Staunton, November 27 -- The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and often strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.
Consequently, Windows on Eurasia will present a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the eleventh such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, this week once again, one could have put out such a listing every day, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.
1. “More Enemies, More Honor.” Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini believed that the more enemies he had, the more honor he had as well. Vladimir Putin appears to have adopted this slogan as well (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=565446B8A12D1). That has many consequences, but one is intriguing: there are fewer and fewer countries Russians are encouraged to travel to – but few of those are ones they have any interest in (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5655E8DB5D086).
2. Zhirinovsky Wants Armenians to Invade Turkey. As if the world doesn’t have enough problems, flamboyant LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky says that Armenia should invade Turkey to punish Ankara for the downing of the Russian warplane and to recover Armenian lands (en.a1plus.am/1223480.html).
3. Moscow Wants a Single Cossack Organization. The Kremlin wants something that has never existed before: a single centralized Cossack organization or power vertical that would prevent the Cossacks from reviving their regionalist and independent-minded traditions and ensure that they would simply be available to do what Moscow wants (interfax.ru/russia/481510).
4. Russian Diplomats Use Same Speech at UN for Eight Years in a Row. In a remarkable display of consistency, Russian diplomats at the United Nations used the same speech for the eighth year in a row, yet another indication that some things never change (rbc.ru/politics/20/11/2015/564f31ac9a7947b624abc7fb).
5. Duma Moves to Legalize Buying Votes. Russian elections just took another step away from genuine democracy: the Duma has taken up a measure that will legalize the buying of votes, something that may give the cash-rich ruling party an even greater advantage but one that suggests some of its own administrative measures may no longer be working as well as it would like (newizv.ru/politics/2015-11-26/231193-podarok-vozle-urny.html).
6. Putin in Chocolate. A chocolatier in St. Petersburg has made a life-size statue of Vladimir Putin in chocolate. No word on how long that statue will last or what will happen to the chocolate (qha.com.ua/ru/obschestvo/sladkii-putin-vo-ves-rost/151587/).
7. Reindeer Herders Get Their Own Website. Russia’s reindeer herders, who practice one of the oldest forms of economic activity, now are using one of the most modern techniques: They have their own website to communicate with each other and share ideas (urh-nao.ru/).
8. “Krymnash” a Source of Pride in Russia Becomes Slang for “Stealing” in German. Slightly over half of all Russians say that the slogan, “Crimea is ours,” is still a source of pride; but in Germany, the term “kriymnash” has passed into slang as a word for “theft’ (slon.ru/posts/60130 and echo.msk.ru/news/1663188-echo.html).
9. Regnum’s Kolerov Keeps Reporting Gorbachev’s Death. Tabloid journalists often try to attract attention by reporting things that haven’t happened – or at least haven’t happened yet. But few can match the record of Modest Kolerov of Regnum who keeps reporting the passing of the first Soviet president despite clear evidence that he is still very much alive (novayagazeta.ru/politics/70842.html).
10. Putin Opera Opens in Vienna. An opera in which Vladimir Putin is the main character has debuted in the Austrian capital, but the Kremlin leader may be less than pleased because the former oligarch Khodorkovsky is a major figure in it too (style.rbc.ru/news/art/2015/11/20/22270/).
11. FSB Now Tracking Every Mullah in Russia. For every mullah and imam in Russia, there is now “a supervisor” from the Russian special services, a remarkable commitment of state resources given that there are probably more than 20,000 such people in the country at the present time (nusra.info/6089/byvshij-muftij-tsdum-za-kazhdym-imamom-stoit-kurator-iz-spetssluzhb/).
12. Facts are Whatever Corresponds to State Needs, Medynsky Says. Russia’s culture minister says that facts must correspond to state interests rather than the other way around (gazeta.ru/science/news/2015/11/19/n_7907945.shtml). Thus, it is not surprising that one of every five rector dissertations is a fake and that anyone who releases real information so that others can track what is going on will be pilloried by the authorities (grani.ru/Society/Science/m.246089.html regnum.ru/news/polit/2017644.html).
13. “Morning of Afternoon?” A new Russian government program seems certain to revive one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite jokes about the USSR. Russians can now go online to find out when their apartment buildings are slated for renovation. Some are not scheduled for two or three decades (apn.ru/publications/article34352.htm). And consequently, some of them may begin asking the kind of question Reagan referred to during Mikhail Gorbachev’s first visit to the US. A young Soviet man went to an automobile dealership to buy a car, Reagan said, paid his money and asked when it would be ready. The salesman looked at his book and said it would be September 15, 2015. The purchaser then asked “morning or afternoon?” The salesman was aghast. How could it matter given that the date was so far in the future. Well, said the young man, the plumber has promised to come that morning.