration.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The idea that these elections were a “chance” for independent politics is erroneous, but they do reveal the next stage in Russia’s “regime production”</p><p>New Duma deputies will include Crimea’s chief prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya and St Petersburg politician Vitaly Milonov, known for his homophobic campaigns and outbursts. Dmitry Sablin of the AntiMaidan movement is also among them.&nbsp;</p><p>The Duma also says goodbye (or rather, good riddance) to Dmitry Gudkov, a member of A Just Russia before his expulsion from the party in 2013. After Ilya Ponomarev went into exile, Gudkov was the Duma’s only openly critical deputy, a member of the “non-systemic opposition” who somehow got a place in the system. Gudkov was one of the only deputies who didn’t vote for the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, a move which may have cost him dearly.</p><p>Further south, this was Crimea’s first experience of Russian democracy (or rather, elections). The OSCE refused to send observers to the region, where Russia has no legal basis for holding elections. The Crimean Tatar Majlis called on members of the community to boycott the vote.&nbsp;</p><p>As in 2011, Russia’s autonomous republics registered a high turnout. Bashkortostan saw 64%, Tatarstan 88%, and Tuva 91% (with 59%, 88% and 84% for United Russia respectively).</p><p>This pattern is particularly notable in the North Caucasus, where local strongmen ensure a high turnout to demonstrate fealty. In Chechnya, where Ramzan Kadyrov has been re-elected head of the republic with 97% of the vote, the turnout was 95% (96% of which went to United Russia). Neighbouring Dagestan registered an 87% turnout, of which United Russia took 89%. No surprises, then, that these regions also saw some of the most brazen violations at polling stations.</p><p>Russia’s “near abroad” also participated. Polling stations <a href="http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=29451" target="_blank">opened</a> in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, de-facto states on Georgian territory where the majority of the population are also Russian citizens. Russian citizens in Transnistria (a breakaway state in Moldova) have also voted. Both Chişinău and Tbilisi have voiced protest.&nbsp;</p><p>The idea that these elections were a “chance” for independent politics is erroneous, but they do reveal the next stage in Russia’s “regime production”. Today, as the results were verified, business daily <em>Kommersant </em>reported that <a href="http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3093174">the Kremlin is preparing to introduce a new security ministry</a>. The Ministry of State Security, as it is to be called, will be based on the current Federal Security Service, and incorporate foreign intelligence and federal protective service.&nbsp;</p><p>This news, then, seems to herald the real future of the country, especially when United Russia has a constitutional majority. Our task, as ever, is to amplify alternative voices and trace the potential for other futures.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sean-guillory/kremlinology-intervention">Kremlinology: an intervention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-ovsyannikova/moscow-s-authoritarian-future">Moscow’s authoritarian future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-new-political-reality">Four Russias: the new political reality </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-matveev/russia-inc">Russia, Inc.</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Thomas Rowley Maxim Edwards Mikhail Kaluzhsky Russia Regions Politics Internal Mon, 19 Sep 2016 13:56:49 +0000 Thomas Rowley, Maxim Edwards and Mikhail Kaluzhsky 105452 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russia’s regions: federalism and its discontents https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/russia-regions-federalism-and-its-discontents <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RIAN_00935619.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Creating the appearance of stability is the Russian political elite’s primary goal. Yet colonial-like rule over the country’s regions, combined with a lack of civic activity, harms the Kremlin’s legitimacy on the ground. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/toska-po-rodine" target="_blank">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Since Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in 1999, the Russian authorities have responded to any threat, whether real or imagined, with repressive legislation.</p><p>The history of the power vertical is thus one of the methodical restriction of citizen’s rights and freedoms.</p><p>Meanwhile, Russia’s over-centralised state is increasingly isolating itself from the “multinational people of the Russian Federation”, which is, as the Constitution states, the sole source of authority in the country.</p><p>Thus, Russia’s political elites are not only losing their so-called “connection with the land”, but eroding popular faith in the elite’s legitimacy as rulers.</p><p>That’s because in Russia today, relations between the centre and the regions are reminiscent more of an imperial metropolis and its colonies. The authorities see Russia as a never-ending source of natural and human resources.</p><p>The elites usurp the income derived from these resources as colonisers: the majority of the population are paid <a href="https://lenta.ru/news/2016/03/02/profitfall/" target="_blank">enough just to survive</a>. And if you’re dissatisfied, there’s always an appropriate charge to be found in the Criminal Code.</p><h2>Self-determination and desecration</h2><p>The end of 2015 saw Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, host a congress of the Kalmykian people. For a republic of this size, the congress was large. But neither national media, nor the local official press covered this event in any way.</p><p>Perhaps the lack of coverage was a mistake.</p><p>The forum’s 200 delegates ended up voting for a resolution that led with the demand for a new constitution for the republic, one that would reflect the “<a href="http://www.sovkalmykia.ru/резолюция-чуулгана-съезда-ойрат-к/" target="_blank">inviolable right of the Oirat-Kalmyk people to decide their own fate</a>.” This is important, because when Kalmykia first became a subject of the Russian Federation, its legislature did not mention self-determination – unlike the legislatures of other national republics that joined Russia after the fall of the USSR.</p><p>Kalmykia returned to national news at the start of April 2016 when an athlete from neighbouring Dagestan was forced to apologise publicly for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/rg.ru/2016/04/02/reg-ufo/v-eliste-borca-zastavili-izvinitsia-za-buddu.html" target="_blank">desecrating a statue of the Buddha</a>.</p><p>These stories reveal the Russian media’s priorities. Russian viewers find interethnic conflicts far more interesting than people’s attempts to self-organise and defend their rights.</p><p>The events themselves are also revealing.</p><p>The Kalmyk people’s congress may have been representative, but it was the second incident — when an offending “outsider” had to be punished — that turned out to be more powerful in bringing people together.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Altan_Sume_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Altan_Sume_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Statue of a lama at Burkhan Bakshin Altan Sume, the largest Buddhist Khurul (temple) in Elista, Kalmykia. Photo CC: Oleg Akamatsu / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br />“People only react to strong, direct sources of displeasure. However, when it’s a case of other important matters, no one comes out to protest,” a Kalmyk blogger complained, speaking of the local population’s preference “to not react to the authorities at all”. “After all, you can boil a frog alive if you raise the temperature in a pan slowly — it won’t jump out.”</p><p>The blogger’s metaphor might be a bit heavy-handed, but it reflects the relationship between Russia’s authorities and the public all too well. There is one thing missing from this metaphor, though: the ability to very gradually raise the temperature is a good one to have if you’re a cook – but not when you’re running a country.</p><h2>Beneath the surface</h2><p>A week before the incident in Kalmykia’s capital Elista, Igor Barinov, the head of Russia’s Federal Nationalities Agency (FADN), declared that ethnic and religious tensions in the country were likely to flare up.</p><p>At the State Duma’s Question Time <a href="http://www.newizv.ru/politics/2016-03-24/236482-ne-ta-okraska.html" target="_blank">on 23 March</a>, Barinov stated that, “National conflicts are directly connected to economic problems and the ineffectiveness of the authorities.”&nbsp;</p><p>According to Barinov, certain regions of Russia are seeing “radicalised religious structures join with the non-systemic opposition to criticise the state”.&nbsp;</p><p>“For the mean time,” Barinov said, “this criticism is mainly connected to social welfare issues, housing, utilities and ecology”. By the time the parliamentary election campaign starts, though, this criticism will take on a “political, national and religious overtone”, he warned.&nbsp;</p><p>Barinov thus called on Russia’s regions to “be ready to react accordingly” and proposed legislation for extrajudicial blocking of websites that “do not formally come under the definition of ‘calls to mass disorder’, but that further escalate interethnic and interfaith conflicts.”<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">In Russia today, relations between the centre and regions are reminiscent more of an imperial metropolis and its colonies&nbsp; </span></p><p>&nbsp;Thus, a top public official confirmed that potential mobilisations on ethnic or religious grounds will be directly connected to economic problems and the state’s lack of response – but chose to amp up Russia’s anti-extremism legislation instead of tackling the roots of the problem.&nbsp;</p><p>Barinov’s action plan is not surprising. The state is not involved in solving the problems of hundreds of different ethnic groups in Russia. Instead, the Kremlin is busy creating the appearance of stability. In particular, it is creating the right conditions for local authorities to deploy the “administrative resources” at this year’s elections, and thus forestall any unexpected (read: unpleasant) results for Moscow.&nbsp;</p><p>Barinov doesn’t hide the fact that one of his ministry’s main tasks is to “build a power vertical in the regions”. Indeed, the FADN believes that “<a href="http://fadn.gov.ru/news/2016/03/23/2682-igor-barinov-vystupil-na-pravitelstvennom-chase-v-gosudarstvennoy-dume" target="_blank">unifying the approach to nationality issues in all regions</a>” is an important step in this direction.</p><h2>A colonising political mentality</h2><p>It goes without saying that, in these conditions, a genuine federal political structure cannot exist.&nbsp;</p><p>As a <a href="http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2944638" target="_blank">recent court decision</a> from Khanty-Mansiisk shows, the word “federalisation” is now being used synonymously with “stirring up interfaith antagonism”, “changing the system of administrative-territorial management”, “separatism” and “subverting the constitutional order”.&nbsp;</p><p>The federal authorities’ colonising mentality is thus heavily regulating and even criminalising any small attempts at self-determination.</p><p>In March, the Ministry of Justice declared the Batani Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting indigenous peoples in Russia’s north, Siberia and the Far East, a “foreign agent”.&nbsp;</p><p>According to Pavel Sulyandziga, Batani’s chairman, the root of the <a href="http://www.novayagazeta.ru/society/72260.html" target="_blank">conflict with the bureaucracy</a> comes down to indigenous peoples’ rights to traditional hunting grounds, fishing areas and territory for grazing their animals.&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;<br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00935619.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00935619.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vladimir Putin and Pavel Sulyandziga during a meeting with representatives of Russia’s communal and religious organisations. Moscow, 2011. Photo (c): Aleksey Druzhinin / visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br />Such conflicts have led to a rise in the number of criminal cases opened against indigenous people in the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region. <a href="http://ura.ru/articles/1036267270" target="_blank">Rights activists state</a> that most resource companies prefer not to negotiate with indigenous representatives any more, but act via the most powerful state ministries.&nbsp;</p><p>News along this theme regularly appears in the Russian press.</p><p>For example – a village leader from Primorsky krai reported on the <a href="https://tjournal.ru/25357-vistuplenie-glavi-chkalovskogo-selskogo-poseleniya-na-mef-2016" target="_blank">terrible situation in Russia’s Far East</a> at the Moscow Economic Forum in March of this year.&nbsp;</p><p>A day after the report, <a href="http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2946280" target="_blank">news broke of how Kursk’s regional council publicly obstructed Olga Li</a>, a local councilwoman and newspaper editor. Li’s sharply critical video address to Putin, which was dedicated by and large to regional politics, has now resulted in a criminal case for slander.&nbsp;</p><h2>No mass protests in sight</h2><p>But what is really happening in Russia’s regions? Can we talk about any signs of anti-colonial resistance?&nbsp;</p><p>Well, while Duma deputies have begun to talk about the possibility of a “revolutionary situation” in response to the <a href="http://www.finmarket.ru/main/article/4247584" target="_blank">growing gap between Russia’s rich and poor</a>, experts such as <a href="http://www.forbes.ru/mneniya-column/protesty/313135-krizis-v-umakh-stoit-li-zhdat-massovykh-protestov" target="_blank">Denis Volkov</a> and <a href="https://tvrain.ru/teleshow/dengi_prjamaja_linija/zubarevich_regiony-406041/" target="_blank">Natalia Zubarevich</a> agree that we’re unlikely to see an outbreak of mass protest activity any time soon.&nbsp;<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">The risks associated with protest are so high, it’s simpler to adapt to falling living standards than fight for a better future&nbsp;</span></p><p>With national television networks firmly under control, the Russian government is managing to maintain order. The opposition is yet to offer an alternative agenda on political or social issues that would attract a significant section of the population. And the risks associated with protest are so high, it’s simpler just adapt to the falling living standards than fight for a better future.&nbsp;</p><p>That said, Zubarevich, the author of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-new-political-reality" target="_blank">“Four Russias” concept</a>, believes that Russia’s regions are, by and large, conservative, and a bulwark of support for the current regime.&nbsp;</p><p>For Zubarevich, the only exceptions are the “underdeveloped” regions with a more volatile political atmosphere, such as the North Caucasus and southern Siberia, where possible future scenarios even include state violence unleashed against the populace.&nbsp;<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/3912679767_728907d494_z_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/3912679767_728907d494_z_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Krasnoslobodsky region, Republic of Mordovia, Russia, 2008. Photo CC: Marina Flickam / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br />The North Caucasus, in particular, is witnessing a growing ideological divide between state and society, though regional experts vary in their estimations of the threat it may pose.</p><p>According to Nikolai Silaev of the Center of the Problems of the Caucasus and Regional Security, the threat of nationalism <a href="http://www.instituteofeurope.ru/images/uploads/doklad/318.pdf" target="_blank">doesn’t really work</a> as a tool of public politics in Russia.&nbsp;</p><p>“The single ideological base for movements that threaten an open fragmentation of the state could become political Islam,” writes Silaev. However, he continues to say that “political Islam has no realistic model of the state or clear spatial boundaries.” This kind of political community will come to form a networked “parallel world”, one that will both fight the state and try to find forms of integration.</p><p>Denis Sokolov is less optimistic. As he sees it, “the ideology of the secular state has <a href="http://www.rbc.ru/opinions/politics/19/01/2016/569e32149a79475c63d7ff9d" target="_blank">completely lost to Islam in the east of the North Caucasus</a> due to its problems with the courts and social mobility”.&nbsp;</p><p>Sokolov believes that 2016 will see “a confrontation between the security services and a significant number of Muslims living in the North Caucasus rise to the fore”.&nbsp;</p><h2>Society compensates for failures of the state</h2><p>Sokolov is the first specialist on the Caucasus to investigate the curious news stories coming out of Dagestan. Here, <em>jamaats</em> (village communities) have <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/gubden-dagestan-where-radicals-police-themselves" target="_blank">started to pay medical professionals to visit their villages at their own expense</a> (as a rule, these visiting doctors are kinsmen who’ve been working in the big cities.) This turned out to be successful, and now this practice has <a href="https://etokavkaz.ru/obshchestvo/kto-poedet-v-tlondodu" target="_blank">extended to teaching staff</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Society has thus made headway in an area where the state has failed in spite of its multi-billion rouble projects. Taking responsibility for their own infrastructure, villagers have set up quality medicine and education for themselves, at the same time addressing an often emotional issue — bringing back their kin to the mountains.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Khushet-Dagestan_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Khushet-Dagestan_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian soldiers in Khushet village, in the mountains of Dagestan, 2007. Photo CC: Timur Abdullaev / visual RIAN. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Of course, we’re talking about a maximum of ten villages here. This is a local success even for Dagestan. But nothing is stopping other communities from trying this out.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, the most important thing here is how this problem is being solved. If inviting doctors is a matter of survival (it was prompted by a rising death rate, including of patients during simple operations), then finding good teachers is a signal that education is in demand, an investment in long-term development.&nbsp;</p><p>An ineffective state can only welcome these initiatives — the story about Dagestan was <a href="http://www.ntv.ru/novosti/1603510/" target="_blank">shown on federal television</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>But if you take into the account the fact that secular ideology is losing out to Islam in Dagestan, then we can assume that something bigger is behind these developments. Perhaps it is what Hannah Arendt described as the elite’s temptation to substitute violence for power when it begins to slip from their grasp.&nbsp;<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">The transformation of a population into a nation is not a task for the state&nbsp;</span></p><p>Arendt’s diagnosis is all too reminiscent of the modern Russian Federation. Putin’s concepts of the “Russian World” and patriotism as the only possible national idea are closely intertwined with how Russia’s law on separatism and the law on foreign agents are applied – and, more often that not, with anti-extremist and anti-terrorist legislation.</p><p>The way they are applied is evidence of a full-blown crisis in Russian domestic policies.&nbsp;</p><h2>Frustration that turns to apathy&nbsp;</h2><p>Social media is an apt reflection of the mood of ordinary people. Take this recent question from a user in a VKontakte group in Kalmykia: “Can you point to any positive results of the head of Kalmykia Alexei Orlov, who’s ruled the republic for six years now?”&nbsp;</p><p>“I can only see one,” the same user states, “People in the regions don’t rely on the authorities. They solve their problems themselves.”&nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, a blogger from North Ossetia updates his status: “I’ve had enough. The hassle, intrigue, politics, money (and its absence), the idiocy inside and outside the system… People have had their priorities wrong for too long.”</p><p>Every day, my newsfeed is full of these kinds of posts. Apathy and the realisation that you can’t expect anything from the authorities are the main motifs of discussions on Russia social media.</p><p>At the core of this sense of emptiness, this ideological vacuum that became obvious after the fall of the Soviet Union, lies nothing but a longing for the homeland. No one feels at home here: neither ethnic minorities, who experience discrimination due to their ethnicity, nor Russian Slavs, outraged at the corruption of public officials and the courts <a href="http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2944638" target="_blank">willing to avert their gaze</a> when so-called “people from out of town” commit crimes.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/7768485818_2d6ef00cda_z_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/7768485818_2d6ef00cda_z_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All railways lead to Moscow. Vanadzor, 2012. Photo CC: Tim Waters / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br />Emil Pain, a prominent political scientist and ethnographer, recently spoke of Russia as “<a href="http://www.novayagazeta.ru/tv/studio/72333.html" target="_blank">a country without a society, a country without a nation</a>”.&nbsp;</p><p>Yet the transformation of a population into a nation is not a task for the state. Ruling elites are more interested in subjects than citizens. A nation emerges when people are ready to fight for their own rights.</p><p>It’s easier for national republics to form a common agenda on this issue. Although the fact that a congress of Kalmyk people, rather than peoples, was recently held suggests that the ideology of ethnic, rather than civic nationalism, is what brought people together.</p><p>Multiethnic Dagestan could, in principle, overcome these narrow borders. While local nationalism divides society, Islam offers a platform for consolidation in the future — to form the political nation of Dagestan. But here the authorities have successfully maintained the artificial <a href="http://kavpolit.com/articles/kak_slovo_na_kavkaze_otzovetsja-46/" target="_blank">confrontation between “traditional” and “non-traditional” Muslims</a> for a long time.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">At the core of this sense of emptiness, this ideological vacuum that became obvious after the fall of the Soviet Union, lies nothing but a longing for the homeland&nbsp;</span></p><p>In an over-centralised political system, there’s little point talking of society’s chance to take back the state in a single region. The Leviathan that is the state will react to what Arendt described as the “slipping away of power” with an intensive build-up of the power ministries, which remain capable enough to prevent any attempt to monopolise the centre.</p><p>Given that Putin’s new National Guard is <a href="https://inmoscowsshadows.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/putins-new-national-guard-what-does-it-say-when-you-need-your-own-personal-army/" target="_blank">subordinate only to the head of state</a>, we can see how the vertical sees the solution to the national question.</p><p>But is there something that will prompt the population to fight for their rights and thus create a nation along alternative, democratic lines? Liah Greenfield, a scholar of nationalisms, believes that a new elite is needed for this kind of future — an elite that <a href="http://gefter.ru/archive/9349" target="_blank">will fight not for its own power, but for the people’s respect</a>, given the connection between individual dignity and national identity</p><p>Unfortunately, as the Kalmyk people’s congress in Elista shows, people are always ready to “force others to respect them” on a local level, but are far less ready to defend their dignity when it comes to the arbitrary rule of public officials and law enforcement.</p><p>In today’s Russia, it’s more realistic to wait for the state to reach the final stage of exhaustion and let power slip from its grasp. Of course, then we’ll have to deal with the same questions: you can’t build a nation without civic activity.&nbsp;</p><p><em>If you enjoyed this article, please consider following oDR on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/openDemocracyRussia" target="_blank">Facebook</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/opendemocracyru" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-new-political-reality">Four Russias: the new political reality </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/terrorism-and-russian-power-vertical">Terrorism and Russia’s power vertical</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/artur-asafyev/these-hills-are-ours">These hills are ours</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/svetlana-bolotnikova/pitchforks-are-coming-russia-protests">The pitchforks are coming</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Badma Biurchiev Russia Regions Politics Internal Human rights Dagestan Conflict Thu, 21 Apr 2016 09:07:32 +0000 Badma Biurchiev 101534 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The pitchforks are coming https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svetlana-bolotnikova/pitchforks-are-coming-russia-protests <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Kuban_tractors_0.JPG" alt="" width="160" />Farm workers in the depths of southern Russia are hardly a protest constituency, but corruption and corporate raids have pushed them to the brink. They may even take their grievances to Moscow — by tractor. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svetlana-bolotnikova/traktory-osadyat" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Aleksei Volchenko, 37, is a farmer in Kalininsky district, in the Kuban area of southern Russia. There are no large cities or towns here, just <em>stanitsy</em>, Cossack villages. Residents either work their own farms or for big agricultural holdings, which emerged after the old collective farms vanished.&nbsp;</p><p>In 2007, for instance, in Starovelichkovskaya, a <em>stanitsa</em> in Volchenko’s region, the October collective farm was replaced by a new company belonging to Oleg Makarevich, a prominent businessman in the region. Out of a 13,000 strong settlement, roughly 2,000 people work for Makarevich. Workers lease their land to the company. Several dozen farmers and individual businessmen decided to work for themselves, taking their land and leasing plots from other former collective farm workers.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02682962.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02682962.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A combine harvester collects soy in the fields of the Kuban Agrocombine company. Ust-Labinsk District, Krasnodar Region. Photo (c): Vitaly Timkiv / visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Aleksei, a strong man with working hands, is too young to own his own plot. It was his parents and grandparents who received the land. With help from his parents, Aleksei began to grow potatoes.</p><p>Complications soon arose. Oleg Makarevich bought the common roads that ran through the fields and closed off access to other people’s land, forcing the farmers to close their business and local residents to lease their plots to his company.&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;<br />With rich soil and a warm climate, land in the Kuban basin is worth its weight in gold. When oil prices began to fall in 2014, the agriculture business became more profitable than the hydrocarbon industry. As a result, big agricultural firms are trying to squeeze out small business owners.&nbsp;<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">The bigger story is how big agribusiness wage war against small farmers with the support of the Russian authorities&nbsp;</span></p><p>This campaign frequently takes on a criminal character. Lease agreements with former collective farmers and their families are forged. Police investigators, judges and judicial officials are bribed. Before the harvest, bigger companies, well-defended by private security, seize fields sown by small farmers.</p><p>A gruesome <a href="//www.rbc.ru/incidents/15/11/2013/888930.shtml" target="_blank">mass killing in Kushchevskaya in 2010</a>, in which 12 people were murdered, the demands of Kuban farmers that governor Tkachev resign — these are all parts of a bigger story: how big agribusiness are waging war against small farmers with the support of the Russian authorities.&nbsp;</p><h2>Protest by tractor</h2><p>Aleksei Volchenko and his father have been attacked twice, and people have tried to burn down their house. The farmers protested and contacted all the relevant authorities. They even have a court decision in favour of the stanitsa’s residents, though it was never carried out. “This is what the court officials should be doing, this is their direct responsibility,” Aleksei tells me.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/DSCN0584.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/DSCN0584.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>On 24 March, around 100 famers from the Krasnodar region announced a protest rally by tractor to Moscow. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span>“People went out into the fields on their tractors to work, but they weren’t let through. Suddenly, there were gates and guards. I wanted to get to my field, but the road was closed, and a deep ditch runs around it. How can I get through? I can’t work my land, it’s going to get out of control, and then, according to the law, they can take it away from me. This kind of land problem exists all across Russia. It’s just that some places they’re decided in a more civilized manner, some places – not at all. And because of the situation in Krasnodar, farmers have come together for a motor rally. We wanted to get in touch with the federal authorities, to make them help us.”</p><p>But the march on Moscow, which was supposed to take place at the end of April, has been postponed.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“People went into the fields on their tractors to work, but they weren’t let through. Suddenly, there were gates and guards”</p><p>“We’ve been heard without the rally,” Volchenko explains. “Representatives of the All-Russian People’s Front came to see us from Moscow, as well as the local authorities from Krasnodar. They promised us they’d sort out all the problems. And they didn’t just promise. In one region, they even sorted it out. A commission went to Novopokrovsky district today. And the vice-governor visited our Kalininsky district, and the problem has moved from its former stand-still.”</p><h2>In for the long-haul&nbsp;</h2><p>Roughly 100 Kuban farmers planned to take part in the motor rally. Agricultural producers from Rostov, Moscow and Voronezh also planned to take part. This would have certainly led to large traffic jams on the highway from Kuban to Russia’s capital. (After all, tractors are hardly the fastest form of transport, and overtaking a column of them on a three-lane highway wouldn’t be easy.)</p><p>However, the authorities have already insured themselves against this kind of action. At the beginning of March, Vladimir Putin signed a new law that made motor rallies equal to mass demonstrations, and thus requiring, just like demonstrations, processions and pickets, the approval of the authorities. The farmers were threatened with a fine of up to 300,000 roubles (£3,000) for holding an illegal rally, and if it was proven that the farmers had acted as legal individuals, then the fine would have risen to a million roubles (£10,200).&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Farm workers in the depths of the Russian regions are hardly a protest constituency</p><p>The Duma passed these amendments following the long-distance truckers’ protest march which converged on Moscow last December. The truckers were protesting against the payment system introduced by the Russian government to compensate for the damage they cause to federal roads through overloaded rigs.&nbsp;</p><p>As it turned out, it wasn’t so much the attempt to protect the highways that brought the truckers out onto the streets, but the fact that the online payment system belongs to the son of Arkady Rotenberg, a close associate of Vladimir Putin.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02751772.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02751772.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In November 2015, long-distance truckers were made to register on the Platon toll tax system, which would charge them a premium per kilometre. This led to large protests on Russia’s motorways. Photo (c): Grigory Sysoev / visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>People were confident that the business owners would find the necessary loopholes to ensure billions of roubles of fines would end up in their pockets. After all, the company in question, RT-Invest, did find a way to get this public contract outside the usual tender process.</p><p>In the end, not all the truckers made it to Moscow. The police stopped many of them on the way, fined them and took away their licenses. The blockade of the capital was thus prevented. But the idea itself made a deep impression on the government. Afraid of mass protests, the authorities decreased the fine for overloading by ten times.&nbsp;</p><p>The farmers of the Kuban, who were preparing to repeat the trucker’s march on Moscow, had to agree the route of their protest. The security services were informed about the plans and took preventative measures: several days before the action, FSB officers warned Aleksei Volchenko that the protest would be stopped at the very start of the route, in Labinsk. “They’d either intercept us on the road, or detain and lock us up before the start,” this is how Volchenko paraphrased the FSB’s threats.&nbsp;<br /><br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">&nbsp;If radical ideas have emerged even among this group, then the level of corruption has exceeded all believable limits</span></p><p>But the farmers did not intend to retreat until inspectors from the General Prosecutor’s Office, Supreme Court and government arrived in the Kuban.&nbsp;</p><p>A few hours before the protest was due to start, the farmers’ resolve foundered. At a meeting in the town of Armavir, they were persuaded not to protest, but to join a working group to study conflict situations with land in the Kuban region.&nbsp;</p><h2>Unlikely dissidents</h2><p>Farm workers in the depths of the Russian regions are hardly a protest constituency. By and large, they support Putin on foreign policy, and the domestic path towards food security and independence.</p><p>The majority of them were happy to see the August 2014 ban on importing foodstuffs from countries that applied sanctions against Russia. After all, this move freed up space in the domestic market for Russian produce. Likewise, the state began to pay more attention to rural communities, activating the fragmented support of agricultural producers, subsidising credits and permitting infrastructure expenditure in several spheres.</p><p>So if radical ideas have emerged even among this group, it means the level of corruption has exceeded all believable limits. Yet the farmers’ hopes that Putin, on learning the truth, will send trustworthy investigators from Moscow to sort out these problem signals a malfunction in the system.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/shutterstock_273241760.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/shutterstock_273241760.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Krasnodar Region, southern Russia. Photo CC: GeNiK/ Shutterstock. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>“We were told that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the president of our country, personally expressed interest in this protest, and that there is an order to fix it,” explained Anton Konovalov, a farmer from the Kanevsky district.&nbsp;</p><p>“We hope that the authorities will help us. The All-Russian National Front has gotten involved. And the leader of the front is our president, who is very well respected here in the Kuban,” another farmer, Andrei Ovechkin, told me.&nbsp;</p><p>The organisation was founded in 2011, as a broader means to link the ruling United Russia party with Russian society. It could be described as a GONGO (government-organised NGO), and true to form, Putin was elected as its president in 2013.</p><p>If the All-Russian National Front was created to address the “concerns of ordinary Russian people”, then this would be an ideal case for the organisation to prove its worth. </p><p>Or so it would seem.</p><h2>Harvest time</h2><p>In fact, the scale of these problems is such that you can’t solve them with an order from above.</p><p>The majority of unjust decisions in the eyes of the farmers were either read out in the courts in the name of the Russian Federation or just decisions were stopped at the stage of implementation. How can you fix all of this in the single month which Krasnodar’s minister of agriculture has assigned for these problems?&nbsp;</p><p>Farmer Anton Konovalov, 30, has been fighting for his fishing business for a decade. His parents bought it, but the previous owners have done everything to disrupt it and get it back. “We, the owners, are trying to preserve the business as an asset,” Konovalov told me, “but the creditors are using legal means to prevent us from doing so.”</p><p>“There’s criminal cases in our situation, and arbitration decisions, which were taken on the basis of false information. GazpromtransgazKrasnodar (a subsidiary of gas company Gazprom responsible for transporting natural gas throughout the region) is pressuring the investigation and prosecutor’s office. That company presents the situation as if it’s a fight for the interests of the state, but actually it’s the personal interests of a single manager who wants to put individual holiday homes, places for hunting and fishing there instead of a collective farm or fishing business. We need the residents of the farm next door to be guaranteed work.”</p><div><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The farmers of the Kuban stress that they have not called off their protest, but simply delayed it unless their problems are addressed. Image still via GTRK Kuban. <a href=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6nCBDqP2ik>ГТРК «Кубань»<a/>.</a/></a></span></span></span><span>Andrei Ovechkin, 40, has had problems in the courts, too. Roughly 70 land owners from the stanitsa Upornaya, near Labinsk, are represented in his case. “We have concerns about the judicial system. I can’t take money to court, I don’t think justice should require it. But we have a judge here in Labinsk who passes super-interesting decisions. Now a bankruptcy claimant who is liquidating his assets has filed against me. And I’m more than confidant that the judge will take his side.</span></div><p>“That judge destroyed other parts of our land, and it went to another bankruptcy claimant. The Kanesky agriholding gets the profits. A sister firm and the debtor have a lease agreement for 100,000 roubles per year for 4,800 hectares,” Ovechkin told me.</p><p>“These machinations are based on loans and bankruptcy claims. The land user goes to the bank with a lease agreement for 11 years, gets a loan and then declares himself bankrupt. The bank serves a claim, and the land and the equipment isn’t counted. There’s only a stamp left.”&nbsp;</p><h2>The pitchforks are coming&nbsp;</h2><p>Kuban’s farmers have made numerous appeals to the authorities, including requesting the resignation of Aleksandr Tkachev, Krasnodar’s former governor who became Russia’s minister of agriculture in April 2015.&nbsp;</p><p>The Tkachev family business also has a dark history. Agrocomplex, an agricultural business, was allegedly involved in hostile takeovers of nearby farms in the 1990s.&nbsp;</p><p>The scheme used by Agrocomplex to become one of the largest landowners in Europe, with up to 500,000 hectares at its disposal, came to light thanks to resistance from a Korenosvksy collective farm. The farm’s management refused to pay money to people representing the governor’s brother, and then made a complaint to the FSB.&nbsp;<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/d2giGZS7taftgxYZxOdMyaomdAsj1DRf.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/d2giGZS7taftgxYZxOdMyaomdAsj1DRf.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>28 May 2015: Vladimir Putin holds a working meeting with Minister of Agriculture Aleksandr Tkachev, discussing state support for agribusiness and access to credits for agricultural producers. Source: Kremlin.ru</span></span></span>All the same, the collective farmers found themselves in an unequal battle — Agrocomplex received more financial support from the state than other enterprises.&nbsp;</p><p>With this support, several farms surrendered to Agrocomplex voluntarily, counting on a quiet life under the authorities’ wing. The takeover of other enterprises was more painful. The Kristall sugar factory in Vyselki, for example, became part of Agrocomplex in 2006 after a series of administrative cases were opened against the factory’s leadership for not observing ecological and hygiene standards. &nbsp;</p><p>When news of the Kushchevskaya massacre came out in 2010, many people spoke of the more criminal methods of raiding businesses and land in the Kuban.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Farmers no longer hide their opinion that Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Tkachev is the biggest raider in the Kuban&nbsp;</span></p><p>Under the protection of the local authorities and police, the Tsapok gang threatened, coerced and murdered their business rivals in Arteks-Agro. If it wasn’t for the brutal murder of 12 people, including four children, Arteks-Agro could have grown into a sizeable agricultural company.</p><p>Despite public expectations, Tkachev was not dismissed after the massacre in Kushchevskaya. Moreover, the governor’s family business then took over most of the assets in Kushchevskaya.</p><p>Farmers no longer hide their opinion that Aleksandr Tkachev is the biggest raider in the Kuban. Andrei Ovechkin told me how he recently visited a meeting for protesting farmers at the territory’s ministry of agriculture. One of the participants, who represented a holding of some 800 owners of 3,500 hectares of land, said that they were being hounded by the holding of ex-governor Tkachev. “They even had court rulings in their favour, but none were carried out” — recalled Ovechkin.&nbsp;</p><p>The farmer explains the current intensification in land disputes with reference to the status of contracts. The majority of these land contracts expired after legislative amendments were made allowing the transfer of agricultural land. “The time eventually came when owners stood up and demanded control of their plots of land, which the largest agricultural firms categorically do not want”, he continued.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kuban_tractors_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kuban_tractors_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>On 24 March, around 100 famers from the Krasnodar region announced a protest rally by tractor to Moscow. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span><span>In this standoff, the authorities’ sympathies lie with the largest farms. Deputy governor and minister of agriculture of the Krasnodar region Andrei Korobka openly declared that members of the parliamentary commission would base their decisions on, as he put it, “social responsibility”. That is to say, if an agricultural holding pays more in taxes and employs a larger workforce than the average farmer, sympathy will remain with the big firm.</span></p><p>Aleksei Volchenko rejects this position, as these large holdings had enjoyed preferential conditions from the very beginning — they receive more significant subsidies and can borrow money with lower interest rates. When comparing them same basis, it turns out that the small farmers are actually much more effective.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Owners have stood up, demanding control of their land, which the largest agricultural firms categorically do not want</p><p>Andrei Ovechkin is also certain that small-scale farming is a better guarantee of employment for the local population, and also produces greater crop yields. Furthermore, the owners of large agricultural holdings as a rule do not care much about ecological protection or the infrastructure of local villages.</p><p>For example, the roads in Ovechkin’s region — damaged from heavy use by the machinery of large agricultural holdings — are constantly being renovated by the farmers themselves. Unlike the short-term hirelings in the administrations of the larger firms, who can sell their assets and move on at any moment, local farmers treat with more care that which their children and grandchildren will need.</p><p>In a sense, the question of the effectiveness of small or large agricultural holdings isn’t simply an economic dispute, but a philosophical one. These violations of laws regulating land ownership and usage reflect, without a doubt, a flaw in the Russian legal system. While farmers may be actively involved in the work of the commission founded by the All-Russian People’s Front and local regional government, they are hardly likely to resolve what is a systemic problem in Russia. A system in which the best corporate raiders are appointed to lead government ministries.&nbsp;</p><p>It wasn’t in vain that Volchenko, after cancelling the motor rally on 28 April, hastened to add that “we haven’t called off our protest. We’ve just delayed it. If our problems aren’t resolved, we’ll take to our tractors in May — and head for Moscow”.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/artur-asafyev/these-hills-are-ours">These hills are ours</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-ovsyannikova/moscow-s-authoritarian-future">Moscow’s authoritarian future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-new-political-reality">Four Russias: the new political reality </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/georgy-borodyansky/corruption-credits-and-bad-luck-siberian-farmers-under-threat">Corruption, credits and bad luck in Siberia: the crisis of Russian agriculture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-matveev/russia-inc">Russia, Inc.</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Svetlana Bolotnikova Russia Regions Internal Human rights Economy Tue, 05 Apr 2016 12:45:20 +0000 Svetlana Bolotnikova 101141 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is liberalism the future for Russia? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/is-liberalism-future-for-russia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/12659749_1045900738805433_310753042_n.jpg" alt="" width="80" />For years, ‘liberal’ has been a dirty word in Russia, a shorthand for everything undesirable. Yet state propaganda is having an unexpected side-effect: the rehabilitation of liberalism.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>According to Hans-Georg Gadamer, language is more powerful than history. (This is a somewhat free translation of his idea, but it gets to the point.) That is to say, words are more powerful than people — especially in Russia, both for the better and the worse. </p><p>Take <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31733045">‘perestroika’</a>, for example. For the first couple of years after its appearance, in 1985-1987, ‘perestroika’ was just a word rather than a real thing, but it had a powerful material force nonetheless. In the early 1990s, the word ‘reforms’ had roughly the same, albeit slightly weaker power, although there was nothing new about it: the phrase ‘post-reform Russia’ could be found in Soviet history textbooks.</p><p>In Russia, words can often trigger change. People attach themselves to them, using them like an Archimedean lever. But the word ‘liberal’ was never widely used here, let alone popular. </p><p>Even at the height of perestroika in the 1980s, you wouldn’t find&nbsp;<span>‘liberal’</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>in the popular press. The word just didn’t exist. There was the word ‘democrat’, although its popularity was as nothing compared with ‘liberal’ today. Even in the 1990s, which is now imagined largely in terms of&nbsp;</span><span>Russia’s liberals carrying out their dark deeds in their covens, the word was much less widely used than it has been more recently, and especially since 2012.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">In Russia the word ‘liberal’ denoted free thinking, a certain licentiousness and divergence from the mainstream</p><p>Liberal is a word most at home in intellectual circles; it emerged out of 19th century literary polemics, when journals ‘of a liberal orientation’ began to appear. </p><p>All that remains of it now in common speech are throwaway remarks such as, “So-and-so is one of our liberals”, or “So-and-so did his liberal thing”. It has always been a bookish term, what dictionaries label ‘obsolete’. In Russia, ‘liberal’ always denoted free thinking, a certain licentiousness and divergence from the mainstream. </p><p>That was all. It had very few political connotations. It was also never used as a derogatory term, as it is today: there were plenty of other words to describe your opponents — thief, renegade, enemy of the people, cosmopolitan, defector. But ‘liberal’? No, that’s a bit abstruse. Why complicate things? </p><h2>How the word ‘liberal’ came to mean ‘enemy’</h2><p>The fact that the word didn’t pass into general use in the 1980s or 1990s is significant in itself. This was the time when it should have been ubiquitous, given that it reflected the essence of the changes that were happening. </p><p>This essence, however, was neither openly discussed nor even understood. (No one in the 1990s explained to people that what was happening was capitalism, with liberalism as a kind of add-on). There was an enormous gulf between the economic and political changes taking place in Russia during the 1990s and the shifts in public consciousness. </p><p>But every cloud has a silver lining, and in the last three or four years the word ‘liberal’ is once again in fashion, thanks to our government’s propaganda machine. At first, ‘liberal’ occupied a similar space to the word ‘intellectual’, which suffered frequent swings between positive and negative connotations during the Soviet period. Initially the word ‘liberal’ carried similarly fluctuating associations: one of us, but not one of us; a semi-alien. Then the word acquired a suspicious tinge, which lasted until the end of the 2000s, when it gradually began to represent the worst of everything, and eventually became a synonym for ‘enemy’.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02640690.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02640690.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Is there a place for liberals in a picture of Russia's future? Street artists in Yekaterinburg, 2015. Photo (c): Pavel Lisitsyn / visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>In its current incarnation as a propaganda tool, however, the word ‘liberal’ means, essentially, ‘an alien’. It is simply a person’s nature; they can’t help it. This development can be best illustrated by the many menacing slogans that rang out last month at a mass rally in support of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s leader.</span></p><p>Here, liberals were the target of the worst invective: “Liberals far away are no threat, but when they’re close, watch your back!”; “Liberals of all kinds are hoping for crises, protests and deaths”, “Liberals dream of crucifying our country; they have sold all our sacred values to the West”; “If you’re smart you won’t become a liberal; you’ll avoid them”; “No snivelling, liberal – your end is nigh!”; “A great country has no room for liberal trash” among other war-cries. </p><p>In other words, if we were to deconstruct this hatred of liberals, it would turn out to be simply a hatred of The Other. I think it is no coincidence that the word is often found next to the phrase ‘fifth column’: the idea being to conclusively discredit it.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The word ‘liberal’ is now often found next to the phrase ‘fifth column’: the idea is to conclusively discredit it</p><p>But everything else has happened spontaneously, without any plan. For example, as I write this article, I am listening to the economist Mikhail Delyagin speaking on the popular Moscow Calling radio station. Delyagin answers almost every question put to him: “Why have things come to pass?”; “Why is the rouble falling?”; “Why is there so much thievery?” with the words, “The thing is that the liberals …’” </p><p>A bit earlier, presenter Vladimir Solovyov on his morning show on Vesti-FM was saying despairingly, “Our liberals are still behaving as though we were still in the 1990s, although things have changed completely…” And on the Komsomolskaya Pravda channel the host is rebuking government economic specialists: “liberals in the government have brought the country down, but the president hasn’t noticed”. This subject, by the way, is just about the only issue on which it is possible to ‘disagree with our president’ in the loyalist media. </p><p>And this is what you hear a hundred times a day, seven days a week. Liberals, liberals, liberals… At the same time, on the same stations, they are also being described as a “pathetic bunch”. And suddenly, thanks to this endless repetition, they have turned into a “powerful force”. </p><p>The propaganda machine, in other words, has fallen into its own trap. For a long time, responsibility for all the woes of Russian history has been laid at the feet of the liberals; they have been its eternal scapegoat. But now this goat is unexpectedly acquiring authority. There is talk of “liberals and their friends in the west”; that liberals “are increasing the pressure”; liberals are on the attack. The intimidators are afraid of their own demons.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">And this is what you hear a hundred times a day, seven days a week. Liberals, liberals, liberals…&nbsp;</span></p><p>The illness is progressing in line with the diagnosis. And they are even more scared about the fall of the rouble (for which the liberals are also, of course, indirectly responsible). “Liberals in the government mean a crisis in the economy!” went one of the slogans at Kadyrov’s rally in Grozny.</p><h2>The rehabilitation of the word – and its meaning?</h2><p>This repetition of the word ‘liberal’, or rather, its use in the bombardment of popular consciousness, has had totally unexpected and counterproductive consequences.</p><p>Firstly, it has legalised and legitimised the word ‘liberal’ in Russia. To take just one phrase from an official statement broadcast on TV news, “Ella Pamfilova, Russia’s commissioner for human rights, commented on the conflict between the liberal opposition and Kadyrov.” The word ‘liberal’ is taking root, and inevitably bringing various meanings with it — in fact, its whole bundle of ‘freedoms’. </p><p>The word ‘liberal’ is too complex in its meaning for most of the public, but, as a result of its endless repetition, it has entered the lexicon and occupied a key place in popular consciousness, and by doing so it has unwittingly widened the public’s political horizons. Thus the word has become part of the vernacular. Unofficial words are always more robust than official ones, and now terms such as ‘liberal’, ‘opposition’, ‘installation’, ‘performance’, ‘art-project’ and ‘provocation’ have become ‘popular’ words. </p><p>In Russia, the replacement of a negative connotation with a positive one can happen instantly. The fact that the word ‘liberal’ currently represents everything that is ‘worst’ does not mean it will always do so. And the change from negative to positive can happen in the most unexpected places. </p><p>In the 1970s, Soviet citizens joked about the forthcoming demise of ‘moribund capitalism’ — it was one of the key points of Soviet propaganda. (Fifteen years later, and what did they have?) And if the negative connotations of ‘liberalism’ disappear, what is left is the only alternative, the assertion of a new world, a different kind of life. The word for it already exists, and it won’t disappear. </p><p>The only one explanation I can think of is an eschatological one: as Marx said, the mole of history digs slowly, but reaches its goal. In the 1990s and 2000s, nobody saw liberalism as an alternative force: it lost out to both socialism and nationalism. Now the word is fixed in people’s minds as an actual alternative, an equal rival for power. And for that we must thank the propaganda machine, which despite its best endeavours, did some important work for us.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A certain law of development states that any attempt to resist progress will only hasten its advance</p><p>I write this not to mock, but to underline the existence of a certain law of development that states that any attempt to resist progress will only hasten its advance. Or, if you want to rephrase it as dialectic, you could say that resistance to progress is part of progress itself. </p><p>The propaganda machine has achieved two important things. Firstly, and despite itself, it has popularised liberalism. People used to have no idea what it was, and now they do. Secondly, it unwittingly narrowed people’s options. There are any number of varieties of conservatism around, but only one kind of liberalism, and for some reason that makes choices simpler. It forces you to choose between two versions of the future. Or rather, between the past and the future. </p><p><em>This text originally appeared <a href="http://www.colta.ru/articles/society/9887" target="_blank">in Russian</a> at Colta.ru. It is reproduced here in English with many thanks to the editors.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nelli-babayan/truthiness-in-russia">Truthiness in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/gleb-belichenko/russia-s-secret-treason-investigations">Russia’s secret treason investigations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sean-guillory/who-killed-boris-nemtsov">Who killed Boris Nemtsov?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Andrei Arkhangelsky Queer Russia Colta.ru Russia Politics Internal Tue, 02 Feb 2016 06:00:57 +0000 Andrei Arkhangelsky 99484 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Four Russias: the new political reality https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-new-political-reality <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RIAN_00183140.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Uneven modernisation has left its mark on Russia, and the authorities are only too happy to exploit it. What does the future hold for Russia’s regional divide?&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/chetyre-rossii" target="_blank"><em>Русский</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Russia’s economic and social differentation is marked and persistent. In addition to regional differences, we see even more pronounced differences in the quality and way of life and the sets of values among four groups: the populations in large, medium, and small cities and in rural Russia.</p><h2>First among Russians: the federal cities</h2><p>At the basis of Russia's centre-periphery model is a hierarchy of dwellings — from the more modernised large cities to patriarchal rural areas. Russia One is composed of major cities. Cities with populations of a around million or more account for 21% of Russia’s total population, or 31% if cities with half a million residents are included. The proportion of those living in large cities has been steadily rising due to an influx of migrants. The leaders of Russia One are federal cities with a&nbsp;<span>post-industrial economic structure, a high level of economic development, and the highest share of middle-class individuals (30–40% of the population).</span></p><p>Their residents are well-educated (in Moscow and St. Petersburg, 39–43% of the residents over the age of 15 hold advanced university degrees), and a larger percentage of residents employed in the small-business sector. They also have high internet penetration.</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/7962123654_3deafe5ee0_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Moscow. CC Andrey Naumov / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>It is in the federal cities — particularly in Moscow — where political transformations and dissent have grown faster, alongside demands for government modernisation. Electoral data also bear this out: during the 2012 presidential elections, less than one half of Muscovites voted for Vladimir Putin.</span></p><p>The postindustrial transformation of the economy and society has proceeded at varying rates in other million-strong cities. Progress has been faster in Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk, as these cities have the appeal of being macroregional centres in the Urals and Siberia These cities pull in more migrants as they offer more well-paid and modern jobs. </p><p>Here, the people’s social environment and political preferences have been changing more slowly in big cities that have kept their Soviet-era industrial specialisation, such as Omsk, Ufa, and Volgograd.</p><p>But even among smaller cities, the differences are large: Tomsk, a university city with a population of 500,000, is well ahead of many larger cities in terms of modernisation. Virtually all cities with a population of 500,000 are regional centre, and it helps them concentrate the resources of their respective regions, particularly human resources.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">For the middle class, modernisation has been limited to higher consumption standards, whereas their values remained statist and illiberal</p><p>Yetthe modernisation potential of Russia One should not be overestimated, as the communities in large cities are quite mixed demographically and ideologically. For instance, the share of elderly who heavily depend on the authorities is large (30–33 % in Moscow and St Petersburg).</p><p>The middle class in large cities is also a mixed bag. During the 2000s, the share of public-sector employees grew rapidly. In their case, modernisation has been limited to higher consumption standards, whereas their values remained statist and illiberal and their demand for the modernisation of institutions minimal.</p><h2>Russia Two: in search of “stability”</h2><p>About nine percent of Russians live in cities with populations of between a quarter million and a half million people, primarily in regional capitals. In these cities, social and economic development are more sustainable, but human and financial resources are usually inadequate for modernisation.</p><p>This is an intermediate zone between Russia One and Russia Two, with the situation varying by the city. Russia Two refers to medium-sized cities with populations from 50,000 to 250,000 people. They are home to less than 30% of Russia’s population. Not all of these cities retained their industrial specialisation during the post-Soviet times, but Soviet-era values still hold strong. In addition to considerable employment in the industrial sector, these cities have a large number of people employed in the public sector, most of whom are less-skilled workers.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Young people have been fleeing Russia Two, and in most cases they never come back</p><p>The economic situation varies across the cities of Russia Two: the highest incomes are enjoyed by residents of oil- and gas-producing cities in Tyumen region, and incomes are also somewhat higher in cities with large steel and coal industry enterprises — that is, in cities with export-oriented economies. In cities with export substitution industries (machine building, the food industry, and so forth), wages are considerably lower than in the regional centres.<br /><br /><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02314319.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02314319.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Workers at a metallurgical factory in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region (population: 172,000). Photo (c) 2013, Yury Abramochkin / Visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Young people have been fleeing Russia Two, and in most cases they never come back. Economic crises are particularly hard on one-company cities. There are more than 150 of these, and they account for ten percent of the country’s urban population. The denizens of Russia Two, like the residents of the largest cities, have not been happy with the political situation. During the 2011 parliamentary elections, the share of votes cast in favour of the ruling party (United Russia) in many industrial cities was as low as in large regional centre (29–38%).</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>However, during the presidential elections, Russia Two residents voted for Putin because, more than anything else, they valued stability, employment, and wages. They remembered the 1990s well, when enterprises would remain idle for long periods of time while workers would go unpaid for months on end. The main reason for Russia Two to protest is the loss of jobs and wages. Lliberal ideas of modernisation are unpopular; the greatest value is a strong paternalist state and large-scale social policy.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Kremlin’s spin doctors have managed to pit the hardworking populace of Russia Two against the residents of Russia One</p><p>The residents of industrial Russia feel like they are the main “providers” for Russia; therefore, the Kremlin’s spin doctors have managed to pit the hardworking populace of Russia Two against the residents of Russia One who, in the language of the official propaganda, “only wag their tongues and produce nothing.” The existence of a political rift is confirmed by the outcome of the presidential elections. In the Urals, during the 2012 presidential race, Putin garnered twice as much support as United Russia received there in the parliamentary election in 2011.</p><h2>At the margins, but not marginal: Russias Three &amp; Four</h2><p>Russia Three is the traditionalist and inert rural heartland of most of Russia’s regions, as well as the communities in villages and small towns with a population of less than 20,000 (collectively, more than one-third of the country’s population).</p><p>In these cities, the levels of education and mobility are at their lowest; the public sector and agriculture provide most of the jobs; and a large share of those employed are in the informal sector. The periphery is apolitical and always votes for the incumbent authorities. Russia Three also suffers from depopulation. The borders between these three Russias are blurred. Obviously, the distribution of the population is not the only factor affecting the pace of modernisation, but the centre-periphery model helps identify the key differences.<br /><br /><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00949513.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00949513.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The village postman arrives. Zikhnov, Arkhangelsk Region, 2011. Photo (c): Aleksei Kudenko / visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Russia Four is yet another periphery, which comprises the underdeveloped republics of the North Caucasus (five percent of Russia’s total population) and the south of Siberia (less than one percent). These regions differ greatly from the rest of Russia because they are at an earlier stage of the modernisation transition: urbanisation began later, the demographic transition is incomplete, birth rates remain high, the patriarchal clan-based structure of society persists, ethnic differences are acute, and religion plays an important role.</span></p><p>The rural population is still young, cities have yet to digest the growing migration from the rural areas, and the urban way of life is only just taking shape there. The modernised, urban population is too slow to expand, because a fairly large part of the educated and competitive young people are moving to the country’s largest cities.</p><p>Centre-periphery differences are typical of other countries, but in Russia they have specific features, from a very wide gap between the largest cities and the rest of Russia, and the vast size of the depopulating ethnic Russian periphery.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Across the four Russias, there is a deep well of resentment that the authorities are all too happy to exploit</p><p>This division into four Russias is based on long-term factors and is very durable, with differences changing very slowly. During the economic boom of the 2000s, the residents of the largest cities, where the better-paying jobs and the better-educated population are concentrated, enjoyed the highest rates of growth in incomes and consumption standards.</p><p>Rapid consumption has helped modernise urban lifestyles and the values held by the population of the major cities in “Russia One”. The 2009 crisis had a stronger impact on the medium-sized industrial cities of “Russia Two”. On the whole, the gap between “Russia One” and “Russia Two” widened in the 2000s.</p><p>As the authorities are well aware, anti-western sentiments and frustration over the breakup of the USSR are widespread across all four Russias. The annexation of Crimea enjoyed massive public support and Putin’s popularity rating jumped from 60 to 82% between January and March 2014. The authorities now have an opportunity to attribute the worsening economic situation to the malicious designs of foreign enemies. Across the four Russias, there is a deep well of resentment that the authorities are all too happy to exploit.</p><h2>The 2014 Crisis and the Four Russias</h2><p>The Russian economy plunged into a recession even before the onset of the crisis in Ukraine. In 2013, there was no growth in industrial output or investment, and 2014 saw the beginning of a serious economic downturn.</p><p>The growth of household incomes in 2013 was minimal (three percent) and largely stemmed from wage increases in the public sector. The fiscal position of the nation’s regions is deteriorating because of a reduced tax rate and shrinking transfers from the federal budget.</p><p>Seventy seven out of 83 regions are running fiscal deficits. In the aggregate, the budget spending by the regions was 8% higher than their revenues. Russia’s budget is simply unsustainable. The regions will be forced to cut expenditures, mainly the number of social-sector institutions and their employees.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The underdeveloped republics did not notice the 2009 economic crisis and are unlikely to notice a new one, since they live mostly off transfers from the federal budget and the shadow economy</p><p>The underdeveloped republics (Russia Four) did not notice the 2009 economic crisis and are unlikely to notice a new one, since they live mostly off transfers from the federal budget and the shadow economy. The share of these republics in the total transfers to the regions of the Russian Federation is only 10%. The federal budget can afford to continue supporting them.<br /><br /><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/2425302932_eaeae06716_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/2425302932_eaeae06716_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Where now for the four Russias? Photo CC: Elo Vazquez / Flickr, 2008. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The peripheral Russia Three is also outside the risk zone. It has the largest share of pensioners, and older people are more loyal and manageable even if the rate of pension increases slows down. In rural areas and smaller cities, the share of public-sector and agricultural employees is higher. Wages in the public sector have increased, while the agricultural sector will likely become more competitive on the back of a weaker rouble and declining imports.</span></p><p>The industrial cities of Russia Two have been more deeply affected by the economic crisis, particularly hubs of the steel, coal, paper and pulp, and engineering industries, in which output began to decline in 2013.</p><p>So far, big and medium-sized businesses have been very careful in their layoff policies because of pressure from the federal and regional authorities, but as the crisis exacerbates, the problem of unemployment will grow more urgent. It may be mitigated to some extent as the federal budget has allocated considerable resources to prop up employment (more than 100 billion roubles in 2014, or 20% more than at the peak of the crisis in 2009).</p><p>But this will help only if the crisis is short lived, which is unlikely given the many institutional flaws of the Russian economy and recent international sanctions in response to Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis. Russia Two is headed for high unemployment and a drop in living standards. At the same time, it should be taken into account that the populations in the industrial cities in the central, north-western, and Urals regions have grown older: most of the workers are close to retirement age, which reduces pressure on the labour market.</p><p>Wide protests are unlikely, since the population of Russia Two is less educated and will be more easily convinced by the all-out Kremlin propaganda campaign blaming the country’s economic problems on scheming foreign enemies.</p><p>Single-company towns are the most vulnerable to the effects of an economic crisis, but a massive public outcry can hardly be expected there. Russia’s big businesses have learned how to lower social costs through management tools (like shorter working weeks, mandatory unpaid leaves, minimization of layoffs, reassignment of workers to other tasks within a company if certain shops have to be closed down, firing protest leaders, and a de facto actual ban on strikes) and to extract the most benefit from government support for employment. An effective alliance between federal and regional authorities and big business has evolved in Russia, seeking to minimise social protest in industrial cities where large companies have their assets.</p><p>The medium-sized businesses in monotowns are more vulnerable because the risks of shuttering undermodernised enterprises are higher. During the 2009 crisis, regional authorities forbade owners of medium-sized businesses to close down unprofitable enterprises, making them work at a loss or sell to new owners; they also forced other companies in the region to buy products from struggling businesses.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The labour market is gradually adjusting to the worsening conditions by freezing wages in the private sector and slowly reducing employment</p><p>In Russia One, the creeping crisis (or, rather, slow recession) is currently not perceived as an acute problem, but the situation will inevitably grow worse. People in the major cities boast the highest level of education, incomes, and consumption standards and thus have a great deal to lose.</p><p>The labour market is gradually adjusting to the worsening conditions by freezing wages in the private sector and slowly reducing employment, while households have employed various adaptation strategies. For the bureaucrats, who account for a sizeable proportion of the middle class in large cities, the negative impact of the crisis is absorbed by higher wages and corruption rent. Emigration remains an option for competitive professionals who are not willing to adjust to the new political reality.<br /><br /><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/5532383968_8e09455a92_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/5532383968_8e09455a92_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Express service to Russia One. A bus to Moscow awaits passengers in Makhachkala, Dagestan. Photo: Un Bolshakov / Flickr, 2011. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>As the crisis deepens, the residents of Russia’s largest cities will be able to shake off the postimperial syndrome sooner and more rationally evaluate the consequences of the Putin regime’s antimodernisation policies. But whether Russia One has the strength to protest and what the forms and scope of opposition to the Kremlin’s policies will be is an open question.</span></p><h2>Scenarios for the Four Russias</h2><p>Negative political changes in Russia are so swift that predicting anything is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, the general direction of the Putin regime is clear: anti-modernisation and isolationism. The only question is the depth and longevity of the trend.</p><p>This new trend in the Russian state’s policies has many historical precedents: revolutions have always been followed by periods of counterrevolutions and attempts to restore old development models. In the case of today’s Russia, the anti-modernisation, counter-revolutionary trend is aggravated by the postimperial syndrome. The following four development scenarios seem likely:</p><p><strong>Back to the USSR / sliding toward totalitarianism</strong>. This scenario involves switching to the “besieged fortress” mode and tightening the political regime for quite a long time to come.</p><p>This scenario implies greater control over big business under the threat of nationalisation and its subordination to the political interests of the authorities, a mobilisation-ready economy, ideological control over key aspects of life, restrictions on foreign travel, large-scale reprisals against the opposition and liquidation of the remaining independent media outlets, and restrictions on the Internet.</p><p>This likely will lead to a sharp drop in the living standards of the entire population, particularly the middle class in the larger cities who are not part of the bureaucracy. Such a scenario no longer appears implausible, but it is more likely to materialise in the event of a full-scale Russian military invasion of eastern Ukraine and the introduction of sweeping western sanctions as a response.</p><p>Should this scenario materialise, its implications for the four Russias are easy to predict. The larger cities of Russia One would be hit the hardest, and their population would have to sharply lower their consumption standards. Resistance is unlikely to be broadbased in the repressive environment, but the modernised middle class would leave the country in droves.</p><p>The differences between Russia One and the other Russias would become smaller because of the shrinking modernisation potential of the largest cities. The authorities would try to mitigate the negative consequences for the industrial Russia Two, which is the Putin regime’s political base.<br /><br /><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/8714066911_8903926867_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/8714066911_8903926867_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Muscovites protest in solidarity with those arrested in the Bolotnaya demonstration of 2012. Photo: Vladimir Varolomeev / Flickr, 2014. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Budget-funded government contracts would increase, and so would support for employment in industrial cities. Russia Three is another base of support for the regime, but in its case, the authorities may limit themselves to maintaining the level of pensions and wages for public-sector employees. The country’s outlying areas are incapable of protest and have always voted as expected.</span></p><p>Under this scenario, the regime may remain stable over the medium term, while its more distant future would depend on the speed and depth of the economic crisis, which will inevitably worsen even if energy prices do not fall. As a result, Russia would lose almost all of its competitive advantages, except for commodities, and would find itself in the group of less-developed countries.</p><p><strong>Hard authoritarianism</strong>. Barring a full-scale invasion of eastern Ukraine, this is the most probable scenario. The prevailing antimodernisation trend with the imitation of Soviet practices and pinpoint reprisals against protest leaders will continue.</p><p>The business community would demonstrate loyalty in exchange for permission to keep their assets, and no considerable nationalisation of the economy would take place. The living standards would decline, but not too rapidly. Under this scenario, the educated population of the larger cities of Russia One espousing modern values would self-isolate, withdrawing into “internal emigration” (a passive form of protest), with just a few small groups of active protesters remaining. Emigration would occur on a lesser scale but would be enough to undermine the modernisation potential of Russia’s largest cities.</p><p>Under this scenario, the authorities would also rely on the conservatism of the industrial and still-Soviet Russia Two and the peripheral Russia Three, but it might prove to be a less stable political support than the regime would hope for. After the annexation of Crimea, the mobilisation resources based on the postimperial syndrome could be exhausted and the level of political support for the authorities would decline because of economic problems.</p><p>The Russian authorities then are quite likely to encourage ethnic (Great Russia, orthodox) mobilisation and xenophobia toward migrants as a new source of support for the regime which would inevitably exacerbate tensions in Russia Four in the North Caucasus. In addition to the republics of the Caucasus, the cities of Russia One where the bulk of migrant workers are concentrated and the cities and rural areas of the Russian south where the influx of migrants is also massive would become a problem zone. T</p><p>he consequences of growing Russian and ethnic nationalisms are impossible to predict, and pumping up xenophobia might lead to disintegration of the country as the worst-case scenario. Although the imperial idea unites most of the Russian citizens, albeit temporarily, the national one is sharply divisive.</p><p><strong>Returning to the modernisation path after a short relapse of the postimperial syndrome</strong>. This may happen only if the elites split up and later reach an agreement to alter the country’s direction and replace the leader, which is unlikely.</p><p>Even if the course of leadership is changed, it would be difficult to start modernizing institutions and to loosen the state’s authoritarian grip on business and society. Regrettably, during the post-Soviet period, particularly under Putin, all the institutions of society, as well as human and social capital, have deteriorated. A change of course in the context of a protracted economic crisis would lead to temporary loss of control and chaotic decentralisation.<br /><br /><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00183140.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00183140.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Political campaign poster on Moscow's Sofiyskaya Embankment, 2008. Photo (c): Mikhail Fomichev / visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This is virtually inevitable at the stage of abandoning strict authoritarianism. In this scenario, Russia Two would lose state support; its population would protest but would do so warily because of the low social capital of the industrial cities’ population and a limited ability to act collectively. Russia Three would adjust to the changes using traditional survival techniques (for example, subsidiary farming, picking mushrooms and wild berries, or fishing). Russia One would continue to be the leader of change, but at a much lower level of social and human capital in the largest cities, which would limit the modernisation potential. This potential is further diminished by the fact that the Russian authorities have raised institutional barriers that would impede the progress of Russia One.</span></p><p>Thus, a law has been passed abolishing direct mayoral elections in the country’s 67 largest cities (excluding the federal centres) to prevent opposition candidates from being elected. In 2012, gubernatorial elections were reinstated, but with a system of filters to prevent the opposition from entering the races. This will enhance the legitimacy of governors, but within the regions the system in which strong mayors of the largest cities counterbalance the regional governors will be destroyed. In the context of weakening federal authority, such an imbalance would facilitate the emergence of authoritarian regional regimes.</p><p>To bring this country together, the new Russian authorities would again take a step toward authoritarianism. Russia would again fall in the same pit, confirming the relevance of the path-dependence theory that explains how development is limited by the system of values prevailing in society.4 These are informal norms and rules deeply rooted in the life of nations and linked to the behavioral stereotypes of large population groups, which makes them stronger than formal institutions (laws).</p><p><strong>Forcibly toppling the existing regime through revolution.</strong>&nbsp;This is the least likely scenario. The main role under this scenario would be played by Russia One — or, rather, the nation’s capital — but the outlines of such a scenario are not discernible for the time being, and its consequences are too harrowing to even contemplate.</p><h2>Conclusion</h2><p>In the post-Crimea political environment, Russia One is an obvious loser. It cannot strengthen its influence on the nation’s development by introducing innovative values and diffusing them through the hierarchy of cities. Under the more likely future scenarios, the authorities would isolate Russia One and rely on the conservative semiperiphery and periphery (Russias Two and Three).</p><p>Interactions between Russia One and Russia Two are unlikely under any scenario, as their interests diverge in the short and medium term: the residents in major cities are keen to see modernisation of the state, while Russia Two values social and economic stability (employment and wages) above anything else. The problems of Russia Four heighten the risks associated with Russia’s development under all scenarios.</p><p>Under the harshest scenario, these problems may be temporarily frozen with the help of government-sponsored violence, but that would increase development risks further into the future.<br /><br /><em>Reprinted with the permission of the <a href="https://www.aei.org/publication/putins-russia-how-it-rose-how-it-is-maintained-and-how-it-might-end/" target="_blank">American Enterprise Institute</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexander-morozov/putin-s-politics-of-uncertainty-how-kremlin-raised-stakes">Putin’s politics of uncertainty: how the Kremlin raised the stakes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/at-bottom-of-power-vertical">At the bottom of the power vertical</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/rodric-braithwaite/book-review-samuel-greene-%27moscow-in-movement-power-and-opposition-in-p">Book review: Samuel Greene, &#039;Moscow in Movement: Power and Opposition in Putin’s Russia&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/denis-sokolov/can-north-caucasus-adapt-to-political-change">Can the North Caucasus adapt to political change?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Natalia Zubarevich Polit.Ru Russia Regions Politics Internal Mon, 01 Feb 2016 09:24:23 +0000 Natalia Zubarevich 99469 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can the North Caucasus adapt to political change? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/denis-sokolov/can-north-caucasus-adapt-to-political-change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/24288916886_871b611530_z.jpg" alt="24288916886_871b611530_z.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p><span>Amid a crumbling and fragile system, central and regional elites gear up for a new power struggle in Russia’s North Caucasus.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>If 2015 was the year of purges of regional elites for the North Caucasus, 2016 will be the year of political innovation. And Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been first off the starting blocks.</span></p><p>Kadyrov began the year by announcing a new political agenda — at a federal, not just regional level. In a joint statement with two other senior Chechen politicians, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/21/ramzan-kadyrov-chechen-leader-instagram-insults-decoded">Kadyrov labelled Russia’s opposition and dissenters as “enemies of the people” and “traitors”</a>. </p><p>The North Caucasus, and particularly Dagestan and Ingushetia in the region’s east, is bound to respond to these clear (and pretty scary) signals. Especially when you consider that the local political process is already moving in a dangerous direction.&nbsp;<span>Both state and public institutions are in decline. They are short of money and no longer care where and how they get it. The law of ‘might is right’ is back, and it isn’t just <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/chechnya-kadyrov-instagram-threats-attack-dog-russian-opposition/27494978.html">Kadyrov’s dog Tarzan who is sharpening his fangs</a>.</span></p><h2>From a war on militants to a war on the people </h2><p>In the 1990s, when the Russian state was ‘on its knees’, the institutional specifics of the Caucasus came to the fore in the growth of ethnic nationalist movements, a rise in religious fervour and the emergence of Islamist parties. </p><p>In its most brutal moments, the national-liberation struggle descended into open war, while global Islam became the ideology behind the ‘village revolutions’ in rural Dagestan. At one point, <a href="http://www.rubincenter.org/2005/12/souleimanov-2005-12-04/">two villages (Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi) declared themselves an ‘independent Islamic state’</a>. </p><p>During the gloomy years of the 2000s and the first half of the 2010s, the infamous&nbsp;<span>‘</span><span>power vertical</span><span>’</span><span>&nbsp;was built in the North Caucasus, and with it, the emergence of a new political class. This new group came from former members of the FSB and other defence and law enforcement operatives.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">The war on terrorism and extremism in the North Caucasus became a useful pretext for the suppression of political opponents and the replacement of one elite group by another</p><p>The war on terrorism and extremism in the North Caucasus became a useful pretext for the suppression of political opponents and the replacement of one elite group by another. Thus, members of the Kumyk ethnic group (the third largest in Dagestan), who were fighting for the right to parcel out common land in a suburb of the capital Makhachkala, were labelled ‘extremists’, as were the residents of the village of Tidib and campaigners in Kabardino-Balkaria who were trying to repossess former collective farmland. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/varfolomeev - grozny 4693786494_2d6dd50387_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Grozny restored. CC Vladimir Varfolomeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>The federal and regional governments were allies for almost 15 years in this war on ‘extremism’. Rising oil prices allowed the local elites to be compensated for the loss of their sovereignty with fabulous incomes, while the general public was kept sweet with social services and benefits.</span></p><h2>Erstwhile allies</h2><p>Now the situation has changed fundamentally. Local political heavyweights, Moscow’s erstwhile allies in the creation of the power vertical, are now being called to order and finding themselves behind bars. <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/caucasus-report-makhachkala-mayor-says-charges-fabricated/27024682.html">The first to fall was Said Amirov</a>, the mayor of Makhachkala. </p><p>These former allies are not being prosecuted for corruption (or not only for corruption – other equally corrupt officials are still in place and have even been rewarded), but for an excess of independence. The Caucasian warlords have found themselves bested by a new generation of Kremlin bureaucrats, mostly political analysts and party apparatchiks.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/international crisis group - gi9595504837_0654d052c9_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>New waves of repression could lead young people to 'join the hills' in Dagestan. International Crisis Group / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Parallel to the fall of these powerful regional clans, the main armed underground groups were annihilated in the run up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Most of those fighters whot remained pledged their allegiance to “Islamic State” (which is banned in Russia).</span></p><p>The authorities’ plan to drive out Muslims whose views were at odds with those of the official Muslim spiritual leadership thus had some public support. “Let them go to Syria and die there!” one contact told me. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">These former allies are not being prosecuted for corruption, but for an excess of independence</p><p>Russia’s political profile altered radically over 2014-2015. Up to 2014, central government always took the side of the established elites in any regional political dispute, while local opposition forces were labelled extremist and more or less automatically found themselves on the wrong side of the law.</p><p>Now, with the regional political empires dismantled, the Kremlin and the security services’ are focused on the increasing numbers of people exchanging their traditional rural way of life for a life in Islam, based on knowledge they have gained in Syria, Turkey or Egypt. The war in Syria and growing tensions with Turkey have only exacerbated this tension. </p><h2>Crisis as catalyst </h2><p>This how the North Caucasus is entering <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35398423">Russia’s most serious political and economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union</a>. The economies of Russia’s republics are already in the doldrums. </p><p>New factors such as public sector workers’ declining purchasing power, the removal of ‘dead souls’ (no longer deceased serfs, as in Gogol’s novel, but non-existent patients added to health centre lists to boost per capita funding) and Russia’s Central Bank’s ‘sanatising’ of the financial market all affect regional elites. </p><p>In December, <a href="http://lenta.ru/news/2015/12/05/killed/">the medical director of a Kabardino-Balkaria hospital was murdered</a>. Khadis Bottayev’s attempts to outlaw the ‘dead souls’ system and various other scams, leading to a cut in income for some members of staff, are considered one possible motive for the crime. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/un bolshakov 1248859161_2fc1c112b3_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Retail markets are likely to be targeted by criminal groups. CC Un Bolshakov / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>And this is just the start. Our figures suggest that about half of household income in the North Caucasus comes from the public purse: pensions, invalidity benefits (in some villages 70 percent of residents fraudulently claim to have a disability), multiple-child allowances and agricultural credits.</span></p><p>A further decline in purchase power will lead to a second wave of cuts in real household income as the retail market and service sectors shrink. ‘Trifles’ such as sanctions against Turkey, which have put small importers and building firms out of business and hit footwear production and rice producers (whose customers were Turkish businessmen), will be the last straw. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">The group forming a buffer between Moscow and the communities of the Caucasus, the regional elite clans, has almost disappeared</p><p>The onward march of Russia’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/grigory-tumanov/dark-doings-of-russia%E2%80%99s-centre-e">anti-extremist legislation</a>, along with extrajudicial harassment of opposition activists for any criticism of the government or signs of dissidence, are institutionalising confrontation between the Kremlin and a number of groups within the population. These are Salafite Muslims, ‘ordinary’ Muslims who have studied in Syria or Egypt, Kabardian, Balkar and Cherkassian nationalists and so on. </p><p>And on top of all this, the group forming a buffer between Moscow and the communities of the Caucasus, the regional elite clans, has almost disappeared: its members have either moved to Moscow, become absorbed into the Russian law enforcement bureaucracy or been put behind bars. </p><p>So, what can we expect in 2016?</p><ol><li><span>A continued drop in public sector salaries and a rise in the region’s informal economy from around 50% of the total, as it is now, to 80% or more.</span></li><li><span>The further takeover of both wholesale and retail markets, the service sector, passenger and goods transport and the fuel market by criminal elements. Also, a growth in the law enforcement bodies’ ‘security’ activity (extortion, protection rackets). We can expect an armed public response to this, including the emergence of local self-defence squads, which are already appearing in Dagestan.</span></li><li><span>Increasing public pressure on judicial and law enforcement bodies, Shariah law courts will become more common and a demand will arise for Islamic financial institutions in the eastern North Caucasus. (This will happen later on, when the ammunition is finished.) We will also see the beginnings of ‘local’ medicine and ‘local’ education, some of it based at mosques, replacing the degenerating state and municipal institutions we have now.&nbsp;</span><span>The last few years have seen Dagestanis acquiring expertise in ‘DIY’ medical and education services. In the village of Tlokh, for example, the village council provided funding for the local hospital to be converted into an Accident and Emergency Centre and an experienced A&amp;E specialist, a native of the village, was appointed its medical director.&nbsp;</span><span>Now patients come for treatment from as far away as Astrakhan, more than 500km away. And natives of the village of Tlondoda who had moved away have built a 30 place dormitory block at its Muslim primary school so their children can come from the city to board there, and have saved the school from closure at the same time. Money collected by parents each month allows extra teachers to be hired to teach Russian, Arabic and PE.</span></li><li><span>The turn towards Islamicisation will continue. In the north-east Caucasus, the concept of secular education has conclusively lost out to Islam because of problems with the judicial system and social mobility. People are increasingly thinking in completely different geopolitical terms. Urbanisation is not resulting in the Russification of migrants from mountain villages, but more in the creation of a completely independent urban culture.</span></li><li><span>Depopulation will continue and perhaps increase. It will be the most educated and prosperous people who will leave. This emigration will have not only economic consequences, in terms of an outflow of capital, but also a political consequence: the people who are leaving and will continue to leave will be those who feel the greatest loyalty to Russia and who therefore support Russian social, political and business norms. In 2016, the Caucasus will become even less Russian in its institutions than it has been up to now.</span></li></ol><p><span>Finally, in 2016 Russia’s new political agenda in the North Caucaus will become apparent. It will no longer be a question of disadvantaged population groups protesting against the ethnic, religious and land policies of the regional government and the war with the armed underground.</span></p><p>Instead what will gradually come to the fore will be a confrontation between the Russian security servies and a considerable part of the North Caucasus Muslim population. At present, disputes over land are resolved with the help of intermediaries — members of the regional elites. When these go, disputes will be direct, head-on, which will create a new political order and bring new leaders on board.&nbsp;<span>This is potentially a battle for resources. Some regional religious and ethnic groups are already thinking about their potential role ‘when the oil runs out’.</span></p><p>In 2015, the North Caucasus witnessed the height of suppression against regional elites, and in 2016 we can expect to see a natural rebound. This will be centred on the State Duma elections in September, where the clans will attempt to either regain their lost ground, or negotiate extra preferential conditions. </p><p>The competition for assets in the power struggle is hotting up; the political toolkit for this competition has fallen into disuse during the ‘power vertical’ years. That is why 2016 will be a year of political innovation, with the devaluation of the old political orders and the emergence of new ones.</p><p><em>Standfirst image: Akhmad Kadyrov mosque, Grozny. CC Gregor Winter / Flickr. Some rights reserved. This article <a href="http://www.rbc.ru/opinions/politics/19/01/2016/569e32149a79475c63d7ff9d">originally appeared in RBC in Russian</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/varvara-pakhomenko/russia-s-north-caucasus-lesson-in-history">Between dialogue and violence: the North Caucasus&#039;s bloody legacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/gubden-dagestan-where-radicals-police-themselves">Gubden, Dagestan: where ‘radicals’ police themselves</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/ummah-islam-in-post-soviet-world">Ummah: Islam in the post-Soviet world</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-gordienko/sudden-warning-in-dagestan">A sudden warning in Dagestan</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Denis Sokolov Russia Internal Economy Dagestan Chechnya Caucasus Mon, 25 Jan 2016 11:38:04 +0000 Denis Sokolov 99315 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Give back the vote https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-levcenco/give-back-vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/entering_Moldovan_parliament.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Against a background of mass protests, Moldova’s parliament has just approved a new government in record time. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-levcenco/january-protest-moldova" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>“Down with Plahotniuc!”, “Now or never!”, “Moldovans, unite!” protesters will shout outside the Moldovan parliament, in a spontaneous meeting against the approval of the new cabinet. “Judas!” they will cry as Mihai Ghimpu, leader of the Liberal Party, makes his way past, beaten and confused.</span></p><p>This is all still to come. A few hours earlier, Ghimpu entered the parliament calmly to vote for the election of a new prime minister. Several people in the crowd outside throw snowballs, but the politician pays no attention, smiling and waving his hand in response.</p><h2>“The country has lived for two months without a government”</h2><p>On the afternoon of 20 January, deputies hastily gathered for a special session of parliament. Their task? To approve the government of Pavel Filip, a candidate from Moldova’s Democratic Party, which is controlled by the country’s main oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. The Cabinet had found out that parliament will support their proposal only a few hours earlier. As the parliamentary speaker Adrian Candu explained: “the country has lived for two months without a government.”<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Moldova_protest2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Moldova_protest2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters blockade the exit to the Moldovan parliament. Photo (c): Andrey Ghilan</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /><span>Indeed, yesterday’s parliamentary session was held in a half-empty hall. “This meeting should be called not special, but extraordinary, judging by how it’s being conducted,” said Oleg Reidman, a Communist Party deputy. “Two hours to get people in the parliament is totally inadequate. How did you expect people to get here on time and take part in this meeting? You are depriving them the opportunity to speak and ask questions.”</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">&nbsp;“This meeting should be called not special, but extraordinary, judging by how it’s being conducted”</span></p><p>Prime Minister Pavel Filip was forced to speak from the floor. Socialist Party deputies prevented him from taking the podium.</p><p>“I’ve come here with my team to take a responsibility much greater than it seems,’ read Filip against heckles and disgruntled cries of the socialists. “I have come to form a last chance government for Moldova. It may sound pretentious, but that's what I feel. We are creating this government amidst huge popular mistrust of the political class. This is a result of political instability in recent years, endless political wars and broken promises. So today we will not promise anything.”</p><p>Filip’s government received 57 out of a possible 101 votes, largely from members of the “parliamentary majority” formed by the Democratic Party last month. (The “parliamentary majority” also includes members from the Liberal Party, defectors from the Communist Party, the Liberal Democrats and one socialist.) The democrats in parliament only have 19 deputies. The opposition - pro-European and pro-Russian - has announced an all-out mobilisation.</p><p>Renato Usatii, leader of Our Party, called on his supporters to take to the protest by publishing a video statement on his page on Facebook page: “I ask all to come to the protest in front of parliament at 16:00. I'm on the road and I arrive only at 18:00,” said Usatii, adding that the protesters should be without party flags, only the flags of Moldova.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Moldova_protest3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Moldova_protest3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police cordon around the entrance to the Moldovan parliament. Photo (c): Maria Levcenco</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /><span>Maya Sandhu, who chairs the as yet unregistered political formation Party of Action and Solidarity wrote on Twitter from the United States: “If you give up democracy for the sake of stability, one day you’ll lose democracy and stability.”</span></p><p>The exact number of participants of spontaneous meeting at the walls of Parliament is unknown. The police’s rough estimate of witnesses, at the peak of the protest events, were 10,000-12,000 people.<br /><br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">We are creating this government amidst huge popular mistrust of the political class.&nbsp;</span></p><p>The protesters gathered in front of the outputs of the parliament not to allow the deputies to leave the building of the legislative body. The main events took place at the back entrance to the parliament. There the protesters tried to break through police cordon to enter the building of the legislative body.</p><p>It was assumed that in this way they planned to force the remaining deputies in the government to cancel the approval of Filip, to achieve early elections. “Shame!” shouted the people against the police after another failed attempt to enter the parliament.<br /></p><h2><span>"They'd rather leave like Ceaușescu"&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Vitaly Turodov found out about the events from a television broadcast. He came to the protest from the nearby village of Suruceni. In answer to the question “what's going on here”, the activist simply answered “the crooks have filled sackfuls of money and won't give up until they've squeezed [Moldova] dry, down to the last drop of wine. They should have left long ago. But it appears that they'd rather leave like Ceaușescu did. That's why I came here — to overthrow them. I'm tired of all the abominations they've brought to this country. They're mocking us.”<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Insider_Moldovan_parliament.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Insider_Moldovan_parliament.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters attempt to disarm police and enter the the parliament building. Photo (c): Andrey Ghilan</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /><span>It's 12 degrees below zero in Chișinău, the Moldovan capital. Some of the protesters are warming themselves by open fires. Among them is Valentina, a 40-year old resident of the city. She found herself in the thick of things when the protesters attempted to break through the police cordon. “The police beat me on the head and the ribs. I'll curse them for the rest of my life. Why did they have to strike me? Because we came here to defend our interests and the interests of our country. We want early elections. And let the whole world know that the president should immediately dissolve the parliament and government in order to ensure peace, and to avoid bloodshed” says Valentina, eager to listen back to her words to ensure that nothing was missed.</span></p><p>Beside her at the fire sits the unemployed, 54-year old Ion. “The main thing people need to understand is that we should not stand down. Whatever has been started must continue. I was one of the first to protest up by the walls of the parliament building and I saw at first hand how the police dealt with us. Whenever somebody was pulled out of the crowd, the police would beat them. Apparently, some were even arrested. People were incensed, but we still made a passage through the crowd for the police” says the activist.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Protesters_fire.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Protesters_fire.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters keep themselves warm by the fire. Photo (c): Maria Levcenco</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /><span>All of the activists stressed that the protest was a peaceful one. The clashes with police which ultimately led to their breaking into the parliament building were, they said, meaningless acts of hooliganism which were could not be described as intentional aggression. “Of course, I strongly disapprove of all clashes with police, but in a time of transition there are no entirely peaceful protests” explains Vikor, a 30-year old resident of Chișinău.</span></p><p>Many were overjoyed at the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ7HYMrxWZE" target="_blank">incident </a>which took place at around 10 pm with Mihai Ghimpu. As the politician attempted to leave parliament, he was caught and beaten to cries of “Judas!” Ghimpu is indebted to a group of activists who —while also disgruntled with the ruling government — were able defend him.<br /><br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">"The blame lies on those who hold grievances against a manipulated, robbed and hungry nation"</span></p><p>“The blame lies on those who hold grievances against a manipulated, robbed and hungry nation” began the politician's first statement after the attack. “But those who continue fighting, who strive for their people's happiness, will punish those who have been abusing the nation to advance their own interests. So, my dear friends, the struggle continues”</p><p>16 people were injured during the protest at the parliament — 10 policemen and 6 civilians. None of them needed hospitalisation. The general prosecutor's office has already opened up a criminal case on the riots. Article 285 of the criminal code of the Republic of Moldova provides for sentences of up to eight years' imprisonment.</p><p>Reports of the inauguration of Filip as prime minister appeared towards midnight. This was later confirmed by head of the presidential administration Ion Păduraru.</p><h2>Who is Pavel Filip?&nbsp;</h2><p>Over the last five years, Pavel Filip has served as minister of information technology and communications. He was also manager of state-owned tobacco firm TUTUN-CTC and general director of the Bucuria confectionery factory, also owned by the state.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/vandalism_Molparliament.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/vandalism_Molparliament.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Traces of vandalism inside the Moldovan parliament building. Photo (c): Andrey Ghilan</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /><span>Filip then became an alternative prime ministerial candidate for the Democratic Party. Until very recently, the democrats had promoted the candidacy of the party's first vice-chairman, the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc.</span></p><p>Against a background of mass protests, president Nicolae Timofti refused to sign the decree on Plahotniuc's inauguration, citing doubts about his “integrity”. Timofti tried — and failed — to nominate the businessman Ion Sturza to the candidacy.</p><p>With the deadline for re-nominating candidates approaching on 14 January—and with no forthcoming suggestions from the Democratic Party—the president nominated his closest adviser Ion Păduraru for prime minister. Fearing early elections, the democrats then started to make concessions.</p><p>By the morning, Ion Păduraru announced the withdrawal of his candidacy in favour of Pavel Filip. The protesters refused to accept this option. For them, Filip is simply a henchman of Plahotniuc.</p><p>This morning, protests resumed in Chișinău. And according to leaders of the opposition, they'll continue without end.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maria-levcenco/protests-in-chi%C8%99in%C4%83u-views-from-tent-towns">Protests in Chișinău: views from the tent towns</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/regis-gente/b-l-is-prodigal-son">Bălți&#039;s prodigal son </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/marina-shupac/all-eyes-on-moldova">All eyes on Moldova</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maria Levcenco Politics Moldova Internal Thu, 21 Jan 2016 15:34:49 +0000 Maria Levcenco 99252 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can Georgia ditch its surveillance culture? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/can-georgia-ditch-its-surveillance-culture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/3797878.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Mikheil Saakashvili may have left his native Georgia for Odessa, but one particular legacy of his years in power is still strong. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/proslushka-gruziya" target="_blank"><em>Русский</em></a></p><br /> </div> </div> </div> <p>According to his opponents, one of the main indictments against Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili <a href="http://www.theglobalist.com/nsa-on-steroids-mass-surveillance-in-georgia-republic/">was the all-embracing surveillance system he created</a>. During the rough decade of Saakashvili’s rule, you would often hear people muttering&nbsp;<span>“</span><span>we can’t talk about this on the phone</span><span>”</span><span>&nbsp;into their mobiles. People would travel out of Tbilisi to talk about anything confidential, taking the batteries out of their phones to avoid their conversations being picked up</span></p><p>Indeed, even Saakashvili isn’t immune from the system. Last autumn, two recordings of alleged phone conversations between Saakashvili, a senior Ukrainian public official and a Georgian IS commander were made public. Saakashvili <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/victoria-narizhna/saakashvili-is-turning-politics-upside-down-in-ukraine">may now be governor of Odessa</a>, but back in Georgia the question of surveillance hasn’t gone away. </p><h2>The power monopoly</h2><p>“In those days when we picked up the phone we’d always say, ‘Hello, Vano’,” Sofio Khorguani, a former deputy ombudsman, tells me.&nbsp;<span>‘</span><span>Vano</span><span>’</span><span>&nbsp;refers to the interior minister of the time, Vano Merabishvili, an NGO activist who became one of the most influential men in the Georgian government after the Rose Revolution in 2003. Merabishvili was responsible for, among other things, surveillance operations in Georgia.&nbsp;</span><span>&nbsp;<br /><br /></span><span>Back in 2006-2009, Sofio worked as deputy to ombudsman Sozara Subari. Sofio realised that things were going wrong when officials who had worked under Shevardnadze, the previous president, were dismissed from their posts without any severance package.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/3059551.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/3059551.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Georgia's presidential palace in 2013, built under Mikheil Saakashvili. Photo (c) Jan A. Nicolas / Demotix</span></span></span><span>“You had the public prosecution service, the courts and the prisons all in the same hands,” Khorguani tells me. “As a result anyone who was your enemy — or maybe you just wanted to take over his business — had nowhere to go. When everything is run by the same people, the average person is defenceless. And ever since that time many people think that if that’s what western civilisation looks like, we’re better off without it.”</span></p><p>After leaving the post of deputy ombudsman, Sofio decided to get involved in politics and began working with the centre-right Republican Party, which was founded by dissidents back in the late 1970s. Now Sofio is a businesswoman who continues to offer free consultancy on policing matters and runs the well-known online political forum, Planeta.ge. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">You had the public prosecution service, the courts and the prisons all in the same hands</p><p>“Before the war over South Ossetia in 2008,” Sofio tells me, “whenever there was a cock-up, Saakashvili’s supporters would say: ‘We’re building a new system of government, mistakes are bound to happen, When Russian forces were attacking fleeing citizens around Gori, no one in the police had any idea where and how to look for the people who had disappeared or been taken prisoner. </p><p>“I personally broke down the doors of nursery schools to provide shelter for the refugees. But after the war, I realised that there was no system, there was no government. It was all just a façade. And if there were no institutions, why were we going through all this hardship?” </p><h2>Institutions in name only</h2><p>“In the Georgia of those years, many institutions consisted of no more than a name plate on a door. But information was being collected very actively,” Beso Aladashvili, a retired colonel, tells me.&nbsp;<span>Between 1991 and 2005, Aladashvili worked as an analyst for Georgia’s Ministry of State Security, producing reports on the activities of the Armenian, Russian and Turkish security services. Now he teaches postgraduate courses in economic security, and heads his own Center for Public Control of Security Service Activity.</span></p><p>“What’s going on in Russia today is the same as under Saakashvili,” the former colonel tells me. “Journalists were harassed and murdered. Cops were happy to tail people in return for cheap property loans.”<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Saakashvili_Tbilisi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Saakashvili_Tbilisi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Where now? Saakashvili in Tbilisi's Old Town, July 2015. Photo CC: Maxim Edwards</span></span></span><span>Right up to Saakashvili’s fall in 2013, Aladashvili says, patrol cars would tail the president’s opponents until they caught them committing some traffic offence, and then suspend their licences. Several dozen drivers I met while hitch-hiking confirmed this, but were reluctant to expand further on this unpleasant subject.</span></p><p>Indeed, the country’s path from Soviet republic to independent state has been rocky. Based on the country’s legal system, media independence, level of corruption and freedom of speech, Georgia scored 4.83 points out of seven (where seven was the lowest), in the Freedom House democracy index in 2003. In 2010, its rating fell to 4.93. But by 2014, it had risen slightly, to 4.63. </p><h2>Development versus democracy</h2><p>There is no point in carrying out reforms without mass support, political analyst Gela Vasadze tells me. Under Saakashvili, Vasadze served as deputy mayor of Batumi, the capital of Adjara, an autonomous republic on Georgia’s Black Sea coast that is the country’s major tourist and transport hub. </p><p>“For Saakashvili, development was more important than democracy. That’s clear,” says Vasadze. “He explained it like this: to have democracy, you need a certain standard of living, say $8,000 per person per year. In any case, he had no intention of carrying out any democratic reform.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center"> For Saakashvili, development was more important than democracy</p><p>This former government official now considers himself a libertarian in the mould of the American writer Ayn Rand. Vasadze writes for the Ukrainian press about the Georgian view of the war in Ukraine, and heads an NGO and media platform called <a href="http://www.szona.org/">The Freedom Zone</a> which would be happy to see Saakashvili back in power. It’d be hard to accuse Vasadze of supporting the present rulers of either Georgia or Russia. The doormat outside his flat, in an area of the city inhabited by the intellectual classes who generally voted against Saakashvili, is imprinted with a portrait of Vladimir Putin. </p><p>“We can see from our own experience how difficult it is to win active support for reform,” Vasadze tells me. “The only way out would be to build democracy using undemocratic methods. We can see what’s happening now in Ukraine. There’s also the example of Armenia, where, after the collapse of the USSR, real democrats, intellectuals without a trace of authoritarianism, opponents of a power vertical, came to power. It all ended badly: the bureaucratic elite destroyed the democrats and military-minded nationalists took over.”</p><p>Georgia<span>’</span><span>s experience was comparatively bloodless, but it was no less colourful. After 2003, the Georgian opposition organised a march on the capital. But Saakashvili, who had come to power on the wave of protests, ordered it to be dispersed in an operation best remembered for the fact that the police wore Mickey Mouse masks.</span></p><p>“That [march] was an attempted coup supported by the Russian security services,” claims Vasadze. “Tbilisi was on the brink of real violence, which was only averted thanks in part to the active work of our own security services.. So yes, our government resorted to something their predecessors hadn’t done — they suppressed the opposition. And that’s realpolitik, if you like, but not an anti-democratic measure. If the protesters had won, there would have been no democracy at all.” </p><h2>Ineffective power structures</h2><p>After the pro-Saakashvili coalition was defeated in the parliamentary elections of 2012, almost 30,000 files — text, audio and video — came to light. According to Tamara Kaldani, data protection inspector at the time, this data comprised 260 gigabytes of information — more than 1,760 hours of recordings.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/410436148_63d344a713_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/410436148_63d344a713_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Telephone box in Tbilisi, Georgia, 2003. James W. Berk/Flickr. Some rights reserved</span></span></span><span>People got pretty nervous. This anxiety lapsed into the ridiculous: when lights were installed in the hallways of apartment blocks in Tbilisi, the first thought that came into residents’ heads was “and now they’ve installed cameras as well!”</span></p><p>“The main point was to keep tabs on the opposition, not to process the data,” says Aladashvili. “They installed Chinese technology that could tap all mobile phones, but what was the point if we had nobody to process the results?” Indeed, today Georgia still suffers from a surplus of useless apparatchiks. The former security service officer believes that people are appointed through personal connections, rather than patriotism, integrity and professionalism. </p><p>“All over the world, projects are target-based. What outcome do you want to achieve and what resources do you need to achieve it? If a project is financed through a government grant approved by parliament, then the security services can’t use that money to spy on the population. But we still base funding on the number of people employed on it,” he concludes. </p><h2>Same old, same old? </h2><p>Phone tapping is in operation all over the world, and Georgia is no exception, Vasadze tells me, recalling the times when his SIM cards stopped working for no reason. </p><p>“Our present government, despite all their promises, does nothing to stop it, and indeed resorts to it itself,’ says Vasadze. “I’m sure that our new government has been unable to extract anything useful out of the data, apart from staging stunts. But they go on tapping, just as in Saakashvili’s time.”</p><p>The atmosphere is, however, changing. “Today the harassment of economic competitors is in the past,” says Beso Aladashvili. “But politically motivated surveillance is possibly still there. Recently a journalist spoke out about phone tapping on a live TV show, something that would have been unthinkable in the past.”</p><p>Earlier, in March 2015, the Rustavi-2 TV channel disclosed the existence of recordings of phone conversations between officials and business people, though the ruling party claimed that these had been made during Saakashvili’s presidency. And former Deputy Ombudsman Sofio Khorguani tells me that when immediately after the new government came to power, spy footage of a civil activist was made public. Suspicion fell on a senior police official; the matter was investigated and went to court. That would also have been impossible before. </p><p>“Even if they do tap us, nobody cares any more,” she says. “They transcribe our calls, so what? Nobody worries about being fired from work over a phone call. How could they use the stuff? As blackmail? You couldn’t scare anybody with that today. No one gets fired or harassed for political conversations now. But we are still far from certain that it couldn’t start again.”<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/334449.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/334449.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A woman walks past campaign billboards in the run-up to the 2010 elections, Tbilisi. Photo (c) RFE/RL / Demotix</span></span></span><span>“It’s simply been turned into a kind of national hysteria. It’s all down to the PR people. There’s a lot of Russian money in our media now,” Vasadze tells me.</span></p><p>Vasadze believes that everything depends on how news and information are presented to the public, and that the atmosphere of fear is fuelled not just by the government, but the propaganda industry.</p><p>During Saakashvili’s presidency, Russian journalists and bloggers regularly came on press trips to Georgia and wrote enthusiastically about the new architecture of police stations and ministries. There was less coverage, however, of what went on behind the glass walls of these opulent buildings with their free wi-fi.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><span>So when videos of torture taking place in Gldani Prison in 2012 were revealed to the public, many were baffled. Vasadze, however, believes that the footage was staged, and that 150 or so political prisoners who were released were Russian agents. Many Georgians would agree with him: “It’s all a campaign to discredit the president.”</span></p><p>“Saakashvili always had to operate in a media war situation. The real reason for his fall was a failure of communication with the Georgian public,” Vasadze tells me. “As an experienced political analyst, I know that he was a good administrator, a good manager and, of course, an active PR man, albeit not a good one. It’s possible that traffic cops did harass oppositionists. But neither Saakashvili nor his team were from another planet. They grew up in the Soviet Union, and the even more ghastly Shevardnadze era, when really terrible things went on. And now the new guard tell us that things will be different, but their subordinates still have the old mindset. And when there’s someone they don’t like, who annoys them, they go back to the old ways, knowing that they they’ll get away with it.”</p><p>Vasadze also notes that the lower ranks of the police are still loyal to the old guard, although the old interior minister Vano Merabishvili is behind bars. “They are very reluctant to carry out detention orders, for example. At one demo they even said, in so many words: ‘We understand everything, but what can we do? We’ll try to be less ham-fisted.’. Or you might be driving along with an MP and get stopped by a police patrol car, and you worry about getting a ticket, but he salutes and says: ‘I joined the force in Vano’s time; you were much better than the new lot. Thank you.’”</p><h2>Infiltration is the real threat</h2><p>Aladashvili believes there is a much more serious problem than phone tapping: infiltration by secret services. After the breakup of the USSR the KGB carried off a lot of archive documents from the republics to Moscow, to use for compromising purposes.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/3797878.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/3797878.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pedestrians look out onto Tbilisi from a city underpass. Photo (c) Oleksandr Rupeta / Demotix</span></span></span><span></span><span>“Our grandfathers are sacred for us”, he says, “but if the Russians release a file proving that your relative collaborated with the KGB, you can say goodbye to your career”. Aladashvili distrusts lift operators and secretaries in government offices, who go on working there while governments rise and fall. He claims that they are often in the pay of the security services—and not just those of Georgia.</span></p><p>“Even though all the archives were taken to Moscow, the KGB knew all their agents by name” Gela Vasadze tells me. “The security services have most influence in border areas such as Adjara and Samtskhe-Javakheti. In the Soviet years there were quotas for informers: in the towns it would be five per 1000 inhabitants; in the republican capitals 10; and in border regions more than 100 – one in ten of the population. There are lots in our organisation, some of whom I know personally, and there is infiltration in all political parties. You can easily tell them by their behaviour, but we keep them on to avoid having new ones foisted on us. I have even installed an online video camera in my office to make things easier for the police.”</p><h2>Evolution towards democracy? </h2><p>After Saakashvili’s fall, the new regime removed anti-terrorist and anti-corruption operations, as well as drug control, from the security services’ remit. “Everyone wanted to divide up the ‘Superministry’, as it was known, but the old guard is still there. And so is their desire to please the bosses, so the spying may well be continuing as well,” says Aladashvili. </p><p>Despite the reforms of 2014, the changes in the law ‘on Operational Activity’ escaped significant alteration, thanks to opposition from the Interior Ministry. So Parliament was unable to pass amendments that would have seriously restricted the security services’ opportunities to listen to telephone conversations.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/thisaffectsyou_georgia.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/thisaffectsyou_georgia.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Public information video by the ‘This affects you’ campaign against wiretapping. Still via YouTube.</span></span></span><span>In response to this, at the end of 2014 civil rights activists launched a campaign, under the slogan, ‘This affects you – they’re bugging us again’. According to the amendments, the Interior Ministry holds a ‘key’ to the surveillance system, which cannot be used without the permission of a personal data protection inspector. </span></p><p><span>The campaign has been supported by the US based Open Society Foundation, Transparency International and The Association of Young Lawyers of Georgia. Unfortunately, neither the personal data protection inspectorate nor the Association of Young Lawyers could provide any comment on the situation.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Civil rights activists launched a campaign, under the slogan, ‘This affects you – they’re bugging us again’</p><p>Georgia’s current government broadly follows the same policies as all its previous ones. Under Shevardnadze, Russian military bases were closed down; under Saakashvili foreign advisers were actively encouraged, and in 2015 a<a href="http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/2015/08/27/nato-opens-training-center-georgia-amid-russia-tensions/32476321/"> NATO training centre was opened</a>. </p><p>Rights campaigner Sofio Khorguani believes that post-Saakashvili, Georgia has decided on a slow, evolutionary path towards democracy. “In the first place, victims of crime were previously not allowed any information about their case. And if the public prosecutor’s office was in cahoots with the criminals, there was no way of tracing anything. Secondly, there have been changes in the system of appointing high court judges: it has become more democratic, and the High Council of Justice now includes not only politicians from the various parties but legal experts and Council of Justice members.” </p><p>Finally, Sofio concludes: “Any surveillance operation now requires a court order&nbsp;<span>—</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>that would have been unthinkable before. You just have to look at these three issues to see that things are changing”.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/cory-welt/curious-case-of-georgia-s-rustavi-2">The curious case of Georgia’s Rustavi-2</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/omar-tsotoria/mountains-have-ears-legislating-against-surveillance-in-georgia">The mountains have ears: legislating against surveillance in Georgia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/stephen-f-jones/georgia-through-glass-darkly">Georgia through a glass, darkly</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/bakar-berekashvili/georgia-s-grotesque-democracy">Georgia’s grotesque democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Dmitry Okrest Politics Justice Internal Georgia Caucasus Wed, 20 Jan 2016 03:20:05 +0000 Dmitry Okrest 99190 at https://www.opendemocracy.net These hills are ours https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/artur-asafyev/these-hills-are-ours <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Toratau_Bashkiria.jpg" alt="" width="160" />In Bashkortostan, the hills are alive with the sound of limestone quarrying. Now local civil society is taking on one of Russia’s largest chemical consortia. <em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/artur-asasfyev/eti-gori-nashi" target="_blank"><strong>Русский</strong></a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A fight is heating up between one of the Russia’s largest chemical consortia and members of the local population in Bashkortostan, just south of the Ural mountains. The reason? A disappearing chain of hills known as the Shikhans. </p><p>For years, the Bashkir Soda Company has been mining these hills for their limestone—the raw material for the soda industry. The threat facing the Shikhans has brought together scientists, campaigners from regional NGOs and concerned members of the local population to oppose the company’s plans.<br /><br /><span>One of these hills, Shakhtau, which sits close to the company’s headquarters in Sterlitamak, has effectively disappeared—its entire mass quarried to feed the kilns. Now the Bashkir Soda Company (BSC) is demanding that a second hill, Toratau, be stripped of its protected status. Otherwise, production at the soda plant will cease several years from now for lack of raw materials. Several thousand people could lose their jobs.</span></p><p>The regional government, which has always been equivocal on the issue, has recently announced its intention not to sacrifice the mountain and suggests the soda company find alternative sources for its raw materials. But both sides are busy lobbying Moscow, which, according to the experts, will have the last word on the fate of the hill.</p><h2>A national symbol </h2><p>For the Bashkir people, the Shikhans are sacred hills, steeped in tradition. After settling the region in the early middle ages, the Bashkir gave them names: Shakhtau (‘king hill’), Kushtau (‘double hill’), Yuraktau (‘heart hill’) and Toratau (‘fortress hill’). </p><p>Historians and archaeologists believe there was an ancient Bashkir shrine on the hilltop, and the Shikhans were a ritual site for one of the main Bashkir clans, the Yurmat tribe.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Toratau_Bashkiria.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Toratau_Bashkiria.jpg" alt="Toratau mountain, a source of national pride for Bashkortostan and limestone for its chemical companies" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Toratau mountain, a source of national pride for Bashkortostan and limestone for its chemical companies. Photo CC: Olegfoto, 2008</span></span></span><span>‘Toratau was once the centre of the Nogai Khanate,’ says Abdrakhman Validov, a resident of the village of Urman-Bishkadak, which lies at the foot of the hills. ‘They buried saints here for many centuries. The earliest tomb dates back to the second century BCE. There are seven tombs on the summit of Toratau and another 18 at its foot.’</span></p><p><span>In 1965, Toratau and Yuraktau were made ‘complex natural sites of republican significance’ and given protected status. Now this status is under threat.&nbsp;</span>Excavations have also revealed evidence of Bronze and early Iron Age activity, which led to the hills being designated as protected sites in 1960.</p><p class="mag-quote-center"><em>For the Bashkir people, the Shikhans are sacred hills, steeped in tradition</em></p><p><span>At roughly the same time, biologists discovered that the Shikhans were an incredibly rich botanic habitat and important for the region’s biodiversity.&nbsp;</span><span>Specialists believe that examples of a quarter of the republic’s botanical species can be found growing on Toratau and Yuraktau. </span></p><p><span>According to the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Ufa Institute of Biology, Toratau alone is home to 12 species of plant believed to be extinct and 21 species unique to the area. Many of these plants are on Bashkortostan and Russia’s ‘red lists’ of threatened species.</span></p><h2>One hill down…</h2><p>In the 1930s, Soviet Bashkortostan was designated as a region ripe for development as a centre for the chemical and cement industries. A geological survey carried out in 1936 revealed that the hills near Sterlitamak were a large source of limestone, the raw material for this sector. </p><p>It was agreed that development would start with Shakhtau and building began in 1941 on the Sterlitamak soda works, followed by cement and roofing tile plants, for which the Shikhans have become the general supplier of raw materials.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Abdrakhman Validov.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Abdrakhman Validov.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'We will save the Shikhans'. The village of local resident Abdrakhman Validov lies at the foot of Toratau mountain.</span></span></span><span>Folk memory records only instances of unspoken opposition among the local people. ‘In 1955, my granny would say: “You can’t destroy the mountain – there’ll be a serious flood”,’ says Abdrakhman Validov. </span></p><p><span>According to head of the school museum in Urman-Bishkadake: ‘There’s a legend that people present at the first blasts on Shakhtau saw a little old white man—the spirit of the hill—emerging from the clouds of smoke and dust. He wandered off in tears.’</span></p><p>Regional historic and scientific journals make no reference to any real protest against the project at the time. ‘It was just after the war, and we had to rebuild our country from its ruins. It didn’t occur to anybody,’ says Abdrakhman Validov. </p><p>‘The environment wasn’t a priority in the Soviet years,’ adds Valiakhmet Badretdinov, chair of Arkadash, an umbrella group of Bashkir NGOs. ‘You could protest against poaching or campaign to protect endangered animals or plants, but say a word against big industry and you’d soon find yourself in the loony bin.’</p><p>The soda plant increased production levels year on year, and now accounts for 66 per cent of all caustic ash and 88 per cent of bicarbonate of soda produced in Russia. The plant gradually grew into a town-size complex. An urban area quickly developed to the south, swallowing the towns of Salabat and Ishimbay. ‘Okay, Shakhtau has gone,’ say BSC spokespeople, ‘but we have our beautiful city of Sterlitamak and its whole southern industrial hub.’</p><p>By the end of the 20th century, Shakhtau had been almost completely levelled, and the soda company faced a dilemma—to look for sources of limestone elsewhere, to update their technology or to try to have Yuraktau and Toratau stripped of their protected status. The industrialists, who aren’t short of lobbying power, decided that this last option would be the most economical. </p><h2>The beginnings of opposition </h2><p>At the start of the 2000s, the soda company began to push Bashkortostan’s republican government to remove the Shikhans’ protected status. Soon the issue went public, triggering an on-going campaign by Bashkir ethnic organisations, local civic campaigners, environmentalists and other civic activists to save the hills. </p><p>‘Our campaign started in 2005,’ Abdrakhman Validov tells me. ‘That year we held our first big rally and wrote to the presidents of both Bashkortostan and Russia. We also organised cultural events, an international world music festival, for example, in the area near the hills.’<br /><br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center"><em>By the end of the 20th century, Shakhtau had been almost completely levelled&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></span> </p><p>The core of the resistance campaign took place, however, in government and other official offices. The soda company systematically refused to consider any of the proposed alternative locations for its raw material under the pretext that none of them met their chemical, physical and mechanical specifications. </p><p>‘In the early 2000s, we approached Bashnedra, the republic’s subsurface resource management department, asking them to find us another quarrying site,’ the company’s Director of Communications Sergey Lobastov told journalists at his last press conference. ‘They told us to continue quarrying the remains of Shakhtau, saying that there was still enough lime left there. But experts have told us that further development there would be impossible, dangerous even, because of the site’s complex hydro-geological conditions. Then we investigated the Kushtau Shikhan, but the limestone there isn’t of a high enough quality.&nbsp; </p><p>‘We went back to Bashnedra, and this time they recommended a site in another district, but once again the limestone was not good enough. And meanwhile a higher office, the Volga regional subsurface management department, ruled that the limestone in the Shikhans was the only suitable raw material for the soda company in the whole republic. In other words, there is no alternative to quarrying Toratau, however undesirable that might be.’ This was Lobastov’s summary of years of public discussion.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Shakhtau_old.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Shakhtau_old.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gone but not forgotten: Shakhtau mountain, Bashkortostan. </span></span></span><span>The industrialists’ arguments, however, have been met with open scepticism by their opponents. ‘I would trust the conclusions of Bashnedra experts, which confirm that there are equally good sources of limestone elsewhere in the republic, but not the statements being made by the company,’ says Aleksandr Veselov, head of the Bashkortostan Ecologists’ Union.</span></p><p>‘Of course it makes more sense to the company to quarry a hill on their doorstep than to invest in new equipment and updated technology and carry out detailed surveys of other possible sites further away. All these expenses will, after all, affect their investors’ dividends!’<em><br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center"><em>‘</em>Of course it makes more sense to the company to quarry a hill on their doorstep’&nbsp;</span></em></p><p>For many years, the regional authorities have been rather evasive on this issue—and much to the intrigue of the public. The current head of the Bashkortostan republic, Rustem Khamitov, who has a reputation on green issues, equivocated for a long time before finally <a href="http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1680965">speaking out on the issue in 2010 on his blog</a>: ‘We need to explore other options. They are trying to convince me that Toratau is the only, the unavoidable source of limestone. I can’t agree. I haven’t even seen the reports. So I still believe that Toratau should not be touched.’&nbsp;</p><p>In May 2014, however, as his new election campaign kicked off, Khamitov <a href="http://proufu.ru/news/podrobno/rassledovaniya/rustem_khamitov_otdast_tratau_za_pereezd_v_moskvu/">spoke to journalists about the possibility of allowing the company to quarry one of the remaining hills</a>. ‘The Bashkir Soda Company and I are trying to find an option that would not require the destruction of the Shikhans. If there is no other option, then we shall need to take some special decisions, including the extraction of raw material from one of these hills.’&nbsp;</p><p>Over the past two years, the public have been alarmed several times by official leaks about a supposedly completed draft of a directive to strip the Shikhans’ of their protected status. A BSC board member, for example, who headed the republic’s presidential administration until 2013, <a href="http://www.u7a.ru/articles/society/10862">has said that the draft directive has already</a> ‘been passed both by all the requisite republican bodies and at national level, but the republic’s leadership has unexpectedly changed its mind on the matter.’&nbsp;</p><h2>A tug of war </h2><p>In November this year, Khamitov made a series of public statements in which he rejected the soda company’s claim to Toratau. ‘For a long time, our government believed that the only source of the necessary raw material was the Shikhans. We were being, accidently or deliberately, misled. So at some point we needed to establish the real facts of the matter,’ he told a press conference. </p><p>‘Preliminary data show that there are other appropriate sites; our republic is fortunate enough to have enormous supplies of limestone, some of which is suitable for the chemical industry and the production of caustic soda.’ Khamitov went on to say that a site that was acceptable to the soda company had finally been located near the village of Gumerovo, only 35km from Shakhtau.</p><p>‘Public opinion polls have shown that 70 per cent of the local population oppose the quarrying of Toratau,’ added Khamitov. ‘There is a general feeling that people will not allow the destruction of these hills, and the company will be left without its raw material.’</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kushtau.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kushtau.jpg" alt="Kushtau (Bashkir: Ҡуштау, meaning 'double mountain') was saved from destruction by the low quality of its limestone" title="" width="460" height="244" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kushtau (Bashkir: Ҡуштау, meaning 'double mountain') was saved from destruction by the low quality of its limestone. Photo CC: WadPol, 2005</span></span></span><span>As Azamat Galin, a political analyst and businessman, comments, Khamitov is expressing the opinion of central government here. ‘According to my sources, the presidential envoy to the Volga region has been monitoring public moods in the area. They concluded that the negative political consequences of the hill being handed over to the soda company could outweigh its economic benefits. It isn’t just that Bashkirs that would rise in defence of Toratau: its the entire region. It would trigger a powerful mobilisation of civil society movements. Given this situation, BSC was told to use what was left of the Shakhtau site, to allow the situation to stabilise.’</span></p><p>Khamitov’s intention to save the Shikhans was supported by the official regional media, members of Bashkortostan’s state assembly and the republic’s Academy of Sciences. </p><p>BSC has meanwhile been showing off its lobbying power: a round table discussion in Russia’s Civic Chamber <a href="https://www.oprf.ru/press/news/2015/newsitem/31808">ended with a recommendation to the republican authorities to remove Toratau’s protected status</a>.&nbsp;<span>At this very event, the head of Sterlitamak’s Public Civic Chamber Damir Garifullin, who had been invited to Moscow, declared that if Khamitov would not ‘hand over the hill’, the republic’s president should resign. (In fact it was Garifullin who was forced to resign after this outburst.)</span></p><p>Earlier, the directors of BSC had felt able to <a href="//www.soda.ru/ru/news/detail/778 ">publicly remind</a> Khamitov that his success in the 2014 republican presidential election ‘was due in part to the significant support of the republic’s major industrial enterprises, including the Bashkir Soda Company with its many thousands of employees, its trade unions, retired staff organisation and a majority of the voters of Sterlitamak.’&nbsp;</p><p>The company has also tabled the Toratau issue for discussion at a meeting of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. ‘The pressure on the Shikhans is very strong,’ <a href="http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2872916">says State Assembly deputy Rufina Shagapova</a><span>,</span><span>&nbsp;‘We are all feeling it.’&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Lobbying and lies</h2><p>The ‘information war’ over the Shikhans has not subsided since the conflict went public. From time to time, supporters of the soda company play the ‘geopolitical’ card, arguing that any holdup with new sites (let alone the closure of the Sterlitamak plant) will play into the hands of manufacturers in Turkey and other countries, who will inevitably penetrate the Russian market.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Bashkir_campaign_Toratau.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Bashkir_campaign_Toratau.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="254" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bashkir nationalists hold a protest at Toratau, June 2014. Video still via YouTube.</span></span></span><span>One of the opposition websites recently published an article claiming that a certain Mr. Sharif Said, described as ‘the chair of the Chamber of Commerce of the Turkish Republic’ had sent Rustem Khamitov a letter offering ‘to immediately begin supplying your country with soda products from our plants in Turkey.’</span></p><p>The whole thing turned out to be false, though, as Turkey doesn’t have a ‘Chamber of Commerce’ as such (though there are similar organisations), and search engines identify ‘Mr Sharif Said’ as head of the Chamber of Commerce of Tajikistan. The whole thing turned out to be a scam. </p><p>‘All these claims are pure scare tactics, of course’, says Ufa political specialist analyst Stanislav Shkel. ‘The soda company and its supporters will try to frighten people with the threat possible of the closure of the works and the social unrest and so on that would follow.’ Recent instances of <a href="https://vk.com/shihannesoda">online flash mobs showing people trampling packs of soda underfoot</a> are only the latest battles in the information war, though, according to a local NGO protecting the hills, they are potentially sponsored by the factory’s management.&nbsp;</p><h2>Who will win?</h2><p>In the past few weeks, the defenders of Toratau are worried about the fact that, although the republican authorities are on their side, the federal government has not yet declared its position. Both sides are all too aware that Moscow will call the shots, as it has plenty of leverage on the leadership of the republic.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Both sides are only too aware that Moscow will call the shots&nbsp;</span></p><p>‘The result will depend on whose side the federal bureaucracy comes down on,’ says Stanislav Shkel. ‘They set the rules for both economic lobby groups and regional government in Russia. I think, however, that Rustem Khamitov might just swing it in this case, as his position vis-à-vis Moscow has been considerably consolidated by his victory in last year’s election and especially the summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS countries, both held in Ufa this year.’</p><p>‘In the end, the decision will be taken by central government, as ‘Soda’ BSC is a concern of strategically significant enterprise,’ comments Ramil Rakhmatov, a correspondent for the local online platform. He also suggests that the company’s position might be supported by Khamitov’s political opponents, as part of their campaign to topple him at the next presidential election.&nbsp;</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Defenders_Shikhan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Defenders_Shikhan.jpg" alt="'Youth for the Shikhans'. Campaigners in Bashkortostan's Ishimbay Region, December 2015." title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Youth for the Shikhans'. Campaigners in Bashkortostan's Ishimbay Region, December 2015.</span></span></span>Aleksandr Veselov, head of the Bashkortostan Ecologists’ Union, also believes that BSC is counting on a change of power in the republic: ‘I can see the confrontation continuing for some time. The Shikhans have a lot of supporters and the soda lobby goes on pushing for the acquisition of the hill in the corridors of power. And unfortunately, all decisions here are taken for the benefit of big business. &nbsp;A zone of socio-economic and political instability could well arise in the region.’</span></p><p>Members of Bashkir ethnic organisations and other local residents have also been adding their voices to the debate, warning of an inevitable confrontation if Toratau is handed over to the soda company. </p><p>‘Even if Rustem Khamitov changes his position on the issue, the public will not allow it,’ Valiakhmet Badretdinov of the Arkadashorganisation tells me. Dinar Zainullin of the Protection of Toratau and Yuratau organisation adds: ‘Even if Toratau were to lose its protected status, that wouldn’t give the soda company what it wants. We can use existing federal laws on the exploitation of mineral resources to stop a single blast in the direction of our shrines in the next hundred years.’ </p><p>Abdrakhman Validov, whose village lies at the foot of Toratau, is also resolute in its defence: ‘We will save the Shikhans. Our young people have already pledged themselves to actively protect them. They<span>’</span><span>ll set up an Occupy tent camp or form a ‘living shield’ if they have to.’</span></p><p><em>Images two (Abdrakhman Validov), three (Shakhtau), and six (Youth for the Shikhans) courtesy of the author.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kreindlin/russia%E2%80%99s-gamekeeper-has-turned-poacher">Russia’s gamekeeper has turned poacher </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/angelina-davydova/problems-of-environmental-activism-in-russia">The problems of environmental activism in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/angelina-davydova/cop21-stories-from-russia-s-indigenous-peoples">COP21: stories from Russia’s indigenous peoples</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalya-yakovleva/where-has-all-wildlife-gone-in-siberia">Where has all the wildlife gone in Siberia?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Artur Asafyev Green Eurasia Russia Regions Internal Thu, 17 Dec 2015 14:11:04 +0000 Artur Asafyev 98642 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The red zone https://www.opendemocracy.net/badma-biurchiev/no-rules-in-russia-system-turns-on-defenceless <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russia's prison system is dehumanising people. The recent death of an inmate in a southern Russian penal colony is only further proof. <em>Graphic warning</em>.&nbsp;<a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/zona-kalmykia"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vpocZbrPo_I" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe><em>Footage of the body of Dmitry Batyrev, who was beaten to death in an Elista prison on 20 November.</em><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In late November, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpocZbrPo_I">video footage was released from a morgue in Kalmykia</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. It has shocked Russia. The video, recorded in Elista, the republic’s capital, shows the battered body of Dmitry Batyrev, a 28-year old inmate of the republic’s prison system.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">On the morning of 20 November, Dmitry Batyrev arrived at Kalmykia’s Penal Colony No.1 (PC-1) a healthy young man. By mid afternoon on the same day, Batyrev was dead.</span></p><p>Batyrev, it appears, was beaten to death by prison staff on the day he started his three-year sentence for grievous bodily harm at PC-1. Three suspects are now themselves behind bars, awaiting trial, but Batyrev’s relatives fear that two of them will remain free, and have good reason to think so. </p><p>Prisoners at PC-1 <a href="http://gulagu.net/news/8104.html">have now gone on hunger strike</a>, with several of them even sewing up their own mouths. The Presidential Council on Human Rights <a href="http://www.mk.ru/social/2015/11/23/v-kalmyckoy-kolonii-raspyali-zaklyuchennogo-ostalnye-zashili-rty.html">has taken the case under its wing</a>. But w<span style="line-height: 1.5;">hatever the outcome of the upcoming trial, the story of Batyrev’s murder goes beyond the mere corruption of Russia’s judicial system or the ‘corporate’ solidarity of the law enforcement agencies. </span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The beating of a man in handcuffs to death can’t just be put down to a feeling of impunity—those who know the system say that it’s hard to stay human inside.</span></p><h2>A camera is also a weapon </h2><p>‘You’re a journalist, don’t you know the rules? Photography is forbidden in secure facilities. How do we know you’re not trying to help prisoners escape?’ – I’m told as a prison officer from PC-1 writes my details on a crumpled piece of paper. His colleague phones someone, requesting police assistance: ‘We’ve caught an intruder!’ he bellows to the amazed (or bewildered) person on the other end of the line. </p><p>Just five minutes earlier, there was little hint of such overkill. The little sentry box beside the entry barrier, where a guard ought to have been on watch duty, was empty and there was no one to ask whether I could approach the gate.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_copy_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The perimeter fence at PC-1.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But my protests—that I hadn’t passed the barrier and hadn’t taken photos in a secure zone—went unheard. The officers insisted that there was a warning sign 50 metres back, ‘although it’s not very visible’.</span></p><p>The police didn’t show up, and in the end I managed to have a normal conversation with the guards. The incident wouldn’t even be worth mentioning were it not for the death of Batyrev 10 days earlier in this very prison.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Batyrev was beaten for a prolonged time: forensics experts counted over 100 rubber truncheon blows on his body. No one on the prison staff stopped their colleagues. The ‘intruder’ with the camera, on the other hand, warranted the intervention of five officers—three uniformed and two in plain clothes.</span></p><p>My arrival, camera in hand, to the ‘secure facility’ of PC-1 was tantamount to an invasion of sovereign territory. Not that the law has anything to do with either incident: the prison staff’s actions are dictated by concerns for their own personal safety.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">To be sure, a fatal prison tragedy and a trivial incident with a nosy journalist aren’t comparable, but, in their own way, they reflect the priorities of Russia’s law enforcement system.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center" style="line-height: 1.5;">Batyrev arrived in the morning as a healthy young man. By mid afternoon, he was dead.</span></p><p><span style="color: #666666; font-size: 22px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 28.6px; text-align: center;"></span>Earlier this year, Batyrev was sentenced to three years for causing ‘intentional grievous bodily harm’ to the former deputy head of Kalmykia’s Federal Prison Service. This individual is, for all intents and purposes, a man of the system—the interlocking web of influence and power that draws prosecutors, judges, police and prison officials together. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/maxresdefault_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Still from video taken from inside Elista morgue by Nadezhda Sandzhieva, Dmitry Batyrev's sister.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As far as the system was concerned, this attack on a public official was a threat to the safety of members of the ‘corporation’. A former staff member at the prison told me that people convicted of such crimes face serious reprisals inside. Different laws apply on the other side of the barbed wire: you can expect no mercy or help from anyone.</span></p><p>The guards clearly overstepped the mark with Batyrev, and the whole country ended up knowing about it. But will the public reaction to the killing affect the attitudes of the law enforcers in particular, and the state in general to ‘ordinary’ citizens?</p><h2>‘It wasn’t self defence, it was murder’</h2><p>Nadezhda Sandzhieva is Dmitry Batyrev’s sister, Anzhela Kalsynova – his cousin. They are both amiable young women. Neither Nadezhda, nor Anzhela could hardly have imagined the nightmare that followed the sentencing of Dmitry to three years in jail and his transfer from pre-trial detention to the penal colony. </p><p>We meet after the preliminary hearing of the case against the three prison officers: Aleksandr Shuvayev, a junior living zone supervisor, Tseren Nasunov, a senior officer and the colony’s deputy director Colonel Kazbek Israilov. <a href="http://kalmykia.sledcom.ru/news/item/992837/">These men face charges on two counts</a>: ‘abuse of power with the use of violence involving instruments of punishment and leading to grievous consequences’ and ‘intentional grievous bodily harm incidentally leading to the death of the victim’. The court ordered them to be held at a pre-trial detention centre for two months while the case is investigated. </p><p>‘Nasunov and Shuvayev are pinning everything on Israilov,’ says Nadezhda. ‘And he didn’t make any comment about his guilt, just asked the court to give him house arrest.’</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/-1_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="374" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Family photograph of Dmitry Batyrev.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">‘Shuvayev’s defence lawyer insisted that his client was too small and weedy to inflict such injuries. But the nastiest version of the story came from Nasunov’ – the young woman’s voice is tinged with contempt – ‘he claimed he was completely innocent, and is actively cooperating with the investigation and setting his co-defendants up for a murder charge, although it was he and Israilov who behaved most brutally.’</span></p><p>Batyrev’s relatives believe that the lawyers for the defence have colluded on their strategy. According to Russian criminal law, a group crime is considered more serious than one committed by a single person. So accomplices in these cases usually agree among themselves on who will take responsibility for the crime in order to lessen the sentences. </p><p>‘The very thought of the torture Dima went through in the last hours of his life makes me furious,’ says Anzhela. She pauses for a second: there are no tears, from the start of the conversation I knew that the cousins were resolute. ‘This wasn’t an instant death, but a lengthy beating until he died. He was shackled. You can see the marks on his wrist and ankles, totally defenceless…’</p><p>The women dismiss the Prison Service’s claim that their staff <a href="http://www.08.fsin.su/news/detail.php?ELEMENT_ID=223528">had to use physical force and weapons</a> because Batyrev ‘categorically refused to be subjected to a search, impeded the officers carrying it out, pulled a disposable razor blade out of his mouth and attacked the officers with it.’&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">You can’t hit someone more than 100 times with rubber truncheons and your fists and feet and call it self-defence. That’s never self defence, that’s murder</p><p>As Anzhela says, ‘He couldn’t have taken a razor blade out of his mouth because he was handcuffed and had been searched more than once when he was in pre-trial detention. Besides, you can’t hit someone more than 100 times with rubber truncheons and your fists and feet and call it self-defence. That’s never self defence, that’s murder.’ </p><p>‘The prison staff waited for two hours after killing Batyrev before they called the police,’ says Nadezhda. ‘That gave them time to remove all traces of their crime. CCTV cameras were put out of commission and recordings wiped. The official claim that it was Dima who attacked them, that they just defended themselves, is just more nastiness.’ </p><p>‘The Prison Service top brass can’t admit their mistake,’ says Nadezhda. ‘There have been no sackings. Everyone still have their jobs. I even visited their headquarters and spoke to their director-in-chief Mikhail Sizukhin. But I didn’t get any sympathy from him, not even a few clichéd phrases of commiseration. Sizukhin called his security head in, for support, and they started showing off their legal knowledge to me.’ </p><h2>Early days</h2><p>The cousins are not jumping to any conclusions, but don’t exclude the possibility that the murder could have instigated by a member of the family of the prison service official as revenge for Batyrev’s attack: ‘That would at least have some logic to it,’ they say. </p><p>According to human rights campaigners, this official’s two sons <a href="http://gulagu.net/profile/6350/open_letters/6582.html">currently work for law enforcement agencies</a>: one in Moscow for a body that monitors the Prison Service and the other for the criminal investigation service in northern Russia. The human rights portal Gulagu.net also reports that Burkhanali Safaraliev, the official in question, <a href="http://kalmykia.sledcom.ru/news/item/610481">has been tried in the past for abuse of power and serious fraud</a>. </p><p>Gulagu.net has also published an audio recording of a medical expert telling a detective that two people arrived at the morgue, wanting to take swabs and blood samples from the body. The site’s coordinator Anton Drozdov has asked the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee to check this out and change the charge against the prison officers from ‘causing intentional grievous bodily harm’ to ‘murder’.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_copy_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="355" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The shop where the conflict between Burkhanali Safaraliev and Dmitry Batryev took place.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">‘Dima left a five-month old baby,’ says Nadezhda quietly. ‘It was his first ever conviction, and he assumed he would be given an early release for good behaviour and get back to his family. He was a farmer, and not long before his clash with Safaraliev he had bought some land and was planning to build a house, take our parents and me and my daughter there and he would work the farm while we looked after the housekeeping.’</span></p><p>‘Dima was immediately sorry for what he had done and accepted his punishment,’ adds Anzhela. ‘He was especially sorry that he hit someone older than himself. It happened in Elista [the capital of Kalmykia]. Dima went into a shop to buy some beer and got talking to the woman behind the counter, offering to supply her with milk. He was always looking for ways to earn a bit more money. The shop assistant, by the way, described him in court as a pleasant, friendly young man. </p><p>‘She suggested he talk to the shop owner, Safaraliev, who she was expecting in a couple of hours. When Dima came back, the conversation went badly, they started arguing and Safaraliev tried to threaten him—“You know who I am!” and so on. Dima saw red and hit him. And the guy, it turns out, is diabetic, his bones are brittle. Dima broke one of his ribs. Then he went to the police himself and admitted everything in court.’</p><h2>The red zone</h2><p>In Kalmykia, Penal Colony No.1 is better known by the name of the village where it is located, and ‘Salyn’ has a history. </p><p>In 1993, one of Salyn’s prisoners murdered the prison governor. The guards eagerly took their revenge, administering beatings to the inmates over several months. The ‘top dogs’ of the prisoner hierarchy were forced to disband their gangs: only 10 or so inmates in the whole camp were able to remain loyal to their ‘Thieves’ Code’, the rules governing behaviour inside prison, and they were transferred to other camps. </p><p>Salyn acquired the reputation of a so-called ‘red zone’ camp. Unlike the ‘black zone’ camps, where the higher echelons of the prisoner hierarchy have more power, the Salyn camp administration no longer respected the unwritten (and accepted) rules of prison life.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/-1_copy_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>PC-1 at a distance.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Meanwhile, another tradition took root, whereby newcomers were ‘put through the mill’ to establish how obedient they would be, and the staff would then force them to sign a document promising to cooperate with the administration. Those who sign the document have special badges sewn on their uniforms as a reminder of this humiliating submission.</span></p><p>I spoke to three former Salyn inmates who confirmed this picture between them. Mingyan served time in the 1990s and knows first-hand how they ‘broke’ the zone, overturning the unwritten rules that govern Russian prison life; Basan was there from 1997-2000; and Sanal in 2008-9. A fourth contact, Khongor (not his real name), worked at the camp for a couple of weeks in 2012 before realising that he couldn’t continue working there. </p><p>‘It was a bitch of a job,’ says Khongor bluntly when asked why he left. ‘I wasn’t surprised when they killed that prisoner. It was bound to happen. And knowing one of the accused officers, I can say that it was also going to end badly for him’. </p><p>‘Nasunov?’ I ask. </p><p>‘Yeah, he’s an unpleasant character, a nasty so-and-so. He even tried to recruit us to work with him. I’ve talked to the guys working there, but they look after their own. “Yep, he had a razor blade”, they say. </p><p>‘But this is a small republic, sooner or later somebody will squeal. There are already rumours that Safaraliev was behind it all. Nobody intended to kill him, of course. They just wanted to humiliate him. If Batyrev had lived, he’d have had a tough time there. They’re hard on people who are convicted because of problems with the screws.’ </p><p>Khongor tells me that information about torture rarely seeps through to the outside world: the inmates try to keep on the right side of the administration. </p><p>‘Nothing usually comes of complaining about a beating. It’s all put down to self-defence on the part of the screws. And evidence—video footage, for example—can vanish. And they try to beat the soft parts, so as not to leave marks. I spoke to one medical expert, and he said that a litre and a half of blood had collected in Batyrev’s buttocks. All his vessels had burst: he died from a massive cerebral haemorrhage.’</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Young guys arrive to work in the camp as normal people, but once in this environment they change completely</p><p>According to Khongor, young guys arrive to work in the camp as ‘normal people’. They are attracted by working for the government—a regular salary, fringe benefits—but people change completely in this environment.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">‘Everybody drinks here, that’s just the way things are.’ As a result, most people who stay become secretive and ready for brutality.</span></p><p>Salyn made headline news once before, in 2012, when the prisoners succeeded in bringing the administration’s abuse of power to public attention. Ossetian prisoners managed to contact the acting governor of North Ossetia Taimuraz Mamsurov, who <a href="http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/215611/">asked his counterpart in Kalmykia to investigate the violence against inmates in the camp</a>. </p><h2>No rules</h2><p>It is clear that little has changed since 2012. But the worst thing is that Batyrev’s murder was no isolated incident.</p><p>In October, openDemocracy <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/sos-from-dagestan">reported on the year-long investigation into the shooting of a young man in a police station in northern Dagestan</a>. The killer is still at liberty. And less than a week after this recent tragedy in Kalmykia, a similar incident occurred in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, where <a href="http://m.rg.ru/2015/11/25/reg-ufo/koloniya-anons.html">staff at a juvenile correctional facility beat a 16-year old inmate to death</a>.</p><p>These are just two recent examples: the full list of similar crimes is too long to catalogue here. And there is more to come: a month ago, the Russian State Duma passed the first reading of a bill <a href="http://www.aif.ru/dontknows/file/chto_takoe_zakon_sadistov">that human rights campaigners are calling ‘sadist’ in its intentions</a>. Among other things, the draft law will permit prison officers to use physical force, including weapons, to ‘suppress crimes or infringements of prison rules’.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">The vagueness of the bill’s formulation is evidently deliberate. Though there have been regular debates on similar subjects recently, the legislators are not to be deflected from their course. The government’s priority, as I have noted, is not the interests of Russian citizens, but concern for their own personal safety.</span></p><p>To a certain extent, the entire population of Russia is locked up in a ‘red zone’—the place where no codes apply. There are no hard and fast rules here, not even a ‘Thieves’ Code’. The only law here is that might is right. A system founded exclusively on proscriptions and punishments not only generates demand for the like, but also supplies amoral people, angry at the world around them, who will implement it. </p><p>Even if Batyrev’s murderers receive the punishment they deserve (which is doubtful), there will be other monsters to take their place. And when the fuss dies down over this murder, the big ‘zone’, the prison where everyone in Russia still lives, will continue living as before.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/sos-from-dagestan">SOS from Dagestan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/zmicier-dashkevich/guide-to-belarusian-prisons">A guide to Belarusian prisons</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Badma Biurchiev Russia Justice Internal Human rights Tue, 15 Dec 2015 10:26:33 +0000 Badma Biurchiev 98547 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Serial violations: finding new ways to limit freedom of association in Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aleksandr-litoy/serial-violations-finding-new-ways-to-limit-freedom-of-association-in-russ <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="line-height: 1.5;" src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/xgpAZxRAGHfZaRAi9QUvTTdHGI2paKEh84JwqQeahXg/mtime:1450131309/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/0_141433_ca596986_orig.jpg" alt="12915061203_9f032a8c12_z.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>The first sentences under a new law limiting freedom of association in Russia are coming into effect. Their target? ‘Malicious picket-holders’.&nbsp;<a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aleksandr-litoy/v-tiurmu-posle-piketa"><strong><em>Русский</em></strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>On 7 December, the first sentence under a new law to limit freedom of association was passed. For activist Ildar Dadin, 33, his commitment to protest has led to a three-year prison sentence. The next day, Vladimir Ionov, a Moscow pensioner, was also due to face sentencing under the same law, but fell ill the next morning. Ionov is currently in intensive care, and the sentencing has been postponed.</span></p><p>This new addition to Russia’s Criminal Code, Article 212.1, was introduced in summer 2014 in response to the events in Ukraine. It carries a potential sentence of up to five years or a million rouble fine (£9,300).</p><p>Judging by the courts’ current behaviour, cases are opened under this article after an activist receives three administrative sentences for breaking rules on holding pickets and demonstrations. Instead of a fourth administrative charge, though, a criminal case is opened. By which point, the accused has usually built up a significant amount of administrative fines, and sometimes days spent in police stations.</p><h2>‘Malicious picketers’<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>At this moment, when protest movements are at their nadir in Russia, there’s only a few of these ‘malicious picketers’—four in total: Ildar Dadin, Vladimir Ionov, Mark Galerpin and Irina Kalmykova.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Ildar Dadin, a former security guard from the town of Zheleznodorozhnyi near Moscow, became involved in protesting during the ‘White Ribbon’ campaign of 2011-2012. According to Dadin, he began to use Facebook instead of the popular social networking site VKontakte, changing his circle of friends completely.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Dadin took part in many different demonstrations—observing polling stations during elections, supporting LGBT rights, anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and democratic forces in Ukraine. He even traveled to Kyiv during the toppling of Viktor Yanukovych—which was cited as an ‘aggravating circumstance’ by the judge during sentencing.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/0_141433_ca596986_orig.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>20 September 2015: Vladimir Ionov holds a sign 'Putin is everything to us, not counting Kadyrov' at the 'Change of power' meeting in Maryino, Moscow. CC styazshkin.livejournal.com. </span></span></span><span>Vladimir Ionov, meanwhile, is a protest veteran, having taken part in anti-Putin protests since the 2000s. He has gone out practically every week to Manezh square, opposite the Kremlin, to protest against Vladimir Putin. Indeed, by and large, Ionov prefers solitary pickets, which do not require approval from the local authorities. He was detained in January 2015 after two protests, one in support of the Navalny brothers and the other - <em>Charlie Hebdo.</em></span></p><p><span>Mark Galperin, a marketing manager, has regularly held solo pickets across Moscow over the past few years in an attempt to create his own ‘Movement for a change of power’. Irina Kalmykova, a 52-year old mother of three, came to Moscow from Siberia, claiming that her home had been burnt down and her business stolen. Not finding support from the authorities, Kalmykova became close to the opposition and participated in a range of demonstrations, including one in support of Nadezhda Savchenko.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">the majority of opposition party structures are either suppressed or subordinated to the authorities</p><p>Indeed, Dadin, Ionov, Kalmykova, Galperin and their friends held out the majority of solo street pickets in Moscow. None of them are members of any party, opposition or otherwise, but know each other well. As Aleksandr Shcherbakov, an activist from this circle, explains, the majority of opposition party structures are either suppressed or subordinated to the authorities.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Current liberal protest actions are largely coordinated without party support. Instead, there are several dozen people—from the 2011-2012 ‘White Ribbon’ campaign and after—involved in working out a consensus on various political issues, but who carry out protests independently.</p><h2>Courts<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>According to Ildar Dadin’s lawyer Kseniya Kostromina, Dadin, who had previously been kept under house arrest, accepted the three year sentence with courage. People present at the sentencing, however, were surprised: even the public prosecutor requested a two-year sentence, rather than three. After the sentencing, Dadin’s friends began to shout slogans of support, and <a href="http://zona.media/news/potasovka/">court personnel dragged people out of the hall by force</a>.</p><p>The public prosecutor requested a three-year conditional sentence for Vladimir Ionov, as well as a ban on visiting public events. Kostromina also represents Mark Galperin, and states that there’s been no progress on the investigation into his case for a while. Kalmykova’s trial began in October.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>According to OVD-Info, <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/">an organisation that monitors freedom of association and political repression in Russia</a>, these four cases under Article 212.1 were opened in violation of that very same code. To be charged under this article, the authorities require evidence of previous administrative charges. The Moscow courts, though, almost always support the police in conflicts between activists and police officers. If a police officer states that ‘this person shouted slogans and offered physical resistance’, then that’s it: it doesn’t matter if you have a video of the event that shows the person in question not shouting slogans and not offering physical resistance.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Moreover, even if you’re holding a solo picket, a <em>provokator</em> can approach you, turn the picket into an ‘unapproved mass action’ and then leave quietly as you’re taken away. This is the scenario for most arrests undertaken under Article 212.1. They can detain you on whatever grounds—a protest in support of Ukraine, Alexei Navalny, small businessmen, <em>Charlie Hebdo</em>. The police aren’t interest in what you’re protesting for or against—they’re fighting against street activity, end of story.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Speaking to Nikoali Zboroshenko, a lawyer with Public Verdict,<a href="http://en.publicverdict.org/topics/about_us/about_us.html"> a Russian NGO that offers legal assistance to people facing rights abuses</a>, he tells me that the majority of administrative charges have been sent to the European Court of Human Rights for appeal. Zboroshenko is confident that Strasbourg will find in favour of the picket-holders. If at least one of the administrative charges is taken for re-examination, the criminal cases will have to be re-examined too. That said, Zboroshenko notes that the ECHR works so slowly that such decisions are likely to be made when Ildar Dadin has already finished his three-year sentence.</p><p>The author of this new law, Duma deputy Aleksandr Sidyakin, has stated that he doesn’t follow how the article is implemented in practice<span>, and is thus unable to comment on Dadin’s sentence.&nbsp;</span><span>For Dmitry Dinze, who represents Vladimir Ionov, the courts and investigators are misinterpreting Article 212.1. While the phrase ‘breaking the established order of organising or conducting a meeting’ can be applied to the <em>organisers</em> of unapproved protests, it can’t be applied to <em>people taking part in them</em>—though Dinze is yet to convince the Russian justice system of that just yet.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/guide-to-political-persecution-in-russia">A guide to political persecution in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/i-was-on-russian-nationalist-hit-list">I was on a Russian nationalist hit list</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Alexandr Litoy Russia Politics Justice Internal Human rights Tue, 15 Dec 2015 06:09:51 +0000 Alexandr Litoy 98545 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A sudden warning in Dagestan https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/irina-gordienko/sudden-warning-in-dagestan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/N4auPyMM7iLBFV5yJG_Z-43U_Pqv4sA-Rnmctjogf8Q/mtime:1438811981/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02667765.LR_.ru%20%D0%A0%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%BB%20%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%20.jpg" alt="" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>On 27 July, Russian special forces abducted a senior Dagestan official from his home and transported him to Moscow for investigation. The Dagestani authorities knew nothing about it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Andrei Vinogradov, head of the Kizlyar district administration in Dagestan, is not the first official to be abducted in this way. The republican authorities were totally unaware of what was happening two years ago when Said Amirov, mayor of Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala at the time, was suddenly arrested on murder charges.</span></p><p>Russia’s Investigative Committee has charged Vinogradov with organising contract killings and funding terrorism. But Vinogradov was not the main target of the operation – that was Sagid Murtazaliyev, a member of the republic’s legislative assembly and head of the republic’s branch of the state pension fund. Murtazaliyev is also leader of one of Dagestan’s most influential clans in the 1990s. </p><p>All Murtazaliyev’s homes around the republic were searched: evidently the special forces were unaware that, since appearing as a key witness at the <a href="http://www.rt.com/politics/171472-amirov-terrorism-mayor-sentence/">trial of Said Amirov</a>, who leads another clan, Murtazaliyev has chosen to live in Dubai. </p><h2>The arrest</h2><p>‘We’re not making appointments to see the chief. We’re in a difficult situation and we’re not sure how we’ll be working for the moment,’ says the young secretary, peeking out from behind the piles of files on her desk. </p><p>Wednesday is open day at the Kizlyar district offices: Vinogradov usually received members of the public from nine to twelve. There was always a crowd spilling out of the doors. But today the building is quiet and empty; there is not even a security man on the metal detector at the door, the corridors echo and the staff seem to be lowering their voices. Several days have passed since the district head was arrested.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02667765.LR_.ru Рамил ситдиков .jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andrei Vinogradov at Moscow's Basmanny Court, 29 July. (c) Ramil Sitdikov / VisualRIAN. </span></span></span></p><p>No one in the town of Kizlyar really noticed Vinogradov’s arrest, dramatic though it was —a lightning night raid on his house by federal spetsnaz operatives, a helicopter to whisk him off to Moscow. Even the local police, called out at three in the morning to protect the district head from unidentified men, beat a hasty retreat when they saw the uniforms. </p><p class="pullquote-right">The local police, called out at three in the morning, beat a hasty retreat when they saw the uniforms. </p><p>The raid was carried out with surgical precision. Vinogradov’s own security team had no chance to open fire, and there was plenty of room for manoeuvre—the five hectares of fenced territory on the outskirts of town, which contain the homes of Andrei Vinogradov and Sagid Murtazaliyev. </p><p>The few closely grouped houses with three-metre high walls and wrought iron gates, a double ring of heavies with Kalashnikovs and a complex system of entrances and exits to and from the fields, the forest and the highway are more reminiscent of a fortified zone somewhere in Bagdad than the residences of provincial civil servants.</p><h2>The district </h2><p>A hot wind is blowing in my face, and the road is lined with piles of yellow and green fruit: melons at 20 roubles (20p) a kilo, watermelons for 10 (10p). </p><p>The dry wind is turning the grass into fragile hay and melting the air like butter: you can hardly breathe. The Kizlyar district, on Dagestan’s border with Chechnya, is very different from the rest of the republic, with steppe instead of mountains and a majority population are descendents of Cossacks, whose original home was in what is now Ukraine.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1173481598_aa01c6547a_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The town of Derbent. Bolshakov / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Tucked neatly between the steppe, the Caspian Sea and the Chechen Republic, the Kizlyar district became a honeypot for hungry and enterprising Russian bureaucrats in the 1990s and 2000s. Its cattle-farms and hundreds of hectares of arable crops gave them not only fat livestock and abundant harvests, but plenty of opportunity for fraudulent land deals. The Caspian Sea, meanwhile, provided fish, including valuable sturgeon: for many years, Kizlyar was an important centre for caviar smuggling operations. </p><p class="pullquote-right">For many years Kizlyar was an important centre for caviar smuggling operations</p><p>Major oil pipelines also crossed the area from Chechnya, bringing untold wealth: there were hundreds of illegal ‘tapping points’ to siphon off the oil. It got to the point where respectable citizens would give young couples their own ‘point’ as a wedding gift. </p><p>The border with Chechnya brought its own benefits: the militants would slip across for holidays, treating it as a home from home. The security forces couldn’t cross as quietly with their troop carriers, but ‘flexible’ relationships with both groups kept everybody happy. </p><h2>The back story</h2><p>Sagid Murtazaliyev first came to fame as an Olympic wrestling champion, but he quickly swapped sport for politics, first becoming a prominent figure in the Northern Alliance, an informal movement of Avars, the most numerous of Dagestan’s several ethnic groups, and then a member of the republic’s legislative assembly. </p><p>Murtazaliyev has always felt close to Kizlyar, which is his wife’s home district, and, in 2007, became its head of administration. He then gradually spread his influence into neighbouring districts. In 2010, Murtazaliyev was appointed to run the pension fund in Dagestan. </p><p>To ensure a smooth succession, Murtazaliyev had Andrei Vinogradov, his personal driver, appointed as administration chief in his place (Vinogradov later married one of his relatives, becoming a member of his extended family). </p><p>For five years, Vinogradov was a competent public servant. Just a few days before his arrest, he was awarded a medal for good work by the Head of the Republic, Ramazan Abdulatipov. On the surface, Vinogradov’s record was unblemished in nearly every respect: over the last decade, the sturgeon and the insurgents more or less moved away and the fashion for siphoning off oil passed, but the melons still ripened in the fields and the sheep fattened in the meadows. </p><p>A few years ago, however, the Gamzatov family case opened a whole new can of worms. In March 2012, town council member Magomed Gamzatov, three of his brothers and a nephew were gunned down in the centre of Kizlyar. Five people openly murdered in broad daylight in sight of dozens of witnesses. </p><p>The Gamzatov brothers had long had various disputes with Sagid Murtazaliyev’s people. There was a trial: six of Andrei Vinogradov’s security guards were in the dock and the administration chief himself was a witness. ‘It was an open and shut case’, says Sapiat Magomedova, the lawyer who represented the Gamzatov family. ‘There was all the evidence needed for a conviction. But the jury members and witnesses were still in fear of their lives’. </p><p>The pressure was such that, after two years of hearings and the existence of five corpses, the jurors would not even admit that a crime had been committed. The jury was sent away for deliberation four times without any progress being made. It was only on the fifth occasion that they admitted that there had been a crime, but all the defendants were nevertheless acquitted. </p><p class="pullquote-right">Despite five corpses and two years of hearings, the jurors would not admit that a crime had been committed.</p><p>‘I don’t think they will demand another review of the case now,’ a distant relative of the Gamzatovs tells me uncertainly. (Closer family members prefer not to make public statements and categorically refuse to talk to journalists.) </p><p>‘So far it’s all just hot air. It hardly matters whether the Investigative Committee takes it further, Sagid has connections everywhere - Ramzan Kadyrov [Head of the Chechen Republic] calls him his brother. A few years ago, the people in Moscow carried out an inspection of the pension fund. They seized a load of papers and made threats about prosecutions, but nothing came of it. His [Murtazaliyev’s] people are everywhere, and our clan still has to go on living here.’ </p><p>As the lad speaks, his eyes follow a jeep driving past: it carries a number plate containing three ‘ones’ – the trademark of people working for Sagid Murtazaliyev.</p><p><em>This article is a translation from an <a href="http://www.novayagazeta.ru/politics/69423.html">original publication</a> by Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia's leading independent newspapers.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/zakir-magomedov/dagestan-russia%E2%80%99s-hottest-spot">Dagestan: Russia’s hottest spot</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/marat-biygishev/derbent-how-oldest-city-in-russia-missed-its-birthday">Derbent: how the oldest city in Russia missed its birthday </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Irina Gordienko Politics Internal Dagestan Caucasus Wed, 05 Aug 2015 22:04:58 +0000 Irina Gordienko 95057 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A house in the country https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-urodov/house-in-country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/LDylCctwaKi1hxux92HMrdzc34LX8MDFd9WarRMnDV8/mtime:1438693740/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/BOND5049.jpg" alt="" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>With Russia’s housing stock in trouble, many people struggle to find a suitable home. For the people of Koltyshevo just outside Moscow, it’s a crumbling manor house.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>There are two other people waiting with me for the number 21 bus to Koltyshevo.</span></p><p>If you walk through the forest nearby, after an hour or so you’ll reach a health spa on a picturesque lake . But we are going in the opposite direction, towards the lone shop in front of some wooden barrack-style buildings. These were built in the 1960s to house workers at the battery hen farm. </p><p>At the time, these buildings were supposed to be temporary, built to last a summer month or two. Their foundations were minimal. The walls? Two layers of planking covered in a layer of plaster. But 50 years on, workers from the (now closed) farm still live there. </p><p>In Koltyshevo, the streets don’t have names, but the houses have numbers. We are going to house number one, the one they call ‘the manor’, an old country house, built more than two centuries ago (no one knows the exact date). </p><p>After the revolution, the house was divided up into flats and has since, slowly but surely, fallen into disrepair. The avenue of lime trees leading up to the 'barracks'—the only trace of its aristocratic past. </p><h2>History of a house</h2><p>Andrei Chizhkov’s guide to Moscow’s estates doesn’t have much to say on Koltyshevo, situated some 80km north-west of Moscow.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/BOND5049.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The 'manor'. Image courtesy of Arthur Bondar.</span></span></span></p><p>Until the middle of the 19th century, the village was called Voskresenskoye (Resurrection) , and belonged to Andrei Tatishchev, a man whose family went back to the legendary Ryurik dynasty, the Viking founders of Russia in the 9th century. </p><p>The village later passed to the Norov brothers, one a major and the other a cavalry captain. Koltyshevo’s last private owner was a country gentleman by the name of Popov, who, in 1901, won it in a game of cards. In 1917, the village was nationalised by the new Bolshevik authorities.</p><p>Now Tatyana Ivanovna, a packer, who moved to Koltyshevo as a child in the 1970s, lives on the first floor of the manor house with her family; she and her children and grandchildren live in one flat, and her mother and brother in another. </p><p>‘There were just elderly women living here, people who had worked for Popov back in the day,’ says Tatyana Ivanovna, remembering the house’s previous residents. ‘They told us about the hen house down by the river, the nail factory that stood where the bus stop is now, and the big stables near the houses behind the lime trees—all of them gone now.'</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/BOND4881.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tatyana Ivanovna in her kitchen. Image courtesy of Arthur Bondar.</span></span></span></p><p>‘On the other side of the road, where the private houses are now, there were birch trees and a pond. I remember that from the 70s. Before the revolution, they would spread a big tablecloth on the lawn on special occasions and have a party for everybody who worked for the Master, and he would sit with them. The old ladies were very flattering about him; they said he would bring food for his workers in the fields three times a day.’</p><p>‘They say there’s a small painting of our manor house, by an unknown artist, in the Tretyakov Gallery. You can see it had enormous verandas and stucco mouldings on the façade. Now that’s all gone as well.’ </p><h2>Traces remain</h2><p>There’s very little of the old estate left. There’s a plinth near the barracks and the new children’s playground (four years on, the sand is yet to be delivered). </p><p>There used to be a statue of an angel on top of the plinth, a memorial to Popov’s youngest son who died as a child and is buried there. The residents say that Popov’s second son, a pilot killed in the First World War, is also buried somewhere close by, and there are in fact two mounds under the plinth.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/BOND4813.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'This wouldn't have happened in Master Popov's time.' Image courtesy of Arthur Bondar.</span></span></span></p><p>The angel itself disappeared after one of the locals decided to check whether there were valuables hidden in it. A man in camouflage trousers lies a metre away, drunk. ‘That wouldn’t have happened in Popov’s time,’ I think to myself, walking round his sleeping body. </p><p>Tatyana Ivanovna has had her flat in the old manor house for 16 years. Her family used to live in one of the wooden barracks, but it burned down in 1998 because of faulty wiring. </p><p>Although Tatyana Ivanovna is of retirement age, she still works in a furniture factory in the nearby town of Solnechnogorsk, along with her daughter. Her son, a university graduate, commutes to work in another town: there’s no work in Koltyshevo. </p><p>‘In the Soviet years, Koltyshevo was always a “transit centre”. That’s what people called it. People would come here and join the waiting list for a flat belonging to the battery farm. There was building work in the villages nearby so a lot of people moved here, but they would be temporarily registered as living in our house. Even on the roof – I have no idea how that worked, but I remember the police coming once and asking for someone from flat 18. “We only have ten flats,” I said, “or 16 if you count the attic. But 17 and 18 would have to be on the roof, so you’ll have to look for him there.” </p><p>‘At the time, I was working in the local health spa, first at the swimming pool and then in the dining room. It wasn’t far to go – just two kilometres. But in the 2000s, the place changed management; they sacked all the locals and took on migrants who were willing to work for next to nothing. They’re all illegals, so they [the employers] don’t have to pay any taxes. They [the migrants] still live and work at the sanitorium, and hardly ever go into the town; they’re too scared. They nip into the shop and out again, hoping to pass unnoticed. Have a look around: you’ll find out a lot more.’</p><h2>Reminiscences </h2><p>As I leave the house, I bump into a dour-looking elderly woman: Polina Pavlovna, Tatyana’s mother. She is holding a small shopping bag and two sticks that she uses to get to the shop and back. Polina Pavlovna is 82, she lives on the first floor, and finds it harder every day to climb the steep stairs.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/BOND5402.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Polina Pavlovna. Image courtesy of Arthur Bondar.</span></span></span></p><p>There’s a large armchair downstairs in the yard. This is where Polina Pavlovna rests after shopping, and as she sits down she begins to relax; first a smile appears on her face, then she starts talking. Her voice is very soft; I have to sit beside her on the ground to hear everything. </p><p>‘It’s lovely around here,’ Polina Pavlovna tells me. ‘The river used to be wider, and you could catch pretty big fish. There was a bog further on, and legend has it that Catherine the Great lost some horses in it —as you do! </p><p>‘I was born in Odessa, but I can’t stand the sun. I don’t mind the cold and rain, but as soon as the sun comes out, I don’t feel well. My husband and I have been together 56 years, we used to walk all over the place. But he’s disabled now. He can’t walk. And he lives in a wooden house nearby. That’s easier for him, but the family and I live here in the “big house”.</p><p>‘We’re old now, our memory is going, but this house will stand for centuries – it just needs a bit of patching up on the outside. It was built out of some kind of clay mixed with eggs and metallic powder. But nobody wants to do that kind of thing now.</p><p>‘They want to rehouse us, but I’m not going anywhere. They are saving this house for themselves, waiting for it to fall down so that they can build over the whole place. You can see how they’ve built all those private houses behind us.’ </p><p>Sitting in the shade, away from the hated sun, Polina Pavlovna falls to reminiscing:</p><p>‘I’m not afraid of death. I used to work as a warder in the Gulag. It wasn’t even a labour camp, it was a prison—once they went in, they never came out again. That place had its own laws. It’s the north after all. The most terrible place on earth.</p><p>‘The banks of the Pechora River were the height of this house. They would spend all day felling trees, floating them down the river, loading them into trucks and driving them away. It was easy for someone to fall in between the logs and that would be the end of them.</p><p>‘I used to be a lively one, I helped everybody, and I managed to keep out of trouble with the bosses. “Tell them everything but don’t tell them the truth; cooperate but don’t give anything away.” That’s how we lived there. I had to get on well with rich and poor, inmates and bosses. If you’ve any sense, you’ll get on with people: what’s the point of staring at the ground?’</p><p>Polina Pavlovna suddenly comes back to the present: ‘Our lads went to the council and said, “Give us the cement and other stuff, we’ll fix the house up ourselves.” </p><p>‘But they don’t want to do that; they’d rather wait for the house to fall apart. By that time, they’ll be gone, and the house will still be standing 100 years from now.’</p><h2>Life without basic amenities</h2><p>The house hasn’t been repaired for 20 years. The central heating pipes were replaced a couple of years ago when the old ones broke down. </p><p>After a fire in 1998, the only good well stopped working: the water went cloudy, then completely black and the shaft had to be filled in. Then they ran a pipe from the water tower and put in one cold tap in the communal hall. </p><p>The residents remember how, when they dug the trench for the cold water pipe, they found pre-revolutionary coins and bits of crockery and even an antique bronze teapot. But now when you draw water from it, you have to leave it to settle for two or three days before you can drink it, there’s so much rust in it. And it still doesn’t smell right, so the residents have to carry drinking water from a standpipe in the next village. </p><p><span>The water pipe was installed six years ago, and that was the last thing the management company did. This year the residents wanted a new roof, but the council offered them just four roofing panels.</span></p><p>‘What’s the use of that?’ says Svetlana, Tatyana Ivanovna’s daughter. ‘The whole roof is leaking.’ A ceiling in their flat recently fell in when someone was sleeping below; fortunately, it crumbled to dust and they weren’t hurt. It’s not easy to put up a new one; the joints are rotten so there’s nothing to nail the panels to. </p><p>There are rugs all over the floors because of the damp in the house, and it’s freezing in winter as the radiators don’t always work. The residents know all the workers at the local heating plant by name. </p><p>The flat on one side of the ground floor is occupied by a disabled man, a wheelchair user, but the one on Svetlana’s side is empty. Some people bought it just to get a residence permit, but it’s empty in the winter, so the floors upstairs are always very cold. </p><p>All the residents dutifully pay their council taxes, but they have no plumbing or gas. They have an outside toilet and wash in the steam bath in the manor house yard. In May, a new management company cut off the electricity in the communal hall because the previous company had left unpaid debts. While the companies fight it out, the residents have to look out for themselves, and they have wired up a light off the circuit in the flat above. </p><p>The new management company also keeps sending the residents strange bills—for a non-existent cleaner of the communal areas, for example. The residents had once again to traipse to the council offices and lodge a complaint. ‘Nobody from the company has ever been in Koltyshevo’, says Svetlana. ‘They have no idea what the building is like and what state it’s in, and now they want to charge us for a cleaner.’ </p><p>For years now, the residents have been trying to get the house declared unsafe (you can pull bricks out of the wall). But the council says it needs to be inspected by independent experts. </p><p>In the end, the flats have been declared unsafe, but not the house itself, so when anyone complains they get the answer, ‘your flat is unsafe; get it repaired yourself.’ </p><h2>DIY – the only solution</h2><p>Some of the residents have given up waiting and are indeed repairing things themselves. They have been trying to cover the ceilings in polystyrene tiles, but have to nail them on because it is so uneven that no adhesive will stick. </p><p>It’s also useless to whitewash the walls: the mould just absorbs it. And any repairs to the roof only last until the autumn; with the winter rain and snow it starts leaking again. </p><p>Irina lives on the ground floor with her disabled husband. ‘But he won’t talk to you, he doesn’t like journalists,’ Irina warns me. We go outside through the unlit hall for a smoke. A couple of years ago the hall floor was damaged and her husband couldn’t get in and out of the flat without help. The management company wouldn’t even answer her letters. In the end, she bought some cement and had a ramp built. </p><p>‘I brought him home from hospital recently, with help from the family’, she tells me. ‘He had been able to drive using one leg, but now his second leg is also useless as well. So we can’t use the car, and I don’t have a licence yet. I used to work in the school in the next village. I was a technician in the canteen, and then maintenance manager.</p><p>‘But then they closed the school and just left the nursery and infant classes. I got a job at the battery farm, but then they had cuts there too, so I’m looking for a new job.’ </p><p>‘We get by here. The people who live in other buildings arranged to share the cost of repairs with the management company. They did the work, even replaced the roof themselves, and then the company refused to pay their half of the costs. Now they are in debt, and it’s growing. I have a big hole in my kitchen ceiling.</p><p>‘When I sit at the table, a rat comes through the hole and climbs down the radiator pipes. Autumn is coming – when you turn off the light the whole pack appears. My corner of the house has already settled – I can open the window and walk out. So the walls are damp, and there’s nothing you can do, although we put new windows in ourselves.</p><p><span>‘We pay for heating all year round because the plant runs on diesel. There’s a gas pipeline 100 metres away, but we can’t get it over here. What do we pay our taxes for? In 16 years they haven’t even repainted anything. At local election time, they brought two iron front doors for the building by the bus stop, and delivered one to us by mistake.</span></p><p>‘That’s all we’ve ever been given, not that we even needed it: our door was still in good condition. It was a solid oak one installed back in the Squire’s time. Can we be quiet here? One of my neighbours is asleep; she does nightshifts at the airport.’</p><h2>Lost and found</h2><p>We creep up to Polina Pavlovna’s flat, trying to avoid the stairs squeaking. She shows us her books, and gives us booklets with Bible quotations to read. A thin man in camouflage trousers stumbles in – the one who had been sleeping beside the monument. </p><p>‘Who are you, dickhead, some kind of Baptist?’ he says. </p><p>‘No, I’m a journalist’. </p><p>‘Same thing!’ he says, disappointed, and goes off to his own room, but then he comes back, muttering incoherently. Polina Pavlovna tries to lead him away. ‘My son Pyotr – he’s my real trial,’ she sighs. Pyotr won’t go: ‘I fought in the Donbas, you know! I have a war injury!’</p><p>He pushes an ID document in our faces. It contains a cancelled stamp from a border crossing with Ukraine. </p><p>‘What were you doing there?’ I ask.</p><p>‘A mate of mine, a squaddie, was staying with me and we went fishing. We had a bit too much to drink, and off we went.’ </p><p>Polina Pavlovna shakes her head sceptically. She’s obviously used to taking her son’s stories with a pinch of salt. We go out into the garden. The heat is stifling; there’s probably a storm brewing. It’s less muggy under the old lime tree. The elderly woman settles in her usual big armchair and starts reminiscing again. </p><p>‘I was a feisty one: I’d clout anybody, my sister, the lads. I’d go walking alone in the forest; I wasn’t afraid of anything. Some people are born strong like that: my dad was one.</p><p>‘When I worked in the Gulag, I took pity on the inmates: I would slip them tea leaves hidden in my sleeves. They needed a strong brew, but they couldn’t get any tea themselves. We warders always went around in pairs, so I’d say to my partner, “you go on ahead, I’ll just tie my bootlace” and I’d slip the tea under a leaf somewhere on the ground. And the inmates would be waiting for me. It was pretty awful there. Prison’s like a war zone.</p><p>‘There was a mountain nearby, and it would still glow after sunset. A Jewish prisoner once said to me: “that’s bones glowing.” People would die of cold and their bodies would be left on the mountain, so that’s why it glowed.’</p><p>As Polina Pavlovna comes to the end of her story, I see there’s a storm coming and, as Koltyshevo falls quiet, even Pyotr stops making a racket. </p><p>On the way back to the bus stop, I pass the shop. Men are sitting round a small plastic table drinking beer. ‘Hey, what you doing here, you lost or something? Have you forgotten something here?’</p><p>Somewhere in the distance, a sad, dying sound can be heard, just like the breaking string at the end of the Cherry Orchard. </p><p>It’s just the 21 bus signalling its arrival.</p><p><em><strong><em>This <a href="http://takiedela.ru/2015/07/surviving/">article first appeared in Russian on TakieDela.ru</a>, a site devoted to <a href="http://www.takiedela.ru">covering social issues and encouraging volunteer activity in Russia</a>.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></p><p><em><strong><em>We are grateful to <a href="http://www.arthurbondar.com/">Arthur Bondar&nbsp;</a>for assisting with images.</em></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/georgy-borodyansky/looking-after-yourself-in-siberia">Looking after yourself in Siberia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/georgy-borodyansky/veterans-out-in-cold">The veterans out in the cold</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Andrey Urodov Russia NGOs Internal History Tue, 04 Aug 2015 13:17:32 +0000 Andrey Urodov 94993 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kadyrov and Putin: parallel lives https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/nina-jobe-karena-avedissian/kadyrov-and-putin-parallel-lives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u550419/RIA%20Kadyrov%20Putin%202%20%28c%29%20Aleskei%20Nikolsku.jpg" alt="RIA Kadyrov Putin 2 (c) Aleskei Nikolsku.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />While Vladimir Putin has given Ramzan Kadyrov a free hand in Chechnya, the relationship between Moscow and Grozny is far more complicated than it first appears.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 3 June, a group of masked men attacked the offices of the regional branch of the Russian Committee Against Torture in Grozny, Chechnya, destroying computers and documents, and damaging the organisation’s car. The police did not respond to calls by staff about the attack, and the Committee Against Torture reports that the attackers went about their business ‘slowly’, as if they knew the police were not going to be dispatched.</p> <p>The Russian authorities have remained silent on the case, just as they remain silent on the de facto legalisation of polygamy and forced marriage in Chechnya, and the de facto acquittal of people close to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who are suspects in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. But these events prompt questions about the extent to which Chechnya remains a genuine subject of the Russian Federation, and highlight a deeper tension between the federal authorities and Chechnya – now boiling over after years of Kadyrov’s rule.</p><h2>Russian federalism and asymmetry</h2> <p>Throughout Russian history, the trajectory of power relations between the centre and the regions has swung like a pendulum, oscillating between periods of a more centralised, unitary state, and periods of decentralisation. </p> <p>During the 1990s, decentralisation was accelerated by President Boris Yeltsin’s challenge to the national republics: ‘Take as much sovereignty as you can swallow.’ The result was so disorderly in its implementation, disappointing in its failure to bring about promised economic growth, and terrifying in its perceived flirtation with state collapse, that it ended up swinging the pendulum back in the opposite direction.</p> <p>In the 2000s, Vladimir Putin launched a programme of re-engagement in the regions. But this re-engagement did not aim to simplify centre-periphery relations in order to keep the union together. Instead, it strived to construct a stronger system of subordination of the regions to Moscow – a now seemingly unassailable vertical power structure. </p> <p>Although this renegotiation of the federal contract took away any 'everyday' meaning that federalism might have in Russia, the very principle of federalism – the delegation of power to regions for better administration – remains central to the Russian state. Here, federal institutions lie dormant, in what <a href="http://magazines.russ.ru/nz/2010/3/za12.html">Andrei Zakharov calls a ‘federation without federalism’</a>, while the power to coerce remains a key resource in governance.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/RIA Kadyrov Putin 2 (c) Aleskei Nikolsku.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/RIA Kadyrov Putin 2 (c) Aleskei Nikolsku.jpg" alt="Kadyrov and Putin talk on an airfield in December 2011. " title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kadyrov and Putin talk on an airfield in December 2011. (c) RIA/Novosti/Aleksei Nikolsky</span></span></span></p><p class="pullquote-right">Throughout history, the trajectory of power relations between the centre and the regions has swung like a pendulum.</p> <p>This inconsistency is exacerbated by the fact that certain regions’ ‘special status’ has become institutionalised within the system, despite initial proclamations about ‘universal standards.’ This situation has forced the state into a grey zone of centre-periphery relations, which become uncertain and conditional, and structured by continuous bargaining. </p> <p>These relations are, in practice, determined not by a set of rules, but by any number of informal relationships and agreements between Moscow and regional leaders, based primarily on the arbitrary will of the centre.</p><h2>Outsourced sovereignty</h2> <p>Chechnya is perhaps the most striking case of this asymmetry. This has been exemplified in large part by Kadyrov’s repeated defiance and disregard of Russia’s federal laws. Kadyrov’s recent conflicts with the FSB – most notably when he threatened to have his men fire on federal troops who operated on Chechen territory without his blessing – and the silence of Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian elite, have only highlighted this situation further.</p> <p>For instance, when <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sean-guillory/who-killed-boris-nemtsov">opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered metres from the Kremlin’s walls in late February</a>, blame quickly fell on men close to Kadyrov. The Chechen leader publicly came to the defence of one of the accused, Zaur Dadayev, and refused to turn over the others. Dadayev was an officer in Kadyrov's private army, the Sever Battalion, as was Ruslan Geremeyev, another high-ranking member of the battalion, who is alleged to have been involved in organising the murder. <a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/who-shot-boris-nemtsov_921772.html">Geremeyev has since fled abroad</a>. </p> <p>With the lack of a pushback or even a statement from the Kremlin for these acts, Moscow’s authority is beginning to lose traction. While this is sometimes mistaken for outright favouritism or even the opening of a ‘soft exit’ for Chechnya from the Russian Federation, this particular free rein of power resembles what Kimberly Marten calls <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergei-markedonov/outsourcing-sovereignty-from-russia-to-chechnya">‘outsourcing sovereignty.’</a></p> <p>Russian has endured two brutal wars, and now faces the spectre of Islamic extremism within state borders. The cost of garnering the political will necessary for directly controlling difficult ground is greater than maintaining a degree of influence and stability through ‘outsourcing sovereignty.’ Even if this outsourcing entails massive federal subsidies.</p> <p>However, outsourcing sovereignty also means losing the ability to project authority down the power vertical. It is worth reconsidering not just the ‘success’ of Putin’s re-centralisation project, but also his power vertical, which has clearly not integrated Kadyrov. This is what sets Kadyrov apart: he has his own power vertical.</p> <p>To be sure, Kadyrov’s behaviour would not be fathomable without the loyalty he shows Putin; witness the demonstrative displays, from his relinquishing the title of ‘president’ in 2010 – he said there should only be one president in Russia – to supporting Russian military aggression in Ukraine, ostentatiously sending his own trucks filled with supplies for the displaced in eastern Ukraine; and the&nbsp; more clandestine support, through evidence of Kadyrov’s men taking part in the fighting in Ukraine. </p><p>However, it is increasingly unclear whether such acts of loyalty are aimed merely at winning more leeway from the Kremlin, or at creating the opportunity to illustrate that Kadyrov is the first among equals in the federal structure.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/RIA Kadyrov Putin (C) aleksei Nikolsky .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/RIA Kadyrov Putin (C) aleksei Nikolsky .jpg" alt="Ramzan Kadyrov shows Putin around the Grozny Mosque, named in honour of his father, Akhmat." title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ramzan Kadyrov shows Putin around the Grozny Mosque, named in honour of his father, Akhmat. (c) RIA Novosti/ Aleksei Nikolsky</span></span></span></p> <p>In fact, these acts serve to expand his own personal power not only in his pursuing of Chechen interests, but in his striving to extend his influence beyond the borders of Chechnya and the North Caucasus. It is this more subtle, but no less important facet of Kadyrov’s power that underlines his emergence as a transcultural authority.</p><h2>Kadyrov as a transcultural authority</h2> <p>Kadyrov’s Instagram account (now restricted to subscribers he has approved) is his preferred method of political communication, offering a view into how he constructs himself simultaneously as a guardian of the Kremlin and a guardian of traditional Islam and Caucasian identity.</p> <p>For example, Kadyrov was <a href="http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/strongman-leader-kadyrov-named-honorary-chief-of-chechen-night-wolves/522231.html">recently made chairman of the Chechen branch of the Night Wolves motorcycle gang</a>. Formed in the 1980s, the Night Wolves have increased their media profile in recent years after staging numerous public events in defence of Orthodox values and, of course, making appearances with the Russian president. Kadyrov, of course, promptly (and proudly) shared evidence of this bizarre ceremony via his Instagram account. </p> <p>By taking centre stage in such dramatic displays, Kadyrov mimics his idol, Vladimir Putin, who is also famed for such outlandish displays. Kadyrov is simultaneously showing his loyalty to the centre and illustrating (spectacularly) that he occupies a unique place in Russia’s federal hierarchy. .</p> <p>After the Charlie Hebdo murders in January of this year, Kadyrov organised a protest against the French publication, for its offensiveness to Muslims. In remarks posted on Instagram, Kadyrov wrote: ‘We will not allow anyone to insult the prophet, even if it will cost us our lives … And if we're still staying quiet, that doesn't mean we can't bring millions of people to their feet across the world to march in protest at those who repeat the insults against Muslims' religious sentiments.’ </p> <p>And in a gathering that many said involved state coercion, hundreds of thousands of people (Russia’s police stated 800,000) duly congregated in Grozny to make Kadyrov’s words come true. </p> <p>Apart from Putin, there is no other leader in Russia capable of ‘inspiring’ such a public demonstration. This image-making project is an enactment of political subjectivity that resonates with wider constituencies, and is accessible to a range of diverse groups from Russian nationalists to the broader community of Russian Muslims. It is essentially a self-conscious strategy of self-assertion and Chechen nation-building that has the capacity to influence spaces outside of itself.&nbsp;</p><p class="pullquote-right">The very existence of Kadyrov is an anomaly of the Russian federative system.</p> <h2>Strange symbiosis</h2> <p>The very existence of Kadyrov is an anomaly of the Russian federative system. Indeed, it subverts the existing hierarchy of the formal system of relations. </p> <p>In large part, this is due to the interdependence of Kadyrov and Putin. A joke popular in Chechnya several years ago turned on the idea that if Putin woke up one morning 15 minutes late, Kadyrov's body would already be cold. To what extent, however, does the opposite hold true? Without Kadyrov, will Putin’s system collapse? </p> <p>Putin’s popularity was built on his subjugation of Chechnya, and his role as a strong leader capable of bringing problem regions in line was seen as a further manifestation of the success of the power vertical. But the creation of the power vertical and the methodical destruction of any mediating link between public institutions means that the system relies wholly on Putin, on the individual.</p> <p>Any minor change in the system will lead to upheaval that the Russian state may not be prepared to deal with. If that were to happen, it would be a consequence of ruling not through institutions, but through the grey area of informal relations and personality. For that reason, when the Putin era eventually comes to an end, sooner or later the tension between the Russian Federation’s formal structure and the de facto state of relations must be reconciled.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-markedonov/outsourcing-sovereignty-from-russia-to-chechnya">Outsourcing sovereignty from Russia to Chechnya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/svetlana-bolotnikova/remembering-budyonnovsk">Remembering Budyonnovsk</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/almut-rochowanski/civil-chechnya-society-war-secession-and-body-politic">Civil war, secession and the body politic </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Karena Avedissian Nina Jobe Russia Regions Politics Internal Chechnya Caucasus Fri, 26 Jun 2015 11:44:52 +0000 Nina Jobe and Karena Avedissian 93896 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The ‘parasite law’ in Belarus https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/%E2%80%98parasite-law%E2%80%99-in-belarus <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u550419/parasite.jpg" alt="parasite.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />In the Soviet Union, anyone without an official job could be charged with ‘parasitism’ and sentenced to internal exile. Now Belarus has revived the idea. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/%D0%B5%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%BB%D1%83%D1%88%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0/zakon-protiv-tuneyadtsev-v-belarusi" target="_blank">на русском языке</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>This year the Belarusian government issued a decree on ‘the prevention of social dependency.’ Belarusians immediately christened it ‘the parasite law’, after the legislation current in the Soviet Union from 1961 until 1991. ‘Parasites’ included housewives, artists, opposition politicians, freelance journalists and so on – anyone who didn’t have an official work contract or who didn’t work at all.</p><h2>I am a parasite</h2> <p>Almost all my friends in Belarus are officially parasites. And indeed I am one myself – I have been freelance for ten years now. In 2004 I left my job on the <em>Komsomolskaya Pravda</em> newspaper. It was just after the Beslan school hostage crisis and Putin’s abolition of elections for regional governors. Journalism also seemed to have been abolished, and replaced by propaganda and porn. </p><p>I remember a special edition of ‘Komsomolka’, as it was usually known: Putin’s naked torso on the front page and a ‘best actress’s breast’ contest on the back. After that I decided to abandon my career on the paper and became a ‘foreign agent’, working freelance for Western media outlets. One day the FSB chief in Kirov denounced me on local TV as the head of a CIA conspiracy in the city. I didn’t sleep that night, expecting a knock on my door at any moment. But they didn’t arrest me: evidently even the FSB likes its little jokes.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Almost all my friends in Belarus are officially parasites. And indeed I am one myself.</p> <p>I have paid my taxes and felt like a normal law-abiding citizen, and it is only recently that I discovered that I am in fact a ‘social parasite’ who needs to be brought under control.</p> <h2>Shurik’s new idea</h2> <p>I discovered this fact in a dissident friend’s cramped kitchen. I won’t name him – the Belarusian KGB doesn’t joke around. This friend has been a dissident since Soviet times, fighting all ‘anti-popular’ systems ever since. Not that the governments have varied much: former state farm director Alyaksandr Lukashenka has ruled Belarus for the last 20 years. ‘You know what Shurik [a disparaging diminutive form of Lukashenka’s first name] has dreamt up now?’ asked my friend, cutting spring onions for a salad. ‘Anyone without an official job will have to pay a special tax, or be arrested’. </p> <p>I found the details on Google. Anyone working less than 183 days a year would have to pay 3,600,000 Belarusian roubles (£160). Anyone not paying would be fined between 360,000 and 720,000 roubles (£16-32) or arrested and sentenced to community service – sweeping streets, cleaning public toilets or doing agricultural labour, as the Russian poet <a href="http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/joseph-brodsky">Joseph Brodsky</a> had to do in his time. </p> <p>Brodsky was convicted of ‘parasitism’ by a Soviet court in 1964 and exiled to the northern Archangelsk Region where he was set to work as a forestry labourer. His task was to dig rocks out of the ground after trees had been felled, for which he was paid 12 roubles a month (average monthly earnings at the time were around 100 roubles). Eight years later the poet was forced to emigrate to the West and settled in the USA. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1987. Other famous dissident cultural and academic figures were also exiled as ‘parasites’, and more were accused but escaped punishment by moving to the West.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/parasite.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/parasite.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>‘I’m thinking about taking Russian citizenship’, said my friend wistfully. </p> <p>‘When did you last have an official job?’ I asked him.</p> <p>‘Five years ago I taught in a school. But when they found out that I was an opponent of Lukashenka they showed me the door pretty quickly.’</p> <p>‘But how did they know that? You weren’t having political discussions in school, were you?’</p> <p>‘Of course not! I was teaching the children Belarusian folksongs, and immediately fell under suspicion. They started following me around, and in the end accused me of going off alone with older female pupils. Now I can’t even get a job as a janitor! I can’t work, and now I can’t not work either!’</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘I can’t work, and now I can’t not work either!’</p> <p>My friend’s eyes filled with tears as he cut the onions, and perhaps not just because of the onions. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><h2>Those that don’t work, don’t eat</h2> <p>The TV news was all about the ‘working Saturday’ that had just taken place. The president and his son Kolya had worked on the site for a new children’s health centre, pouring cement and achieving twice the usual daily norm. Other politicians had also not been idle: Prime Minister Andrei Kabyakou planted pine trees in an abandoned gravel pit; others erected a battery farm in a village and planted trees in Minsk’s Hugo Chavez Park. </p> <p>‘On this day of voluntary work, we mustn’t forget the parasites!’ said the President, posing for the TV cameras in workmen’s overalls. ‘The parasitism decree has been controversial, but any working man or woman will surely support it! How does it feel, working from morning to night to feed your family, to see people driving around in their Lexus or BMW and not paying a penny of tax!’</p> <p>The press laughed uncomfortably, but no one dared say a word. Only lunatics, martyrs and alcoholics will risk contradicting ‘Big Daddy’. </p> <p>‘But surely nobody lives better than us?’ a tractor factory worker asked me in genuine amazement when we met at a bus stop. She was dressed like a typical shopper at local department stores: a long grey-brown coat, shapeless black shoes and a flower-patterned dress, and she carried a bag containing milk, sunflower oil and potatoes. </p> <p>‘We Belarusians like our spuds!’ she chuckled. ‘If you have spuds, what more do you need? I don’t buy anything dear – it’s all bad for you!’ </p> <p>What do you think about the parasite law?’ I asked her. </p> <p>‘It’s absolutely right!’ was her response. ‘Those that don’t work don’t eat! ‘Daddy’ was right – I always vote for him! Not everybody agrees, but I say that he has robbed us blind, but a new one would rob us as well, so why change?’</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘He has robbed us blind, but a new one would rob us as well, so why change?’</p> <p>We travelled on the bus together, without paying – it’s considered bad form to buy tickets. Suddenly a loud voice from the other end of the bus caught my attention. It came from a middle-aged woman in an old grey coat and a hat trimmed with artificial flowers. </p><p>It wasn’t clear whether she was talking to herself or the whole bus: ‘Citizens of Belarus! Collective farm workers are starving; dairy workers can’t milk their cattle! They work without holidays or days off! Our country is dying! And Lukashenka lives like a king! We need to take to the streets and make our voices heard!’</p> <p>The Belarusians, including the tractor factory worker, started moving to the other end of the bus. Most of them got out at the next stop, and those who didn’t suddenly became very interested in the view from the bus windows. When the citizen who called her compatriots to action got out, she was accompanied by long meaningful looks from her fellow travellers. </p> <p>‘This is a real dictatorship!’ the National Art Gallery employee whispered to me. It turned out she was, like me, from the Urals, so we got chatting. ‘I’ve been here two years now’, she told me, ‘and I feel like a foreigner. I haven’t made any friends. Belarusians are afraid to be around me, they think I’ll let something slip and they’ll get into trouble. HE has them scared to death.’ </p><p>She glances at the portrait of Lukashenka in military uniform on the wall. ‘A careless remark can lose you not just your job but your freedom. People disappear in broad daylight. One blink and they’re gone.’ The woman crossed herself nervously and wished me a speedy return to the Urals.</p><h2>Life in the freezer</h2> <p>‘The human rights situation in Belarus has actually improved,’ says Ales Lagvinets, a leader of the opposition ‘Freedom Movement’. ‘People are no longer disappearing; there are fewer arrests. Belarus has only five political prisoners: ex-presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich and four anarchists.’</p> <p>‘Has the Russian threat reconciled Lukashenka and the opposition?’ I asked Lagvinets.</p> <p>‘To some extent, it has. Power struggles and human rights have to take a back seat when your national independence is under threat. It’s true we’ve been living in a kind of freezer, on ice since Soviet times. You can, however, defrost a freezer, but what if Putin arrives with tanks and little green men?’&nbsp; </p> <p>‘And what if that does happen?’ </p> <p>‘You might be surprised to hear it, but half the population will welcome him with open arms,’ says Lagvinets. ‘Most people here, especially the older generation, were brought up with a Soviet and Russian mindset. Let me put it this way: there are not enough Belarusians in Belarus! For generations, centuries, all our national identity was squeezed out of us. Belarusians became embarrassed about themselves, their language and their culture. They tried to become Russians, and became nobodies. I, a Belarusian, can’t go to a pharmacy and buy a medicine with instructions in my own language!’</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘Half the population would welcome Putin with open arms.’</p> <p>The opposition leader, until now calm and collected, was becoming louder and more agitated. He imperceptibly switched from Russian to Belarusian and started waving his arms about. Sensing that I was about to be called personally to account for centuries of oppression, I hastily changed the subject. ‘Are you,’ I wondered, ‘a parasite?’</p> <p>‘Of course, I’m a scrounger!’ he laughed. ‘I’m officially unemployed, and live off translation and editing work. I have declared all my income and intend to pay the tax! Otherwise I’ll be jailed for 15 days, and have to pay for that!’</p> <p>‘You have to pay for your time in jail?’ </p> <p>‘Didn’t you know? It’s another one of our government‘s bright ideas. You pay for your upkeep – food and drink, questioning, the odd beating. It doesn’t cost much, about 100000 roubles (£4.50) a day. You also have to pay for protest marches and so on. For example, we recently paid 13,661,000 roubles (£600) for our annual ‘Chernobyl Trail’, to cover the ‘services’ of the police, the fire brigade and ambulance crews. Come and join us, by the way. But bring your Russian passport – then if you get arrested your consul might bail you out.’ </p> <p>I didn’t know if he was joking or not, but brought all my ID documents – two passports and two press cards.&nbsp;</p><h2>The Chernobyl Trail</h2> <p>The ‘Chernobyl Trail’ reminded me of Russian protest rallies in the Perestroika era, a time long past that has left sadness behind, but which is only just beginning here in Belarus. Belarusians were hoping for change and were prepared to suffer for their beliefs. People of all shades of opinion were gathered in a square on Independence Prospekt – nationalists with the red and white flags of the short-lived People’s Republic of 1918; anarchists with ‘Socialism with a Human Face’ placards; Chernobyl firefighters with a banner reading, ‘Chernobyl is our pain.’ </p><p>One woman was collecting money and signatures to support political prisoners; signatories, however, had to give not just their names but also their ID details. I wouldn’t have signed for the world; the security services could have been round the next day.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/IMG_20150426_153933.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/IMG_20150426_153933.jpg" alt="Протестующие на акции «Чернобыльский шлях» в Минске. " title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Протестующие на акции «Чернобыльский шлях» в Минске. </span></span></span></p> <p>‘Aren’t you afraid?’ I asked a gentleman in a hat, with a red and white flag round his shoulders like a cape. </p> <p>‘They should be afraid of us, madam’, he replied. I asked him why he had come to the march.</p> <p>‘I helped put out the Chernobyl fire. It’s a miracle I’m still alive… many of my comrades are not… I’ve come to remember them’. </p> <p>‘Is it true’, I asked, ‘that they have abolished the special benefits you people were getting?’</p> <p>‘Lukashenka says they haven’t the money – but he has money for our ice hockey team! Russia pays its Chernobyl firefighters, but we don’t. And we in Belarus have suffered more than anyone! Huge swathes of our territory are still in the exclusion zone. But people secretly pick mushrooms and berries there and sell them in Minsk. There are farms, fields, pastures right next to the zone, and where do they sell their milk and potatoes? Here in Minsk! And now they’re about to build the first nuclear power station in Belarus, at Astravets, a joint project with the Russians!’</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘Lukashenka says he can’t pay benefits to Chernobyl firefighters – but there’s money for our ice hockey team!’</p> <p>The demonstrators formed a column and moved off through the centre of Minsk, unfurling their flags and banners, all with slogans in Belarusian: ‘Chernobyl is an open wound‘; ‘Astravets will be another Chernobyl’; ‘No to the Russian Nuclear Threat’. From time to time someone would shout, ‘Long live Belarus!’ and the crowd would echo it. </p> <p>‘We’re allowed to hold three demos a year, and this is one of them’, explained Vital Rymasheuski, another opposition leader and ex-presidential candidate. ‘Usually these demos are left alone, especially now that Daddy is trying not to antagonise the West.’</p> <p>‘Three demos? And what if there’s a fourth?’ I asked.</p> <p>‘It’s broken up immediately, even if it’s only a one-person picket. They don’t mess about; you get a beating. Once they bashed me on the head with a club as I was making a speech – the blood was pouring out from underneath my bandage. The photographers loved it, of course!’ </p> <p>Rymasheuski laughed: Belarusians seem to regard demo wounds with the same wry resignation as the British their bad weather. Unlike Russian oppositionists, they don’t run to doctors to have their injuries recorded and then to the courts to lodge a complaint.</p> <p>‘You can complain’, says Rymasheuski, ‘but it’s not much use, unless you want to refer it to Western NGOs so they can include this human rights infringement in their annual report…’</p> <p>One demonstrator came with a thick rope round his neck instead of a flag. ‘What does it symbolise?’ I asked. </p> <p>‘The long suffering of us Belarusians. Life drags us down like a noose, and we just go on enduring.’ </p> <p>‘Will it ever end?’ I ask.</p> <p>‘Never, probably! All we care about is our potatoes and our booze!’&nbsp;</p><h2>The bottle queue</h2> <p>According to WHO figures, Belarusians are the heaviest drinkers in the world, consuming an average 17.5 litres pure alcohol equivalent a year (27.5 litres for men, 9 litres for women). I met some in a queue to return bottles for recycling (and reclaim the deposit). I had one beer bottle.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/IMG_20150422_122414.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/IMG_20150422_122414.jpg" alt="Пенсионеры в очереди за сдачей стекла." title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Пенсионеры в очереди за сдачей стекла.</span></span></span></p><p>‘How much for a beer bottle?’ I asked a man in an ancient moth-eaten coat whose wrinkled face retained a few vestiges of intellectual life. ‘Nothing at the moment, my love’, he said in an angry tone. ‘They said they had no money and went off to get some! We’ve been waiting for hours!’ The queue grumbled in unison, clanking their bottles. ‘There’s never any money for ordinary people! It’s all been spent on the ice hockey team!’ </p> <p>‘How do you live then?’ I asked. ‘Do you have work?’ ‘I collect bottles, my dear lady. That’s my work. I wash the labels off the good ones and get 500 roubles (two pence) apiece, and I get 350 roubles for the other, cracked ones. I can live on it: people drink a lot now, so there’s plenty to collect.’</p> <p>‘Won’t they arrest you as a parasite?’ </p> <p>‘They can’t arrest everybody!’ declared the former intellectual, nodding towards the long queue snaking round the small recycling point. ‘There aren’t enough jails in Belarus.’</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘They can’t arrest everybody - there aren’t enough jails!’</p> <p>Suddenly a shout went up: ‘Money, money!’ The queue came to life; people crowded into the narrow passageway, dragging enormous bags behind them. There was a sound of broken glass. </p> <p>I quietly stood my bottle on the ground. Someone would pick it up.</p><p><em>All photos courtesy of the author.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vadzim-smok/drowning-their-sorrows-in-belarus-alcohol-WHO-ranking">Drowning their sorrows in Belarus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/malgozhata-lozovskaya/if-you-want-to-be-millionaire-go-to-belarus">If you want to be a millionaire, go to Belarus </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ekaterina Loushnikova Politics Internal Human rights Foreign Economy Belarus Tue, 16 Jun 2015 13:44:26 +0000 Ekaterina Loushnikova 93577 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kyrgyzstan's conservatives hold their anti-LGBT rally https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/georgina-rannard/kyrgyzstan%27s-conservatives-hold-their-antilgbt-rally <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Moldokmatov_resized_standfirst.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Against a background of possible legislation against 'foreign agents' and 'gay propaganda', Sunday's anti-LGBT rally in Bishkek does not bode well for the small Central Asian state.</span></p><p><span><br /></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the morning of 14 June, around 40 people rallied in Bishkek's Gorky Park in support of a bill&nbsp;banning 'gay propaganda' from the small Central Asian state. In the first public anti-LGBT protest since early 2014, the young, mostly male crowd stood almost motionless, listening to speeches, occasionally clapping and cheering.&nbsp;</p><p>Three policemen watched from the shade of a tree. After 90 minutes, the crowd broke up and departed, leaving Gorky Park to its usual neglected state. Although small and seemingly innocuous, the rally points to the growing political and social forces, which threaten Kyrgyzstan's status as an island of democracy in a region of authoritarian and repressive regimes.</p><h2>Familiar faces</h2><p>A mixture of Kyrgyz, Russian and Muslim cultures and ethnicities made up the crowd. Men wore traditional Kyrgyz kolpok hats, taqiyah and baseball caps. Speeches were made in both Russian and Kyrgyz.&nbsp;</p><p class="pullquote-right">A mixture of Kyrgyz, Russian and Muslim cultures and ethnicities made up the crowd</p><p>The rally was advertised on Facebook by Nasaat Media, but the majority of speakers were members of the radical nationalist movement Kalys. Kalys style themselves as a social movement, with political aspirations and an organisational hierarchy. In June 2014, Kalys reported that they gathered 5,000 signatures in support of a 'foreign agents' bill. In Russia and elsewhere, this kind of legislation is used to discredit and impede the work of NGO organisations.</p><p>However, it is unclear where the majority of Kalys' supporters were on Sunday morning. In a display of professionalism, members at the rally wore plastic lanyards around their necks and red ribbons adorned with the Kyrgyz flag. However, Kalys are responsible for a series of violent attacks on LGBT groups: last month, members stormed an LGBT event and posted videos on You Tube with titles 'Kalys crushes the gays' and 'Disperse the fags'.&nbsp;<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Moldokmatov_resized.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Moldokmatov_resized.jpg" alt="Zhenish Moldokmatov, leader of Kyrgyzstan's Kalys movement" title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zhenish Moldokmatov, leader of Kyrgyzstan's Kalys movement</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /><span>Whether you consider them thugs or political operatives, Kalys boasts what every public organisation needs: a charismatic, articulate leader. Despite reportedly being charged with hooliganism after attacking LGBT groups on International Day Against Homophobia, Zhenish Moldokmatov, the head of Kalys, gave speeches at the rally wearing a suit and a kolpok. In Russian and English, Moldokmatov calmly told me that they were meeting to express their support to parliament for two bills.</span></p><p class="pullquote-right">Kalys boasts what every public organisation needs: a charismatic, articulate leader</p><p>The first bill would ban expressions of 'non-traditional' sexual relations, and the second, the 'foreign agents' bill, would require NGOs involved in 'political activities' to register as foreign agents. Both bills have passed a first reading in parliament. Another two successful readings in parliament and only President Atambayev's signature will be required before they become law. Although they appear different in intention, both bills mimic Russian legislation, signalling Kyrgyzstan's increasingly tight geopolitical bond to the region's political and economic powerhouse. Both bills also originate from the same desire to restrict what proponents view as corrosive foreign influence on Kyrgyz values, including homosexuality.&nbsp;</p><h2>Opposing values</h2><p>In Gorky Park, participants carried signs reading 'homosexuality is sin'. When asked about Kalys's opposition to homosexuality, Moldokmatov said 'Homosexuality is strange for our values, for our religion, for our culture, and it is strange for Asian people. We are holding this meeting because in the last few weeks, some NGOs have started actively putting out LGBT propaganda. Labrys and others held an LGBT wedding that was out of step [with Kyrgyz values].' According to Moldokmatov, Kyrgyz values are 'family, our culture, our religion.'</p><p class="pullquote-right">According to Moldokmatov, Kyrgyz values are 'family, our culture, our religion'</p><p>When the event poster was made public two weeks ago, activists from local LGBT organisation Kyrgyz Indigo wrote to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor's Office and the President's Office, arguing that the rally constituted incitement to hatred.&nbsp;</p><p>Citing the title of the poster ('We are against gays and lesbians. Are you?'), and images of clenched fists and blood splattered over the word 'gay', Kygryz Indigo argued that the rally would violate the constitutional prohibition of hate speech.&nbsp;</p><p>They also argued that the 'gay propaganda' law would violate Articles 16 and 20 of the Constitution, which protect freedom of expression and assembly. As yet, Kyrgyz Indigo has received no official response. Ruslan Kim, Director of Advocacy for Kyrgyz Indigo, told me that the decision to permit the rally appears to have been based on the constitutional right of prospective participants to publicly express their views – a constitutional right that Kalys are fighting to have removed from the LGBT community.</p><h2>50/50</h2><p>In addition to their anti-LGBT activities, Kalys are also strongly backing the 'foreign agents' bill. Zhenish Moldokmatov explained to me: 'Kyrgyzstan has the right to check the transparency of these organisations [NGOs]. There are some that are destructive. The laws that have so far been adopted are threatening the national security of Kyrgyzstan – they are allowing organisations to propagate values that are alien to our culture. They get involved in our politics.'</p><p>This development is extremely concerning to NGOs operating within the country. They believe the bill will be used to restrict civil and human rights work.&nbsp;<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Rannard_Kyrgyzrally.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Rannard_Kyrgyzrally.jpg" alt="Kalys supporters rally in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek in support of a bill against 'gay propaganda'" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kalys supporters rally in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek in support of a bill against 'gay propaganda'</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /><span>Tolekan Ismailova, Chairperson of Bir Duino, the leading human rights organisation in Kyrgyzstan, told me last week that after years of being attacked by religious or nationalist groups, she believes that finally the Kyrgyz Parliament is targeting her organisation. Bir Duino's offices in the southern town of Osh were recently raided by security services and, pointing to a damaged safe in her office, Ismailova explained that their Bishkek offices have also been targeted.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Bir Duino is one of only a handful of NGOs that publicly support the LGBT community. Ismailova acknowledged that their opposition to the 'gay propaganda' bill may be another reason that they are currently being targeted. However, she said that Bir Duino believe that LGBT rights are human rights and warned that the government will not stop at the persecution of LGBT people.</p><p>At the rally, the few women in attendance were momentarily joined by two more. When I asked one of them what she thought of the rally, Rosa speculated that the only reason the men attended was because they are unemployed and bored. However, she explained that she supported their cause, saying 'How is it possible that in a Muslim country, women live with women and men with men? Maybe there are people who live like that, but it should not be out in public.'</p><p>Not everyone was fully convinced by Kalys's rhetoric however. One young man observed the rally from a bench 20 metres away. He did not wish to disclose his name, but he told me: 'Democracy has both good and bad sides. We cannot accept European values just yet because we are an Islamic country, and LGBT is a European thing.'&nbsp;</p><p>When I asked him if he supported Kalys's aims, he paused and replied: '50/50.'<br /><br /><em>All photos courtesy of the author.</em>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/cristina-maza/challenging-patriarchy-in-kyrgyzstan">Challenging patriarchy in Kyrgyzstan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/georgina-rannard/kyrgyz-lbgt-attacked-on-international-day-against-homophobia-and-transphobia">Kyrgyz LBGT attacked on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/arman-beisinbinov/%E2%80%98kiss-of-titans%E2%80%99-in-kazakhstan">The ‘kiss of the titans’ in Kazakhstan</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kyrgyzstan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Kyrgyzstan Georgina Rannard Kyrgyzstan Internal Human rights Central Asia Mon, 15 Jun 2015 16:12:57 +0000 Georgina Rannard 93559 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From emancipation to restraint: violence and gender inequality in Azerbaijan https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/violence-and-gender-inequality-in-azerbaijan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554943/azerbaijan.jpg" alt="" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />Passing laws against gender-motivated violence and gender inequality is not the same as putting them into practice.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In 2006, Azerbaijan’s National Assembly and its 125 members pledged their full support for the European Union’s campaign to tackle all forms of violence against women in Azerbaijan. While the same year, parliament adopted the law On Guarantees of Equal Rights for Women and Men, it took them another four years to adopt the law On Prevention of Domestic Violence. </p><p><span>But despite the legislative changes and pledges, these laws remain largely on paper. Neither is used as a means to tackle issues of gender inequality or violence. In the meantime, hundreds of cases of gender-motivated violence and harassment go unreported. Gender equality remains an issue still waiting to be fully tackled by the necessary government institutions.</span></p><h2><span>Perceptions and traditions</span></h2><p><span>Azerbaijan’s attachment to societal norms and values makes it hard for women to break down the boundaries of tradition and challenge deeply embedded notions such as mentality, honour, and morality.</span></p><p><span>A woman’s worth comes with her reputation of ‘properness’, which can range from being a good and loyal daughter, with cooking and caretaker skills, to suitable marriage material. Women are little valued for their opinions and knowledge; and their impact in the community or in the country as a whole is not a priority.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>While women make up more than half of the workforce in the country (according to the World Bank:&nbsp;<a href="http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.CACT.FE.ZS">63%</a>), they are not found in high-level or high-earning positions. For instance, none of the country’s ministers are women, with the exception of one state body, the Committee for Family, Women and Children issues, which is headed by a woman.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/azerbaijan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/azerbaijan.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A woman votes in the presidential elections in Azerbaijan. Photo (c) Aziz Karimov via Demotix</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /></span><span>Due to horizontal and vertical segregation, women make up the bulk of occupations in education, health, and social services. These jobs are often low-wage positions and often associated with&nbsp;</span><span>‘</span><span>soft career</span><span>’</span><span>&nbsp;and more&nbsp;</span><span>‘</span><span>appropriate</span><span>’</span><span>&nbsp;jobs. Women also make up the largest group in the unpaid household workforce.</span></p><p><span><span>Yet women are the most often stigmatised group of the population despite the existing legislative norms and Azerbaijan’s history of women’s emancipation – the short-lived Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was one of the first countries to introduce voting rights for women in 1918.</span></span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">Women are the most often stigmatised group of the population</span></p><p><span>The fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent collapse of checks and balances that were in place to ensure gender equality, and later the outbreak of war with neighbouring Armenia, followed by the subsequent economic downturn, all had an overwhelming impact on the societal position of Azerbaijani women.</span></p><p><span>Outside of the capital Baku, conditions are particularly grim. While in Baku, victims of harassment or violence have at least some places to go for shelter (which are run by local non-governmental organisations; the only government-operated shelter is for victims of trafficking), outside the capital, these facilities do not exist.</span></p><h2><span>High profile cases vs. the invisible</span></h2><p><span>On 5 May 2015, Aytac Babayeva was stabbed eight times in broad daylight in the centre of Baku.</span></p><p><span>She was 18 years old. Her assailant – a rejected suitor. Aytac’s case led to a public outcry, a social media campaign and wide-ranging criticism of Azerbaijan’s legislation and the government bodies deemed responsible for the lack of progress when it comes to gender equality and tackling violence against women. Aytac’s killer is currently in pre-trial detention pending further investigation and will likely receive a severe sentence.<span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p><span>But this is an isolated case. Were it not for the public reaction, Aytac’s murder would have gone unrecognised as in hundreds of other unreported cases. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that 75% of victims of any form of violence in Azerbaijan choose not to report it, afraid of the possibility of public shaming and prejudice in one’s local community.</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">75% of victims of any form of violence in Azerbaijan choose not to report it.</span></p><p><span>The black holes in existing legislation make it difficult for women to plead their case. Beating, for instance, was a criminal offence until 2012, when it was amended to an administrative offense instead. Overall, cases of violence against women are seen as administrative rather than criminal offences. </span></p><p><span>As a result, the assailants often get away with a fine, and only if the case results in murder or severe body injury does it end up in court. But even then there are no guarantees, given the corrupt nature of the judiciary process, which can see the attacker get away with just a fine.</span></p><p><span>Metanet Azizova, director of Women’s Crisis Center, an NGO working in Baku, says that although the police have become far more understanding and sympathetic to victims of violence, the absence of any female officers, as well as departments within police stations trained to deal with victims, is a major factor in women’s decisions not to report violence.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>‘There is also the corruption factor. The bribes prevent the cases from getting to court. As a result, two out of three cases end up with just a fine.’</span></p><h2><span>Facing up to the challenge</span></h2><p><span>But there are other factors at stake too. The law on domestic violence does not provide a clear definition of how a protection order works.</span></p><p><span>‘No one knows whose responsibility it is,</span><span>’&nbsp;</span><span>notes Azizova.</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>‘</span><span>The police tell the victim it’s the court that’s responsible, while the court sends the victim back to the police saying it’s their job.</span><span>’</span><span>&nbsp;The case of Aytac Babayeva is an all too tragic example of this confusion. In Azerbaijan,&nbsp;</span><span>Azizova says,&nbsp;</span><span>husbands, ex-husbands, partners, and ex-partners harass their female partners, whether out of jealousy or revenge for a break-up or a divorce.</span></p><p><span>In cases where women are murdered, perpetrators are often their male partners. In fact, the number of murders committed by ex-partners has drastically increased in Azerbaijan in recent years.</span></p><p><span>Today, the country’s leadership is yet to address the most common issues women in Azerbaijan face: the lack of decision-making jobs, equality, early marriages, harassment, internal family conflicts, physical and psychological abuse. Neither the law on gender equality nor the law on violence against women guarantee better rights for women. </span></p><p><span>Instead, these laws are window-dressing, at best, and&nbsp;</span><span>Azerbaijan continues to fall behind in adopting the necessary steps and building the necessary infrastructure to ensure the successful implementation of these laws.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/altay-goyushov/crackdown-in-azerbaijan">The crackdown in Azerbaijan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/aslan-amani/how-europe-failed-azerbaijan">How Europe failed Azerbaijan</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Arzu Geybulla Internal Human rights Caucasus Azerbaijan Mon, 08 Jun 2015 14:00:51 +0000 Arzu Geybulla 93378 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ukraine’s labour reforms threaten workers' rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vitaly-dudin/ukraine%E2%80%99s-labour-reforms-threaten-its-already-precarious-workers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u550419/7410485.jpg" alt="7410485.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />The oligarchs have joined forces to railroad a new labour code that strips Ukrainian workers of their already modest rights.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="TableContents">Neoliberal modernisation in Ukraine is nothing new. The processes and forces pushing it forward long predate the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych last February. But since the events of 2014, this process has been expedited and has now arrived at a crucial issue: the laws governing the way people work.<em>&nbsp;</em></p><p class="TableContents"><span><span></span>To that end, employers are currently lobbying Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, to pass a new labour code, relying for support within the ruling coalition (via representatives of the Poroshenko Bloc and Arseny Yatsenyuk’s People's Front), as well as the Opposition Bloc, a political party representing Yanukovych’s former allies. </span></p><p class="TableContents"><span>The exploitation of workers, it seems, is an issue where the interests of the Ukrainian elite trump personal and&nbsp;</span><span>political</span><span>&nbsp;differences.&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span><span>Soviet hangovers</span></span></h2> <p class="TableContents">Ukraine's current labour code dates back to 1971. Despite its Marxist-Leninist origins, nearly 80% of this code has been amended and adapted for market conditions, and this is not the first time Ukrainian legislators have tried to overhaul it.</p> <p class="TableContents">Employers stubbornly complain that the current code is not flexible enough and regularly hark back to its roots by denouncing it as 'socialist.' But even in the late Soviet era, it would have been difficult to call this code ‘socialist’: the 1971 code removed many benefits originally enshrined in the 1922 original.</p> <p class="TableContents">Nevertheless, the code still contains principles inherited from the 1917 October Revolution. The issue here is that Ukraine lacks an independent trades union movement that could actually protect these rights. Since the beginning of the 2000s, employers have been trying to pass new labour laws, which would allow them to save money on 'human relations' and simplify their struggle with rebellious workers in Ukraine’s dire economic crisis.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>That said, most Ukrainian workers are satisfied with the labour code. But they are concerned only with how it is applied in practice by employers. Meanwhile, most independent trades unions (including the Confederation of Free Trades Unions) fundamentally oppose the adoption of the new code. The Federation of Trades Unions of Ukraine – Ukraine's largest trade union confederation with 8.7m members – seems to have no strong position.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/7410485.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>April 2015: Ukrainian miners in Kyiv protest against unpaid wages. (c) Demotix/Yevgen Kotenko.</span></span></span></p><p class="TableContents">This is not to say the system isn't flawed. According to statistics of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, <a href="http://www.me.gov.ua/Documents/Detail?title=PropozitsiiDoNapriamivVikonannniaUgodiProAsotsiatsiiuMizhUkrainoiuZOdniieiStoroniTaYevropeiskimSoiuzomYevropeiskimSpivtovaristvomZAtomnoiEnergiiIYikhnimiDerzhavami-chlenamiZInshoiStoroniYakElementuNatsionalnoiProgramiImplementatsiiUgodi">85% of employers inspected turned out to be in violation of existing labour laws</a>. </p><p class="TableContents">In Europe, Ukraine comes bottom of the table of countries where the right to strike is respected (with Belarus, Estonia, and Russia not doing much better). Illegal and general strikes are non-existent in Ukraine. Wages in the country remain incredibly low. And wage arrears continue to rise: they have long passed the one billion hryvnya mark (£31.2m). Approximately half of these arrears concern enterprises that are still in operation.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="pullquote-right">Roughly half of all workers are employed illegally.</p><p class="TableContents">The consistently high rate of emigration from Ukraine suggests that Ukrainians, and particularly young people, do not want to work here. Indeed, roughly half of all workers are employed illegally.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><span>Why doesn't the labour code 'work'?&nbsp;</span></h2> <p class="TableContents">In comparison with many European countries, the Ukrainian labour code provides employees with broad rights – though it may not always guarantee them.</p> <p class="TableContents">For instance, the code stipulates a 40-hour working week, a continuous leisure period of 42 hours per week, limits on the use of overtime, protection for pregnant women and young mothers from being fired, and the termination of contracts only after the union gives its consent.</p> <p class="TableContents">That said, the law is not without certain shortcomings which, in turn, have a negative effect on working conditions. Some of these faults stem from the fact that the code was created in the Soviet era, when many of the conditions that now exist in Ukraine were simply unimaginable.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents"><strong>Working hours: </strong>The current code does not permit contracts with provisions for working from home or a flexible schedule. For people working in media or IT, this kind of work is the norm. As a result, employees have to make alternative legal arrangements, which deprive them of many social guarantees, such as the right to holidays or sick leave. The fact that practically half of all employees are employed unofficially testifies to the fact that the current regulations are too harsh. Relaxing the rules governing working hours might help the economy come out of the shadows.</p> <p class="TableContents"><strong>Protection and simplified procedures of renewing workers' rights: </strong>The current code was developed for a paternalist model, whereby the state kept a strict eye on the enforcement of workers' rights. Today, the State Labour Inspectorate has virtually no authority to influence employers, and opening a criminal case is difficult.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Today, the labour inspectorate has virtually no authority to influence employers, and opening a criminal case is difficult.&nbsp;</p> <p class="TableContents">But when the state retreats from the world of work, employees have to have the right to defend themselves, including the right to strike as individuals and to receive credit from the bank in case of wage arrears. </p><p class="TableContents">Trades unions should receive the right to fine company owners. These kind of norms would make workers themselves capable of applying sanctions, and so relations with employers would become more equal.</p> <p class="TableContents">What is more, we need to create a system of labour courts – specialised legal institutions, which would examine cases where workers' rights had been violated, quickly and efficiently. Currently, wage arrears cases can last from 12-18 months – even when an individual's rights have clearly been violated.</p> <p class="TableContents"><strong>Gender and discrimination: </strong>In terms of gender equality, Ukraine's labour code is far from perfect. Indeed, the code was developed with different ideas about gender.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents">For example, it does not provide mechanisms, which prohibit the employment of women for less pay than men. At the same time, it forbids the employment of employ women for night work, 'heavy' work and working underground.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents">While it does contain strict norms, which prevent employers from firing pregnant women and mothers (which in practice means that companies are wary of hiring young women), it lacks provisions which would divide parental and family duties fairly. </p><p class="TableContents">For example, the March 2010 Council of the European Union directive on parental leave (in conjunction with the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe, European Centre of Employers and Enterprises, European Confederation of Trades Unions) provides non-transferable leave for the father. It states that a father should spend at least one month looking after a newborn child. According to the Ukrainian labour code, though, a couple should decide for themselves who takes&nbsp;<span>leave.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="pullquote-right">Discrimination receives far too little attention.</p> <p class="TableContents">Discrimination receives far too little attention – the general principle of equality of workers' rights of all citizens is declared regardless of differences, but it is unclear how it should be implemented in practice. </p><p class="TableContents">Likewise, the code makes no mention of issues such as homophobia in the workplace.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents"><strong>Healthcare: </strong>The Soviet Union guaranteed everyone the right to free healthcare. After the implosion of the Soviet system, the code's outdated provisions today sound like mere declarations when the state lacks the financial resources to ensure these rights.</p> <p class="TableContents">The European Union's legislation is more concrete, and guarantees the right to protection of health to workers employed in harmful conditions. Thus, the current Ukrainian code doesn't currently cater for the 2003 European Council directive on the organisation of working hours, which gives employees who work night shifts the right to free medical check-ups and prescriptions.</p> <p class="TableContents"><strong>Management: </strong>The tradition of workers' involvement in the management of an enterprise is sadly lacking in Ukraine today. Unfortunately, any kind of moves towards workers' self-organisation and management were killed off back in the Soviet Union.</p> <p class="TableContents">Today, Ukraine's employers manage their companies from the top down, receiving profits and making all major decisions. Of course, there is nothing to prevent unions from establishing a relationship with their employers on the basis of a collective agreement, but the ability of workers to gain these kinds of concessions is very limited.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents">Legal guarantees of workers' rights would significantly promote the participation of working collectives in the management of their companies. Towards the end of the 1980s, an entire new section appeared in the labour code regulating these employees’ rights. In particular, they concerned the right of employees to elect directors of their enterprises, but these rights were quickly rescinded after Ukraine became independent in 1991.</p> <p class="TableContents"><span>In the current conditions, the labour code needs to focus on the right of trades unions to representation in company management, including the right to influence decisions on ownership and personnel. Moreover, it should consider removing the laws on commercial secrets for companies with significant revenues or wage arrears – this would give employees extra bargaining power in the form of information.</span></p> <p class="TableContents"><strong>Protection of workers upon foreclosure: </strong>In the Soviet Union, it was impossible to imagine a company going bust. But in today's Ukraine, bankruptcy is common.</p> <p class="TableContents">Currently, the sale and transfer of property belonging to bankrupt firms takes too long and often bypasses workers. Here, though, we could take our cues from recent European experience, such as the October 1980 directive of the Council of the European Union which regulates the creation of a guaranteed fund for paying wages to employees of bankrupt companies, as well contributions to insurance funds.</p><h2>The Association Agreement</h2> <p class="TableContents">Yanukovych’s failure to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013 was the catalyst for the protests that eventually toppled him. But will the Agreement contain provisions to protect the rights of Ukrainian workers? Employers will lobby for the new labour code in the framework of implementing the Association Agreement, which was ratified back in September 2014.</p> <p class="TableContents">Of course, European directives do provide a minimal level of protection and the country should provide broader rights for its workers. But there are fears that, in situations when unions fail to apply the right kind of pressure, the state will approach the implementation of the Association Agreement far too formally.</p> <p class="TableContents">For instance, European Directive №2002/14/EС from March 2002 suggests the termination of contracts should be preceded by a process of 'consultation', rather than consent from the union. Moreover, this process won't even be mandatory at certain companies. The directive does not extend to business with less than 50 employees, which, in effect, restricts union activity at such companies.</p><h2>Authorial intention</h2> <p class="TableContents">One look at the authors of the new code might also key us into its possible outcomes. The developer of the first draft code (№1658) was Mikhailo Papiev, former governor of Chernivtsi and now a Rada deputy from Opposition Bloc (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nikolas-kozloff/ukraine-insider-oligarchs-derail-maidan-revolution_b_6773856.html">supported by Renat Akhmetov</a>). While Papiev first registered this bill in December 2014, <a href="http://en.molbuk.ua/chernovtsy_news/90938-genprokuratura-ne-rozsliduye-spravu-papiyeva.html">he is now facing the possibility of losing his position due to violations of electoral law in 2012</a> – a potential criminal prosecution. </p><p>In May 2015, a new draft code was submitted by Rada deputies from factions aligned with both Petro Poroshenko and Arseny Yatsenyuk -- Stepan Kubiv and Ludmyla Denisova. Kubiv, former head of the National Bank of Ukraine, is a member of Poroshenko Bloc (<a href="http://espreso.tv/news/2014/05/13/firtash_pidtrymuye_poroshenka_bo_v_noho_nemaye_inshoho_vyboru">supported by Dmytro Firtash during the 2014 presidential election</a><span>) and is currently under investigation for alleged selective refinancing of financial institutions.</span></p><p> Lyudmyla Denisova, a deputy from Yatsenyuk's People's Front (<a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/yatsenyuks-faction-favors-kolomoisky-377524.html">supported by Ihor Kolomoisky</a>), was Minister of Labour and Social Policy in Yulia Tymoshenko's government (2007-2010), where she lobbied for one of the previous draft Labour Codes. While Denisova occupied the same position in Yatsenyuk's first government in 2014, she is also known as an employer: in 2012, she launched a massive reduction in staff at her own Chernomorskaya television company, which was caught in a wage arrears scandal one year later in 2013. <a href="http://stopotkat.net/news/view/26484">Employees at this TV company were allegedly fired after protesting against the non-payment of wages</a></p><h2>Dangers of the new labour code</h2> <p class="TableContents">Of course, today’s code has flaws, but it could be amended by another act which would also remove certain important workers’ guarantees. The draft code not only has a few odious provisions, but also sections which are absolutely unconstitutional.</p> <p class="TableContents">According to Article 22 of the Constitution, new laws should not infringe the content and enforcement of basic rights and freedoms. But the draft code infringes social provisions enshrined in the constitution.</p> <p class="TableContents">For example, the new code will remove the ban on employing women with children under the age of three for night shifts. The maximum probation period will be extended from three to six months. Moreover, the employer can now give 'additional duties' to an employee when it appears that their 'full employment' is not guaranteed (Article 37). If they now carry out work of a lower qualification, then additional payment is not provided. Thus it cannot be excluded that a programmer will have to work as a cleaner without additional pay.</p> <p class="TableContents">According to Article 24 of the Constitution of Ukraine, citizens have equal constitutional rights and are equal before the law. However, according to the draft Code, certain workers will find themselves in a worse situation only because they work at small businesses or are on a temporary contract. This will invite employers to use these 'exceptions' to the rules.</p> <p class="TableContents">For example, an employee at a small business&nbsp;<span>(the Commercial Code of Ukraine states that small businesess are those which employ up to 50 people)&nbsp;</span><span>has to be informed of their redundancy one month in advance, rather than two. </span></p><p class="TableContents"><span>Moreover, small businesses will have to inform their employees of worsening working conditions (such as a cut in pay) one month in advance, rather than the current two (Article 221). It is foreseeable that employers will keep the size of their companies down in order to maintain advantages over their workers. Moreover, employers will find it profitable to arrange temporary contracts of up to two months: this way, they can inform employees of layoffs with just one week's notice (Article 61).</span></p> <p class="TableContents">Article 30 of the draft code will permit employers to control the actions of their employees with the aid of technology. This could include video surveillance or inspections of emails. This kind of constant oversight could lead to unreasonable psychological pressure, as noted by the Rada's scientific committee.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">The employee is deprived of the right to leave until they work off a specific period.</p> <p class="TableContents">At the same time, people may now find it difficult to leave their jobs of their own accord, even if working conditions decline. </p><p class="TableContents">For instance, in cases where the employer attempts to prove that their employee has improved their qualifications at the company's expense. Here, the employee is deprived of the right to leave until they work off their 'debt'. Otherwise, they will have to pay compensation.</p><h2>False benefits</h2> <p class="TableContents">Proponents of the new code point to a few minor improvements as proof of its superiority. For example, the authors often use the argument that they propose to extend annual leave from 24 to 28 days, and there will be penalties for wage arrears.</p> <p class="TableContents">Perhaps additional regulation on temporary work and non-standard working relations will have some positive outcomes. As the legal experts who represent the interests of employers say: in other situations, you simply wouldn't be able to get hired officially.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">Soon, Ukraine's sole competitive edge in the European market will consist of having the lowest paid workers with the fewest rights.</p> <p class="TableContents">But the key failings of the code are precisely the extension of its benefits. There is a danger the code's new possibilities will be used to increase workers' dependence on their employers. </p><p class="TableContents">Of course, the authorities see the liberalisation of working relations as a means of attracting foreign investors. Foreign investment in Ukraine is largely discouraged by corruption, however and the state is still yet to show any significant achievement in fighting that particular blight. Because of this it requires ordinary people to forego their rights.</p> <p class="TableContents">Soon, Ukraine's sole competitive edge in the European market will consist of having the lowest paid workers with the fewest rights. </p><p class="TableContents">As the vice president of asset management company Development Construction Holding Olena Derevyanko recently&nbsp;<a href="http://yur-gazeta.com/golovna/v-ochikuvanni-investiciy.html">stated</a>, commenting on Ukraine's poor economic situation: 'For real people, this is bad news. But it's good news for those who want to conduct business in Ukraine: expenditure on wages will be quite different from other countries.' Formerly part of UkrSibBank, Ukraine's third largest bank and a subsidary of BNP Paribas, <a href="http://www.dch.com.ua/en/press-center/news/2015/05/news_1300.html">Development Construction Holding is currently conducting presentations to attract European capital in Ukraine</a>.</p> <p class="TableContents">Likewise, the provision of greater benefits to small business when it comes to firing employees seems far from justified. Small business should be stimulated with access to loans, fighting corruption and simplifying the tax system, not through the enslavement of workers. There is no guarantee that the liberalisation of labour relationships will help the grey economy come out of the shadows.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">Small business should be stimulated with access to loans, not through the enslavement of workers.</p> <p class="TableContents">For example, the 50% reduction in the unified social security contribution at the start of 2015 did not lead to a significant statistical increase in officially-employed workers. </p><p class="TableContents">This social security payment was introduced in 2010 to consolidate previous separate payments (for pensions, healthcare, unenemployment benefits) made by employers. Given that it amounts to 41% of payroll, it is thought to contribute to the low rate of official employment, and <a href="http://www.unian.info/politics/1020610-yatseniuk-talks-with-imf-on-single-social-contribution-not-easy.html">has been a point of contention in negotiations with the IMF</a>.&nbsp;</p><p class="TableContents">Regardless of possible amendments, the draft labour code is unacceptable from the point of view of Ukraine’s working people. Its advantages do not make employees any less dependent on their employers, and does not provide a space for contestation. Ultimately, why should we care about the hypothetical possibility of extended leave if an employee can be fired on a trumped up charge without union consent?</p> <p class="TableContents">At the same time, new legal institutions are being proposed that will lead to even greater dependency of workers on their employers. While the current code is far from perfect, the question of labour reform should be postponed, at least until the emergence of political parties which truly represent the interests of workers.</p><p>While Pavlo Rozenko, Minister of Labour and Social Policy, has stated that the new labour code should be adopted by July 2015 (the programme of government envisages the adoption of this law by the end of the year), it is unlikely that the government will move on this controversial subject before local elections this October. </p><p>Still though, the future looks grim.&nbsp;<span>For as long as the oligarchs have a monopoly on power, reforms will only be carried out in their interests.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/grigory-tumanov/now-im-union-man">Now I&#039;m a union man </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/devin-ackles/ukraine%E2%80%99s-european-integration">Ukraine’s European integration</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Vitaly Dudin Ukraine Politics Justice Internal Human rights Economy Thu, 04 Jun 2015 14:36:18 +0000 Vitaly Dudin 93312 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Transnistria: West Berlin of the post-Soviet world https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergei-markedonov/transnistria-west-berlin-of-postsoviet-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" src="http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/VhCUApJgqrmO7R-H8sq2Uw2mbZAt-0umOTvdNz_MErA/mtime:1402592157/files/Flag_of_Transnistria_Republic%20crop.jpg" alt="" width="160" />How to play hardball: Ukraine's parliament has revoked the agreement between Russia and Ukraine on the movement of Russian troops through Ukrainian territory to Transnistria.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="TableContents">Fresh intrigue is afoot in the Transnistrian 'frozen' conflict. On 21 May, Ukraine's parliament the Verkhovna Rada revoked the agreement between Russia and Ukraine on the movement of Russian troops through Ukrainian territory to Transnistria, the unrecognised republic that is, from a legal point of view, considered part of Moldova.</p><p class="TableContents">But that is far from everything. Rada deputies also wrote off a whole series of documents regulating the supply of Russian troops and ‘peacekeepers’ stationed in Transnistria – the Operative Group of Russian Forces.</p><h2>Not to be outdone</h2> <p class="TableContents">After the Ukrainian parliament's decision, Chișinău Airport is now the sole connection to the 'mainland' for the Russian military. And Chișinău is taking advantage of the opportunity. The Moldovan authorities now require Moscow to inform them of their troops' arrival a month in advance. Since October last year, more than 100 Russian military personnel have been deported from Moldova.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents">Chișinău doesn't see the Operative Group as peacekeepers: it's an undesirable foreign presence. For Chișinău , the Russian military presence only impedes Moldova's 'European choice' and fosters separatist desires on the left bank of the Nistru (Dniester) River. Made up of the former 14th Soviet Guards Army, the Operative Group was created in June 1995, when reforming the old Soviet army command.</p> <p class="TableContents">The Russian military began its peacekeeping operation here following the 1992 Agreement on Principles of Peaceful Regulation of Conflict, between Moldova and Russia. At least 400 Russian peacekeepers, as well as troops from Moldova, Transnistria, and military observers from Ukraine are stationed in this territory. And although there have been several attempts to halt the peace process in Transnistria (particularly in 2014),&nbsp;<span>Chișinău</span><span>&nbsp;is yet to cancel the 1992 agreement.</span><span>&nbsp;<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Shevchuk_Rogozin.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Shevchuk_Rogozin.jpg" alt="De-facto President of Transnistria Yevgeny Shevchuk with Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin, Tiraspol, 2013. Photo CC: Kodru" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>De-facto President of Transnistria Yevgeny Shevchuk and Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin, Tiraspol, 2013. Photo CC: Kodru</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /></span><span>Be that as it may, Russian troops in Transnistria are increasingly isolated. So what risk do they pose to Russian interests here? And what solution will Moscow choose?</span></p> <p>In the past week, the Russian and foreign press has devoted much attention to this latest decision by the Rada – it's a political sensation. But if the consensus is that this move is improvised at best, then it was, at least, planned.<span> </span>We're not talking about a conspiracy here, but the logic of the political process. The Transnistrian conflict is different from other post-Soviet frozen conflicts for several reasons; in particular, the involvement of two guarantors – Russia and Ukraine.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The Transnistrian conflict is different from other post-Soviet frozen conflicts.</p> <p class="TableContents">For many, Kyiv's position as a second regulating party balances the plans of the Kremlin. Indeed, with more than 28% of the population in Transnistria being ethnically Ukrainian, Kyiv's position is logical. </p><p class="TableContents">Moreover, unlike Abkhazia or South Ossetia, Transnistria does not border with the Russian Federation, but shares a common one with Ukraine – 405km of it.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span>Falling out</span></h2> <p class="TableContents"><span>Prior to 2006, Moscow and Kyiv were often seen as successful partners in Transnistria. For instance, Ukraine did not obstruct plans put forward by Dmitry Kozak, a Russian politician with ties to the Kremlin, to unite Transnistria and Moldova as a federal state in 2003. In turn, in 2005, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs more or less supported Viktor Yushchenko's suggestions for a peaceful resolution of the stalemate.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents">The events of 2006, however, sounded the first alarm bells after Kyiv and&nbsp;<span>Chișinău&nbsp;</span><span>amended regulations on Transnistria's external economic relations. Tiraspol's 'right' to economic independence was liquidated in March 2006. Meanwhile, for the first time after the conflict 'froze' in 1992, Transnistria became a negotiation battleground between Kyiv and Moscow. Fortunately, nine years ago, this conflict did not extend beyond trade relations and rhetoric.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents">In contrast, the events of 2014 led to something rather different. The second Maidan and change of power in Kyiv prompted the 'Russian Spring' and Moscow's military and political intervention in Crimea and Donbas. In Ukraine, these moves were perceived as aggression from a neighbouring state, and Kyiv came to view Transnistria as an outpost of Russian influence (although, it should be repeated that, before 2006 and after the 'Orange' government fell in 2010, Kyiv tried to take a more balanced line on the unrecognised republic).<span>&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;<br /></span><span>Thus, the rise of militarist rhetoric and actions aimed at isolating Transnistria from the Ukrainian side – attempts have been made to increase security at border crossings and close off the republic with a defensive ditch. What's more, back in March 2014, all Russian male citizens between the ages of 18 and 65 with permanent residency in Transnistria were refused entry into Ukraine. According to local residents, exceptions are few and far between, and only concern journeys being made in certain circumstances (medical treatment, funerals).</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents">In this sense, it was only a matter of time before the issue of Russian military transit became a political football. In the current circumstances, this move looks like a demonstration of national unity, patriotism, and resolve to resist the 'aggressor'.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span>Breaking the status quo</span></h2> <p class="TableContents">The Rada will not be condemned by its Western partners for its actions; indeed, it will be seen in the context of resistance to the 'imperial machinations' of the Kremlin. Russian diplomats, however, now speak of Kyiv's (and Chișinău's) violation of agreements and the breakdown in the former status quo. </p><p class="TableContents">In other circumstances, this argument might be accepted (or at least wouldn't provoke criticism in return). But when not only Ukraine, indeed the entire West, views Russia as having violated international law (the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, and the1997 Russia-Ukraine agreement), this is more than problematic. And although BRICS countries (and Russia's allies in the Eurasian Economic Union) are not blocking Russia's position, they are yet to recognise Crimea's new status. In this situation, international understanding is limited to Narendra Modi's willingness to receive Sergei Aksyonov of Crimea, in the Russian Federation's delegation to India.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents">What will Moscow's reaction to the actions of Kyiv and Chișinău be? Potentially, Moscow could raise the stakes – from a re-evaluation of Transnistria's status to increased military hardware supply. At a push, they may even 'surrender' Transnistria (the latter option comes up every time Moscow gets into difficulties on the Nistru).<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Transnistria flag billboard.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Transnistria flag billboard.jpg" alt="The Soviet-inspired state symbols of Transnistria, or the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, in Tiraspol. cc Dl.goe" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Soviet-inspired state symbols of Transnistria, or the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, in Tiraspol. cc Dl.goe</span></span></span><span></span>&nbsp;<br /><span>But the 'exit' scenario looks unlikely. Firstly, it gives no guarantees that this 'surrender' will be the last. Leaving the Nistru won't stop the calls to 'return Crimea' or stop the 'occupation' of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Secondly, neither Brussels nor Washington have any desire to recognise Crimea in return for Russia leaving other parts of the former USSR. At least, these desires have not been made public. If they were, they would amount to a recognition of the post-Soviet space as a site of Russian special interest, highlighting the limits of American global hegemony.</span><span>&nbsp;<br /><span>&nbsp;<br /></span></span><span>No, we are more likely to face a choice between the visions of two representatives of the Russian foreign ministry: on the one hand, the possible re-evaluation of Transistria's status should Moldova change its neutrality (an idea proposed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov) and, on the other, the joining of Transnistria to Moldova as a 'special region' (proposed by Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin).</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>And all this is happening against the background of Vladimir Putin's declaration of the necessity of keeping the 5+2 format.</span></p> <h2>Lessons from the past</h2> <p class="TableContents">The increasing isolation of Transnistria is unpleasant, but far from fatal. For Russia, the issue of maintaining the Operative Group could be solved at the expense of the local residents holding Russian passports. But what then?<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="TableContents">Perhaps the experience of the Cold War (the Berlin Airlift) may come in handy in this new historical era. The problem then would become one of military hardware and logistics, so avoiding the most controversial issue – status, which depends directly on the level of confrontation between Russia and the West, where people are inclined to view any change in the status quo by the Russian Federation as a plan to increase its sphere of influence in Eurasia rather than a reaction. As a result, responses are ever more aggressive.</p> <p class="TableContents">However we choose to see the situation – how far it is grounded in fact, and how far it is the product of artificial fears – is not perhaps the main problem. If we choose to avoid the most controversial issue of status, Moscow will not be able to ignore its social obligations; and it is this that appears to be one of the most immediate consequences of Transnistria's increasing isolation.<br /><br /><em>Editor's note: This article originally appeared on politcom.ru in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politcom.ru/18845.html" target="_blank">Russian</a>.</em>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span>William H. Hill.</span><span><em>&nbsp;</em></span><em>Russia, the Near Abroad, and the West: Lessons from the Moldova-Transdniestria Conflict </em><span>(John Hopkins University Press, 2012).&nbsp;</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/p%C3%A5l-kolst%C3%B8/transnistria-is-bridge-too-far-for-russia">Transnistria is a bridge too far for Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/transdniestria-a-family-quarrel">Transdniestria: a family quarrel </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Sergei Markedonov Ukraine Russia Moldova Internal History Foreign Conflict Wed, 27 May 2015 17:00:41 +0000 Sergei Markedonov 93143 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Looking after yourself in Siberia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/georgy-borodyansky/looking-after-yourself-in-siberia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u550419/Kurganka.jpg" alt="Kurganka.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /> The ‘rationalisation’ of medical and social services in rural Russia has compelled people to acquire new skills in order to survive, but life for the weakest is very hard – and very expensive.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Circumstance has forced the inhabitants of Kurganka, a village in Russia’s Omsk Region, to become their own medical service. They have worked out how to give one another injections, avoiding the need for a doctor’s’ prescription. For a prescription you have to go to Muromtsevo, the district centre, 50km away – an expensive exercise and risky as well; it never rains here but it pours, literally, and even if you get though the deluge there’s no guarantee a doctor will see you. The queue starts forming at 8am, and if you’re a bit late, tough! And the bus from the outlying villages only arrives after 9am.</p><p class="pullquote-right">For a prescription you have to go the district centre, 50km away.</p> <p>‘There have been so many times when I’ve arrived too late to get an appointment’, says pensioner Lyudmila Afinogenova, ‘and then you lose the whole day: the bus doesn’t go back until the evening. I gave up going there ages ago. I went just once last year with my granddaughters; the older one was starting school and the school health worker said all the children needed to have various jabs first. So off we went, taking her little two-month-old sister along as well. A friend agreed to drive us there and back, for 1,600 roubles [the average monthly pension is 10,000 roubles]. But when we got to the hospital they said we weren’t on their lists; according to their information, we’d moved out of the area. So we had to go home without the jabs.’</p> <p>This February, medics from the Central District Hospital deigned to come to Kurganka to do the immunisations. The baby was then 15 months old, and it was the first time anyone from the medical profession had shown any interest in her. </p> <p>Lyudmila herself has diabetes, for which she needs regular insulin injections. ‘If your blood pressure goes up to 220, you need insulin or you’ll die’, she says. ‘Mind you, if you do die that’s not so bad, but you might have a stroke instead and that’s such a pain for your family.’</p><h2>Life without medics</h2> <p>Sometimes Lyudmila does her own injections, sometimes, family members do it for her. Many people in Kurganka and the other settlements in the area have learned this skill; after the First Aid station that served four villages closed down, medical services have turned into a cross between volunteering and small business. There’s no other way to earn any money here: back in the 80s the prize-winning local collective farm was never out of the newspapers, but by the mid-2000s agricultural activity was reduced to a cooperative with 200 head of cattle that is now in receivership. And even while it was running, employees were mostly paid in hay and firewood – cash only appeared on special occasions.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">Medical services have turned into a cross between volunteering and small business.</span></p> <p>The Kurganka First Aid Station effectively closed down at the start of the 2000s, but it was still officially listed as a medical facility until 2009, when the <em>Novaya Gazeta</em> daily published an article exposing this anomaly. The mythical facility was resurrected soon afterwards, but not for long: the nurse practitioner appointed to run it went back home after a year and a half, without waiting for the 500,000 roubles he had been promised under the ‘Governor’s Medical Programme.’ </p><p>‘It was such a pity’, says pensioner Lyubov Znayeva. ‘Our Aleksandr was such a good nurse. He was kind and sensitive; you could turn to him any time – evenings, Sundays, he would always be ready to help.’</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/ выглядит ФАП в Курганке, 10 лет считавшийся действующим.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/ выглядит ФАП в Курганке, 10 лет считавшийся действующим.jpg" alt="The Kurganka First Aid Station, which was listed as 'operational' for 10 years, in a state of disrepair, covered in rubbish" title="" width="360" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Kurganka First Aid Station, which was listed as 'operational' for 10 years. (c) Author</span></span></span></p> <p>Lyubov is 77 and is registered disabled: she had a stroke 19 years ago and now she says she relies on injections to keep her heart and brain going. ‘We give them to each other – not for free, of course, but for a lot less than you’d pay if you went into Muromstsevo. I have an arrangement with a neighbour who used to work as a nursing assistant: she gives me 20 injections for 200 roubles.’</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘I have an arrangement with a neighbour: she gives me 20 injections for 200 roubles.’</p> <p>The residents of Kurganka can’t survive entirely on their own efforts, of course; they still need qualified medical help from time to time, not to mention emergency treatment. They tell me about how, three years ago, Maria Kuklina, a young woman of 36, had a heart attack. They phoned for an ambulance but were told there was none available: they would have to get her to the hospital in Muromtsevo themselves. </p><p>It took them two hours to find a car in the village, and they had gone only six kilometres when Maria’s heart stopped.</p><h2>The rationalisation of rural life</h2> <p>In 2001 the <em>Znamya Truda</em> (Banner of Labour) newspaper wrote that the Muromtsevo district (with 24,000 inhabitants) contained four hospitals, six polyclinics and more than 40 village First Aid stations. </p><p>That was in the turbulent, poverty-stricken 90s. In the following period, when Russia was getting up off its knees, big changes took place in local healthcare; and, as I have now learned from Dmitry Shchekotov, a member of the district council who has a visual impairment himself, there are now only three hospitals, one polyclinic and ten village First Aid stations.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/ ФАП в Саргатском районе.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/ ФАП в Саргатском районе.jpg" alt="A working First Aid Centre in the Sargat District. It is not as filthy as the closed down one, but hardly very nice. " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A working First Aid Station in the Sargatskoye District. (c) Author</span></span></span></p> <p>The district is no better, and no worse, off than the rest of the Omsk Region. In the neighbouring Sargatskoye district, for example, many villages have not only no First Aid station or school, but no water fit for washing and other household needs, let alone for drinking. The locals use water from a lake, at some risk to their health. Pyotr Plesovskikh, a farmer and social activist, told me that many villagers had had enough and that ‘it could all get out of control.’</p><p> Last October, 40 people from Novotroitskoye, where he lives, and the neighbouring village of Despozinovka blocked the local highway in protest, demanding repairs to the road along which their children have to travel to school. Some of the potholes, says Plesovskikh, are half a metre deep, and it takes the bus over two hours, and longer in bad weather, to cover 40km. So the children spend five to six hours a day shaking about in the bus, while their parents wait for them at home with their hearts in their mouths.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The school bus takes over two hours, and longer in bad weather, to cover 40km.</p> <p>The protest could be described as successful: the regional highways department found one million roubles for repairs to the road, a small sum considering it had had no repairs for 20 years, but something at least – the most dangerous potholes were filled in with clay. </p><p>This is, however, the farmer points out, a temporary measure: ‘Come spring, we’ll be up to our ears in mud.’ However, he and three other organisers of the blockade were fined 30,000 roubles and given 50 hours of community service, but considered it was worth it.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/ в школу Саргатский район.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/ в школу Саргатский район.jpg" alt="A road in Sargat Region, full of pot holes and cracks" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A road in Sargat Region. (c) Author</span></span></span></p> <p>Last year the Omsk Region website announced that in-patient facilities were to be closed at two rural hospitals in the Cherlaksky district. The nearest hospital beds would now be in the district centre, 57km away from one of the villages served. </p> <p>Medical facilities are also being ‘rationalised’ in the area around Omsk, with in-patient services closed at a hospital serving seven residential areas, and also in Omsk itself; in February, the city’s Hospital No.2 closed its in-patient department, losing 200 beds. </p> <p>None of this is the fault of the regional authorities: neighbouring regions, and those further afield, are facing the same cuts. In the Sverdlovsk Region, for example, the number of village First Aid stations has fallen from 248 to 177 in the space of four years, and in the Orenburg Region, 54 have closed down over two years.</p><h2>The cost of survival</h2> <p>All health, education, social services, and benefits in the Omsk region have been ‘rationalised’ since the beginning of the year. Free school meals, for example, are now available only to children in low-income families, those earning under 1.5 times the living wage; in some other regions it is only families with an income lower than the living wage whose children are entitled to a free school meal.</p><p class="pullquote-right">All health, education, social services, and benefits in the Omsk region have been rationalised since the beginning of the year.</p> <p>Meanwhile the ‘Social Assistance Standards’ for the elderly and disabled, also introduced on 1 January, have effectively reduced this assistance to nil. Previously, home care workers visited four clients a day; now their workload has doubled and they need to get round eight people in the same eight-hour shift. ‘There’s usually a 15-20 minute walk between clients’ houses in the villages’, says Dmitry Shchekotov, ‘and if you take that out of the hour, there’s not much time left for actual care. And the fees the old people now have to pay for the service are often beyond their means.’ &nbsp;</p> <p>The rise in social service charges over the last decade (until 2006 all these services were free) is a good indicator of the humanitarian concerns of the state. Even ignoring inflation, they have increased by several times and are now exorbitant; and now disabled people and war veterans have even lost their 50% discount on service charges. Here are just a few of the new rates: </p><p>Wood cutting: 165 roubles per m3</p> <p>Snow clearing: 82.5 roubles per m3</p> <p>Bringing fuel (wood or coal) into the house from the yard: 13 roubles 76 kopecks</p> <p>Starting a fire in the stove: 12 roubles14 kopecks</p> <p>Clearing out ashes: 8 roubles 26 kopecks</p> <p>Fetching 13 litres of water from the well: 26 roubles 14 kopecks</p> <p>Bringing bread from the shop: 23 roubles 39 kopecks a loaf (on top of the 37 roubles for the bread itself). </p> <p>Lyubov Znayeva has reason to be cheerful: ‘It’s a good thing that, although I’m registered disabled, I can still do a lot for myself. But if someone is frail and living on a miserly pension of 8000 - 9000 roubles a month, how are they supposed to manage? I ask the social service workers, “What kind of service is this? You’re fleecing helpless old people”. And they say, “We have to live as well – if we don’t fulfil our quotas we don’t get a bonus.”’</p> <p>Varvara Klyuchkina, another elderly resident of Kurganka, also tried to do everything for herself. She was 85. One day she was trying to light a fire in her stove when some sparks fell on her clothes. She burned to death and her house burned down. </p> <p>Dmitry Shchekotov believes that the new legislation on ‘The social welfare of the elderly and disabled’ is unconstitutional, since the Constitution states that laws may not be passed, which worsen the conditions in which people live. </p><p>He is taking the matter to court, and is prepared to go all the way to Strasbourg with it.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/georgy-borodyansky/rehousing-scam-in-omsk-Russia">The rehousing scam in Omsk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-fofanova/rouble-crisis-in-siberia">The rouble crisis in Siberia </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Georgy Borodyansky Russia Regions Internal Human rights Health Economy Tue, 12 May 2015 16:58:53 +0000 Georgy Borodyansky 92744 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Russian politics of multiculturalism https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-alekseyeva/russian-politics-of-multiculturalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4DUMPxjNTN0jf8AmIariV3Myt1H9jMHEO3FgP6um0vA/mtime:1427711864/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Putin%20with%20Orthodox%20representatives%20Kremlin.ru_.jpeg" alt="RIA Aleksei Druzhinin Putin Abkhazia.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />The relationship between religion and ethnicity on the one hand, and civic assimilation on the other, is far less harmonious than Putin’s magniloquence asserts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Much has been made in the last several years of Vladimir Putin’s close alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). With charges of corruption, laundering, and a now infamous <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/world/europe/in-russia-a-watch-vanishes-up-orthodox-leaders-sleeve.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">botched wristwatch Photoshop incident</a> tarnishing the Church’s image, few would deny that this partnership is more about political expediency than genuine piety.</p> <p>But while there is an ideological consensus between the Russian Church and the state, it does not necessarily lie in ecumenical doctrine. The central point at which Putin and the ROC converge is in their rejection of 'the liberal mode of civilisation,' as Patriarch Kirill writes in his manifesto <em>Freedom and Responsibility: A Search for Harmony,</em> in favour of ‘national culture and religious identity.’</p> <p>Russia is a vast and diverse country, and in promoting a mode of governance rooted in cultural and religious identity, Putin’s nationalist ideology extends beyond the Russian Christian Orthodox demographic base. In his discourses, Putin has worked to cultivate an image of a multi-ethnic and multi-faith Russia. While the ROC certainly maintains a spotlight in the political arena, Putin has made a rhetorical effort to step away from the Church as the be-all-and-end-all of Russian identity, <a href="http://www.kremlin.ru/news/16292">insisting</a> that Russia’s strength lies in its cultural diversity.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span>A Russian brand of Islam</span></h2> <p>To accommodate a multicultural national identity – one that is positioned at the juncture of Asia and Europe – Putin has elevated Islam alongside Russian Orthodox Christianity as one of the country’s two central religions.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">Putin has elevated Islam alongside Russian Orthodox Christianity as one of the country’s two central religions.</span></p> <p>Approximately 20m Muslims live in Russia, comprising 14% of the population, and making Russia home to the largest Muslim population in Europe.</p> <p>Not only has Putin <a href="http://www.kremlin.ru/news/13592">defended</a> Islam as historically indigenous to Russian culture, he has also <a href="http://www.baltinfo.ru/2010/12/16/Pravoslavie-blizhe-k-islamu-chem-katolitcizm--Putin-177816">sided</a> with the proposition that Orthodox Christianity is closer to Islam than to Catholicism. While Western Protestants evince their liberal values through support of abortion and homosexuality, Putin has said, Islam and the ROC <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2013/10/10-future-russia-observations-valdai-conference-stent">are bound</a> in their deference to a traditional value system.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/RIA Aleksei Nikolsky religious figures.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/RIA Aleksei Nikolsky religious figures.jpg" alt="Represntatives of Russia's four 'traditional' relgions, Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism on National Unity Day in 2012" title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Represntatives of Russia's four 'traditional' relgions, Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism on National Unity Day in 2012</span></span></span></p> <p>As one of Russia’s four traditional religions (alongside Judaism and Buddhism), Islam does get special status. The state has lent support to various Islamic institutions, including religious schools and an Islamic TV channel.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Those religious authorities willing to cooperate with the state, such as Talgat Tajuddin, Russia’s Chief Mufti, maintain close relations with Putin. In the past, the bond between the state and Muslim leaders has at times even eclipsed – if only momentarily – its closeness with the ROC. When anti-government protesters gathered in Bolotnaya Square in 2011, Damir Mukhetdinov, deputy head of the Russian Muslims Religious Directorate, condemned protesters while representatives of the ROC maintained a more neutral stance.</p> <p>But the brand of Islam that Russia promotes is tightly circumscribed. Dating back to imperial policy, the state has worked to dissociate Russia’s Muslims from transnational Islam, creating a domestic infrastructure of Islamic administration and leadership. Putin has <a href="http://www.kremlin.ru/news/17173">denounced</a> the import of Islamic practices like the wearing of the <em>hijab</em>, arguing that they are foreign to traditional Russian Islam. In 2012, the President sided with a ban on girls wearing headscarves to public schools in the Stavropol region.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">But the brand of Islam that Russia promotes is tightly circumscribed.</span></p> <p>More troubling has been the government’s policy regarding religious extremism, which has fanned public fears by alleging widespread ‘Wahhabi’ threats, often based on little evidence. In the lead up to the Sochi Olympics, authorities conducted sweeping raids in Muslim places of worship in Moscow and St Petersburg, detaining hundreds of people. </p> <p>The state’s tangled and contradictory relationship with the broader Russian Muslim community can be summed up in Putin’s policy towards the North Caucasus. There, full-scale war, which provided Putin with critical political capital early on in his presidency, was succeeded by government subsidies and a wholesale redevelopment of Grozny.&nbsp; </p> <p>Yet despite these fraught policies, the government has nonetheless maintained a rhetorical commitment to Russia as an ethnically inclusive state, even against the backdrop of growing tides of ethnic nationalism (a trend so oft remarked that it has become a platitude in contemporary analysis of Russia). In the aftermath of ethnic riots in 2010 in Moscow’s Manezh Square and in cities across Russia, Putin <a href="http://themoscownews.com/politics/20101216/188284480.html">condemned</a> the rioters’ xenophobic targeting of North Caucasians. ‘We are all children of the same country,’ he declared, ‘we have a common motherland. Russia has been a multi-confessional and multi-ethnic state.’&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span>Religion and foreign policy</span></h2> <p>While Putin’s words can be cast off as mere tokenism, his defence of ethnic and religious diversity is clearly part of a domestic and foreign policy agenda.</p> <p>In the 1990s, staking out its liminal position between the world’s major political groupings, Russia worked to develop a role as a mediator between the Muslim world and the West. Russia denounced American interventions in Iraq, pursued a ‘two track policy’ with Iran, contributing to its nuclear programme while maintaining dialogue with Washington; and engaged with Hamas leadership. More recently, in 2009, Medvedev <a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:XNJxEnXWWGYJ:eng.kremlin.ru/transcripts/10229+&amp;cd=3&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;client=firefox-a">asserted</a> that Russia is ‘an organic part’ of the Muslim world, a sentiment that was <a href="http://www.kremlin.ru/news/5559">reiterated</a> by Putin, who argued that ‘our country is developing close and multifaceted relationships with the governments of the Muslim world.’ These declarations of unity have been borne out by Russia’s defence of the Syrian government, in which Putin has <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/opinion/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russia-on-syria.html?pagewanted=all">painted</a> Russia as an apostle of international law.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">The government’s appeal to unity with the Muslim world also helps legitimise Russia’s eastward economic expansion.</span></p> <p>The government’s appeal to unity with the Muslim world also helps legitimise Russia’s eastward economic expansion, which it has begun with the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union, a Slavic-Turkic alliance that will include Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia. ‘Eurasian integration,’ argued Putin in his <a href="http://valdaiclub.com/politics/62880.html">speech</a> at the 2013 Valdai International Discussion Club, ‘is a chance for the entire post-Soviet space to become an independent centre for global development, rather than remaining on the outskirts of Europe and Asia.’</p> <p>In the context of westward expansion, too, the rhetoric of inclusivity has played a role. Early in his speech after the annexation of Crimea, Putin emphasised that Crimea’s ‘unique blend’ of different cultures and traditions paralleled that of ‘Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries.’ (Crimea’s Tatars, who have only relatively recently returned to the region after Stalin’s ethnic cleansing of their entire population in 1944, might have been sceptical of such claims.)<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span>Anti-Western</span></h2> <p>Putin’s geopolitics positions Russia as a nation between East and West. When it comes to values and morality, however, Putin’s Russia is decidedly anti-Western.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Putin with Orthodox representatives Kremlin.ru_.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Putin with Orthodox representatives Kremlin.ru_.jpeg" alt="President Vladimir Putin meets with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. " title="" width="397" height="265" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>President Vladimir Putin meets with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. </span></span></span></span></p><p>This contrast is premised not only on the asserted distinction between Russia’s religions and Western Christianity, but on the very basic divergence between a religious Russia and a secular West. In the same 2013 Valdai speech, Putin <a href="http://valdaiclub.com/politics/62880.html">lamented</a> that ‘people in many European countries are embarrassed or afraid to talk about their religious affiliations. Holidays are abolished or even called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is their moral foundation.’ Not so in Russia, where legislation passed in 2013 has penalised the promotion of ‘gay propaganda’ to minors and criminalised acts that insult people’s religious feelings (dubbed by many as the ‘Pussy Riot’ law).<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>And while European secularism stifles multiculturalism, says Putin (or, at least establishes an ‘artificial’ multiculturalism, whatever that may mean), Russia preserves a rich concentration of ethnicities and languages <a href="http://www.kremlin.ru/news/16292">unparallelled</a> even by the land of immigrants itself, the United States.</p><h2>The rhetorical middle ground</h2> <p>Such claims to multiculturalism and multi-confessionalism may be part of Putin’s attempt to position Russia as a preeminent civilisation, re-establishing the country as a moral and political centre of gravity, but the President makes sure to couple these claims with affirmations of national unity and patriotism. &nbsp;</p> <p>Careful to temper his endorsement of ethnic diversity, Putin has <a href="http://valdaiclub.com/politics/62880.html">noted</a> that ‘it is clearly impossible to identify oneself only through one’s ethnicity or religion.’ Instead, the President argued, ‘people must develop a civic identity on the basis of shared values, a patriotic consciousness, civic responsibility and solidarity …’ To this end, Putin <a href="http://www.kremlin.ru/transcripts/19473">has fondly referenced</a> the enthusiasm with which Soviet Muslims and other ethnic groups defended their homeland during the Second World War ‘from the Brest fortress … to Berlin itself.’ References to the Soviet government’s mass deportations of many of these groups during the war didn’t make it into his speech.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>By <a href="http://www.kremlin.ru/transcripts/19473">singling out</a> patriotism as one of the values that all of Russia’s traditional religions share – alongside justice, truth, and industriousness – Putin has attempted to reconcile ethnic and civic identity into a singular, pro-Russian allegiance.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In reality, though, the relationship between religion and ethnicity on the one hand, and civic assimilation on the other, is far less harmonious than Putin’s magniloquence asserts. Take, for example, Russia’s new nationalities policy of 2012, which has been criticised from both sides of the aisle. Minority rights supporters argue that the policy undermines the status and autonomy of non-Russian nationalities. Russian nationalist groups, meanwhile, decry the new policy for <a href="http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2047014">removing</a> references to the ‘state-forming role of the [ethnically] Russian people.’</p> <p>A superficial commitment to diversity may have a certain strategic significance in projecting a vision of Russia as a resurgent counterpart to the West, capable of allying itself with Asia and the Middle East. However, this political stance will do little to appease domestic constituencies such as nationalists and non-Russian ethnic groups, who will feel betrayed by the government’s lack of commitment in either direction.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>On the foundational question of Russian national identity – to which sphere of the world does the country belong? – Putin has time and again staked out a rhetorical middle ground. Russia, according to Putin, is neither one nor the other: it is ‘<a href="http://www.cdum.ru/en/news/60/4029/">a unique civilisation connecting East and West</a>.’ In other words, Russia doesn’t have to choose sides. It seems, however, that there is some contradiction in this equivocation. Is it possible, after all, to be both part of the West and idiosyncratically distinct from it?</p><p><em>Image one: RIA Novosti/Aleskei Nikolsky. All rights reserved.</em></p><p><em>Image two: Kremlin.ru. Some rights reserved.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalya-yakovleva/teaching-orthodoxy-in-russian-schools">Teaching orthodoxy in Russian schools</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/geraldine-fagan/russia%E2%80%99s-spinning-moral-compass">Russia’s spinning moral compass</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Anna Alekseyeva The CEELBAS Debate Russia Religion Politics Internal Dagestan Chechnya Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:00:36 +0000 Anna Alekseyeva 91642 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Interview with a murderer https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/interview-with-murderer <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There are currently 59,000 women in Russian penal establishments. For many of them prison is not so much a punishment, more a way of life. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/loushnikova-razgavor-s-ubitsei">на русском языке</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>According to the <a href="http://www.prisonstudies.org/country/russian-federation">International Centre for Prison Studies</a>, there are currently 671,700 Russians serving sentences in penal establishments, of whom 59,000 are women. Only the USA and China have more female prisoners (over 200,000 and 100,000 respectively). According to human rights organisations, conditions in Russian prisons and prison camps are among the harshest in the world. The harsh climate is one obvious factor, but inadequate nutrition, physically demanding and low paid work, isolation in a punishment cell for the slightest misdemeanour, bullying, beatings, and other violence from prison staff are all also the norm.</span></p> <h2>Russia’s female prisoners</h2> <p>Women prisoners are usually too frightened to complain to the legal authorities or human rights groups, as this might trigger immediate and severe punishment. And it is not just the camp administration that exercises power over its population; there are also the ‘overseers’ – prisoners who take charge of the others in the same barracks. Some of these overseers work with the administration, but others refuse, preferring to observe their own ‘criminal code.’ </p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/IMG_20150225_193302_1.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/IMG_20150225_193302_1.JPG" alt="A group of Russian female prisoners. " title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A group of Russian female prisoners. </span></span></span><span>‘Overseers’ collect ‘tribute’ from their fellow prisoners and are responsible for ‘order’. But this ‘order’ has nothing in common with either the law of the land or the normal rules of human interaction. These are the rules of the criminal world, according to which it is shameful to work and honourable to thieve.</span></p><p class="pullquote-right">Women prisoners are usually too frightened to complain to the legal authorities or human rights groups</p> <p>Female criminals usually live in ‘families’. Lesbian relationships are common, and young and attractive ‘new girls’ often become objects of sexual harassment from more hardened women prisoners. Most Russian prison camps are also breeding grounds for potentially fatal illnesses, with HIV/AIDS now added to the traditional TB. The prisoners most likely to contract HIV/AIDS are young women serving long sentences for drug-related crimes.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/IMG_20150225_193701.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/IMG_20150225_193701.JPG" alt="A women's workshop in a penal establishment." title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A women's workshop in a penal establishment.</span></span></span><span>Unlike male prisoners, who often receive visits from their wives and children or even manage to initiate relationships through lonely-hearts columns, women prisoners are often abandoned by everybody from their previous lives. Their husbands divorce them. Their lovers don’t want to wait for them. Their children are ashamed of them, and their friends forget them. These ‘outcasts’ are only ever visited by their mothers; and they find it very difficult to regain their previous job status after their release. Often they are unable to find any work at all.</span></p> <p>All too often, the easiest road for these ‘criminals’ is straight back to prison. At least there everything is familiar, there is food to eat and somewhere to have a bath and sleep. A woman sent to a ‘penal colony’ for even a petty crime such as shoplifting or vandalism will most likely be unable to get back on the ‘straight and narrow’, and will become a hardened criminal – a ‘repeat offender’ as the courts call it. These women serve sentences of not just a year or two or even ten. They are prisoners for life. </p> <h2>The women’s zone</h2> <p>Even veteran guards prefer not to work in the women’s ‘zone’ – a term Russians often use for a penal colony.</p> <p>'There’s no animal worse than a female!’ a member of the prison riot squad told me. ‘Today she’ll be making eyes at you and tomorrow she’ll stick a shank into you. You never know what to expect from these bitches!’ &nbsp;</p><p class="pullquote-right">'You never know what to expect from these bitches!’</p> <p>I met one of these ‘bitches’ in a prison camp near the small town of Omutninsk in the Kirov Region, about 1000km east of Moscow. Her name was Valentina, Valya for short, and she had spent 36 out of her 53 years in similar places.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/IMG_20150225_192848.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/IMG_20150225_192848.JPG" alt="Valentina spent 36 out of her 53 years in Russian prisons. " title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Valentina spent 36 out of her 53 years in Russian prisons. </span></span></span><span>‘I was a headstrong kid right from the start’, she happily told me after asking for a smoke. But she didn’t care for my menthol cigarettes, and after cheerfully cursing me she lit up one of her favourite rough, filterless ‘Belomor.’ Valya was a chain smoker, stopping only now and then to clear her throat, and was known throughout the camp as ‘Valya Fag-end’ – a good nickname for her as she was tiny (no taller than a child), skinny and fidgety. But she was also bent over like an old woman and appeared to be of indeterminate age and gender. A kind of human fag-end, chucked out of normal society but not yet burnt out. Her voice was hoarse and throaty, like a man’s. She was a thief of long-standing, and feared nothing.</span></p> <h2>A life in and out of crime</h2> <p>‘I started off in juvenile’, she told me. ‘I was 16. We lived in a village with a shop on the edge of it, and the lads and I robbed it – as a test, a dare. We found about 500 roubles in the till – old, Soviet roubles, and also made off with beer, vodka, tinned stuff, sweets, and a blouse with lace on it. </p> <p>'It was the blouse that got me caught by the cops – one of the lads grassed on me. Bastard! But I know who it was and I’ll get the prick! Just give me time, Katyusha!’ (Valya had taken an instant liking to me, started calling me by a pet name, ‘Katyusha’, a diminutive of Ekaterina. I had no objection).</p> <p>‘Have you ever been in a prison wagon, Katyusha?’ she went on. I shook my head in fright, shocked by the very idea. ‘You haven’t, have you? I remember travelling in one with a girlfriend who had 48 bodies on her conscience. She was an interesting woman, a real passionate type. She would sleep with a man and then bump him off in the morning – either strangle him or knife him right in the heart. But I wasn’t into that then.’</p> <p>‘Did you ever love anybody, Valya?’ I asked cautiously.</p> <p>‘I was married once. His name was Alikhan – he was a Chechen. There was an army base at the village, and he was doing his military service there. We met at a dance and I took a fancy to him – he was smitten, he fought for me. He would see me home and we would kiss and cuddle and then one evening I brought him in to meet my parents. My dad asked him if he wasn’t scared, and he said, “Vala and I (he called me Vala) are in love! I’ll take her back home to Grozny!” Dad chuckled: “If she doesn’t take you to Bystritsa first!” Bystritsa was where the local cemetery was …’</p><p class="pullquote-right">He went back to Grozny and I never saw him again.</p> <p>‘So we got married and started living together, but as soon as we got in to bed together I felt like I was allergic to him … I didn’t need all that sex! And my Mum said, “At least have a kid with him, Valechka, then at least we’ll have a grandchild!” Then I realised my periods had stopped, my breasts were getting bigger, I felt sick and couldn’t even look at food. Mum said, “That’s it, you’re pregnant!” </p> <p>'So I threw Alikhan out the same night. “What are you doing?” he asked, “I’m your husband! We’re going to have a baby!” But I got his stuff together and threw it out of the house. “Get lost, I don’t need you anymore! It’s my baby!” So he went back to Grozny and I never saw him again. </p> <p>‘When I went into labour, they got me to the hospital and there I was, yelling and swearing! The doctor came running and said, ‘The baby’s too big; she’ll never push it out!’ So they took me off into surgery and I had a caesarean.&nbsp; When I woke up in the morning I immediately said, “Show me what I gave birth to!” They brought me my baby girl, who weighed 5kg and was 54 centimetres long, with her head covered in black curls! I turned her over – she had arms, legs, a wee-wee – everything was where it was supposed to be.</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘I left my daughter with her grandparents and took off! I started hanging about, partying, thieving!’</p> <p>'For four months I didn’t leave her once, and fed her every three hours. I had loads of milk, and she was really plump and red-cheeked. But then I just switched off – it was like the devil whispered to me! I left the house, left my daughter with her grandparents, and took off! I started hanging about, partying, thieving! I stole 70 roubles and got four years for it … Ah, it’s a pity we can’t have a drink together, Katyusha, but Mr Prison Governor doesn’t allow it! We could always sing, though!’</p><p><span>And Valya Fag-end began to sing a sad prison song. She sang in a throaty, cigarette-stoked voice, but with perfect pitch.</span></p> <p>‘Let me tell you all a tale<br /><span>Saw it with my own two eyes<br /></span><span>A little girl was being tried<br /></span><span>Though she only was a child ...<br /></span><span>She asked the court if she could speak<br /></span><span>The judge said yes, go on my dear!<br /></span><span>As soon as she began her tale<br /></span><span>The room began to fill with tears.<br /></span><span>“I knew him since I was a child<br /></span><span>I’d go with him to rob and thieve<br /></span><span>And in my seventeen short years<br /></span><span>He was the only one for me!”’</span></p> <p>At the last line Valentina burst into tears herself, obviously remembering her own sad life, although it wasn’t a husband or boyfriend that she loved, but the free life of crime.&nbsp; </p> <h2>From robbery to violence</h2> <p>‘Have you ever killed anyone, Valentina?’ I asked.</p> <p>‘I did, Katyusha. I told you I was headstrong. One day I came home, and my dad was sitting crying and his eye was all bloody. My dad didn’t smoke or drink. He worked all his life and brought up six children; and I was the only jailbird, the black sheep of the family. “What happened, Dad?” I asked. And he said, “My brother got drunk and came to ask me for some money to buy vodka. But I wouldn’t give it to him, so he hit me.” I just flipped! How could someone hit my dad – the person who gave me life, showed me the world? So I went to sort it out with my uncle.'</p> <p>‘When I got to his house my auntie was pounding potatoes for the pigs with a wooden mallet, and my uncle was sitting washing a snack down with vodka. I said, “Hair of the dog, eh? I’ll give you a <em>real</em> hangover!” And I grabbed the mallet from the table and brought it down on his head – once, twice! His wife was screaming, “You’ve killed him, you’ve killed him!” Then I went home. The next morning the cops turned up: “Did you kill your uncle?” And I was, “Yes! ‘Cause nobody hurts my dad!”'</p><p class="pullquote-right">The next morning the cops turned up: “Did you kill your uncle?” And I was, “Yes! ‘Cause nobody hurts my dad!”</p> <p>‘I got six years for my uncle – he survived. Turns out I hadn’t killed him after all. I did the full six years, every day of them. When I got out my daughter was growing up, she was shy of me, didn’t recognise me, and my mum had turned into an old woman. And I didn’t get to see my dad again – he had died when I was in jail. I gave him a proper burial and got myself a job as a caretaker. And I worked, made enough to keep us, lived quietly; didn’t bother anybody.' </p> <p>'But I could see that my mum had become very down; she was always wiping away tears when she thought I wasn’t looking. I asked her about it and she told me: “The cops have been hassling us, Valya! As soon as you got back they were round here – pay up, old girl, for your jailbird daughter! At first it was 1,000 roubles, then 3,000, and now they’re asking for 5,000! Where am I going to get that sort of money? I asked. I’ve only got my pension”. And they were like, “Pay up, or we’ll send her down again! We can always find a reason!” And they used such language as well! They said they’d be back and if the money wasn’t there they’d send you back to jail”. I said, “Don’t cry, Mum, I’ll sort it out!”' </p> <p>'So I went into town and found some old friends of mine, and we sorted them. I finished one of them myself – a shank right in the heart! Why should my mother be living in fear? This time I got the full whack – 15 years. Why so long? ‘Cause I killed a cop, and ‘cause I was a repeat offender, in other words a hardened criminal!’ </p> <p>Valya laughed, revealing her half-toothless mouth; then her laugh turned into a cough. She cleared her throat and started singing another sad prison song ...</p> <p>‘The sparks in the hearth burn up like rubies,<br /><span>And disappear in wisps of blue.<br /></span><span>Once I was a handsome lad,<br /></span><span>Now I’m sick and lonely too.<br /></span><span>What can I do, I’ve lost my youth,<br /></span><span>What can I do, where can I roam?<br /></span><span>I’ll follow an untrodden path,<br /></span><span>Away from you and far from home ...’</span></p> <p>‘That song was written by one of the friends that killed the cops with me, Katyusha. He’s dead now. He had TB. Well, what else can I tell you? I got released early – I have TB as well, and asthma too. I went home. My mother had died. My daughter was married; she lives a respectable life – her husband’s a cop. The last thing she needs is an old lag for a mother. And I wouldn’t have wanted to go there anyway – why should I ruin the girl’s life? I got another job as a caretaker in a warehouse. My rich little brother fixed me up with it; he didn’t forget his sister. So this is how I lived: I didn’t get paid much but then I don’t need a lot – just enough for bread, tea and smokes.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/IMG_20150225_193010.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/IMG_20150225_193010.JPG" alt="Pig farm on the grounds of the women's prison where Valentina was serving her sentence." title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pig farm on the grounds of the women's prison where Valentina was serving her sentence.</span></span></span></p><p class="pullquote-right">My daughter’s respectable – her husband’s a cop. The last thing she needs is an old lag for a mother.</p> <p>'But I’m not used to being beholden to anyone! I’m used to being my own woman! My brother’s a good egg, but his wife’s a right bitch! One day she said to me, “You should pay us something – we cook for you! You live in our house!” And I was like, “I live in my own house; my dad left it to me! And you don’t have to cook for me; I’ll eat in a cafe! I never asked you to cook for me!”’ But she wouldn’t leave off – she was always on at me about something! She would shout and scream and tell my brother tales about me! I had it up to here with her! So I decided to get rid of her.' </p> <p>'I hit her over the head, but it didn’t finish her off, just left her brain damaged. She lost her wits, turned into an idiot. So I got done for attempted murder with aggravating circumstances, plus GBH, plus I was a repeat offender – 10 years altogether! There you go, Katyusha! But I’ll get her some day!’</p> <h2><strong>The end of the road</strong></h2> <p>Valentina gave me a crafty look, obviously pleased with herself at having reduced this journalist to silence. As I was leaving she took my phone number and promised to get in touch when she got out. Many years later, I got an unexpected call. </p> <p>We met at a centre for homeless and unemployed people on the outskirts of Kirov. Valya had just been released and had nowhere to go. Her parents were dead and her family wanted nothing to do with her. Her brother had refused to give her any more help after what she did to his wife, and her daughter was ashamed of her jailbird mother. When she left she was given a certificate of release and 700 roubles, which she had already spent on a train ticket to Kirov. She was delighted when I gave her a pack of her beloved Belomor and a packet of tea. We sat in a corner at the centre, made ourselves tea in grubby mugs and recalled old acquaintances.</p> <p>&nbsp;‘How are you going to live now, Valya’, I asked. ‘As God wills,’ she answered, ‘if there is a God, that is! The priest always said there was, but I have my doubts.’</p> <p>Two weeks later Valya was dead. She had been suffering through the final stages of TB, and died in the homeless people’s ward of a hospital on the outskirts of Kirov. She was of no use to anyone, like a cigarette end dropped on the ground. Someone will step on it, someone walk past; the wind will carry it who knows where, turning it to ash.</p><p><em>All images via Ekaterina Loushnikova. All rights reserved.</em></p><p><em><em>This article has been long-listed for&nbsp;</em><a href="https://www.thebrowser.com/">The Browser's</a><span>&nbsp;</span><em>top 100 pieces of writing published on the web in 2015.&nbsp;<a href="https://polldaddy.com/poll/9157923/">Help us make the shortlist by voting here</a>.</em></em></p><p><em><em>Translated by Liz Barnes.&nbsp;</em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/comrade-stalin%E2%80%99s-secret-prison">Comrade Stalin’s secret prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/vyatlag-gulag-then-and-now">Vyatlag: the Gulag then and now</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ola-cichowlas/zone">The Zone</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ekaterina Loushnikova Russia Regions Justice Internal Human rights Wed, 25 Mar 2015 16:04:54 +0000 Ekaterina Loushnikova 91504 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ukraine’s European integration https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/devin-ackles/ukraine%E2%80%99s-european-integration <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Maidan Bandura.jpg" alt="" width="160" />If the EU is serious about helping Ukraine, both parties should focus on the country’s most glaring problem, and the Maidan’s principal demands – justice and the rule of law.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Ukraine has long been at work building closer ties with the European Union and its member states. In a sense, Ukraine is already very well integrated into Europe. Beyond developing its own economic interests with the EU, Ukraine is a member of the Council of Europe (1995), the OSCE (1992), the Energy Community (2011) and has been subject to the European Human Rights Court’s rulings since it ratified the European Convention of Human Rights in 1997.</p> <p>For all its ties to Russia ­– and indeed like Russia itself – Ukraine is highly integrated with the West, and with the EU in particular. This can be seen most clearly in its trade ties with the EU, Ukraine’s number one <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/ukraine/">overall trading partner</a> and source of foreign direct investment. Ukraine’s financial sector is deeply integrated with the West, its importance as a hub of energy transportation for the EU is undeniable, and its regional economic significance dwarfs that of any other country in the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme.</p><h2>Privileging benefits</h2> <p>But there are different types and degrees of integration. The EU and its member states, to varying extents, have long been engaged in promoting closer economic ties with Ukraine. This policy of economic engagement has been the cornerstone of the EU’s appeal to many of its neighbours, often enticing them to appeal for even closer ties and even full membership.</p> <p>But by privileging the economic benefits of doing business with Ukraine, the EU has consistently overlooked the quality of its democracy and institutions. It is precisely this policy that has led, in part, to the situation we see today. Since the 1990s, Ukraine’s wealthy elite has thrived off its ability to collect rents from the state budget, sell goods to Europe (and elsewhere) on the cheap, all the while squirreling away its wealth in European bank accounts and <a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/content/kyiv-post-plus/touring-oligarchs-homes-in-vienna-379363.html">real estate</a> without fear of reprisal.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The Association Agreement signed in 2014 between Ukraine and the EU represents a significant shift in bilateral relations. These ties have grown even stronger as a result of German chancellor, Angela Merkel, taking the lead on EU policy for Ukraine following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and its role in supporting the self-proclaimed separatist republics in the east of the country.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>It was the previous government’s decision to indefinitely postpone the signing of the Association Agreement with Ukraine that prompted a handful of students and Kyiv’s intelligentsia to take to the Maidan in the beginning. Protestors on the Maidan were not fighting for the right to simply sign an Association Agreement with the EU. The EuroMaidan movement was always about something much bigger, a vague idea that commentators have begun to call a ‘civilisation choice’, or the difference between Russian practices and ways of doing business and those of the EU.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>President Petro Poroshenko’s vision of Ukraine applying for EU membership in 2020, alongside the Association Agreement itself, has taken a backseat lately as the conflict in the east simmers and the country’s economy hangs on by a thread.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>And while the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, has passed a number of sweeping reforms in the past year, a good portion of them have been aimed primarily at securing funds from the IMF and other donors in order to <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/12/us-ukraine-crisis-imf-idUSKBN0M71D620150312">fill the state’s depleted coffers</a>. Other laws, such as the so-called ‘lustration law’ and a package of anti-corruption laws that were passed last October have yet to really come into force almost half a year later.<em>&nbsp;</em><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The absence of substantive reforms and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/feb/04/welcome-to-the-most-corrupt-nation-in-europe-ukraine">persistently high levels of corruption</a> has led to a number of local groups of highly-educated professionals, like the Reanimation Package of Reforms, to pressure the government to follow through on their reform promises.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">‘Civilisation choice’, or the difference between Russian practices and ways of doing business and those of the EU.</span></p> <h2>Prioritising once more the Association Agreement</h2> <p>At present, the prospects of Ukraine being ready to apply for EU membership in 2020, much less becoming a member in the near future, are grim. Despite the European Parliament and Verkhovna Rada ratifying the Association Agreement in 2014, it still needs to be ratified by all 28 EU member states. So far, only six have done so.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Euromaidan_Kyiv_01-12-2013_35.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Euromaidan_Kyiv_01-12-2013_35.JPG" alt="Man speaks on a platform at the Maidan protests with a Ukrainian and EU flag on either side of him" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ukraine's current chances of becoming an EU candidate in 2020 are very low. </span></span></span></p> <p>Ukraine is already beginning to see a number of benefits from its closer ties with the EU. Talks between the EU and Ukraine on visa liberalisation are still underway, with Kyiv officially hoping to finalise the agreement at the Eastern Partnership Riga Summit this May. The EU recently extended its unilateral trade agreement with Ukraine until the end of 2015, which gives the latter’s battered economy one-way preferential access to EU markets without either the Association Agreement or Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement’s ratification by all EU member states.</p><h2>Unresolved issues and unsecured borders</h2> <p>Still, the issue of security will undoubtedly play a large factor in whether or not the EU would consider granting Ukraine membership. At present, this seems highly unlikely. Crimea may well develop into a decades-long legal and political dispute, but whatever the outcome, it is unlikely to be resolved on the battlefield. To put it differently, discord that is both predictable and manageable thanks to the absence of potential armed conflict, would be more amenable to the EU.</p> <p>With its hundreds of kilometres of unsecured borders, eastern and southeastern Ukraine presents a very different challenge. Its solution is, and has been, one that combines intense diplomatic pressure and armed defence. Following the events of the past year, the Kremlin has lost its ability to create a strong political lobby in Kyiv, likely forever.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">Following the events of the past year, the Kremlin has lost its ability to create a strong political lobby in Kyiv, likely forever.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In the aftermath of Crimea’s annexation, and the now numerous falsehoods on public record emanating from its most senior officials, Russia has left itself with few means by which to advance its interests through established international institutions and conventions. Instead, it will continue to rely on using the conflict in eastern Ukraine, or the potential for further conflict, as one of its principle means of negotiating.</p> <p>With no clear objective coming out of its support for separatist forces other than maintaining its role as an arbiter of the fate of Ukraine, Russia is not likely to so easily toss away its most convincing negotiation tool (the threat of full-scale war), and risk having the international community begin focusing on Crimea.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Under the threat of further damage to Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure, and the absence of at least a frozen conflict like that in Transnistria, the considerable investment of resources, financial and otherwise that come with EU membership, it is hard to imagine Ukraine being offered membership under the threat of war from its neighbour to the east.</p><h2>Rule of law</h2> <p>There is, however, one area where the EU could provide Ukraine with substantial support, one which could, in effect, fundamentally change the way the country functions and bring tangible results that its citizens would certainly take notice of&nbsp; – the rule of law.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The absence of strong, independent state institutions has plagued Ukraine since independence. The country’s highly politicised and corrupt judiciary and law enforcement agencies are at the root of many of the country’s woes, whether endemic corruption, low level of foreign investment or the absence of civil rights.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>By <a href="http://www.euractiv.com/sections/europes-east/economy-minister-every-single-judge-ukraine-corrupt-310861">cleaning up the judicial system</a> from top to bottom and radically reforming Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies, citizens would have a sense of confidence in the state and its institutions – many for the first time.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>By levelling the playing field, chronic abuses of power by national and local government officials and bureaucrats would lead to a substantially improved business environment, where courts would make their rulings based on the law, not on potential personal financial benefits or career consequences that one ruling might have over another.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>As is the case in many other former Soviet republics, Ukraine has struggled to attract foreign direct investment due to the risks of doing business. Until investors can feel truly confident that they will be granted equal protection under the law and have access to full legal recourse, investment will remain low, regardless of the conflict in the east.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">Ukraine has struggled to attract foreign direct investment due to the risks of doing business.</span></p> <p>Establishing the rule of law would also take the teeth out of one the nation’s most pernicious informal institutions – its political-oligarchical clans. One of the main concerns about Kyiv’s push to decentralise the government and provide more power to the regions is that these clans will simply entrench their fiefdoms in regions where they will control the local courts, police and government.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Properly functioning courts and law enforcement agencies at both the national and local level can go a long way towards dismantling this harmful aspect of Ukrainian politics and could serve as part of a system of checks and balances &nbsp;— virtually non-existent at present.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>This would entail long-term concerted effort and a great deal of technical support from the EU to help Ukraine reconstruct its still heavily ‘sovietised’ judicial system and law enforcement agencies from scratch, a move that would also likely include some constitutional changes.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>This assistance could also help eliminate some of the <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141187/maria-popova/ukraines-legal-problems">more controversial moves</a> to ‘clean up the government’ by bringing Ukraine closer to EU standards while depoliticising the reforms. Accordingly, a new generation of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers would need to be trained and hired.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span>Long-term planning</span></h2> <p>These changes would take years to prepare and implement, though the financial cost to both Ukraine and the EU would be minimal when compared to major infrastructure projects and future economic stabilisation packages. The dividends would reach all segments of society, help Ukraine attract foreign investment, and avoid touching on some of the more sensitive issues surrounding EU-Ukraine-Russia relations.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>And in order to entice the Ukrainian government to get on board, the EU could ensure that the reforms would meet some (though not all) key elements of the Copenhagen Criteria, an essential set of criteria that any country interested in being an EU member must meet. In time, if both parties are interested, EU membership prospects could be honestly assessed and the partnerships and trust needed to start down that long road would already be established.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The gains to be made from such a comprehensive series of reforms, be they economic development or an effectively functioning democracy with strong institutions, could extend well beyond Ukraine, all the while realising one of the Maidan’s key demands: justice.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><em>Standfirst image. Wikimedia commons/Ivan Bandura. Some rights reserved.</em></p><p><em>Second image:&nbsp;<span>Wikimedia commons/Ilya. Some rights reserved.</span></em></p> <p><em>To read more about the challenges facing specific EU candidate countries, click <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/eu-integration">here</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/daniel-kennedy-alex-sakalis/european-integration-is-it-still-dream-it-once-was">European integration: is it still the dream it once was?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandr-voronovici/moldova%27s-ambiguous-european-integration">Moldova&#039;s ambiguous European integration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/simonida-kacarska/and-where-do-we-go-from-here-macedonia-and-eu">And where do we go from here? Macedonia and the EU</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Devin Ackles EU integration Ukraine Politics Justice Internal Foreign Business & Economics Wed, 25 Mar 2015 08:36:31 +0000 Devin Ackles 91518 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Outsourcing sovereignty from Russia to Chechnya https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergei-markedonov/outsourcing-sovereignty-from-russia-to-chechnya <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555470/Markedonov%20pic.jpg" alt="Markedonov pic.jpg" hspace="5" width="80" align="left" />Just like in business, the centre of Russia has transferred a range of its functions to a regional political ‘contractor’. But now the tail is starting to wag the dog.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The North Caucasus is back in the news. This time, the region has emerged in connection with the arrests of those accused of shooting opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on 27 February. Social and mass media is awash with talk of a plan to undermine Kadyrov, whereby the accused are seen as an instrument to discredit the Chechen leader; they talk of a conspiracy of radical Islamists; and a banal domestic crime; and foreign plots designed to separate the Kremlin from its trustees in the Caucasus. </p><p>I’m no criminologist. I wouldn’t want to lay out my own amateur versions of what happened, even more so to contribute to the ever-expanding number of conspiracy theories. But no matter who says what about the ‘Caucasian trace’ in the Nemtsov murder, the facts suggest – more and more – that, when it comes to Russia's least stable region, the talking points have fundamentally changed.</p><p>If before events in the North Caucasus were viewed primarily in the context of inter-ethnic relations, regional politics, and the terrorist threat in the Russian borderlands, then today the topic has been transformed into a story with consequences for Russia in its entirety.</p><p>Now the front page is dominated neither by Chechnya, nor Dagestan, but rather the perception of them by the core Russian population, as well as the impact of the North Caucasus on the dynamics of Russia’s internal and external politics.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The facts suggest – more and more – that the talking points of the least stable Russian region have fundamentally changed.</p><p>Over the last year, North Caucasus topics have been side-lined by the Ukrainian crisis. At the times when the region did come to the fore, then it was spoken about in a contextual key. Whether it was the Winter Olympic Games at Sochi, reforming governance in the North Caucasus, the militant attack in Grozny before the annual presidential address in December, or the participation of Caucasus residents in the war in Donbas. </p><p>Sociological surveys of the past year will be studied by professionals again and again. But the data that we do have already gives us a lot to think about. After the outburst of xenophobia in 2013, the past year has seen a rollback of anti-Caucasus feeling. Here we see a drop in support for the slogan ‘Enough feeding the Caucasus!’, and alarmist judgments on Russia’s problem region. When it comes to supporting the Kremlin’s internal political initiatives, Ramzan Kadyrov has left the governors in ‘mainland’ Russia in the dust. Which, by the way, was reflected in comments on his activities even from Russian nationalists, who saw a ‘strong hand’ in him, and practically a ‘real leader’. Even in the Western press, the images of Caucasian people and followers of Kadyrov, have come to be seen more or less as joint guardians of the Kremlin. </p><p>So has the moment of unity finally come? Conflicts and separatist threats have become a part of history, and the North Caucasus has come not only to represent, but also to express state values in the Russian Federation. Seen in this light, the North Caucasus strengthens the country on the world stage, rather than weakens it; and Russians from other regions no longer see people from the Caucasus as foreigners. </p><p>However, no matter how tempting such conclusions may be, they are clearly premature. Every process has its price. And Chechen stability has one too. Shamil Beno, a Chechen official in the 1990s and now an opponent of the Kadyrov administration, characterised the style of government in Chechnya as ‘field management’, that is, ‘field’ in a military sense. Without any reference to Beno’s description, Kimberly Marten, a professor at Columbia University, described the model of power in Chechnya as ‘outsourced sovereignty’. Just like in business, in this model the centre transfers a range of its functions to a regional political ‘contractor’.</p><p>At first glance, the results of this model are obvious. Firstly, outsourcing allows one to shift delicate problems, which the centre cannot solve, onto someone else’s shoulders, and secondly, it allows you to gain perspective on the ‘excesses’, apportioned to zealous initiative-seekers in the regions. But, strategically speaking, following this model has hidden costs. And they are serious. Especially if ideology is outsourced, and the relationship between the outsourcer and the contractor is built on personal relationships rather than a contract.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Every process has its price.</p><p>As a result, a new form of loyalty emerges, one not oriented toward the state, rather one based on personal ideological priorities – clericalisation, selective xenophobia, isolation from the west, openness to the east – and the violation of national rules and institutions. Moreover, we also see the partial privatisation of executive power and a de-monopolisation of violence. And when people involved in ‘field management’ are kept in constant readiness, and their activities are seen as good regardless of cost or result, the ‘tail starts to wag the dog’. And Russia does not come to Chechnya (as it was thought in the 1990s), but Chechnya – to Russia. The political culture of Moscow adopts that of Grozny, and not the other way round. </p><p>Traditionally, rights activists view this scenario as a potential risk. But the risks here aren’t so much in the humanitarian sphere, as in the sphere of statehood and governance. When dealing with a whole state structure, it is very difficult to keep individual elements of the ‘field management’ in check, naively hoping that they won’t go after others.</p><p><em>Editor's note: This article originally appeared on profil.ru in <a href="http://www.profile.ru/pryamayarech/item/93670-chechnya-prikhodit-v-rossiyu">Russian</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elena-petrova/stepford-wives-in-chechnya-modesty-laws">Stepford Wives in Chechnya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-babich/in-russia-nobody-can-be-%E2%80%98charlie%E2%80%99">In Russia, nobody can be ‘Charlie’ </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Sergei Markedonov Russia Internal Chechnya Caucasus Tue, 17 Mar 2015 12:24:59 +0000 Sergei Markedonov 91328 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A guide to political persecution in Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/guide-to-political-persecution-in-russia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555470/Andrey%20Stenin%20-%20VisualRIAN%20-%20Dissident.jpg" alt="Andrey Stenin - VisualRIAN - Dissident.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />A raft of new criminal offences allows the government’s opponents to be arrested for just about anything – or nothing.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Non-sanctioned political activity has always been risky in Putin’s Russia. Huge administrative fines, anonymous attacks online and in real life, and prison terms, await people involved in opposition and activism, for all manner of things, from criticising the Kremlin to preventing planning applications to build over city parks. </p> <p>Since 2012, however, it is clear that the situation has deteriorated, and that suppression of dissent is all the more necessary in the eyes of the authorities. This is in response to the protest movement of 2011-2012, and Maidan in Ukraine in early 2014. Keeping track of who is being suppressed is a full-time task.</p> <p>OVD-Info, a Russian NGO, campaigns to highlight unfounded arrests and to provide legal support for people behind bars. and their families. Following detainees from the police van to the administrative courts, OVD-Info discovered that these people were increasingly likely to encounter more serious problems with the authorities in the future. As OVD-Info prepares a database of cases, it is clear that we are entering a new and increasingly risky phase: fines and a few days of jail are a thing of the past. </p><p class="pullquote-right">Fines and a few days of jail are a thing of the past.</p> <h2><strong>‘For words’</strong></h2> <p>A quick survey of the articles of Russia’s Criminal Code, under which opposition figures are charged shows the scale of repression. Articles dealing with ‘Extremism’ are couched in vague terms, which allow them to be used against dissidents. </p> <p>To name but a few, the Criminal Code includes Article 280 (‘Public incitement to engage in extremist activity’); Article 282 (‘Incitement to hatred’); Article 282.1 (‘Organisation of an extremist association’) and Article 282.2 (‘Organisation of the activity of an extremist organisation’). On occasion, completely apolitical people find themselves in the dock after ‘expressing themselves incautiously’ on social networks. Other criminal articles involving ‘motives of hatred or animosity’ such as 119 (‘threat to commit homicide’), can also be invoked. </p> <p>In 2013, Ivan Moseev was fined 100,000 roubles (£2,000) after allegedly writing a comment online, which insulted ethnic Russians. Moseev, who happens to be chairman of the Arkhangelsk Region Pomory Association, as well as director of an institute devoted to studying ethnic minorities, was sacked from his university post and banned from all Russian voluntary sector organisations. Though Moseev has since appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, his bank accounts were also frozen; he couldn’t even pay his fine.</p> <p>In 2014, the independent ResPublika web platform in the Republic of Udmurtia, just east of Kazan, published an interview with ultra-conservative businessman and former presidential candidate German Sterligov, in which he said that women should revert to giving birth at home rather than in hospital. The police appealed to all the region’s obstetricians and gynaecologists to make an official complaint against the site for ‘inciting hatred of doctors’.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Dozens of Russians find themselves behind bars every year merely ‘for words’.</p> <p>The situation in Ukraine has understandably affected how people think and act. In Chelyabink, Konstantin Zharinov has been charged with, ‘incitement to extremist activity’ for re-posting a campaign statement by the right-wring Ukrainian militant group Right Sector. Zharinov is a member of a local activist group which campaigns for free elections. And Aleksandr Byvshev, a teacher from the town of Kromy, near Oryol in western Russia, is accused of incitement to hatred for writing poetry expressing support for Ukraine. Dozens of Russians find themselves behind bars every year merely because they spoke out of turn, or, as they put it, ‘for words’.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>New offences</strong></h2> <p>Two more new offences appeared on the statute books in late December 2013: Article 280.1 (‘Public incitement to engage in activity designed to violate Russia’s territorial integrity’), which arose out of events in Ukraine, and Article 354.1 ('Rehabilitation of the term Nazism'), legalising Russian TV’s insistence on referring to the Ukrainian government as Nazis. </p> <p>The first of these two charges was invoked in August 2014 in the Krasnodar Region, the closest part of mainland Russia to Crimea, where marches were planned to demand ‘federalisation’ – greater rights for all Russia’s regions, along the lines of those claimed by the self-styled Peoples’ Republics of the Donbas. Two people are now under arrest, while another two have left the country.&nbsp; </p> <p>Other targets for political repression have been members of the Hisb ut-Tahrir and Tablighi Jamaat Islamist movements. Russia has close ties with the post-Soviet states of Central Asia, which sees these movements as a threat. Followers of the Sunni Muslim theologian Said Nursî (1877-1960) have also been singled out because of Russia’s fear of Turkish influence – the movement has played a vital role in the revival of Islam in Turkey. Cases have also been brought against members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, under pressure from conservative elements of the Russian Orthodox Church. </p> <p>People taking part in peaceful protests can also be charged with a number of offences: Article 213 (‘Hooliganism’); Article 214 (‘Vandalism’), Article 212 (‘Rioting’) and Article 318 (‘Use of force towards a public officer’). These last two articles in particular have been used against the 30 defendants in the high-profile Bolotnaya Square Case.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/Vladimir Astapkovich - Arrested dissident.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/Vladimir Astapkovich - Arrested dissident.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An arrested participant in the police van. Image by Vladimir Astapkovich via VisualRIAN (c)</span></span></span></p> <p>2014 also saw the appearance of Article 212.1: ‘Repeated violation of the regulations relating to the organisation or holding of public assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, processions or pickets’. The first people to be charged under this article were civil rights campaigners Vladimir Ionov and Mark Galperin, among whose ‘sins’ were solitary pickets (the only kind permitted in Russia) while holding ‘Je suis Charlie’ placards. </p> <p>Article 318, on the other hand, is frequently used when a demonstrator is injured during a protest, and a criminal case might be brought against a police officer. In 2012, a case was brought against Stanislav Pozdnyak, a demonstrator who was slapped in the face by a cop. According to the police, it was the cop who was slapped, and Pozdnyak received a two year suspended sentence. And in May 2013, Sergei Cherepovsky was sent down for two years for injuring a police officer after having been arrested and beaten up during a protest demo in the city of Tver.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Stanislav Pozdnyak received a two year suspended sentence for hitting a cop, when in fact the cop had hit him.</p> <p>Of course, one of the highest profile cases of 2012 involved Pussy Riot, accused of ‘Hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and hatred of the “Orthodox believers” social group’ (Article 213 of the Criminal Code). And another much publicised trial involved the Greenpeace activists who <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenpeace_Arctic_Sunrise_ship_case">protested</a> against oil extraction in the Barents Sea off the north coast of Russia. The activists were tried for ‘hooliganism’, changed from the original charge of ‘piracy’ (Article 227). </p> <p>The high number of political cases brought for ‘hooliganism’ discredited the authorities to such an extent that people convicted under Article 213 were included in an amnesty at the end of 2013. Not that this ended the use of this charge in 2014. It was invoked, for example, against the demonstrators who hung a German flag on the Kaliningrad regional FSB building in protest against Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Three of them are still in a remand prison, awaiting trial.</p> <h2><strong>Navalny and friends in the dock </strong></h2> <p>One of Russia’s best known opposition figures, Aleksei Navalny, has had several criminal charges brought against him, the most notorious being for embezzlement (Article 165) of funds from the timber company Kirovles. On 18 June 2013, Navalny was sentenced to five years imprisonment, and his ‘accomplice’ Pyotr Ofitserov to four years. They were both released the next day after mass protests and, in October, an appeal court reduced the prison terms to suspended sentences. </p> <p>Another case, in which Navalny and his brother Oleg were accused of fraud (Article 159) &nbsp;against the Russian subsidiary of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher, as well as money laundering (Article 174.1), also ended with three-and-a-half-year sentences for the two brothers, with Oleg being imprisoned, while Aleksei’s sentence was again suspended. </p> <p>Other associates of Navalny have been subjected to absurd criminal trials for effectively victimless crimes. The most blatant of these concerned a charge of murder brought against nationalist politician, lawyer and human rights activist Daniil Konstantinov. Konstantinov had a cast iron alibi, and the investigators were unable to produce any proof that he was even at the scene of the crime, but the case was nevertheless brought to trial. In October 2014, the court ruled that the accused was guilty not of murder, but of hooliganism. Konstantinov was sentenced to three and a half years and then amnestied. Before his trial, however, Konstantinov spent two years in a remand prison.</p><p class="pullquote-right">At least 50 people in Russia today have been convicted at, or are awaiting, politically motivated criminal trials</p> <p>The Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners estimates that there are at least 50 people in Russia today who have been convicted at, or are awaiting, politically motivated criminal trials. </p> <h2><strong>Activists and administrative infringements</strong></h2> <p>Minor offences in Russia are known as ‘administrative infringements’ and are dealt with more speedily and with less opportunity for the accused to present any defence, but the penalties are lighter – a fine or up to 30 days in jail. And the state uses these administrative procedures to marginalise public civil activism and present activists as law-breakers. </p> <p>Procedural lapses at all stages of administrative prosecution – on arrest, on arrival at a police station, while drawing up a charge sheet and in court – are not restricted to politically motivated cases, and the general acceptance by courts of falsified police records and the ignoring of evidence for the defence erodes the distinction between calculated political repression and casual abuse of authority.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The state uses administrative procedures to marginalise civil activism and present activists as law-breakers</p> <p>Administrative charges that can be used for political ends can be divided into two categories, the intrinsically politicised and the neutral. The first category includes articles of the Administrative Offences Code restricting the rights of sexual minorities (Article 6.21); public order offences relating to ‘the organisation and holding of public assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, processions or pickets’ (Article 20.2); ‘the organisation and holding of public events without prior written notice’ (Article 20.2.2); ‘the display of Nazi symbols’ (Art. 20.3) and ‘the dissemination of extremist literature’ (Art. 20.29). </p> <p>In January 2013, the editor of <em>Young Far Easterner</em>, a newspaper based in Khabarovsk, a city 30 miles from the border with China, was fined 50,000 roubles (twice the average Russian monthly salary) for printing an interview with a geography teacher who had been sacked after coming out. In July 2013, new anti-gay legislation was first applied, when an individual was arrested for standing outside the Russian State Children’s Library in Moscow holding a placard reading ‘Being gay is normal’. Local authorities regularly use this legislation to ban any LGBT-orientated public activity. In July 2013, several Dutch citizens were detained while shooting a film about human rights in Russia. As the seized video footage included interviews with young gay people, the police charged them under Article 6.21, but the case didn’t come to trial.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/RIAN_01058579.LR_.en_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555470/RIAN_01058579.LR_.en_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Law enforcement officers detain blogger Alexei Navalny on Pushkin Square in Moscow. Image by Aleksandr Utkin via VisualRIAN (c)</span></span></span></p><p>The most common grounds for prosecution remain, however, the holding of public meetings without prior permission (in contravention of the right to peaceful public assembly enshrined in the Russian Constitution). The use of Article 20.2, which regulates public meetings, is also being extended to cover indoor gatherings: in October 2014, members of a religious group holding a meeting in a Sochi cafe were charged under this clause. </p> <p>Article 20.2.2 (‘Organisation of the mass simultaneous presence or movement of citizens in public places leading to the committing of public order offences’) was added to the Administrative Offences Code in the summer of 2012. The banning of ‘mass simultaneous presence’ was an attempt by the lawmakers to outlaw unregulated ‘protest walks’. But this absurd blanket definition could apply to the most innocent of everyday get-togethers – birthday parties, shopping trips, even metro journeys. So all kinds of people are being prosecuted under this ‘anti-protest’ law: street musicians, random pedestrians, people taking part in flash mobs.</p> <p>The anti-Nazi Article 20.3 has also been used inappropriately, such as when a bookseller in the far-eastern city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk was arrested for selling a work on German history entitled <em>Soldiers of the Wehrmacht</em>, even though the swastika clutched in an eagle’s claws was mostly covered by the authors’ names in large print and the book was explicitly devoted to the crimes of the Third Reich. </p> <p>The same article was invoked in 2013 against a member of liberal opposition party <em>RPR</em><em>-</em><em>Parnas in Chuvashia, who had posted a blog comparing the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi with the 1936</em> Berlin Olympics. The blog was accompanied by a photo of Vladimir Putin with his right arm stretched out in a ‘Nazi’ salute, and Hitler with a swastika on his sleeve. </p> <p>In September 2014, Moscow’s independent <a href="http://www.sova-center.ru/en/">Sova Center for Information and Analysis</a> recorded the first instance of prosecution for an online ‘spotting’: Perm resident Evgenia Vychigina was given a 1,000 rouble fine after she was spotted on a banned video posted on the VKontakte social network, and admitted that she was there. The young woman had no part in the making of the video, had not posted it on her page and had not even tagged her presence on it. </p> <h2><strong>How the police work</strong></h2> <p>Police practice is to detain people first and then decide back at the station what to charge them with, selecting the offence less on the basis of the detainees’ actions, and more on what is more convenient for them. To justify holding someone for more than three hours after their detention, which might happen simply because of procedural holdups or a large number of detainees, they resort to charging them with ‘arrestable’ offences, which allows them to be held for 48 hours without recourse to the courts. </p> <p>Offences used in these cases include Administrative Code Articles 19.3 (‘Failure to comply with a police order’) and 20.1 (‘Petty hooliganism’). Both of these carry a fine of between 500 and 1,000 roubles or 15 days police detention, and so permit people to be held for 48 hours before being brought before a judge. The police also have the authority to impose a fine under article 20.1 without any recourse to the courts.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The police can fine someone for ‘petty hooliganism’ on their own authority.</p> <p>While monitoring politically motivated arrests, OVD-Info noticed inappropriate use of other Administrative Code articles, such as 4.13 (‘Crossing the road in an unauthorised place’); 6.24 (‘Smoking in a public space’); 12.29 (‘Infringement of road transport regulations by a pedestrian’); 18.2 (‘Infringement of border regulations in a border zone’) and 20.20 (‘Drunkenness’), as well as charges requiring a court hearing, such as Articles 6.9 (‘Narcotics use’); 20.18 (‘Organisation of or participation in a blockage of transport’) and 20.15 (‘Failure to pay an administrative fine within the required period’). This last article is often used to justify preventive detention; and activists have also told us that people frequently do not pay fines for a simple reason: they were completely unaware of them in the first place. </p> <p>Regional administrative regulations have also been used for political reasons. In Moscow, for example, people have been charged with ‘Damaging plants’ (Article 4.18 of the regional Administrative Code) or Article 8.13.1 (‘Distributing information materials in areas not specifically designated for that purpose’). In St Petersburg, Article 22 (‘Pollution of the urban landscape’) is often invoked, while in Nizhny Novgorod the articles of choice are 3.3 (‘Infringement of regulations governing non-residential buildings and structures, construction sites, external decorative elements, small buildings, advertising hoardings and other objects’) and 14.1 (‘Involvement in business activities without government registration or special permission’).</p> <h2><strong>Other means of persuasion </strong></h2> <p>In all spheres, Russian activists are constantly at risk of beatings, murder, destruction of their property, intimidation, peremptory arrest and harassment by any and every government body. They are subjected to violence from patriotic groups loyal to the Kremlin: the National-Liberation Movement, The Peoples’ Assembly, Cossacks and ‘Orthodox patrols’, as well as ‘anonymous’ thugs and agent provocateurs. </p> <p>Convenient targets for the ‘guardians of morality’ are concerts by heavy metal bands and groups whose loyalty lies with Ukraine. Gigs are cancelled without warning on strange pretexts such as a freak accident leaving the venue without electricity. </p> <p>According to research by Vitaly Cherkasov, a lawyer with the <a href="http://www.studvest.no/the-rafto-prize-awarded-to-russian-human-rights-organization/">Agora</a> human rights organisation, at least 42 attacks of this kind took place in the first nine months of 2014 – on civic and trade union activists, journalists, environmental scientists, historical heritage campaigners, politicians and LGBT activists. </p> <p>The attacks generally take place during public actions, but they have also occurred on the street and in entrance halls of residential blocks; on one occasion the thugs broke into someone’s flat. Most of the beatings didn’t involve weapons, but in four incidents people were stabbed. Pepper sprays, a whip, iron bars and tasers have also been used, as well as Russia’s favourite antiseptic, a bright green liquid that stains skin and clothing. Attacks on property are also common, and many activists complain about anonymous phone and email threats.</p><p class="pullquote-right">In four incidents, people were stabbed; and pepper sprays, a whip, iron bars and tasers have also been used.</p> <p>Another constant source of pressure is an invitation to a ‘chat’ with someone from Centre E (the Russian government’s ‘anti-extremism’ directorate), the FSB or the local police, which often involves threats, attempts at recruitment and ‘requests’ to refrain from public activity. People are often forced to sign statements (legally un-enforceable) promising not to take part in specific protest actions. </p> <p>Social activists can also be thrown out of their jobs or places of study. Professor Andrei Zubov was dismissed from the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations because he refused to recognise the annexation of Crimea. Business can also be very sensitive to pressure. Dmitry and Gennady Gudkov, prominent Duma deputies involved in the White Ribbon movement, found their security business under scrutiny. Prominent figures in the Bolotnaya Square case such as Maria Baronova and Evgenia Chirikova, involved in the campaign to save Khimki forest (part of Moscow’s green belt) from development, have been threatened with having their children taken from them. </p> <h2><strong>‘Undesirables’</strong></h2> <p>Many online news platforms have been closed down or blocked, including Yezhdnevny Zhurnal (‘The Daily Journal’), Kasparov.ru, Grani.ru and Alexei Navalny’s blog site.</p> <p>In October 2014, Crimean Tatars announced the disappearance of 18 members of their community, possible victims of race hate crime. Dozens of people in Crimea have also had their homes searched for politically unacceptable literature, and most of them have been forced to move to mainland Ukraine. </p> <p>‘Undesirables’ encounter problems with travelling around the country. The police and FSB have a secret database of ‘extremists’; the criteria for inclusion on the list are equally confidential. A visit to another city might turn into a ‘chat’ with aggressive investigating officers at the station; a trip abroad might involve the confiscation of your USB stick or laptop by border control officers. </p><p> And if they really want to stop you, they can just tear up your passport, as happened last year to Rodion Sulyandziga, who had been planning on attending a UN Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York. &nbsp;</p><p>Standfirst image: Man being detained in Moscow in 2014. (c) Andrey Stenin via VisualRIAN.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/russia%E2%80%99s-repressive-monument-to-victims-of-political-repression">Russia’s repressive monument to victims of political repression </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/daniel-kennedy-grigory-tumanov/russian-woman-accused-of-treason-for-phoning-ukrainian-emba">Russian woman accused of treason for phoning Ukrainian embassy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia wfd marginalisation dissent Alexandr Litoy Russia Internal Human rights Fri, 13 Mar 2015 15:37:06 +0000 Alexandr Litoy 91259 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Detaining the president’s daughter https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrew-stroehlein-steve-swerdlow/detaining-president%E2%80%99s-daughter <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554751/Karimova%20under%20house%20arrest%20Dore%20Ryan.jpg" alt="Karimova under house arrest Dore Ryan.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />A year on from her disappearance from public life, what does the treatment of Gulnara Karimova reveal about Uzbekistan’s rights crisis?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A year ago, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s authoritarian president disappeared from public life. Arrested under corruption allegations in February 2014 and apparently detained at her Tashkent home ever since, Gulnara Karimova – former ambassador, singer, fashion guru, social media star, and business tycoon – remains in a kind of sealed limbo, apparently unable to communicate directly with the outside world.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/RIAN_01208355.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/RIAN_01208355.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="Karimova at a public function in an expensive dress. " title="" width="460" height="462" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Before her arrest, Gulnara Karimova was a noted socialite and businesswoman. (c) RIA Novosti/Vitaly Levitin</span></span></span></p> <p>Karimova’s treatment over the last 12 months is far superior to that of thousands of other people in Uzbekistan suffering severe human rights abuses. Yet her high-profile case provides a telling insight into the dire state of human rights in Uzbekistan today.</p> <h2>The black sheep</h2> <p>Islam Karimov’s daughter became the ruling family’s black sheep at some point in 2013, railing publicly, mostly on Twitter, against those in Uzbekistan’s political elite Karimova felt had crossed her. At first, her concerns were primarily with corruption allegations thrown at her in several European countries. Criminal cases have been opened against her and her associates in various jurisdictions, including for money laundering in Switzerland. In response, she accused others in the political elite of dirty dealing.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">She started mentioning human rights for the first time in her long career.</p> <p>Later, in 2013, she started mentioning human rights for the first time in her long career, accusing the country’s feared security services, commonly known by its acronym, the SNB, of torture. Even though Karimova’s statements almost exclusively concerned the supposed ill-treatment of her close associates, the public acknowledgment by a member of Uzbekistan’s ruling elite that such abuses are regularly committed by law enforcement bodies was unprecedented. This may have been the final straw for a father known for defiantly refusing to acknowledge any criticism, whether domestic or international, of his government’s appalling human rights record.</p> <h2>A political earthquake</h2> <p>In mid-February last year, Karimova’s home was raided – a political earthquake for Uzbekistan given her position in the ruling family and her previous formal roles with the government. By her account, security forces threatened her daughter, badly beat her long-term partner before arresting him and another close associate; and took several others into custody on charges of corruption. A military court in Tashkent sentenced her long-term partner Rustam Madumarov and business associate Gayane Avakyan to seven and six years imprisonment, respectively, although it is unclear whether they are serving these sentences behind bars.</p> <p>A few days later, she was apparently under house arrest and has supposedly been there ever since, only able to leak out a few messages to the outside world through her son, Islam Karimov, Jr., and through a PR firm – both in the UK. Many years of speculation that her father might tap her to run as his handpicked successor for president in 2015 ended in January, when Karimov himself announced he would run for a fourth consecutive term as president, even though the constitution only allows him two. &nbsp;</p><p class="pullquote-right">Karimova was an integral part of this government for many years and denied its systematic torture.</p> <h2>No sympathy</h2> <p>Many people, familiar with her history, are unconcerned about her situation. She had, after all, been infamously tagged in a WikiLeaks cable as the ‘single most-hated person’ in Uzbekistan.</p> <p>Karimova was an integral part of this government for many years and denied its systematic torture, its use of the forced labour of children and adults, and its mass killing of largely peaceful protesters in Andijan in 2005. As Uzbekistan’s representative to the UN in Geneva, where the UN Human Rights Council is located, she never uttered a word in defence of human rights, despite our calls on the government to end its human rights abuses and our numerous exchanges on Twitter directly with her imploring her to speak up. She was contemptuous of universal human rights at every step of her career – until her own rights were threatened.</p> <p>Uzbekistan is holding dozens of journalists, human rights activists, and opposition figures on politically motivated charges; and thousands of peaceful religious believers have been locked up in horrific prisons and tortured, some for decades. Karimova’s conditions under house arrest remain murky, but they are certainly far better than those of long-term political prisoners in the country’s vile gulags.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Uzbekistan is holding dozens of journalists, human rights activists, and opposition figures on politically motivated charges.</p> <p>One example is the rights activist Isroiljon Kholdorov, in prison since 2006 for speaking to the media about the mass graves in Andijan. Uzbek security services kidnapped Kholdorov from neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where he had fled for safety, and held him incommunicado in a room with boarded windows for six months before bringing him to trial on trumped-up charges.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span>Rights for all</span></h2> <p>Still, Karimova’s rights, like everyone else’s, should be protected. She has a right to a lawyer, and it’s unclear whether she has one. She has a right not be held in this sort of pre-trial limbo detention for such a long period. She has a right to a fair trial, too. But that is virtually impossible in Uzbekistan, where the judiciary is heavily dependent on the executive branch and where the independent legal profession has been dismantled through what have been described as legal ‘reforms.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">Karimova’s rights, like everyone else’s, should be protected.</span></p> <p>Karimova also has a right to free expression – at the very least through a lawyer – to address, among other things, her current conditions and whereabouts. By all indications she is prohibited from doing so. Even those of us who didn’t agree with the things she was saying publicly in 2013 can still agree she had, and has, a right to say them, just like everyone else in Uzbekistan has, despite the government’s persistent refusal to acknowledge that right.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Also, Karimova’s story does not only concern her personal rise and fall. It is reasonably clear there has been a purge of those associated with her, not only those in her closest circle, but even employees of her businesses and foundations. Some young people have told Human Rights Watch they are being punished for having even a very tenuous connection to her once vast empire. It appears that their rights are also being trampled, and their individual cases ought to be impartially investigated.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ultimately, Karimova’s case is about much more than her. It is indicative of Uzbekistan’s desperate human rights crisis, and underlines the need for robust international attention to its myriad abuses such as the absence of civil and political freedoms, torture, and endemic corruption. If the Uzbek government can trample the rights of even the president’s own daughter, then what hope is there for the rights of ordinary people?&nbsp;</p><p><em>Standfirst image via Davidson Ryan Dore.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nick-kochan-lidia-kurasinska/split-widens-in-ruling-family-of-uzbekistan">The split widens in the ruling family of Uzbekistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/john-heathershaw-alexander-cooley/dictators-without-borders">Dictators without borders</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Steve Swerdlow Andrew Stroehlein Uzbekistan Justice Internal Human rights Central Asia Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:46:57 +0000 Andrew Stroehlein and Steve Swerdlow 90882 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Spymania returns to Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oleg-kashin/spymania-returns-to-russia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554750/Spy%20cartoon%20-%20Shutterstock%20-%20Tomacco_0.jpg" alt="Spy cartoon - Shutterstock - Tomacco_0.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />Under the ‘new and improved’ law against spying, anyone can be suspected of espionage or treason in Russia. And that's the point. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B3-%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%88%D0%B8%D0%BD/%D1%88%D0%BF%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B2%D0%BE%D0%B7%D0%B2%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%89%D0%B0%D0%B5%D1%82%D1%81%D1%8F-%D0%B2-%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%8E" target="_blank">на русском языке</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Spymania has seized post-Soviet Russia like never before. Articles 275 (‘Treason’) and 276 (‘Espionage’) of the Russian Federation Criminal Code are traditionally considered exotic offences in Russian legal practice. But they are back in the news, and regularly – five cases in the last two weeks. </p> <p>The former investigative prison of the KGB, Lefortovo prison in Moscow, is again the centre of attention. Just like 50 years ago, suspected spies are being locked away in Lefortovo – now under the jurisdiction of the FSB. The nearby district court is also proving popular with the media: it’s this court that issues arrest warrants for Russian citizens suspected of espionage. But as the charge sheet for one Muscovite reads (‘Accused of transferring secret information to a Western country’), espionage can mean anything nowadays.</p> <h2><strong>‘New and improved’</strong></h2> <p>On the initiative of Vladimir Putin, the Russian parliament expanded the legal definitions of ‘State Treason’ and ‘Espionage’ in 2012. In the ‘new and improved’ definition, ‘international organisations’ were added to the list of contacts harmful to the state, and the epithet ‘external’ was removed from the definition of national security, which is now potentially threatened by a Russian citizen who associates with foreigners. </p> <p>When these revisions were under consideration, opposition politicians and rights activists warned that these broader definitions could lead to criminal proceedings against any Russian citizen who makes contact with any foreigner. Now, it seems, these predictions are starting to come true. </p> <p>Take Vladimir Golubev, for instance. A former researcher at the Russian Nuclear Centre in Sarov, Golubev was arrested in February on suspicion of exposing state secrets. Golubev’s only crime was to publish an article on explosive substances in a Czech scientific journal. Likewise, sailor Sergei Minakov – working aboard the tanker <em>Koida</em> (part of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea) – was arrested for espionage at the start of February. Though the official press release does not provide details, we can assume from the location that ‘Ukraine’ figures prominently in Minakov’s case. </p> <p>An American spy has even been discovered inside the Orthodox Church – Evgeny Petrin. Petrin previously worked in the External Communications Office of the Moscow Patriarchate in Kyiv. He is also, it turns out, an officer in the FSB.</p><p class="pullquote-right">This isn’t a film: it’s a musical.</p> <p>Petrin’s relatives have declared that he is innocent. But their comments are, unfortunately, mere set design for the farcical, practically parodic, spy drama of 2015 – an officer of the Russian security services who is working under Patriarch Kirill is now accused of working for foreign intelligence. This isn’t a film: it’s a musical. </p> <h2><strong>Coming soon to a screen near you</strong></h2> <p>The hero of this winter’s spy thriller is mother-of-seven Svetlana Davydova, who hails from Vyazma, a small town not far from Smolensk. Davydova was arrested on 22 January after she reported certain ‘information’ to the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow. Davydova overheard a telephone conversation of an army officer on the bus, in which the officer in question discussed an upcoming business trip. Davydova took this trip to mean a trip to fight in the Donbas.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The hero of this winter’s spy thriller is mother-of-seven Svetlana Davydova</p> <p>While the embassy likely ignored this information, the FSB took an interest in Davydova, and the Lefortovo court issued a warrant for her arrest. Meanwhile, Russian media uncovered the details of the case and exposed just how absurd the situation can get: a woman declared an enemy of the state turns out to be not only a mother of seven children, but a known political activist who supports Just Russia, a pro-Kremlin party. Davydova complained to the Ukrainian embassy about the actions of the Russian military, and her husband wrote to the director of the FSB, with regard to Dmitry Kiselyov, the scandalous TV host and head of RT (Russia Today), complaining about the way in which his wife had been portrayed. </p> <p>Moreover, it later turned out that Davydova’s sizeable family lives in a less than ‘traditional’ manner – seven kids, one father and two mothers, Davydova and her sister, who had given birth to four and three children respectively, and who live together in the same apartment. </p> <p>If the Russian security services wished to expose the real enemy of the state, then Davydova was, it appears, the worst candidate for the role. Report after report about Davydova appeared in the Russian press, and 25,000 signatures were collected in support of her release. Eventually, the Children’s Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov intervened in her case along with Ella Pamfilova, the Human Rights Ombudsman. Despite the arrest order being made out for two months detention, Davydova was quickly released and sent home. </p> <p>The espionage case isn’t closed: Davydova will be put on trial. But in the eyes of the Russian public, she will hardly become an enemy of the state. Far from it. Instead, she’s been assigned the role of a ‘chance victim’.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Davydova has been assigned the role of a ‘chance victim.’</p> <h2><strong>Modern-day spymania</strong></h2> <p>And here is where we should try and find the reasons behind the Russian authorities’ unexpected anti-espionage campaign. Russians remember the ‘classic’ spymania that flourished in the Soviet Union – the days when propaganda told us that we were surrounded by dangerous agents of foreign intelligence who were ready at any moment to steal a secret blueprint, poison the water supply and burn down the local factory. In this environment, every citizen had to be vigilant and write reports on the activities of their neighbours. </p> <p>Today’s spymania is quite different. Neither Svetlana Davydova, nor the spy from the church bureaucracy, nor the sailor from the Crimean tanker present any kind of threat to their fellow citizens. People know this, and this is why the current spymania doesn’t frighten the man on the street.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/Davydova pic - via Davydova family.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/Davydova pic - via Davydova family.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Svetlana Davydova with her 7 children and husband. Image via Dovydova family (c). </span></span></span></p> <p>Some people are having the frighteners put on them, but, while very disturbing, that is not what is most frightening. No, what is most frightening about this February’s espionage fever is the Russian security services themselves. They arrest anyone and everyone who crosses their path, and this seems to be the message to Russian society: anyone can be accused of state treason. No matter how absurd it may seem, no one is insured against the possibility of winding up in Lefortovo prison or the nearby court.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The message is clear: no contacts with foreigners, no political activism.</p> <p>The message is clear: <em>no </em>contacts with foreigners, <em>no </em>political activism. The only insurance against falling foul of the system is to keep your head down, and keep it loyal. Cases such as Davydova’s are not part of protecting national security. These investigations clearly set the bar in terms of what you can and cannot do – the minimum you have to do to stay out of prison. </p><p> Playing by the rules, taking logical, consistent steps – this is not what the Russian state requires. Fear is not born of logic, and it is precisely these absurd and illogical actions, which demoralise and, in the long run, really do frighten Russian society. These are the real aims of the authorities when it comes to their relations with Russian citizens.</p><p><span>Standfirst image: A spy cartoon. Image by Tomacco via Shutterstock. (c)</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mike-downey/%E2%80%98bright-future%E2%80%99-of-oleg-sentsov">The ‘bright future’ of Oleg Sentsov</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/zoya-kravchuk/ukrainian-journalist-faces-15-years-in-jail-after-calls-to-boycott-draft">Ukrainian journalist faces 15 years in jail after calls to boycott the draft</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/daniel-kennedy-grigory-tumanov/russian-woman-accused-of-treason-for-phoning-ukrainian-emba">Russian woman accused of treason for phoning Ukrainian embassy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Oleg Kashin Russia Internal Human rights Mon, 23 Feb 2015 16:15:18 +0000 Oleg Kashin 90756 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ukrainian journalist faces 15 years in jail after calls to boycott the draft https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/zoya-kravchuk/ukrainian-journalist-faces-15-years-in-jail-after-calls-to-boycott-draft <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554751/ruslan%20kotsaba%20jpg%20via%20youtube%20crop.jpg" alt="ruslan kotsaba jpg via youtube crop.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>A Ukrainian journalist has been arrested for publishing a video calling on his fellow citizens to boycott mobilisation. He is being charged with treason and espionage.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A court in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk has ordered the arrest of a local freelance journalist on charges of espionage and high treason after <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve_AJRn-HJA">he published a video</a> on YouTube calling on Ukrainian citizens to boycott the mobilisation of Ukrainian men to fight a ‘fratricidal war’ in Ukraine’s east.</p> <p>Ruslan Kotsaba, a freelance contributor to various Ukrainian TV channels, was arrested in the early hours of Sunday 8 February, according to Ukrainian media reports quoting the journalist’s wife. The court ruled on the same day that he should be held on remand for two months until his trial. Media representatives were reportedly barred from video and audio recording in the courtroom during the session.</p> <p>Markiyan Lubkivsky, an adviser to the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said in a comment posted <a href="https://www.facebook.com/markian.lubkivskyi/posts/1535158376746788?pnref=story">on his Facebook</a> page on Sunday that materials have been seized from Kotsaba’s house, ‘which may indicate the commission of crimes’ under Article 111 (treason) and 114&nbsp;&nbsp;(espionage) of Ukraine’s Criminal Code.</p> <p>If convicted Kotsaba, 48, faces up to 15 years in prison.</p> <p>Referring to the video that Kotsaba posted on YouTube, the court said in its ruling that his anti-mobilisation calls ‘hampered lawful activities of Ukraine’s Armed Forces’ and that they constituted ‘subversive activities’ against Ukraine.</p> <p>In the video, Kotsaba, who has travelled to the eastern regions where government troops are waging a war against Russia-backed separatists, called on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – whom he says he had voted for in last year’s elections – to stop the fighting in the country’s restive Donbas region. A father ot two children, he proclaimed that he would rather go to jail for dodging mobilisation than agree to kill his own compatriots&nbsp; ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ he exclaimed at the end of the video.&nbsp;</p><h2>‘Trials during the reign of Stalin’</h2> <p>The court established that Kotsaba had given interviews to Russian state television channels, travelled to Moscow to participate in an ‘anti-Ukraine’ television programme, and helped Russian journalists prepare reports about anti-mobilisation protests in Ukraine.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554751/ruslan kotsaba jpg via youtube crop.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554751/ruslan kotsaba jpg via youtube crop.jpg" alt="Kotsaba's 13 minute YouTube address has landed him in court on charges of treason" title="" width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kotsaba's 13 minute YouTube address has landed him in court on charges of treason. image via YouTube.</span></span></span></p><p>Since the fall in February 2014 of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, following a protest movement of several months, Russian state TV channels have persistently portrayed the Kyiv government as an illegal junta waging a punitive war against the country’s Russian-speaking population in Donetsk and Luhansk.</p> <p>The court ruling also said that Kotsaba’s anti-mobilisation video was picked up by the Russian website LifeNews (a private Russian channel widely rumoured to have close links to Russia’s intelligence services) as well as online resources run by the self-proclaimed separatist ‘people’s republics.’</p> <p>Kotsaba maintains his innocence. Speaking in the courtroom on Sunday, he compared his prosecution to ‘trials during the reign of Stalin’ and called it a violation of his right to freedom of speech. He insisted that his anti-mobilisation statements aimed to put an end to a war in which ‘supermen’ of the nation are killing each other.</p> <p>The Ukrainian government says the separatist Luhansk and Donetsk regions are flooded with Russian troops and arms being supplied across the border to fuel the conflict. The Russian leadership denies any involvement.</p> <p>Kotsaba argues that support for the separatist cause is overwhelming among the local population in the two eastern regions, and that ‘almost no regular Russian troops’ are involved in the fighting.</p><h2>‘Both sides of the story’</h2><p> In late January, reports emerged that the SBU opened a criminal case against Kotsaba after an activist in Ivano-Frankivsk reported him to the authorities. An SBU official dismissed the reports.</p> <p>Kotsaba argues that the mobilisation campaign – which is currently in its fourth stage – is unlawful since a state of war has never been officially declared in the country. The Ukrainian authorities have officially designated the military action in the east an ‘anti-terrorist operation.’</p> <p>Kotsaba’s reporting from the Luhansk region has sparked controversy in Ukraine. Speaking in June on Ukraine’s private 112 TV channel (owned by Vitaly Zakharchenko, fomer minister of the interior) he criticised the conduct of military operations by government troops, accusing them of using indiscriminate fire against residential areas, which have reportedly led to many civilian deaths. For their part, the Ukrainian authorities accuse separatist fighters of using civilians as human shields.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Kotsaba said it was his duty as a journalist to draw a balanced picture by showing ‘both sides of the story.’</p> <p>Speaking of his decision to travel to the east and interview separatist leaders, Kotsaba said it was his duty as a journalist to draw a balanced picture of events by showing ‘both sides of the story.’ He said he had earlier interviewed members of Aidar, a volunteer battalion that was fighting against the separatists at the time.</p> <p>He called on Ukrainian journalists to follow his example and go to the conflict zone to gain their own insights instead of relying on information from Russian media.&nbsp;He also described separatist leaders he was talking to while in the conflict zone as ‘normal’ and ‘motivated’ people.</p><h2>Reaction to Kotsaba’s arrest</h2> <p>Kotsaba’s public remarks have earned him a mixed reputation among the media community and online users. Various comments on social media refer to the journalist both as a supporter of Ukrainian ultranationalist groups and a ‘traitor.’ Some describe him as a ‘provocateur.’ Оthers said he was ‘a Ukrainian patriot who simply has an opinion, which is different from the one that is commonly held.’</p> <p>Following Kotsaba’s arrest, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ruslan.kotsaba?fref=ts">his Facebook page</a> was flooded with calls for his release. Some commentators have interpreted his arrest as an attempt by the authorities to silence critical voices; and called for more transparency regarding his trial.</p><p class="pullquote-right">'Kotsaba is as much a spy as I am a Chinese pilot.'</p> <p>‘One may disagree with Ruslan Kotsaba … I personally think that sometimes he makes things up. But it seems to me that he is as much a spy as I am a Chinese pilot,’ wrote Ukrainian artist Aleksander Roitburd.</p> <p>'To be honest, there are quite a few people in our great country who can be jailed for a reason – but those are safe and sound,' he added. Ukraine is yet to press charges against any official from the Yanukovych government for corruption or the deaths of over 100 protesters in February 2014.</p> <p>One commentator said that although he ‘completely disagreed’ with Kotsaba’s calls for boycotting mobilisation, the journalist’s description of the fighting as a ‘civil war’ is ‘true to a large extent’ as ‘local residents fooled by Russian propaganda are among those who have been waging war against Ukraine.’</p> <p>‘I consider calls for dodging mobilisation, provocative and harmful to the state. This goes along with my critical view of the authorities, and my understanding that they are responsible for much of what has been happening in the ATO [anti-terrorist operation zone],’&nbsp;Natalia Ligachyova, head of the Ukrainian media watchdog Telekritika, was quoted as saying by the Ukrainian website Dusya.</p> <p>‘Now that a journalist has been arrested, Ukraine and I, we finally feel completely secure. Thank you, vigilant authorities and Ukraine’s Security Service,’ quipped Anastasia Beryoza, a journalist with the Ukrainian daily <em>Ukrainska Pravda</em> and the magazine <em>Novoye Vremya</em>, as quoted by Dusya.</p><p> Kotsaba’s arrest came amid a diplomatic push to put an end to the fighting, which has claimed the lives of more than 5,350 peoplе, according to the United Nations, and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. It also comes in the wake of a case in Russia where a mother of seven is being charged with treason for allegedly phoning the Ukrainian embassy to warn them about Russian troop movements.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/roman-osharov/you%E2%80%99re-russian-reporter-%E2%80%93-stay-out-of-ukraine">You’re a Russian reporter – stay out of Ukraine!</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/daniel-kennedy-grigory-tumanov/russian-woman-accused-of-treason-for-phoning-ukrainian-emba">Russian woman accused of treason for phoning Ukrainian embassy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Zoya Kravchuk Ukraine Beyond propaganda Internal Conflict Mon, 09 Feb 2015 18:20:10 +0000 Zoya Kravchuk 90382 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Speaking to the Russophones https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/leonid-ragozin/speaking-to-russophones <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554750/ragozin_picture.jpg" alt="ragozin_picture.jpg" hspace="5" width="80" align="left" />Whether the EU likes it or not, millions of its residents belong to the Russophone cultural sphere. But how should we speak to them?</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body">English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish&nbsp;<strong>–</strong> these are the top six most widely spoken languages in the EU, according to Eurobarometre. Unlike them, the one that ranks seventh on the list doesn’t enjoy an official status in the union that now spans two thirds of Europe. It is Russian, spoken by around 6% of EU residents.</p> <p class="Body">Admittedly, for most of them it is a second language <strong>–</strong> 1% of EU residents name Russian as their mother tongue, which in absolute figures is comparable to the population of Denmark or Finland. Russian is also much more widely used than major immigrant languages, such as Turkish and Arabic.</p> <p class="Body">Whether the EU likes it or not, millions of its residents, to a varying extent, belong to the Russophone cultural sphere, or, if we may use the term favoured by Kremlin propaganda <strong>– </strong>the “Russian world”. For years, however, the EU’s collective attitude to its Russophone component ranged between indifference, and the desire to gradually eradicate it as the unfortunate legacy of Communism and imperial expansionism.</p> <p class="Body">But the conflict in Ukraine has highlighted the risks of the EU (and the West in general) alienating the Russophones, and failing to reach out to people in Russia proper. In the absence of viable alternatives, Russian-speakers turn into easy prey for the highly efficient and sophisticated Moscow propaganda machine. This is a high and immediate security risk for EU neighbourhood countries, and a considerable headache for EU-members in the eastern Baltics, where native Russian-speakers make up to a third of the population.</p> <p class="Body">Europe should have stood up a long time ago and said that the Russian language is not owned by the Kremlin. But the idea of launching a Russian-language TV channel based in the EU, emerged only now, when Latvia, the country with the highest percentage of Russian-speaking population, took over the EU presidency. It was endorsed by Central European neighbours as well as by several Western countries, most notably the UK. But is this plan realistic?</p> <p class="pullquote-right">Europe should have stood up a long time ago and said that the Russian language is not owned by the Kremlin.</p> <h2><strong>The propagandist effect</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Russian media holdings churn out mega-tonnes of super-expensive entertainment shows and series, from really tacky ones to the arguably intellectual. The propagandist effect is achieved by inserting extremely biased and toxic news bulletins and political commentaries into this constant flow of soap. Political programmes are also a kind of entertainment or mass hypnosis <strong>–</strong> instead of accurately describing the events, they aim at creating a fantasy universe, in which Russia is an island of sanity and stability while the rest of the world is on the verge of apocalypse.</p> <p class="Body">In 2013, Russia’s Сhannel One alone spent 760 million euro, which is over 10% of the Latvian government’s annual budget. Two other major Russian channels, Rossiya and NTV, can afford spending of comparable amounts. But although it is a loss-making enterprise, Channel One nevertheless returned most of the money it spent in 2013 because Russia is a huge and lucrative retail market, so commercials cost a fortune.</p> <h2><strong>Speaking the same language</strong></h2> <p class="Body">There is simply no way EU countries can afford to replicate the Russian entertainment/propaganda machine. It is not even worth trying. An Al Jazeera-style transnational live news channel (with elements of entertainment) is a more realistic plan, but again, where is that big-spending emir in the EU who can pull it off?</p> <p class="Body">The story of European and American news organisations trying to connect with the Russian-speaking audience is sad and dull. The only Western news channel broadcasting in Russian language is Euronews <strong>–</strong> a boring and toothless affair, partly owned by the Russian government through its main media holding VGTRK.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">The story of European and American news organisations trying to connect with the Russian-speaking audience is sad and dull.</p> <p class="Body">BBC Russian Service, Radio Liberty, and the Voice of America all have video operations that could be potentially expanded into fully-fledged channels, but they suffer from a deep existential crisis. Who are they talking to and why? What is their mission (apart from satisfying the ego of their Western managers or government officials who prefer to ignore how little impact these outlets have on their target audiences, despite generous funding)?</p> <p class="Body">On the contrary, garage-style projects launched and run by Russians without any foreign assistance, instantly capture vast audiences in Russia and beyond. Despite (or actually thanks to) the immense pressure from the authorities, the now iconic Russian independent channel Dozhd is now surviving entirely by selling subscription to its online broadcast, which perhaps provides the healthiest commercial model for the Russian media market post-Putin. Dozhd is hugely popular with Russophones in the EU, and already provides a viable alternative to Putin’s TV <strong>–</strong> without any help from the Eurocrats.</p> <p class="Body">If a Russian-language channel under the auspices of the EU ever becomes a reality, it will suffer from the same awkwardness that has been dogging the relations between the EU and Russophones in general since the European Union union was created. What is the EU’s plan for Russia? Will it ever start thinking about integration or will it keep pretending that Russia is somehow on a different planet, and not here in Europe? The EU acts on behalf of the whole of Europe, it likes to be dubbed ‘Europe’, so what, then, is its message to the Russophone world, an integral part of that very same Europe?</p> <h2><strong>Practical issues</strong></h2> <p class="Body">On top of that, there are a number of practical issues that can only be resolved with generous funding. Crucially, where the studios should be located, considering that on six out of seven days a week the most relevant and interesting guests will be either in Moscow or in Kiev. Operating on a shoe-string budget, you’ll end up with inappropriately laidback presenters emerging from their untroubled life in Riga or Berlin, and talking to the same pair of pundits for 30 minutes in a row. If that’s the plan, then it’s better to scrap it right away.</p> <p class="Body">Ultimately, knowing the realities of EU officialdom, what are the chances of Eurocrats inspiring a channel that will grab the attention of people they have only theoretical knowledge about?</p> <p class="Body">Instead of watching taxpayers’ money sucked into the void, it might make more sense to run a tender offering several long-term loans to a limited number of privately-owned Russian-language start-ups that will compete with each other, creating a healthier and more vibrant Russian-language media environment in the EU and its neighbourhood. With hundreds of good journalists in dire straits because of Putin’s clampdown on free media, undoubtedly there will be a few good projects to choose from.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elisabeth-schimpfossl/reporting-on-russian-television">Reporting on Russian television</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Leonid Ragozin Russia Politics Internal Cultural politics Beyond propaganda Wed, 21 Jan 2015 15:27:41 +0000 Leonid Ragozin 89793 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Farewell to Florida https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/farewell-to-florida <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/MK_oDR-1_0.jpg" alt="" hspace="5" width="80" align="left" /></p><p><span>Richard Florida's 2002 book on the "creative class" has found an unexpectedly fervent following in Russia, but did that class ever exist here? </span><em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%85%D0%B0%D0%B8%D0%BB-%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%83%D0%B6%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9/%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%89%D0%B0%D0%B9-%D1%84%D0%BB%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B0" target="_blank">Русский</a></strong></em></p><br /> </div> </div> </div> <p>In mid-December 2014, RosUznik – an organisation set up in 2011 to provide legal support to people arrested during protests – <a href="http://eng.tatar-inform.ru/news/2014/12/17/50110/">announced</a> that it was shutting up shop. As the organisation explained on its website, there is no longer anyone to defend: ‘There are almost no administrative detentions at mass demonstrations, for two reasons – there are no mass demonstrations, and the overwhelming majority of potential demonstrators have no wish to be arrested.'<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Since RosUznik made this announcement, Moscow has seen one mass demonstration. On 30 December, several thousand Muscovites came out on to Manezh Square in central Moscow to protest against the unjust verdict in the trial of Alexei and Oleg Navalny. The leading anti-corruption and opposition activist received a suspended sentence, and his brother – three and a half years in prison. The number of protesters on the Manezh, however, was small. While 30,000 people declared their intention to attend on Facebook, 3,000 (at the most optimistic assessment) actually attended and hundreds of people were detained. Two weeks later, a few dozen people attended another demonstration in support of the Navalny brothers on 15 January, while several hundred people appeared in support of the newly-founded AntiMaidan movement.</p> <p>The founders of RosUznik are right. Civic political protest in Russia is finished.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">The founders of RosUznik are right. Civic political protest in Russia is finished.</p> <h2><strong>White flag for the white ribbon</strong></h2> <p>As little as 18 months ago, one could still count hundreds of people in the Moscow metro who were prepared to demonstrate their involvement in political protest. No one wears the famous white ribbons anymore. The imitation of political activity on social networks has triumphed over real political activity, once and for all. Russians still turn out to defend their economic rights, but no one protests against the illegitimacy of parliament. Does anyone actually still remember that the Russian Duma is illegitimate? The war in Ukraine and the economic crisis, it seems, have completely eclipsed the political protest we saw in 2011-2012.&nbsp;</p> <p>So, who are those people who took to the streets, and have now just as unexpectedly disappeared?</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/Maria Pleshkova - White Ribbon 2012 - Demotix.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/Maria Pleshkova - White Ribbon 2012 - Demotix.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>People lined the streets to protest allegedly falsified election results in 2011-2012. (c) Maria Pleshkova / Demotix.</span></span></span></p> <p>Apparently, the former protesters aren’t sure themselves. The social composition of the failed 'snow revolution' has been variously described, but the terminological confusion that this created only goes to demonstrate the acute identity crisis of the protesters. Identification and self-identification were focused around two seemingly interchangeable terms: 'middle class' and '<a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0205.florida.html">creative class'</a>. Members of the opposition themselves declared that the 2011-2012 protests were a movement of the creative class. Those who did not support the white ribbon wearers still talk of the opposition-minded in derogatory terms (<em>kreakly </em>– creatives) in the pro-Putin media and social networks.</p> <h2><strong>The creative class</strong></h2> <p>Just like the 19th century Russian intelligentsia’s love for Marxism, in the 2000s, Russians became obsessed with the theory of the creative class. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Russian translation of Richard Florida's 2002 book <em>The Rise of the Creative Class. And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure and Everyday Life </em>appeared in 2005. This concept soon became a source of inspiration for people who believed Russia possessed 'a capacity for innovation' and 'a knowledge-based economy', as well as those who believed that progress would be possible without actually changing the political system. The phrase itself quickly became fashionable: ‘creative class’ became part of everyone’s vocabulary (whether you believed in it or not). Yet discussions on topics such as 'Is there a creative class in Russia?' demonstrated first and foremost that the participants had not read Florida.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">There was, of course, no creative class in Russia, or certainly not the phenomenon that Florida was writing about.</p> <p>There was, of course, no creative class in Russia, or certainly not the phenomenon that Florida was writing about. For Florida, a creative class could only emerge if certain conditions – the ‘Three T’s’ – were met: talent (a talented, well-educated, and qualified population), technology (technological infrastructure is essential for the support of business), and tolerance (a diverse community guided by the principle of 'live and let live').&nbsp;</p> <p>Looking at Russia, the first two conditions seem doubtful at the very least. Moreover, most young Russians certainly weren’t, and aren’t, tolerant. A very small number of people turned out in summer 2013 to protest against the homophobic laws passed by the Russian State Duma, and the Moscow City government's establishment of deportation camps. If Muscovites do turn out, then it is in support of Alexei Navalny, a politician who has built his political programme (and popularity) on a consistent battle with corruption, and no less persistent xenophobia.</p> <p>According to Florida, the creative class, as defined by him, will do all it can to shake off the conventions of traditional social structures and reach out for the ‘new’, however strange that ‘new’ may seem. But ,until recently, Russia’s supposed creative class was intent on enjoying the consumer delights of a flourishing economy, and trying to be fashionable.</p> <h2><strong>The ‘creative’ label</strong></h2> <p>Indeed, what made the term 'creative class' so popular in Russia was not its description of an apparently new social reality or values, but rather that it was easy to apply. Designers, advertising people, journalists, and internet businessmen liked the 'creative' label because it immediately cut the unfashionable (and aesthetically alien) 'creative intelligentsia' and 'uncreative' business out of this self-satisfied group. Though most of them were in full-time employment, they paid no attention to other representatives of other professions working for a wage.&nbsp; Demonstrating a phenomenal social narcissism, the group pointedly ignored any real political processes in the country. This position was an integral part of the social contract struck between Russian society and the authorities: the freedom of enterprise, consumption, creativity, and private life, in exchange for non-participation in politics.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">‘Creatives’ have a vested interest in the continuing stability of the existing system.</p> <p>‘Creatives’ thus have a vested interest in the continuing stability of the existing system. They have to protect their own position in order to shore up their fragile identity as special, well-heeled progressives, dictators of fashion to – as it seemed to them – the whole of society, but really only to themselves.</p> <p>With a much-vaunted love for Apple gadgets, pointless 'innovation' and 'modernisation' mantras, the comic Dmitry Medvedev was an ideal president for those Russians who set so much store by their own special creativity. The August 2008 war with Georgia at the beginning of Medvedev's presidency went, naturally, completely unnoticed by the self-styled Russian creative class.</p> <p>The failed 'snow revolution' of 2011-2012, which was spurred on by outrageous vote rigging during the parliamentary election and Vladimir Putin's nominal return to power, was not the rebellion of the &nbsp;'creative class', but a more complex, organised social and political phenomenon. True, young media types, previously apolitical or loyal to the government, were very much part of the protests, expressing a hitherto unknown solidarity. But the group that defined itself as a community solely by a narrow selection of cultural markers and artistic sympathies could not figure out its own political interests.</p> <p>It was not only government repression that brought the white ribbon protest to an end, but a lack of motivation. Of course, administrative pressure – formal and otherwise – also cut out the initial surge of enthusiasm. But most of the protesters were more interested in preserving their status than in change, which is why so few remember that the current Russian parliament, responsible for laws concerning adoption, civil society, and minority rights, is illegitimate. And why these social narcissists – who are so proud of their creativity – do not protest against the annexation of Crimea and the war Russia is waging in Ukraine.</p> <h2><strong>A distant memory</strong></h2> <p>Of course, Richard Florida continued to write following <em>The Rise of the Creative Class</em>. Two of his other works were translated into Russian, but they did not cause much of a stir. Nor will they.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">Today, Florida's theories are as far away from Russia as the state of Florida itself.</p> <p>Today, Florida's theories are as far away from Russia as the state of Florida itself. Russia's growing economic crisis is destroying the world, which those Russians who considered themselves the creative class called home. While before, media organisations dictated where we should eat and what we should read, now these organisations are cuddling up to the advertising market, or simply closing down. Incomes and salaries are falling off. The Central Asian migrant workers so beloved of Alexei Navalny supporters are leaving Russia. The economic crisis is developing hand in hand with mass censorship and a previously unseen level of political reaction.</p> <p>'I'm a girl and I don't want any crisis – I want oil at $120 a barrel,' wrote a Moscow blogger who works in advertising in December 2014. Irony cannot hide the true values at stake here: hydrocarbon prosperity, the purchasing power of the rouble, and free access to Western goods. Creative class or no, the question remains as to whether educated city-dwellers in Russia, will find a platform that will enable them to identify their true values, and organise themselves as a political force.</p><p><em>Standfirst image: White Ribbon via Pete riches / Demotix. CC</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elisabeth-schimpfossl/reporting-on-russian-television">Reporting on Russian television</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/arresting-numbers-protests-ovd-info-bolotnoye">Arresting numbers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mikhail Kaluzhsky Russia Politics Justice Internal Cultural politics Mon, 19 Jan 2015 16:28:57 +0000 Mikhail Kaluzhsky 89736 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Working in the Gulag https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/working-in-gulag <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554751/RIAN_01103515.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="RIAN_01103515.LR_.ru_.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>Russia’s Prison Service, the FSIN, wants to put inmates’ employment on a more businesslike footing, but their working conditions are still more like slave labour.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In July this year, Russia’s Prison Service, the FSIN, set up its own trading company to deal with orders for products made in its prison workshops. Its aim was to cut out the middleman – to put an end to contractors creaming off a significant chunk of its profits – but also to improve, at least to some extent, the prospects of prisoners’ employment. At present, the inmates of many prison camps have no work and, as a result, cannot earn the money they need to compensate the victims of their crimes. </p> <p>At the same time, the service hopes that by setting up a central body and ending the right of individual prisons to deal with client companies directly, it will avoid further scandals of the kind that arose at the camp where former Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova served her sentence; she complained to human rights organisations about, among other things, the infringement of prisoners’ rights, overwork, and chronic lack of sleep.</p><h2>A moneymaking system</h2> <p><span></span>The <em>Gulag</em> system, with its many political prisoners, was officially closed in 1960, although the last such camp, Perm-36, did not close until 1987. The current Russian penal system still continues many of the practices endemic to the <em>Gulags </em>– forced labour, inmates policing inmates, and prisoner intimidation.</p><p>The FSIN system includes more than a thousand penal establishments and 24 state agencies that may use the productive capacity of other state institutions for profit. In total, these combined organisations manufacture around 100,000 different products, including uniforms for the armed services (the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Emergency Situations and Defence), manhole covers, kerbstones and cast-iron ware, as well as timber felling and coal mining operations. But there is not enough work for all prisoners: FSIN puts the number of productive inmates at only 200,000 out of a total of 600,000.</p><p class="pullquote-right">In total, these combined organisations manufacture around 100,000 different products.</p> <p>One reason for the shortfall in prison employment is geographical. In regions near Russia’s frontier with China, articles produced in prison workshops cannot compete with the cheap imports from the other side of the border, and so they go out of business. In remote northern areas, prison administrators see their potential profits eaten up by high transport costs. However, FSIN still makes a good income from prisoners’ work: in 2013 its various establishments produced goods to the value of 32 billion roubles (£428 million).&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Since July, under new regulations, FSIN institutions cannot individually tender for production contracts, which had led to a growth in the market for private business agents, who could win government contracts and then farm them out to prison camps. These private firms often have close links with prison governors or regional departments of the FSIN. Now, with the help of the FSIN’s own central trading company, prison governors are now able to negotiate prices with client firms directly and keep part of the profit for their establishments – the price achieved may be several times higher than their production cost. But those profits come at a price.</p><h2>Working conditions</h2> <p>Prison administrators can force inmates to work overtime or night shifts to maximise production. Indeed, the freedom of action enjoyed by prison governors can sometimes lead to serious scandals. In September 2013, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, sentenced to two years behind bars for her part in Pussy Riot’s ‘sacrilegious’ performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, announced a hunger strike in protest at the systematic infringement of her rights and the rights of all prisoners at her prison camp. In a letter published on the independent Lenta.ru news website she explained that her team in the camp’s sewing workshop had to work for 16-17 hours a day, from 07:30 to 00:30. ‘We had four hours sleep a night – if we were lucky’, she wrote. ‘We had to work most Sundays, and had a day off only once in six weeks. Inmates have to apply in writing to work on Sundays and days off ‘by choice.’ In fact, of course, they have no choice. But you are forced to write these applications by the prison officers and the trusted inmates who pass on their orders.’&nbsp;</p><p class="pullquote-right">Prisoners had to work in the camp’s sewing workshop for 16-17 hours a day, including most Sundays, from 7:30am to 12:30am.</p> <p>Tolokonnikova, who has since been freed, detailed the pressure exerted. ‘Nobody dares refuse to write a request asking to work until 12.30am on a Sunday. One woman of 50 asked if she could stop work early, at 8.00pm, so that she could go to bed at 10.00pm and at least have a decent seven hours sleep one night a week. She wasn’t feeling well; she has high blood pressure. The prison officers’ response was to call a section meeting where the woman was lectured, insulted, humiliated and called a lazybones. “You want more sleep than everybody else? You need to sweat your guts out a bit more!” And when someone is let off work by a doctor because of illness, they also get it in the neck from the authorities: “So what if you go to work with a temperature of 40 degrees, it’s no big deal. Did you even think about who would do your sewing for you?”’ Tolokonnikova’s assertions were confirmed by Aleksander Korshunov, deputy head of FSIN (whose idea it was to set up the trading company); he said that prison managers do sometimes force inmates to work overtime, to increase production.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554751/RIAN_01103515.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554751/RIAN_01103515.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="Russian female prisoners at sewing machines. " title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian prisoners can work up to 17-hour days, with no time off. (c) RIA Novosti/Ilya Pitalev</span></span></span></p> <p>Prisoners don’t as a rule make more than the so-called minimum living wage, which in Russia is set at 5554 roubles (£75) a month. FSIN’s own figures put a prisoner’s average daily earnings at 196 roubles (£2.60). One exception is timber felling in the Krasnoyarsky Krai in Siberia [much of which lies in the permafrost zone]. Prisoners there can earn 20,000-25,000 roubles a month (£270-330), but that is rare. Similar amounts can be earned in the iron-casting industry – the extra pay is down to the heavy and dangerous working conditions. <strong></strong></p> <h2>The FSIN trading company</h2> <p>The idea behind the setting up of the FSIN trading company was to take on all the contracting for prison production operations, relieving prison administrators of the need to deal with client companies, and so removing the middleman between producer and customer. The trading company signs an agreement with a client and then allocates the order to whatever prison camp is best placed to fulfil it. The camp, however, receives little profit from the deal – 10% of the contracted sum to cover its overheads; the rest of the profit goes back into FSIN’s coffers.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The camp receives 10% of the contracted sum to cover its overheads: the rest of the profit goes back into FSIN’s coffers.</p> <p>Korshunov told the <em>Kommersant</em> business daily that the trading company would be based in Moscow, with five branches situated around the regions. ‘It will have a strictly vertical structure: the branches will be subject to the centre and will have to agree all their activities with Moscow. Production at prison camps will be managed by civil servants; their salaries will be based on their success in fulfilling orders. At the same time, the prison camps can all tender for contracts and place orders with whomever they like in their region without referring to Moscow, which, however, still needs to be kept informed of all financial decisions. </p> <p>Economist Olga Kostenko thinks that there is room for a company of this type that will concentrate on attracting and servicing orders for FSIN, but thinks it is difficult to say how effective it will be. ‘In the first place, it’s not clear how the actual work done by the prisoners is regulated – by reference to criminal law or labour law. If it’s the first, then we are effectively legalising slavery, which doesn’t provide any motivation to increase productivity, and so on; if the second, then we’re talking about the possibility of the inmates themselves choosing, say, whether to work on a farm or sew uniforms. If FSIN allowed prisoners to develop their skills and motivation, the company would be a very effective business’. But Kostenko also points out another important factor for the company’s prospects – its management: ‘If the people in charge are not up to the job, then it doesn’t have any future.’</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘If the people in charge are not up to the job, then it doesn’t have any future.’</p> <p>Vladimir Osechkin, founder of the <a href="http://www.publiciti.ru/en/interview/8interview-founder-of-gulagunet-vladimir-osechkin-with-radio-liberty92">Gulagu.net</a> human rights social network believes, however, that the whole idea is utopian and fundamentally unworkable: ‘It is naive to expect that a system, 80% of which is made up of elements of the <em>Gulag</em> and which is a legacy of the Soviet planned economy and the exploitation of slave labour, can suddenly learn how to make money,' he says. ‘It’s stupid to imagine that FSIN functionaries who have been taught their trade from out-of-date textbooks can be turned into financial wizards’. </p><p>According to Osechkin, the whole concept of developing production and trade within FSIN is a mistake, as it doesn’t give enough attention to how the partnership between public bodies and private business should be developed. ‘Over the years it would have been possible to create a coherent, fair and transparent system to regulate relations with business people, to develop and promote clear rules of engagement with the business community, recruit business ombudsmen into regional FSIN community councils, liberalise the conditions in which the working prison population is held, stop paying inmates the minimum wage, and construct a fair pay system. This is the only possible way forward, but none of it has happened.’&nbsp;</p><p><em>Standfirst image: Russian female prisoners. (c) RIA Novosti/Ilya Pitalev</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nadezhda-tolokonnikova/it%E2%80%99s-not-easy-being-ngo-in-russia">It’s not easy being an NGO in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/outcasts-%E2%80%94-inmates-of-black-eagle">Outcasts — inmates of the Black Eagle</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Through the bars Vyacheslav Kozlov Russia Justice Internal Human rights Economy Fri, 09 Jan 2015 17:55:46 +0000 Vyacheslav Kozlov 89436 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Russian passport, please’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/olga-zeveleva/%E2%80%98russian-passport-please%E2%80%99 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554750/Zeveleva%20pic%20-%20rus%3Aus%20passport.jpg" alt="us passport.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />It is now a criminal offence for Russian citizens not to declare their foreign passports or permanent residence permits.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The political crackdown in Russia has begun to affect Russian citizens who hold foreign as well as Russian passports. Last month the first group of dual nationality citizens was fined for not complying with a new law, and one person is already facing criminal charges for failing to declare his status.</p><p>The state seems to have a complicated relationship with its expatriate subjects. On December 4, in his annual state-of-the-nation address, Vladimir Putin called for ‘compatriots working abroad as academics or in high-tech sectors' to join efforts to create 'state-of-the-art solutions … to ensure national security, improve the quality of life, and promote industries operating in the new technological environment' in Russia.’</p><p>Putin’s administration may apparently be keen on attracting Russians from abroad, but other policies signal the opposite. The day after Putin’s speech, leading Russian newspaper <em>Kommersant </em>reported that 43,000 Russians had been fined for presenting themselves to the immigration authorities as holders of foreign passports after the deadline, or for making mistakes in their registration papers. And just four days later, the first criminal charge against a dual national who refused to register was filed in Russia. A 51-year-old citizen of Russia and Estonia was detained at a checkpoint on the Estonian-Russian border by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) as he was leaving for Estonia by car.</p><h2>Confusion reigns</h2><p>The law that took effect in August of this year criminalises the failure of Russian citizens to declare their foreign passports or permanent residence permits. All Russians residing in Russia who fall into this category were to have registered with the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) by October 4 2014, and failure to comply would result in a 200,000-rouble fine (equivalent to £2,081) or 400 hours of community service. Missing the deadline or making mistakes in registration forms result in administrative penalties and a smaller fine. Yet the law neither specifies what types of residence permits must be declared, nor does it outline what Russians living abroad have to do and how they can register. And many of the people who are affected are those same high-skilled compatriots Putin spoke of in his speech.</p><p class="pullquote-right">'The law is not there for us to explain, the law is there for citizens to follow!'</p><p>'The law is not there for us to explain, the law is there for citizens to follow!' barked an FMS officer at Georgy, who holds a Russian passport and an American student visa. He and his wife went to their local FMS office to enquire about their status this summer before departing to California for Georgy’s graduate course of study. They ended up submitting their registration forms to the Federal Migration Service, but it remains unclear whether the forms were processed, and whether the law, in fact, applies to holders of student visas.</p><p>Confusion about the law is common. 'A big part of my indecision is that proper information on how to do it [from the USA] is exceedingly difficult to find,' says Pavel, a PhD student in New York City who holds Russian and American citizenship. The State Duma is currently working on an amendment to the law, which will specify what Russians like Pavel should do. State Duma deputy Dmitry Vyatkin told news web portal RBC [in Russian] that the amendment includes a provision for Russians residing abroad who will need to submit their registration forms within 30 days of their next entry to Russia. But Pavel is reluctant to plan a trip back: 'If I am in Russia while the next screw is tightened, who knows if I’ll be able to leave?'</p><p class="pullquote-right">'If I am in Russia while the next screw is tightened, who knows if I’ll be able to leave?'</p><h2>Russian rhetoric</h2><p>Rhetoric among political elites indeed suggests that the law is another government attempt to isolate the country from foreign influence, this time targeting Russians whose political loyalties may lie beyond Russia’s borders. Andrey Lugovoy, the State Duma deputy who initiated the law, has warned that Russia 'finds itself in an aggressive international environment, so the government must know about dual citizenship' and that a list of dual citizens can 'help [Russian] security services in case of an emergency.' Lugovoy is a former KGB officer wanted in Britain in connection with the death of former Russian security services officer Alexander Litvinenko.</p><p>Migration law expert Olga Gulina of the Institute on Migration Policy questions the adequacy of criminal prosecution as a punishment for failure to declare dual citizenship in Russia. 'It’s hard to see how withholding information about citizenship can harm or threaten the social, legal, political order of the country and its citizens,' she says. According to Gulina, no other countries currently have similar measures in place.</p><p>Until recently, the only limitation regarding citizenship in Russia was that civil servants must not have dual citizenship. Since the new law on registration has come into effect, however, the Department of Justice has initiated a discussion on prohibiting dual citizens from working as notaries. Additionally, a bill was passed in October, which limits ownership of Russian media assets by foreign or dual national citizens to 20 percent by 2017. </p><p>Many Russians with close connections abroad feel that the atmosphere in Russia is increasingly isolationist and hostile towards the outside world. Irina, who teaches at a graduate school in Moscow after earning her PhD from the University of Virginia, has come to view her American passport as a ticket to safety. 'As paradoxical as it sounds, my American citizenship is one of the reasons I’m still here. It gives me a sense of freedom. If something goes wrong, I can leave,' she says.</p><p>But what, exactly, can go wrong? The answer to this question cannot be found in any legislation, nor can it be gathered from statements made by Russian officials who have raced to hammer out increasingly restrictive policies. Ultimately, the future of Russia’s citizens does not depend on the reach of its institutions or the letter of the law. Today, Russia is driven by other concerns, and its elites will continue to fill empty laws with whatever meanings best meet their vision.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><em>Standfirst image, Russian and American passport via Shutterstock (c)</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-nikolskaya/educating-russians-abroad">Educating Russians abroad</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-nikolskaya/come-and-live-in-russia-repatriation-programme-former-soviet-republics">Come and live in Russia!</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Olga Zeveleva Russia Politics Internal Human rights Foreign Thu, 08 Jan 2015 12:31:50 +0000 Olga Zeveleva 89398 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Educating Russians abroad https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/polina-nikolskaya/educating-russians-abroad <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554750/%20-%20wiki.jpg" alt=" - wiki.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />In 2014, the Russian government launched the ‘Global Education’ programme of postgraduate education abroad. But the reaction in Russia has been obstructive and hostile. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%8C%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%8F/%D0%B7%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B1%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%8F-%D0%BE%D0%B1%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B7%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%8F-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%BC%D0%B0-%D0%B4%D0%BB%D1%8F-%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%8F%D0%BD">На русском языке</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In October 2014, Russia withdrew from the American Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) educational programme. At almost exactly the same time a new programme called 'Global Education' was launched in Russia to enable young Russians to study abroad at government expense. On completing a course of postgraduate study abroad – masters or doctorate (undergraduates are excluded from the scheme) – the grantee has to return to Russia and work for three years in one of four priority areas: the civil service or local government; high-tech companies; leading higher education or scientific organisations; or in the social sphere, most notably medicine.&nbsp; Similar initiatives in Brazil or China offer many more places than the Russian programme: over the next few years the Brazilian scheme 'Science without borders' will send 100,000 students to study abroad, and the number of Chinese students doing the same will be more than 20,000 a year (some years the figure was closer to 40,000). The Russian programme plans to offer 1,500 places over three years.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>'Global Education' was in the pipeline for a long time. The first version was presented in the Kremlin by the discussion club 'Economics and Politics' and the 'Harvard University Graduates' Club'. According to Valentin Preobrazhensky, co-chairman of the discussion club, the members of these two clubs told officials that all countries, which had recently experienced a strong growth in GDP, have programmes providing students with government grants to study abroad. Soon after this 2010 Kremlin meeting, President Medvedev announced the launch of 'Global Education'.</p><h2>Out-classed</h2><p>This initiative unexpectedly provoked heated arguments among officials and experts.&nbsp;<span>Many deemed the programme unnecessary: a source of information close to the people who had worked on it said the Russian Finance Ministry was of the opinion that, in launching the programme, Russia would be acknowledging the inferiority of its higher education institutions.</span></p><p>Russia's place in world rankings of higher education institutions over recent years has not been very impressive. In the 2014 QS University Subject Rankings, Russia's leading higher education institution, Moscow State University, was in 114th place. The next Russian universities after that were in 233rd and 322nd places. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked Moscow State University 196th. Academic Ranking of World Universities placed it 84th. One of the main factors, which enable foreign institutions to outstrip Russian universities, is the body of publications in leading world journals. </p><p class="pullquote-right">In launching the programme, Russia would be acknowledging the inferiority of its higher education institution.&nbsp;</p><p>The rectors of some of the biggest Russian universities came out against the programme: they feel that the government should be investing money in improving their universities, rather than funding foreign study. But the Education Ministry correctly pointed out that higher education in Russia has problems in 'some of the areas of study on offer', so the programme development was given the go-ahead. Agreeing the finer points, however, took nearly four years, not least because so many leaders in the educational field were against it.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/Moscow_State_University_ wiki_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/Moscow_State_University_ wiki_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="254" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Moscow State University, was in 114th place. Photo cc. Dmitry A. Mottl</span></span></span></p><h2>Study and return</h2><p>Initially, the Harvard graduates imagined that there would be no obligation to return home when students had finished their course. In 1978 Deng Xiaoping launched a similar programme in China: over almost 40 years approximately 1.3m Chinese have studied abroad, of which only one third have returned. But in the '80s or the mid '00s those Chinese who studied abroad, and went back, often managed to secure high-ranking civil service posts. In Russia, the civil service, the Presidential Administration and the government were unanimous in their view that it would be completely unacceptable for Russians to refuse to return home. This was the view held in President Medvedev's time and is still the case now. The Harvard graduates' idea was described as 'too romantic' and the decision was taken that a participant in the programme would be obliged to work in Russia for three years on his/her return.</p><p>The second obstacle to the 'Global Education' programme was the question of what courses should be paid for by the state. The Harvard graduates once more hinted at what happens in China and Kazakhstan: students returning from a course of foreign study could become civil servants, and make use of their international experience at management level. After this was rolled out in China, the proportion of civil servants with foreign degrees rose to 15%, and to 90% in Singapore.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Russia has no need of officials with degrees from western universities</p><p><span>The idea was discussed for a long time by the Russian government and the expert community: the final upshot of these discussions, according to the Education Ministry, was that Russia has no need of officials with degrees from Western universities. 'Highly qualified, exceptional specialists should be employed in real production and the services industries,' explained the ministry. The decision was taken that the people who could study abroad at government expense were 'scientists, teachers, doctors and engineers' as well as 'managers in the social sphere.' On their return to Russia they would work in higher education laboratories, centres of high-tech medicine, Russian Academy of Sciences laboratories and state corporations like Rosatom or Rosnano – so most of them would be working for the state, but not for the government. Another restriction was introduced: returning students would have to work in the regions rather than in Moscow or St Petersburg. Regional higher education institutes are in need of specialists in biology, chemistry, nanotechnology (in recent years a priority area in Russia), and energy.</span></p><p>The Education Ministry hotly denies that the relatively small number of students going abroad (1,500 over three years) is a very small percentage of the total number of Russian students. They maintain that returning students will be able to pass on their knowledge to colleagues in higher education, state companies, and medical centres, making good use of their recently acquired international experience, and teaching. But experts fear that graduates of the 'Global Education' will encounter the same problems as home-produced postgraduates and undergraduates: local bureaucracy, rigidly controlled science, and the conservative approach of most Russian leaders to any innovation. In the opinion of the head of the Institute of Education at the Higher School of Economics, there is another problem: returning students could be offered low-ranking posts and spread out very thinly across the whole of Russia. If the young are not given an opportunity to spread their wings, even with the degree of risk that this presupposes, and those in post are not compelled to listen to their advice, then there will be little benefit from their studies.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The rectors of several Siberian and Far East universities told me in conversation that graduates of foreign universities would not immediately be able to head up laboratories because they lack experience, but they would be guaranteed a decent salary by regional standards. They give an example: in 2014 the average salary for a member of the professorial teaching staff at the Federal Far Eastern University was 50,000 roubles a month (in the region of £547 at the current unstable exchange rate), whereas in the Vyatka University on the Volga, someone with a masters would earn 30,000 roubles (about £328) and a doctorate 40,000 roubles (approximately £438).</p><p class="pullquote-right">If the young are not able to spread their wings, then there will be little benefit from their studies</p><h2>Getting out for good</h2><p>Independent experts fear that Russians deciding to study abroad will find it easier to do this by paying for themselves, rather than relying on the state. There is simply not enough money in the budget to pay for courses of study in some Western universities or other educational institutes. The 'Global Education' budget for three years is almost 4.5 billion roubles (£49 million at today's exchange rate). The state is prepared to pay no more than 1.38m roubles (£15,100) per student. This includes all expenses e.g. maintenance, books and insurance etc. Applicants have to have been accepted by a foreign university and to have filled in a form on the website for 'Global Education'. Given the current state of the rouble, would-be students will not be able to study in just any foreign university: a course at MIT, for instance, costs £44,525 a year, whereas at Singapore National University the cost would be £18,989.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Officially, the 'Global Education' programme began in June 2014, when it was signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Education Ministry figures for early December show that, to date, over 100 applications have been lodged. Ministry officials confirm that money for Russians to study abroad has been allocated in the budget. But increasing international tension and Western sanctions mean that questions are once more being asked. In the State Duma recently a deputy expressed the view that Russians studying abroad could be recruited by foreign intelligence services, so the programme should be closed down. Replying, Education Minister Dmitry Livanov once more repeated that this would not happen, though the programme could be amended in the light of recent political developments. Ministry sources explained what he meant by this: the programme's supervisory committee, which decides which of the applicants should receive a grant could 'amend their list of preferred areas of study'.</p><p>In spring 2014, when the first sanctions had been introduced, an Education Ministry representative told me that young Russians were re-directing themselves towards Asian universities, rather than just aiming for study in the USA and Europe. He also said that Russian applications for Western universities were more to do with wanting to leave the country for ever, than education. Universities I approached in USA and Europe (including Oxford, Boston, and California at Berkeley) told me that there would be no obstacles for Russians who came to them to study at government expense. It was of little interest to them who was paying the money for the course. Given the worries about the programme expressed by Russian officials and deputies, and the increasing costs of foreign study related to the exchange rate, it cannot be ruled out that government-funded study abroad for Russians will be mainly in Asian universities. The experts' predictions will be confirmed one way or another after the closing date for applications, which is quite soon, according to the Russian Education Ministry.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><em>Standfirst image: Russian University Diploma, via Wikipedia. Public Domain</em></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalya-yakovleva/teaching-orthodoxy-in-russian-schools">Teaching orthodoxy in Russian schools</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/aleksandr-chernykh/what-fsb-is-doing-in-russian-universities">What the FSB is doing in Russian universities</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Polina Nikolskaya Russia Politics Internal Foreign Education Wed, 07 Jan 2015 14:15:22 +0000 Polina Nikolskaya 89379 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Journalism has become a form of ‘prostitution’ in Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valery-pavlukevich/journalism-has-become-form-of-%E2%80%98prostitution%E2%80%99-in-russia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554750/Ria%20Novosti%20C%20Ruslan%20Krivobok.jpg" alt="Ria Novosti C Ruslan Krivobok.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />The Samara region has one of the highest numbers of media outlets in Russia, but local journalists find it hard to write the truth.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Nestled along a bend on the Volga River, Samara tops the list of regions in Russia in terms of media organisations. There are 589 publications operating in Samara, including 363 newspapers and more than 60 radio and television stations. Yet quantity does not equal quality when it comes to press freedom. There are no independent media organisations in Samara. </p><h2>Many outlets, few truths</h2><p>At a high-profile seminar on press freedom in September, rights activists, budding journalists and students gathered in Samara to discuss the fate of reporting in Russia. The forecast was grim. ‘This generation of young journalists is lost professionally,’ declared Nikolai Svanidze, a member of the Public Chamber of Russia and the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. ‘They are completely surrounded. While the authorities act from above, one’s colleagues and friends influence you from the side. Frankly, you need heroic strength and willpower to go against the grain.’ </p><p>The editor-in-chief of leading opposition newspaper <em>Novaya Gazeta</em>, Dmitry Muratov, shared this view. As Muratov put it, journalism has become a form of ‘prostitution’ in Russia. </p><p class="pullquote-right">‘This generation of young journalists is lost professionally’</p><p>But the reality for young journalists is more complicated. ‘For a new journalist, the only way to remain independent is to report on non-political topics or to work freelance in independent media in Moscow or the West,’ a journalist named Anton told me. But journalists working with those kinds of publications will not be employed by organisations in Samara. A journalist just starting out might receive a salary of 12,000 roubles per month [£139]. And freelance isn’t for me. There’s no stable income, and I need that.’ Anton asked me not to disclose his surname for fear that he would be expelled from the Russian Union of Journalists and dismissed from the editorial office where he works, on account of his criticism. ‘My monthly salary is 15,000 roubles [£173] — full stop. The rest of the editors offer to write “advertorials”, which is what we call articles with hidden advertisements. For example, you write an article about the city parliament and praise a particular policy. And in return, as a token of gratitude, they pay you. A lot of people work like this. Nobody wants to stand by his principles and earn a tiny salary. This happens everywhere. There are practically no exceptions.’</p><h2>Media control</h2><p>Under Governor Nikolai Merkushkin, nearly all media assets in Samara are controlled by a single official entity. Using the ‘carrot and stick’ approach, the regional authorities are thus able to put pressure on the city’s local press. </p><p>For instance, during the recent gubernatorial elections in September, even the Samara branch of the popular opposition radio station Echo Moscow ceased to criticise Governor Merkushkin. During the governor’s pre-election campaign, the newspaper<em> Volzhskaya Kommuna</em> (The Volga Commune), which is funded by the regional budget, included six photographs of Merkushkin in each publication.</p><p>Private media outlets are also loyal to the regional governor. For instance, Media-Samara — a holding company owned by city deputy Dmitry Suryaninov — owns five popular newspapers in Samara and the neighbouring town of Tolyatii. A radio and television broadcasting service also belongs to this same holding group. </p><p> Ten years ago, the Samara branch of Echo Moscow regularly discussed current political events. Today, the Samara branch is a conventional talk-radio station. Indeed, in June, people conducted solo pickets, demanding that the central management of Echo Moscow dismiss the editors of the Samara station.</p><p>Every year on 13 January, the Day of Russian Press, Governor Merkushkin presents awards to winners of a regional journalism competition, which is funded by the regional budget. In 2013, the award was given to over 100 journalists and bloggers. According to tradition, the winners of the 2014 competition were also awarded cash prizes. </p><p class="pullquote-right">‘Are self-respect and self-esteem old news for journalists nowadays?’</p><p>Elena Vavina, a journalist who works for the Samara regional branch of the <em>Moskovsky Komsomolets</em> newspaper, said ‘Last year, one of my colleagues who teaches at a university was awarded a prize. It turns out that her nomination only received three votes. She got third place in the competition. Many of my colleagues are journalists and bloggers — they collect documents and publications for the Governor’s prize. My colleagues advised me to sign up for the competition, but I don’t want to take money from Merkushkin. I don’t respect him. Are self-respect and self-esteem old news for journalists nowadays?’ Vavina wonders.</p><h2>Censorship and retribution</h2><p>Censorship and retribution is at work in Samara. In September, journalist Sergei Melnik (from radio station Lada FM in Tolyatti) was suspended live on air for asking a question about the Samara gubernatorial elections. Just before the election, Arkady Estrin, the former vice-mayor and director of the Department of Construction of the City Hall of Tolyatti was invited to Melnik’s show on Lada Fm. Expressing his opinion about the upcoming gubernatorial elections live on air, Estrin announced: ‘It’s not an election, it’s a farce’. When Melnik asked him if he would vote and participate in this ‘farce’, Estrin answered in the negative. Melnik then added that he had also decided not to vote in the gubernatorial elections. ‘And you, my friends, decide for yourselves. We are not telling anyone to do anything,’ announced Melnik, live on air. </p><p>After this statement, the radio station management suspended Melnik from work, live on the radio. Members of the Union of Journalists of the Samara Region refused to comment on the situation, stating that Lada Fm is a private radio station. Indeed, as a recipient of honorary titles and twice named the winner of the Russian Union of Journalists Prize for Professional Excellence, Melnik was surprised that the Union of Journalists in Samara did not defend him after his unfair dismissal.</p><p>The work of an independent journalist can be physically dangerous. While preparing for his report on the public hearings into town planning in Samara, Anton Korneev (a correspondent from internet-publication Zasekin.ru) was threatened with physical violence by strangers. Eventually, Korneev had to resort to police protection. Indeed, internet journalism is now being targeted centrally. On 13 March, the Russian press watchdog Roskomnadzor decided to block access to Rufront, Kasparov.ru, Ezhednevny Zhurnal (Daily Journal) and Grani.ru — all prominent opposition news websites — in the Samara Region.</p><p>In addition to explicit censorship as seen in the case of Sergei Melnik, there is also a hidden kind of censorship, which manifests itself in editorial policy. Practically all the regional, city, and district, terrestrial TV channels and editorial print and online media are under the direct control of regional authorities.</p><p class="pullquote-right">In addition to explicit censorship, there is also a hidden kind of censorship</p><p>Local journalist Vladimir Ivanov says that officials from the Media Relations Department, — under the control of the governor of the Samara Region — can call the editors of a television channel and stop reports of opposition rallies from being aired. ‘Editors are forced to comply with the demands of officials. Otherwise the editorial offices will not be paid for their report on the military parade or be allocated money to buy new equipment. Regional authorities are also co-founders of our television company. That’s why it is necessary to take into account the interests of the government and to avoid criticism.’</p><h2>Junkets for bloggers</h2><p>Under Governor Merkushkin, the Information Policy Department controls not only the media, but also bloggers. On 9 May 2013, Merkushkin took a group of prominent bloggers to Saransk to celebrate Victory Day — the annual commemoration of the end of the Second World War. Saransk is the regional capital of the Republic of Mordovia, where Merkushkin was governor from 1995 to 2012. The promotional trip involved a chartered flight to Saransk, and was funded from the Samara regional budget. Bloggers were flown 500km to Saransk, allocated ‘deluxe’ rooms at a hotel, wined and dined at the best restaurants, and taken on a tour of Mordovia’s regional capital. All this free of charge.</p><p>As Valery Karlov, leader of the human rights organisation Civil Initiative, says: ‘The aim of the trip was to show how much Merkushkin has done for Mordovia and how much he will do as the governor of the Samara Region. As a token of gratitude, all the bloggers posted enthusiastic reports about their experiences on LiveJournal and Facebook. Not sparing any compliments, they lavished Merkushkin with praise. It would have been better if they had written about human rights violations in the Samara Region.’</p><h2>Some independence</h2><p>Despite the censorship, and pressure from officials of the regional government, independent media and independent journalists can still be found in Samara Region. People in Samara are familiar with independent journalists such as Sergei Kurt-Adjiev, Anton Korneyev, Roman Khakhalin, and others. In terms of print media, there are two independent newspapers in the Samara Region today, the Samara branches of opposition newspaper <em>Novaya Gazeta </em>and popular daily <em>Moskovsky Komsomolets</em>. Local online media such as the online journal Park Gagarina, Zasekin.ru, as well as national websites Kasparov.ru and Rufront are the most well-known and respected outlets among readers interested in civil and human rights. Of all the mass media outlets in Samara, independent online media attract the most readers. Indeed, local officials also read the critical reports published by independent media outlets. </p><p class="pullquote-right">Of all the mass media outlets in Samara, independent online media attract the most readers.</p><p>Journalists who cover human rights issues often combine reporting with activism, and frequently participate in protests. For example, local branches of the 5 December Party (named after the start of the 2011 protests) and the Progress Party (founded by Alexei Navalny) publish information on their Facebook pages. The leaders of these regional party cells, Elena Makhrova and Katerina Gerasimova, work as independent journalists, and report on human rights protests in Samara. The leader of the Civil Initiative movement in Samara, Valery Karlov, also publishes material critical of the regional authorities on Facebook and LiveJournal. The leader of the Samara Union of Voters, Andrei Sokolov, and Andrei Astashkin, a well-known blogger and deputy head of the local cell of the liberal political party Yabloko, also maintain presences on social media. </p><p>But these independent voices are few and far between. As Astashkin sums up the situation, ‘Today, Samara is a region with no freedom of speech. The internet remains the only space for independent media here.’ </p><p><em>Standfirst image:&nbsp;</em><span>(c)</span><span>&nbsp;RIA Novosti/Ruslan Krivobok&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/daniil-kotsyubinsky/writing-on-wall">The writing on the wall?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-bykhovskaya/i-am-pro-kremlin-propaganda">&#039;I am Putin&#039;s propaganda&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Samara </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Samara Valery Pavlukevich Russia Regions Politics Beyond propaganda Internal Tue, 06 Jan 2015 14:00:00 +0000 Valery Pavlukevich 89343 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Высокая цена демократии в Украине https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B9-%D1%8F%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%86%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9/%D0%B2%D1%8B%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%8F-%D1%86%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B8-%D0%B2-%D1%83%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B5 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554750/Logo_of_the_Verkhovna_Rada_of_Ukraine_1.png" alt="Logo_of_the_Verkhovna_Rada_of_Ukraine_1.png" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />Украина находится на пороге банкротства. Выполнить бюджет на 2015 год практически нереально. Радикальные реформы затягиваются. Война на востоке страны продолжается. Что ожидает Украину в 2015 году? <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrii-ianitskyi/high-price-of-democracy-in-ukraine">In English</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>9 декабря Financial Times опубликовала статью о том, что Международный валютный фонд предупреждает Украину о возможности дефолта и призывает оказать дополнительную помощь Киеву в размере $15 млрд. Позже, 17 декабря, эту информацию подтвердил президент Европейской комиссии Жан-Клод Юнкер во время своего выступления в Европарламенте. «Украине понадобится дополнительно $15 млрд к тому, что уже запланировано».</p><p>Если страна радикально не сократит расходы бюджета и не упростит все процедуры, то обанкротится. 19 декабря агентство Standard &amp; Poor's понизило рейтинг по обязательствам Украины в иностранной валюте до ССС – с негативным прогнозом. Это значит, что в ближайшие шесть месяцев есть риск дефолта.</p><h2>Кредитная капельница</h2><p>Украина пережила сложный год, пройдя через революцию и военный конфликт с соседней Россией (Владимир Путин уверяет, что на востоке Украины воюют только «российские добровольцы», а не регулярные войска). Также Россия аннексировала украинский Крым и объявила его своей «сакральной территорией».</p><p>Все это, а также бесхозяйственность прошлых лет, нанесли Украине смертельный экономический удар. Без иностранной помощи оставался бы один выход — дефолт. Однако западные кредиторы не дали Украине обанкротиться.</p><p>30 апреля МВФ одобрил двухлетнюю кредитную программу stand-by для Украины объемом $17,1 млрд, около $4,6 млрд уже были перечислены. Кроме того, крупные суммы правительству Украины обещали Европейский Союз, Всемирный банк, США, Канада и Япония. По данным&nbsp;<span>Юлии Шибалкиной,&nbsp;</span><span>экономиста аналитического центра CASE-Украина, до ноября Киев получил, как минимум, $4,8 млрд из этих источников.</span></p><p>То есть Украина в 2014 году получила не менее $9,4 млрд из разных источников, и еще должна получить не менее $12,5 млрд в 2015 году — из оставшейся части кредита МВФ. При этом МВФ добавляет, что стране дополнительно нужно около $15 млрд.</p><p>Иностранная помощь пока что позволяет Украине платить по старым валютным долгам и закупать российский газ, но не позволяют поддерживать прежний уровень расходов внутри страны. Ситуация также не позволяет заняться коренной перестройкой страны без заметного ухудшения качества жизни граждан.</p><p>Дефицит всего сектора государственных финансов (не только госбюджета) в 2014 году достигнет порядка 10% ВВП, считает исполнительный директор The Bleyzer Foundation экономист Олег Устенко. Это порядка $12,7 млрд. Иностранная помощь не закрывает эту финансовую дыру в полной мере.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Дефицит всего сектора государственных финансов (не только госбюджета) в 2014 году достигнет порядка 10% ВВП.</p><p>Украине приходится проводить собственное насыщение экономики денежными вливаниями в виде выпуска долговых бумаг для поддержки банковского сектора и компенсации дешевых тарифов на газ для населения и коммунального сектора. Это одна из основных причин ослабления украинской гривны с 8 до 16 единиц за 1 доллар США с начала года. И это только официально. На черном рынке за американский доллар дают до 20 гривен.</p><h2>Бедных становится больше</h2><p>Импортные товары в Украине стали дороже, в том числе лекарства, бензин, бытовая техника и автомобили. Зарубежные поездки и покупки стали роскошью.</p><p class="pullquote-right">На начало года около 22,1% граждан Украины жили за чертой абсолютной бедности по национальной шкале.</p><p>На начало года около 22,1% граждан Украины жили за чертой абсолютной бедности по национальной шкале, то есть тратили меньше прожиточного минимума в 1218 гривен в месяц (менее $80 долларов даже по официальному курсу обмена). Сам показатель «прожиточный минимум» в Украине искусственный. Правительство уже два года не пересчитывает эту сумму и уже 14 лет не пересматривает потребительскую корзину, на основе которой формируется прожиточный минимум.</p><p>В конце года бедных семей может стать намного больше, говорит Элла Либанова, директор Института демографии и социальных исследований Национальной академии наук Украины. Точная статистика по этому вопросу будет только в 2015 году.</p><p>Кроме традиционной бедности в стране появилась так называемая «новая бедность»&nbsp;—&nbsp;бедность вынужденных переселенцев. ООН сообщает, что по состоянию на 12 декабря в Украине уже насчитывалось не менее 542 тыс беженцев из оккупированного Россией Крыма, а также Донецкой и Луганской областей, где идут боевые действия.</p><p>Многие переселенцы потеряли свои активы и доходы. Часто они долго не могут найти работу на новом месте, арендовать или купить жилье, подвергаются дискриминации как со стороны простых граждан, так и со стороны государственных чиновников.</p><h2>Политическая стабилизация</h2><p>Первой задачей новых украинских правителей после смены власти в феврале 2014 года была политическая стабилизация. Президент Виктор Янукович и глава правительства Николай Азаров бежали в Россию. Единственным законным органом власти остался парламент (Верховная Рада). Многие военные и милиционеры, особенно высокопоставленные, перешли на сторону России или бежали. Остальные были деморализованы</p><p>В феврале депутаты избрали Александра Турчинова руководителем парламента и временным президентом до новых выборов. Также было выбрано временное правительство под руководством Арсения Яценюка.</p><p>В марте Турчинов заменил руководителей регионов, чтобы погасить выступления сепаратистов. Также началась перестройка армии и милиции, формирование отрядов из добровольцев для защиты страны.</p><p>25 мая прошли досрочные выборы президента, на которых победил бизнесмен Петр Порошенко. Также прошли выборы городского совета и мэра Киева.</p><p>Но парламент, который формировался еще при старой власти, блокировал реформы. С большими поправками удалось принять антикоррупционные законы, которые начнут работать только в 2015 году. Также принят закон об общественном телевещании, реформе высшего образования, о прокуратуре, доступе к публичной информации и государственных закупках. Но на пакет налоговых реформ, например, голосов не хватило.</p><p>В сентябре украинская армия понесла крупные потери под восточным городом Иловайск. 5 сентября в Минске (Беларусь) между представителями Украины, России, ОБСЕ и сепаратистами было подписано соглашение, которое по сути зафиксировало линию фронта между воюющими сторонами.</p><p>26 октября прошли досрочные парламентские выборы. Больше всего мест получили партии Арсения Яценюка и Петра Порошенко. После выборов депутаты долго не могли договориться о коалиции. Наметилось противостояние между офисом президента и премьер-министра. Оба назвали себя победителями выборов и хотели больше мест в правительстве.</p><p>Соглашение было подписано 21 ноября после визита вице-президента США Джозефа Байдена в Киев. Кроме партий Яценюка и Порошенко документ подписали еще три политические силы.</p><p>Торги за места в правительстве шли до 2 декабря. Его руководителем остался Арсений Яценюк, но состав правительства обновился. 11 декабря депутаты поддержали программу правительства — пустой и формальный документ. По Конституции после этого Кабинет министров нельзя в течение года отправить в отставку.</p><p>Таким образом, все политические и военные препятствия для проведения настоящих реформ были устранены только к концу года.</p><h2>Иностранцы в правительстве</h2><p>На самом деле в украинском правительстве иностранцы — не впервые. При президенте Викторе Януковиче министром обороны был Дмитрий Саламатин, гражданин России до 2004 года. В 2006 он стал депутатом украинского парламента, а в 2012 году в течение нескольких месяцев был министром обороны Украины.</p><p>Сам Янукович бежал в Россию в феврале 2014 года. Вместе с ним скрылись генеральный прокурор, премьер-министр, руководители СБУ, армии и милиции.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/Natalie Yaresko (minfin.gov_.ua).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/Natalie Yaresko (minfin.gov_.ua).jpg" alt="" title="" width="414" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Наталия Яресько, она Министр финансов - американка Украинского происхождения. Image via minfin.gov.ua</span></span></span></p><p>В декабре 2014 года пост министра финансов Украины заняла американка с украинскими корнями Наталия Яресько, министром экономики стал литовец Айварас Абромавичус, министром здравоохранения — грузин Александр Квиташвили. Также заместителем министра внутренних дел стала грузинка Эка Згуладзе. Все они получили украинские паспорта, но неизвестно, отказались ли при этом от своего прежнего гражданства.</p><p>Интересно, что Наталия Яресько в 1990-е годы работала в посольстве США в Украине, а в последнее время руководила управляющей компанией Horizon Capital с офисом в Киеве, которой доверяли свои деньги и частные лица, и правительство США.</p><p>Официально отбор кандидатов-иностранцев шел через рекрутинговое агентство. Администрация президента сообщила, что фонд «Возрождение» (входит в Open Society Foundations Джорджа Сороса) выбрал агентство. Руководитель фонда Евгений Быстрицкий&nbsp;<span>в комментарии для издания «Зеркало недели» (zn.ua)&nbsp;</span><span>эту информацию опроверг. По его словам, у Фонда только просили деньги на работу агентств.</span></p><p class="pullquote-right">Фонд Сороса играет большую роль в изменениях в Украине.</p><p>Фонд Сороса играет большую роль в изменениях в Украине. Например, он поддерживает программу по созданию и продвижению законопроектов «Реанимационный пакет реформ» (вместе с UNDP, Sida, The European Endowment for Democracy и Pact). Активистам «Реанимационного пакета реформ» удалось добиться принятия 17 законопроектов. Некоторые из активистов программы, например, Анна Гопко, даже стали депутатами парламента.</p><p>В Украине по-разному относятся к иностранцам в правительстве. Критики говорят, что страна потеряла самостоятельность. Оптимисты считают, что иностранцам будет проще реформировать экономику страны и вывести ее из кризиса.</p><h2>Закон о бюджете</h2><p>Украинские депутаты приняли бюджет на 2015 год в ночь с 28 на 29 декабря (законопроект №1000). Это абсолютно нереалистичный закон, который никогда не будет исполнен. Его доходная часть составляет 475,2 млрд гривен (порядка $27,96 млрд по текущему курсу), расходная&nbsp;—&nbsp;527,2 млрд гривен (около $31 млрд). И доходная, и расходная статьи сильно раздуты. То есть реальный дефицит по итогам года может превзойти все ожидания. Например, официальный Киев ожидает 17 млрд гривен поступлений от приватизации в новом году, но это просто фантастические планы. То же можно сказать и о росте налоговых поступлений.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Киев ожидает 17 млрд гривен поступлений от приватизации в новом году, но это просто фантастические планы.</p><p>Понимая это, премьер-министр Украины Арсений Яценюк пообещал, что бюджет будет пересмотрен уже до 15 февраля 2015 года. «Мы будем его корректировать. В зависимости от результатов переговоров с международными финансовыми организациями»,&nbsp;—&nbsp;сказал Яценюк.</p><p>8 января 2015 года в Украину возвращаются специалисты МВФ, чтобы принять решение об очередных траншах кредита до заседания совета директоров Фонда. По всей видимости, последние изменения в украинский бюджет на 2015 год будут внесены под диктовку МВФ.</p><p>«Бюджет не содержит реформистских позиций (сокращение доли госрасходов в ВВП, пенсионная реформа, сокращение госаппарата)», — говорит Павел Кухта, экономист программы «Реанимационный проект реформ».</p><p>Бюджет на 2015 год предусматривает падение ВВП в 2015 году на уровне минус 4,5% (в 2014 году — минус 6,5%), инфляция — плюс 13,4% (в нынешнем году — плюс 19%), дефицит госбюджета — минус 3,7% ВВП (сейчас 4,6%). То есть пока в проекте бюджета нет радикального сокращения расходов. Сегодня через украинский бюджет перераспределяется около половины украинского ВВП. И в новом году ситуация вряд ли изменится.</p><p>Однако депутаты Верховной Рады Украины сделали несколько шагов, которые с натяжкой можно считать новаторскими.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Они внесли изменения в Налоговый кодекс (законопроект №1578), которые предполагают в том числе: </p><p>- сокращение 22 видов налогов до 9 (главным образом за счет слияния);<br /><span>- малый и средний бизнес освобожден от проверок на два года;<br /></span><span>- выросла рента на добычу и транспортировку нефти, газа и других полезных ископаемых;<br /></span><span>- введен налог на недвижимость (квартиры от 60 кв.м, дома от 120 кв.м);<br /></span><span>- налог на лотереи составит 10% от оборота, а не от призового фонда, как было раньше.</span></p><p class="pullquote-right">По всей видимости, последние изменения в украинский бюджет на 2015 год будут внесены под диктовку МВФ.</p><p>Депутаты ввели временные пошлины на импортные товары в размере от 5% до 10% (№1562) сроком на один год. Пошлины могут быть введены правительством только «после проведения консультаций с международными финансовыми организациями».</p><p>Также депутаты внесли изменения в Бюджетный кодекс (№1557), передав больше ресурсов и больше финансовой свободы на местный уровень.</p><p>Депутаты также приняли закон о трансфертном ценообразовании (№1264/1), чтобы крупные корпорации не могли выводить прибыль, заработанную в Украине, в другие страны без уплаты налогов. Кроме того, они упростили процедуру капитализации украинских банков (№1564), в частности, для их иностранных акционеров. В 2015 году Украина планирует потратить 36 млрд гривен на капитализацию банков, еще 20 млрд гривен пойдет на поддержку Фонда гарантирования вкладов для выплат вкладчикам банков-банкротов (государство гарантирует возврат вкладов меньше 200 тыс гривен (около $11765).</p><p>Депутаты приняли решение об ограничении зарплат работникам государственных учреждений и госкомпаний (№1577). Зарплаты были ограничены 10 минимальными заработными платами, то есть чиновник не сможет получать больше 12180 гривен в месяц (около $716,5). Однако эта норма не распространяется на участников антитеррористической операции на востоке Украины, на сотрудников Антикоррупционного бюро и сотрудников Национального агентства по вопросам борьбы с коррупцией. Также депутаты отменили крупную помощь при выходе на пенсию для прокуроров, сократили численность Генеральной прокуратуры с 20 тыс до 15 тыс сотрудников, численность милиции со 172 тыс до 152 тыс человек. При этом расходы на милицию, прокуратуру и армию не сокращены, а даже выросли до почти 90 млрд гривен.</p><p>Также депутаты приняли решение о сокращении Единого социального взноса (ЕСВ) - отчислений с заработных плат в Пенсионный и обязательные страховые фонды. Сейчас он составляет около 41% от зарплаты и платится помимо налога на доходы физлиц в размере 15%. Такая нагрузка заставляет работодателей платить работникам официально только&nbsp;<span>небольшую&nbsp;</span><span>часть зарплаты, а остальное&nbsp;</span><span>—&nbsp;</span><span>доплачивать наличными «в конвертах». Ставки ЕСВ снизятся до 24,6% с января 2016 года, то есть только через год. Но в 2015 году ЕСВ будет снижен даже до 16,4% для тех работодателей, которые выполнят такие условия:</span></p><p>- зарплатный фонд вырастет в 2,5 раза выше среднемесячного за 2014 год;<br /><span>- средняя зарплата по предприятию вырастет минимум на 30% по сравнению с зарплатой в 2014 году;<br /></span><span>- средний платеж ЕСВ на человека составит не меньше 700 гривен;<br /></span><span>- средняя зарплата на предприятии составляет не меньше трех минимальных зарплат, то есть сейчас это не меньше 3654 гривны.</span></p><p>Эти решения депутатов помогут правительству сбалансировать бюджет в течение года.</p><h2>Главные вызовы года</h2><p>В программе работы правительства говорится о сокращении государственного аппарата всего на 10%. На начало года в стране было 335 тыс чиновников, в 2012 году — 275 тыс, в 2011 — 268 тысяч, по данным Илоны Сологуб, исследователя Киевской школы экономики. Сокращение на 10% означает, что в стране все равно будет больше чиновников, чем в 2012 или в 2011 году. Сологуб предлагает намного более радикальные сокращения — сократить в общей сложности 21 ведомство и министерство за 2014-2015 гг.</p><p class="pullquote-right">На начало года в стране было 335 тыс чиновников, в 2012 году — 275 тыс.</p><p>Также удивляет, что правительство продолжает плодить новые министерства и ведомства, вместо того, чтобы сокращать их. Например, правительство Украины создает новое министерство информационной политики. Депутаты уже выбрали министра информации — Юрия Стеця, друга президента Украины Петра Порошенко и бывшего менеджера принадлежащего президенту (до сих пор!) «5 канала». «Репортеры без границ» и ОБСЕ уже осудили эту идею. Издание Mashable метко назвало эту структуру «оруэлловским министерством правды».</p><p>Радикальных изменений в социальной сфере пока тоже ждать не приходится. Бюджет министерства социальной политики станет больше, говорит министр Павел Розенко. Министерство перегружено работой с вынужденными переселенцами. Ожидается также, что в новом году будет несколько волн повышений тарифов на коммунальные услуги, а значит, вырастут очереди за субсидиями.</p><p>Министерство социальной политики, как и многие украинские министерства, до сих пор работают по-старому, без единой базы данных получателей льгот. Во многих случаях в министерстве используют бумажные носители информации, а не электронные базы данных. Автоматизация всех процессов могла бы многократно увеличить эффективность работы министерства. Однако даже наполнение базы данных (программы уже существуют) и обучение персонала займут время.&nbsp;<span>Но без этого невозможно создание современной системы социальной помощи. А без реформы соцпомощи под вопросом и другие изменения (повышение тарифов, монетизация льгот, реформа пенсионной системы).</span></p><p>Пока что складывается впечатление, что украинские власти не готовы к радикальным решениям, прежде всего по сокращению расходов на государственный аппарат и по упрощению всех процедур для бизнеса. И есть риск роста бедности, если не будет проведена реформа системы социальной помощи. Рост бедности приведет к новым массовым протестам под социальными лозунгами.</p><p>Момент истины может настать прежде, чем начнет работать Министерство правды.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/david-marples/poroshenko%27s-choices">Poroshenko&#039;s choices</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-vasyunin/voting-in-donetsk-people%E2%80%99s-republic">Voting in the Donetsk People’s Republic</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Андрей Яницкий oDR Русский Ukraine Politics Internal Foreign Mon, 05 Jan 2015 07:00:01 +0000 Андрей Яницкий 89434 at https://www.opendemocracy.net