Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Is Greenland about to Be Invoked as a Precedent for Gagauzia -- or Even the Donbas?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 30 – Moscow may hope to block Moldova and Ukraine from joining the European Union, but some there and among pro-Moscow groups in both countries are considering what options they might take for regions like Gagauzia and the Donbas if either or both of those countries should eventually join the EU.

            One idea now circulating is that they might follow the precedent of Greenland and the Faroe Islands who as autonomous territories within Denmark, an EU member country, nonetheless did not enter the European Union. Such a strategy, if adopted, could complicate the lives of these countries and leave them open to far greater Russian influence than otherwise.

            This provocative idea has been floated most prominently in a recent speech by Fedor Gagauz, the leader of United Gagauzia and a deputy in the Moldovan parliament at a Chisinau conference devoted to the entry into force of Moldova’s association agreement with the EU (

            “One of the declared goals of the Association Agreement,” the deputy says, “is cooperation in all spheres on the basis of bringing Moldova closer to the legal foundations of the European Union,” and consequently, he argues, Moldovans and Gagauz should consider some of the things EU countries offer their minorities.

            Among them are many things that Moldova has not offered the Gagauz, including “a quota for political representation in parliament, an independent court for resolving disputes between the autonomy and the Center, regional political parties, just access to financial means, [and] the conduct of an adequate cadres policy.”

            So far, however, “any efforts even to begin a discussion on these themes invite accusations of separatism and anti-state extremist,” Gagauz says. But they should be discussed and so should another feature of the EU: the possibility for a country to join the EU while allowing some of its regions to remain outside the EU.

            The most instructive case of this is Denmark and two of its autonomous territories, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Although they are part of a EU member country, neither of these autonomies are part of the EU, although both maintain “close relations with Europe” and have separate agreements with the EU.

            It may even be that the relations of Greenland and the Faroes with the EU are closer than they would be if these regions were treated regions just like any other regions of Denmark, Gagauz says. This example, he suggests, should be kept in mind by both Gagauz and Moldovan politicians.

            What Gagauz does not say is that Greenland and the Faroe Islands are separated from Denmark by hundreds of miles of ocean rather than embedded within it while Gagauzia is located entirely within the borders of Moldova or that the two Danish autonomies are not pursuing relations with countries or blocs antithetical to the EU, unlike Gagauzia or other breakaway regions in Moldova or Ukraine.

            But his remarks and the fact that Russia’s Regnum news agency chose to highlight them suggest that Moscow may be preparing to push this idea in the future, something against which the leaders of the countries involved and the EU must be prepared for given the certainty that any rejection of equal treatment for unequal situations will spark cries of “double standards.”

Children of Russian Entrepreneurs Not Planning to Pursue Business Careers, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 30 – Russian business has another problem, one that is not uncommon in other countries: most of the children of successful Russian business people show little interest in continuing to work in the business of their parents or even at all, preferring instead to pursue their hobbies and other diversions in a “hedonistic” fashion, a new study says.

            Elena Rozhdestvenskaya, a professor of social science at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, draws that conclusion on the basis for the first-ever study of the attitudes and plans of the future heirs of major Russian businesses, a follow on to research about business owners there (

                In most countries, family businesses account for approximately two-thirds of all firms and thus the transfer of control from one generation to the next is critical, and it is also true, Rozhdestvenskaya says, that children of owners show less interest in carrying on the business than their parents often expect.

            The problem of generational succession in business is relatively new in Russia. Those who began to build businesses at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s are now only approaching retirement age. Most of them have more than one child, and few have thought what they want to do beyond a strong preference to leave businesses to sons rather than daughters.

            To determine what the children of such business people think, Rozhdestvenskaya interviewed 16 adult offspring of major business people who ranked in the top 100 wealthiest according to Forbes.

            Her research, she suggests, is extremely timely because the issue of intergenerational transfer is now at the center of many businesses but so far no corresponding infrastructure and set of values about how to groom successors is in place. Many of the offspring have received business training but display less interest in that than in other things.

            According to Rozhdestvenskaya, “the hedonistic inclination of children of businessmen is manifested in their projected life trajectories” which they offered to her in the course of the interviews. Most said they would work in business at most 15 years and then would pursue other interests.

            By their thirties, the children of Russian business people said, they assumed they would have achieved financial independence and by their forties be capable of going off and forming their own companies.  But by 45 or 50, they planned to leave business altogether and pursue their hobbies or other interests in order to “’find themselves.’”

            Few major Russian businessmen consider involving their daughters in their businesses, something they believe they compensate for by giving them free choice in education and career, something they are less willing to do with sons whom they expect to succeed them even when this is an open question.

            Most entrepreneurs told Rozhdestvenskaya that their families were handling the issue of generational succession well, although they also suggested that the situation was not being handled at all well in other families, an assessment that may be more objective and point to real trouble ahead.

Popov Demolishes Last Krymnash Myth -- that Crimean Anschluss Hasn’t Cost Russia Anything

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 30 – This week, Moscow historian Arkady Popov completes his demolition of what he calls the eight myths of the Krymnash movement with an essay in “Yezhednevny zhurnal” about the claims of the backers of that trend that the occupation of Crimea would be something cost-free (

                There is “something childish” in the assumption that the annexation of Crimea would be cost-free, he writes, because adults know that “one must pay” for what one does; and the costs of the Crimean adventure, he suggests, are becoming ever more obvious in three areas: economic harm,  combat losses, and, what is especially serious, “the barbarization” of Russia.

            The economic costs direct and indirect of the annexation of Crimea are both easiest and most difficult to specify, Popov points out. On the one hand, there are statistics about specific costs and burdens. But on the other, these statistics are by their nature unreliable, in most cases understated, and occasionally difficult to disaggregate Crimean from other costs.

            The Russian government has said that over the next five to six years, Moscow will give Crimea a trillion rubles (160 billion US dollars). That means Crimea will be costing the Russian government more than the entire Far East and all the North Caucasus republics. Only Ingushetia and Chechnya will have a greater percentage of their budgets paid for by the center.

            There is no basis for optimism that Crimea will be able to escape from this situation anytime soon, given the collapse of tourism and the economy more generally on the peninsula, Popov says.  Tourism is down by a third and visitors coming by rail by 66 times, something air and sea routes cannot hope to make up.

            Industrial production on the peninsula is down ten percent over the last year, and construction has fallen by 55 percent. Moreover, the economy has been further disordered by a rash of illegal privatizations, something that the authorities have supported as a means of excluding unwanted outside influences, something it has succeeded in doing.

            But the real costs of the Anschluss are broader because of how that action has affected the Russian economy as a whole. Production, incomes and GDP are all down, inflation is up, and Russia’s credit rating has fallen to “junk” status. More and more Russians recognize this and wouldn’t have voted to annex Crimea if they had had the chance and don’t now want to spend so much money on this Kremlin project.

            The second part of the costs of the Crimean annexation are human losses, Popov says. While Moscow continues to say that the annexation cost Russia no loss of life, the fact is that Crimea is directly connected to the fighting in the Donbas which has claimed thousands of lives and forced more than a million people to leave their homes.

            And the third part of the costs of Crimea, in many ways the most disturbing, is the way in which that action has led to “the barbarization of [Russian] society.”  It can’t be measured in dollars and cents or other statistics, but it is much in evidence, extremely serious and widely felt, the Moscow historian says.”

            Since Crimea, Russian society has acquired “the atmosphere of a besieged fortress,” Popov says, “and with that have returned almost the entire range of the worst aspects of Soviet consciousness: the cult of force and contempt for law, suspiciousness to those who think differently and hatred of liberalism.”

            Things haven’t reached the point of “a real war with ‘Gayeurope,” he continues, but “the murder of Nemtsov shows that the war which has inflamed Ukraine has come to Russia,” because what the Kremlin wanted to achieve in Crimea and the Donbas was first and foremost an indication of what it planned for Russia itself.

            The Russian rulers have faced one obstacle on the path of restoring “a neo-Soviet military-totalitarian project,” the lack of an ideology which could “seize the masses” and explain “what we are fighting for.”  In Soviet times, people knew they were fighting for communism; but now Russians have learned only relatively recently that “we are building ‘the Russian world.’”

            “Judging from the signals coming down from on high,” Popov says, “this will be a marvelous new world where there won’t be any sodomites and transvestites or foreing agents and liberals, where all will study only on the basis of correct textbooks and no one will ask incorrect questions, where there won’t be horizontal social ties but only vertical command ones.”

                Of course, this is barbarism, Popov says, and however many claims are made that it corresponds to traditional Russian values, one should remember that these values, those of “barracks patriotism, slavery, and obscurantism,” were denounced by Russian writers already in the 19th century.

            But in the current environment, the promotion of such values has been aided by the elimination of the capacity for shame among Russia’s rulers and many of its people. “Khrushchev and Brezhnev sent tanks into Budapest and Prague … but why openly unite Hungary and Czechoslovakia to the USSR?”

            They knew how the world would react, and they even turned down the Bulgarians twice when they asked to be absorbed into the USSR.  They did so because they wanted to maintain appearances, but now, with the collapse of shame and the emergence of shamelessness, that constraint has disappeared.

            “Of course,” Popov says, “the destruction of the culture of shame in Russia began not with Crimea but much earlier,” but “mass shamelessness is the logical price for ‘Crimea is Ours.’ After Crimea ‘everything became possible,’ for all around are enemies and war and in war what shame can there be except avoiding battle?”

            In this situation, Russians have seen their identity reduced to that of a tribe and the meaning of their lives to those in a state of war in which primitive energies are released and those who do not want to follow are driven out – much of the educated population – or oppressed.

            But that also has entailed a serious additional cost, Popov points out.  He cites Nikolay Travkin’s observation that what Moscow did in Crimea “destroyed [Russia’s] reputation as a seirous international partner” and meant that no one would any longer trust anything its leaders said or signed.

            And that is not just about Putin, Popov says. “Putin came and Putin will leave.” This is a situation in which “all Russia and its people who supported the Crimean ‘thievery’ for a long time forward will be conceived by the civilized world (and not only the Western but the Eastern as well) as a country with which it is senseless to reach agreements with.”

            Russia’s isolation after Crimea was highlighted by the vote at the UN on recognizing the Crimean “referendum.” Only ten countries voted with Russia – none of the other BRICS states, only two CIS members, and its remaining “friends:” Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Syria, Sudan, Zimbabwe and North Korea.

            The one remaining price Russia may yet have to pay concerns the possibility that Crimea will trigger a shift from its current authoritarian system to full-blown totalitarianism or anarchy.  The chances for the former seem quite large, but there are three steps Moscow has not yet made and may not be able to make to get there.

            First of all, it has to come up with a kind of Russian nationalism that won’t lead to the explosion of the country which includes many non-Russians.  Second, it needs a new “’Iron Curtain,’” something that will preclude Russian development. And third, it needs a strong and effective state.

            Curiously, this last requirement is one that Russia is not now meeting, as the murder of Nemtsov shows, Popov argues. And consequently, what Crimea is leading Russia to is less likely to be totalitarianism than toward a new time of troubles, not “a new Stalin and a new Ivan the Terrible” but something perhaps even worse.

            Of course, Popov concludes, the coming time of troubles will not be like that of the beginning of the 17th or of the 20th centuries, but rather something new – “and this will be a worthy repayment for all our achievements” in Crimea.