Sunday, January 21, 2018

Russian Fascists from the Past Appear to Have Inspired Xenophobic School Attacker in Buryatia



Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 21 – The Russian media have done everything they can to “normalize” the recent outbursts of violence in Russian Federation schools, linking them to the Internet, to the Columbine attack in the US, and to alienation among many young people, the media acknowledge, who now sense that they and their country have no future.

            All of those factors undoubtedly have played a role, but there is another one that not only deserves to be mentioned but highlighted: the extent to which at least some of those involved were animated by xenophobic attitudes toward non-Russians and have identified with otherwise forgotten Russian fascist leaders from the 1930s.

            Immediately after the attack, an acquaintance of the pupil in Buryatia told the media that the perpetrator “often joked about the Buryats, even in their presence and di not conceal his racism,” although before Friday, “he rarely engaged in physical aggression” toward them (lenta.ru/articles/2018/01/19/school_5/).

                The acquaintance also acknowledged that the student involved was affected by the AUE, a youth “subculture that romanticized the criminal world” that is widespread throughout “Eastern Siberia.”  The school where the attack occurred, he said, was “relatively good” in that respect. “There are worse.”

            Now, the Meduza news agency reports that just before the violence, the attacker changed his screen name to a more Russian-sounding name and that one of his friends changed his to Konstantin Rodzayevsky, the leader of the All-Russian Fascist Party in Harbin who was executed on his return to the USSR in 1946 (meduza.io/news/2018/01/19/buryatskiy-shkolnik-pered-napadeniem-smenil-nik-v-sotssetyah-ego-znakomyy-vzyal-sebe-imya-lidera-partii-russkih-fashistov).

                Rodzayevsky is hardly a household name in Russia, and it is likely that the pupil in question picked up what he knew about him from the article on him in the Russian edition of Wikipedia (ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Родзаевский,_Константин_Владимирович), although there are other works to which he might have turned.

                Among the most comprehensive is Petr Balakshin’s Final v Kitaye (“The End Time in China” in Russian, San Francisco, 1959) that was republished in Moscow in 2013. For English readers, the definitive text is John J. Stephan’s The Russian Fascists: Tragedy and Farce in Exile, 1925-1945 (New York, 1978).

                Other fellow students of the pupil who attacked his classmates with an axe have confirmed that the individual involved as “inclined to Nazism (kp.ru/daily/26783/3817272/) and that he was always speaking ill of ethnic and other minorities he said he despised (rbc.ru/society/19/01/2018/5a61c5db9a794782c99b3c43).

            On the one hand, picking as a screen name that of a Nazi sympathizer may be nothing more than the effort of an alienated individual to identify with a group that he believes is the most despised by the society around him.  But on the other, and even if that is the case, this situation is worrisome because it suggests such information is now widespread in Russia.

            Combatting it may not be easy; failing to combat it will likely lead others who share the views of the attacker to repeat his crime, further exacerbating inter-ethnic tensions between ethnic Russians and non-Russians inside the country and thus creating an ever more fertile ground for the growth of such viciousness.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Donbass Occupiers Must Adopt Their Own ‘Law on Struggling with Ukrainian Occupation,' Purgin Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 20 – In response to the Verkhovna Rada’s adoption of a law on reintegrating the Donbass which identifies Russia as an aggressor and occupier, the self-proclaimed parliaments of the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics are being urged to adopt their own law “On the Struggle with the Ukrainian Occupation.”

            Many in Moscow have denounced the Ukrainian law as an indication that Kyiv is planning to go to war against Moscow, even though an analysis of that law shows that it does not support such an accusation (dsnews.ua/politics/chto-izmenitsya-dlya-donbassa-i-kryma-10-glavnyh-momentov-zakona-19012018220000).

            But action of the occupation officials being proposed shows that if Ukraine is not preparing for a new round of violence, those in the Donbass who are controlled by and act only with the approval of Moscow appear to be, thus increasing the danger that the Russian side will seek to exploit the Ukrainian law as a cover for new aggression.

            In an interview with the Novorossiya news agency, Andrey Purgin, former speaker of het Peoples Assembly of the Donetsk Peoples Republic and head of the South Russian Public Initiative, describes what the DNR-LNR measure as drafted contains and thus why it could trigger more violence (novorosinform.org/703106).

            According to Purgin, “the referenda which took place in 2014 supported the independence of the peoples’ republics in the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Correspondingly, any violation of these borders and the occupation of the territory of the republics is an occupation.”

            “Without an official declaration of war, all soldiers of the Ukrainian army and Nazi battalions are not military personnel according to international law but simply bandits illegally on the territory of the peoples’ republics.”  The new DNR-LNR measure, he continues, makes the following points, all of which flow from this.

            First of all, he says, the draft law specifies that “all people in the uniform of the Ukrainian military, Nazi battalions and others are bandits and this means that they all must be removed or caught and condemned in correspondence with the criminal code.”

            Second, Purgin continues, it says that all Ukrainian officials and citizens “who agitate for [Kyiv’s] position are accomplices” of the military. “All of them must be arrested and convicted.”

            Third, the measure maintains that both of these categories of people if they are arrested and tried by the DNR and LNR are to be stripped of their voting rights so that they cannot have an impact on the policies of the peoples’ republics.

            Fourth, those so charged can escape criminal responsibility, the draft says, if they agree to “shift to the side of the DNR and LNR.”

            Fifth, regarding those portions of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts under “temporary Ukrainian occupation,” the DNR-LNR legislation says that the local administrations bear total responsibility for taking care of the population and must assist in “liberating” these areas from Kyiv’s control.

            And sixth, the measure specifies that the DNR and LNR now are not engaged in aggression against Ukraine but only in “freeing the republics from Ukrainian bands” and implementing the 2014 referenda.   

            Purgin concludes by saying that the DNR and LNR must adopt this measure as soon as possible.

‘Mass Poverty Threatens Russia’s Very Existence,’ Gontmakher Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 20 – Poverty is so widespread in Russia today, Yevgeny Gontmakher says, that it represents a threat to Russia’s existence not only because people concerned only about survival can’t think about development but also because there exists a vicious circle between poverty and growth as a whole.

            In an article for Moskovsky komsomolets yesterday, the sociologist and commentator, says that the share of the population that is poor is not the 13 percent the government likes to use or the 25 percent who can’t meet their basic needs but rather the 41 percent who say they don’t have enough money for clothes or even food (mk.ru/economics/2018/01/19/massovaya-bednost-v-rossii-ugrozhaet-sushhestvovaniyu-strany.html).

            “Sociologists have noted for a long time,” Gontmakher says, that the values of survival rather than development now dominate Russian families,” not just those who are genuinely poor but a majority of the population, including those who would not be counted by any normal statistical measure as poor.

            “What does this mean in fact?” the commentator asks rhetorically.  “Such a family can’t purchase nice housing, pay for additional education and quality medical services which are ever more often becoming ‘for pay,’ and to take a genuine vacation.”  Poverty is especially high in areas outside of the capital, and that too has serious consequences.

            Because people in the regions earn on average half as much as those in Moscow, there is enormous pressure on them to leave for the cities in the hopes of improving their standard of living. And that in turn has the effect of overwhelming the infrastructure of the capital and leaving many of the new arrivals in poverty and despair and their former homes without people.

            “The social lifts about which now so many are talking have simply stopped as a result both for many young Russians and for many not so young ones as well,” Gontmakher says.

            He says that he is describing the situation in catastrophic terms because it is a catastrophe, and everyone, officials and experts alike, need to stop talking about the economy only in terms of GDP changes each quarter.  The real problems are much deeper than that – and will overwhelm the economy and the country as a whole.

            If the government and the expert community recognize this, Gontmakher continues, they will then be in a position to propose policies to address the problem rather than as now sweeping it under the rug or thinking it can be solved by subsidies from the state of one kind or another. That is not where the problem is.

            Instead, it is “in the passivity of the Russian who is accustomed to paternalism from the state” and whose poverty only reinforces that view, something Putin has exploited but that is now blocking the development of the country and any chance that it can break out of its current crisis.

            What Russia needs, Gontmakher argues, is to radically reduce the role of the state in the economy and society, “beginning with the development of real … local self-administration and ending with the departure of the state from many sectors of the economy, responsibility for which should be assumed by the private initiative of small and mid-sized entrepreneurs.”

            Because addressing poverty means addressing the entire system, the sociologist’s analysis suggests, there are few who are willing to take up the challenge, thus ensuring that the purchasing power of the population which could help Russia to get out of its crisis won’t be there and that pessimism and despair will grow perhaps to fatal dimensions.