Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Fearing Emergence of Pacifist Attitudes, Kremlin Cracks Down on All Anti-War Groups

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – Unlike during the first Chechen war or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been no demonstrations against the war in Syria, the result of the Kremlin’s promotion of militarism, its suppression of unfavorable news, and its crackdown on groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses that might have led them, Ivan Preobrazhensky says. 
            “Having chosen military actions as an acceptable instrument for resolving foreign and domestic political tasks,” the political analyst says, “the Russian authorities see in anti-war movements one of the main threats to their policy” and have conducted “a struggle with them in all spheres of the life of society” (ridl.io/ru/война-есть-пацифизма-нет/).
            Soviet peace committees were disbanded in the 1990s or transformed into organizations with a very different purpose, Preobrazhensky says. And “over the last four years, all ‘traditional’ human rights anti-war organizations such as the Soldiers’ Mothers Committees have suffered,” accused of being foreign agents or otherwise harassed. 
            Over the same period, he continues, the authorities came down hard on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “the most actively anti-war religious organization” in the country and one whose followers “already in the Soviet period were well-known for the fact that they preferred to go to prison than to serve in the military.”
            Given polls showing Russians overwhelmingly support military moves and even want their relatives to serve in the military, all of these actions might seem unnecessary. But in addition to the objections about military spending by systemic liberals like Aleksey Kudrin and Aleksey Navalny, there is “great potential” for the emergence of a pacifist movement.
                The reason for that conclusion, Preobrazhensky says, is that “despite the clearly articulated militarist demand of society and the growth of the army’s popularity, there exist deep social phobias,” first and foremost about the possibility of a big war, which 75 percent of Russians tell pollsters say they fear for themselves and their children.
            “Thus,” he says, “a growth in losses in real military conflicts and especially the appearance of new ones could unexpectedly lead to changes in attitudes in society. But this is [only] a potential.  For the time being, talk about war works only to frighten the population which is cut off from information” from abroad about the real situation.
            And yet another indication that the Kremlin is worried about such a shift is its increasing proclivity to discuss relatively small conflicts as harbingers of a third world war, something that puts any public discussion of the merits of the current actions of the Russian government beyond the range of the acceptable, Preobrazhensky suggests.

How Bad are Things in Russia? An Entire Russian Village Wants to Join Kazakhstan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – Tens of thousands of ordinary Russians have voted with their feet in response to the deteriorating conditions in their homeland and moved abroad, but the residents of a Russian village in Omsk Oblast have another idea: they want the border between Russia and Kazakhstan redrawn so that they will no longer be part of the former but rather part of the latter.

            The village, Dubanovka, is situated approximately 140 kilometers from the city of Omsk, Anton Zakharov of Radio Liberty reports. “The last 17 are unpaved: one can only go on them when there is a freeze or a dry spell.” Residents joke, he says, that portion of the highway is where “civilization ends together with the road” (ru.krymr.com/a/29188964.html).

                “We don’t have any roads or a store or a school or water or in general anything. They’ve thrown us here to our fate,” local people say; and so a group of them have appealed to the Russian authorities to transfer their village from Russian control to that of Kazakhstan.  The leader of the movement says he’s sure the situation there “won’t be worse” and might be better.

            There are about 50 houses in the village, and the children have to travel 17 kilometers to school. Postal service is irregular, and emergency services are late if they bother to come at all.  Getting out from under this Russian fate thus looks attractive, Zakharov reports, but few villagers expect it will happen.

            They’ve asked Russian officials for help but have been ignored, and since the 1990s, they haven’t been able to cross into Kazakhstan because the border is under lock and key. Improving the road to the oblast center would be a good thing, the villagers say; but being under different kinds of rulers would be even better.

            At least, that is what the residents of Dubanovka have been driven to believe. 

Kremlin’s De Facto Ideology a ‘Hybrid’ of Soviet and Nazi Ideas, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – “Officially,” Vadim Shtepa writes, “the Kremlin does not profess any ‘state ideology,’ but in fact, it brings together the Soviet and Nazi heritage,” with “nostalgia for the USSR combined with a revanchist worldview, characteristic of the Third Reich in the 1930s.”  

            In an article for Tallinn’s International Centre for Defense and Security, the editor of the After Empire portal says, “the current propaganda meme of ‘the wild 1990s’ is a direct analogy to ‘the Weimar Republic, to which an irreplaceable ‘national leader’ came and ‘raised the country from its knees” (icds.ee/ru/blog/article/ehkstremizm-kak-gosudarstvennaja-ideologija-rossii/).
            While claiming that it has no ideology, the Putin regime has used its various anti-extremism laws to go after anyone who does not hew to the Kremlin’s line or dares to criticize it, Shtepa says. As a result, “no ‘rightists’ or ‘leftists as independent political forces exist in today’s Russia.” 

            “For all who seek to get involved in politics, there is only one single criteria,” he continues, “loyalty to the authorities. If you have that, you can speak out as you please and no court will consider what you say as a violation of the law.  But if you criticize the authorities,, it is easy to call you ‘an extremist,’” punish you and push you out of public life.

            According to Shtepa, “propaganda as the main instrument of hybrid war is directed not only at ‘the foreign opponent; its main victim is the population of the aggressor country” whose views the powers that be have transformed from political positions to “a simulacrum of ‘the will of the people’” which the authorities then carry out.

            That technique, he continues, “has been successfully applied throughout all the Putin years. First, there occurs a massive propagandistic imposition of neo-imperial attitudes and then the authorities justify their political steps by this ‘will of the people.’”  That happened with Crimea and the Donbass, and it continues with anti-Western attitudes.

            “From a superficial point of view, this looks even democratic,” the Russian regionalist who now lives in exile in Estonia says, as long as one ignores the fact that “all basic principles of democracy have been destroyed in Russia. Free elections of mayors and governors don’t exist, real competition of political forces has been eliminated,” and a power vertical put up instead.

            This system’s chief characteristics, Shtepa continues, “are the ignoring of the interests of society, the rise of all-possible prohibitions, and an inclination to use force methods to resolve problems.”

            “Paradoxically,” he says, “the Russian authorities themselves both within the country and in international affairs have established themselves as the very image of ‘the extremist’ with which they as it were are struggling.” (Emphasis supplied.)

            In this regard, Shtepa concludes, it is worth recalling the possibly apocryphal phrase usually ascribed to Winston Churchill.”  According to the wartime British prime minister, “’fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.’” Unfortunately, he says, the world hasn’t yet figured out how to react to this hybrid of two evil systems of the past.