Monday, October 16, 2017

Putin has Increasingly Appointed Outsiders as Governors, Setting Stage for More Regional Amalgamation



Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 16 – Over the past five years, Vladimir Putin has increasingly named outsiders from the federal center and other regions as governors, according to a new RBC analysis. Under Dmitry Medvedev between 2008 and 2012, the share of such people was 48 percent; in the years since, under Putin, it has risen to 64 percent.

            To reach that conclusion, Vladimir Dergachev and Alena Makhukova, two RBC analysts, analyzed the 183 governors who have come to office since 2000. Under Medvedev, more governors emerged from among local cadres (40 percent), but under Putin, federal officials made up half (rbc.ru/politics/16/10/2017/59e36d7e9a7947e546a5ba9c?from=main).

                They also found that while in 2000, there was not a single outsider from another region named governor, over the last five years, the share of such people has risen to 13 percent. 

            According to Petr Bystrov of the Russian Association of Political Consultants, the increase in the number of outsiders reflects the declining importance of federalism and the prospect of the amalgamation of regions, a trend that others including Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko has ponted to as well.

            Nikolay Mironov, the director of the Center for Economic and Political Reforms, adds that the Kremlin has selected outsiders in order to improve its control over the region, to exclude the degeneration of governors into local princelings.

            Other RBC findings include a decline in the share of people from business from 15 percent to eight percent, a roller coaster figure for governors from the force structures (15 percent in Putin’s first term, zero in his second, and three in his third), and a slight uptick of less than a year of the average age of appointees from last year to this.

Putin Announces Another ‘Mega’ Project But Experts Say Russian Building Industry ‘More Dead than Alive’



Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 16 – Like his Soviet predecessors, Vladimir Putin loves to promote giant projects that attract a great deal of attention. His latest is to build a bridge between the Russian mainland and Sakhalin Island, a project that will attract enormous international attention and allow him to give out more state funds to his corrupt supporters.

            But both despite and because of such projects – and this one comes even though the bridge to Crimea is not yet finished (bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-15/putin-treads-where-stalin-failed-with-mega-project-in-the-works) – independent Russian experts say their country’s construction industry is “more dead than alive” (svpressa.ru/realty/article/183562/).

            The construction ministry continues to put out upbeat claims, but statistics show that the overall changes in the economy have not had the consequences for the construction industry that many predicted and that in fact, except for figures boosted by increases in cost for elite housing, there have been significant declines in amount of new housing and even prices for other kinds.

Peoples of Idel-Ural Come Together to Fight Putin’s Language and Nationality Policies



Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 16 – On Saturday evening after the commemoration of the anniversary of the Russian sacking of Kazan in 1552, a second meeting was held among representatives of the peoples of the Middle Volga or Idel-Ural to create a coordinating committee to fight Vladimir Putin’s language and nationalities policies.

            This meeting may prove even more significant that the first at which Tatar activists called for reversing Putin’s language policy and voting against him in the upcoming elections because it unites the nations of the enormous Idel-Ural region which sits astride all Russian communication and transportation links between European Russia and Siberia.

            As such, preventing these peoples, who include both Turkic and Finno-Ugric nations, has been a central goal of Moscow policy makers since at least 1920 when Stalin engaged in his first great act of ethnic engineering by dividing the Tatars and Bashkirs into two republics and later the dividing up of the Finno-Ugric population into separate administrative units as well.

            Now, thanks to Putin’s promotion of Russian and denigration of non-Russian languages and widespread fears that he plans to do away with the non-Russian republics entirely after the March 2018 elections, the peoples of Idel-Ural whom leaders from Stalin through Putin wanted to keep apart are coming together to oppose Moscow.

            Representatives from Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Mari El and Chuvashia say the meeting founded a new Coordination Council of Peoples of the Volga and Urals Region and declared its primary goal to be restoration of the rights of the non-Russian educational systems (idelreal.org/a/28796089.html, mariuver.com/2017/10/16/tat-chuv-mari/  and kommersant.ru/doc/3440338).

            Marat Lotfulllin, an expert at Kazan’s Institute for the Development of Education in Tatarstan, told the group that the republics can only flourish if their national languages do and the latter can thrive only if they have support from the government in schools. Tatarstan grew when its schools shifted to Tatar, and that should be a lesson to all non-Russians.

            Ilya Ivanov, a Chuvash activist, said that unfortunately the non-Russians had not yet come up with a mechanism to oppose effectively “the pressure of the federal center,” to which Fausiya Bayramova, the founder of Tatarstan’s Ittifaq National Independence Party, pointed out the obvious: In an authoritarian system, “it is impossible” to do that.

            “Not only we,” she continued, “even the Russian democrats cannot influence this power.” Thus people must vote against Putin and his United Russia party.  “Better Yabloko,” she suggested, “than these dictators.” Bayramova suggested the non-Russians still have a little time to resist.

            The situation today, she said, is “very dramatic, but it is still not tragic.” It will become tragic, she argued, only next year after the elections, when “the national republics will be annulled.”  Activists must explain to their peoples that “the disappearance of national languages in the schools will lead to the disappearance of national literature and national culture.”

            And that in turn, the Ittifaq leader continued, will mean “the disappearance of the nation.”

            Aleksandr Yakovlev of the Mary Ushem organization of Mari El and Ilnar Garifullin, a historian from Bashkortostan, seconded all her points. But perhaps the most interesting additional comment came not from a civic activist but from a Muslim religious leader, something that may make this meeting even more explosive in its consequences.

            Zufar Galiullin, the mufti of Kirov oblast, said that “the greatest misfortune of Russia” is that it “was created not as a state but remains the Muscovite principality which steals all of Russia.”  He called for a Congress of the Peoples of Russia” to address the situation. “If this will be in Kazan, that would be beautiful,” he said.

            That meeting, the new organization agreed, will take place in the Tatarstan capital on November 6.