Sunday, September 25, 2016

US, Ukraine Said Behind Efforts to Split Russia by Reviving Urals Republic

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – Given that the USSR fell apart along ethnic lines, most analysts have focused on the ethnic divisions of the Russian Federation as a possible source of division within that country.  But regional divisions within predominantly Russian areas may be an even graver threat to Russia, according to some Russian writers.

            Valery Korovin, the director of the Moscow Center for Geopolitical Expertise and a member of Russia’s Social Chamber, said on Zvezda television that the United States is trying to revive a Urals Republic in order to divide Russia in two and take control of the resource rich areas east of the Urals (

            “The Urals region divides Russia into a western part which for the time being would remain in Russia and an eastern part, an underpopulated area but rich in natural resources which it will be difficult to hold onto if in the center of the country were to exist some kind of ‘Urals Republic,’ which does not recognize the authority of Moscow,” the Eurasianist says.

            This portion of Russia is precisely the place “from which it would be possible to control both the western part of what would remain of Russia and the Far East, Central Asia and China. It is a strategic knot, by means of which it would be possible to control the entire Eurasian continent and control over it would give the US unlimited power.”

            In reporting Korovin’s statement made this weekend, the Eurasia portal noted that it had “frequently written about the openly anti-Russian activity of Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Royzman and his close friendship with Ukrainian Nazis” (, thus combining anti-Americanism, anti-Ukrainianism and anti-Semitism in one package.

            It is likely that the Moscow analyst made this declaration because he supports sending more people to Siberia and the Russian Far East in order to hold those regions against challenges from China and elsewhere. But his words are a reminder that Russians recognize that regions may matter even more in the future than do some of the Federation’s non-Russian republics.

‘Optimization’ is Putin’s Translation of Hitler’s ‘Gleichschaltung’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – In 2000, Alexander Rahr published a book describing Vladimir Putin as “a German in the Kremlin.”  His words appear more prophetic and more disturbing than the Russian-German analyst imagined as the Kremlin leader is increasingly adopting an approach that recalls another German leader, Adolf Hitler.

            Until now, most people assumed that Putin used the word “optimization” as a euphemism for his cutbacks in health care and other social services. But now it has become clear that he really is using it in the sense the Nazi leader did when he spoke about “Gleichschaltung,” the standardization and subordination to the state of all political, economic and social institutions.

            Historians have long used that term to describe the ways in which Hitler proceeded to destroy all independent activity in Germany; and they have extended it to other authoritarian states as well.  But now, at least after Putin’s words on Friday, it is entirely appropriate to extend it to the country he now heads.

            At a meeting with the leaders of the systemic parties on Friday, Putin said that the time had come to think about how to “optimize” Russia’s party system by eliminating minor parties so that Russians will have a real chance to choose among major ones and how to do that without violating “the principles of democracy”  (

            As so often when dictators want to move in such directions, calls for taking this or that step that they themselves want often are voiced by others. The leader then expresses surprise and says that clearly this is something that must be addressed.  That is exactly what happened on Friday.

            Sergey Mironov, the head of Just Russia, complained at the meeting that the minor parties had taken away votes from the major parties and, because these smaller parties did not reach the five percent barrier for participation in the Duma, left the Russians who voted for them without representation there.

            Putin responded, according to TASS, that “this is the first time he had heard that there might have become too many parties. He noted that ‘at one time he had been told’ that there were two few parties and that a sign of democracy is an unlimited number of parties having the right to take part in elections.”

            The Kremlin leader continued by saying that ‘when the powers that be decided to permit all to take part in elections, they wanted to assess ‘the political landscape.’” Now, Putin said, that landscape is clear; and so the decision to allow all parties to take part can be revisited and the number of parties “optimized.”

            That is entirely appropriate, the Russian leader said, but he reiterated that “such steps must not undermine the essence of democracy. Let us accurately think about and analyze the experience of other countries without hurrying and take a corresponding decision about public and transparent discussions.”

            That Putin may have been planning to reduce the number of parties after the Duma vote has long been rumored -- see – although his orchestration of the overwhelming victory of United Russia might have seemed to make that unnecessary.

            However, if one understands that “optimization” is not simply a euphemism for “cuts” but is in fact Putin’s translation into Russian of Hitler’s “Gleichschaltung” then the likelihood of a Russian party system entirely organized from and controlled by the Kremlin increases, as does the threat this poses to any hope for democracy and freedom in Russia today.

Soviet-Style Lines Reappearing in Moscow Stores

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – Most observers have focused on Vladimir Putin’s moves to restore the KGB, but they have not paid as much attention to the return under his rule of another feature of Soviet life that most Russians thought they had left behind: long lines at stores for even the most basic goods.

            And while standing in line is in no way as horrific as being harassed or arrested by the KGB, it is something that affects far more Russians on a daily basis and may prove an even greater source of popular discontent even if the Kremlin-controlled media seeks to blame sanctions by the West for this development.

            The long lines of Russians waiting to purchase the latest edition of i-phones have attracted some media attention (, but lines at food stores and other outlets have generally been ignored by the media – even though for many Russians, this return of the Soviet past may cast a more immediate shadow on their lives.

   commentator Aleksey Roshchin notes that the arrival of fall in Moscow this year has been accompanied by a most interesting development: “a lot everywhere in supermarkets have appeared … lines.” Lines of seven to ten people or even more at cash registers (

                Lines, of course, had “begun to appear even earlier,” he writes; “but in recent times, they have begun to assume an almost ordinary character” like in Soviet times. Consequently, when people say they are headed to the store, they are routinely warned that they must be “prepared to stand in line” in order to make their purchases.

            This return of a phenomenon that for many Russians defined Soviet life is now surprise, Roshchin says. After all, “’the party and government’ with the complete approval of the post-Soveit people has begun to ‘restore the USSR’ and so it is impossible to avoid seeing the return of lines.” That is truly something that binds the people together.

            Many factors are clearly involved in this revival of a Soviet phenomenon, he continues. Stores are trying to save money by cutting the number of employees. The shutting down of street trade has pushed people back into the stores. And because of the crisis, many stores are closing (

            How Russians will react is an open question, he suggests. Many will go along convinced they have no choice, but at least some will get angry. Whether this anger translates into political action, of course, is far from clear, given that the powers that be can be counted on to crack down on any such manifestations.

            One anecdote from Soviet times, however, suggests how at least some Russians will react and learn.  According to the story, a man goes out to buy toilet paper and meat. He stands in line for hours to discover when he reaches the front of the line that the stores are out of both or perhaps didn’t have either.

            He goes away cursing the Soviet system, and a militiaman accosts. The officer tells him that in Stalin’s time, he could have had him sent to Siberia; but in the time of perestroika, he will let him off with a warning. The man, chastened, returns home and says to his wife that things are even worse than they thought.

            Not only has the Soviet system run out of toilet paper and meat, but it appears that the authorities have run out of bullets!