Monday, April 24, 2017

Russia, Other Former Soviet Republics Persecuting Christians, New Notre Dame Report Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – Vladimir Putin has proudly claimed and all too many in the West accept at face value that he is a defender of Christianity and its traditional values.  In fact, as a new report released by the University of Notre Dame, the Kremlin is among the countries in the world where repression of many denominations of Christianity is an increasing fact of life.

            Of the post-Soviet states, the Under Caesar’s Sword project says, only Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan fall into the category of high levels of persecution of Christians. But Russia and all others in the region, except for the Baltic countries, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia and Georgia fall in the moderate persecution one (ucs.nd.edu/assets/233538/ucs_report_2017_web.pdf).

            “Under Vladimir Putin,” the report says, “relations between the Russian Orthodox church and the Russian state are the closest they have been since tsarists time. As a result, other Christians who form less than five percent of the population of Russia and consist of Protestants of various denominations and Catholics are subject to discrimination.”

            And that discrimination which sometimes rises to the level of persecution “is not as open as in China or Saudi Arabia, federal, regional and local officials in Russia nevertheless are sharply limiting religious freedom,” according to experts at Notre Dame.

            Commenting on the situation of religious groups subject to discrimination and persecution around the world, the Under Caesar’s Sword report draws seven key conclusions:

1. Christian communities most commonly adopt survival strategies. These strategies include going underground, flight, and accommodation to or support for repressive regimes.

“2. Strategies of association are the second most common response.

“3. Strategies of confrontation are the least common response.

“4. Christian responses to persecution are almost always nonviolent and, with very few
exceptions, do not involve acts of terrorism.

“5. Theology—in particular, a Christian community’s theology of suffering, church,
and culture—influences the response of that community.

“6. Protestant evangelical and Pentecostal Christians are more likely to be persecuted
than mainline Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, or other Christians
associated with ancient churches. In response to persecution, evangelical and Pentecostal
Christians are more likely to engage in strategies of survival or, on rare occasions,
confrontation. They are less likely, however, to engage in strategies of association.
Mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, are more likely
to respond through strategies of association.

“7. The intensity of persecution only partly explains Christians’ responses.”

More Russian Long-Haul Drivers Join Strike and Plan to Send 480 Trucks to Moscow



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – In the last 24 hours, more than 60 long-haul truckers joined the strike encampment in Manas in Daghestan, bringing the total number of trucks parked there to 350 (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/301557/), and truckers in Sverdlovsk Oblast said they will send a column of 480 trucks to Moscow to press their case (ura.ru/news/1052286518).

            The drivers said they chose that number in order to highlight how false was Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s claim last week that only 480 drivers were taking part in the job action in Russia as a whole (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/04/russian-truckers-say-600000-drivers-on.html).

            Meanwhile, some Moscow outlets are beginning to acknowledge that despite what Russian officials are saying, the strike is growing, spreading to ever more regions and having an ever greater impact on consumers because food and other products regularly delivered by trucks isn’t reaching the shelves (ng.ru/economics/2017-04-24/4_6980_platon.html).

            Indeed, Anastassiya Bashkatova, an economics reporter for Nezavisimaya gazeta, adds, the government appears set to make its own problems with the strikers worse by suggesting that it may impose the Plato fee system not only on the truckers as current arrangements have it but also on long-distance buses as well.

            If that happens, drivers at some bus companies could join the strike, and Russians who in many cases rely on bus travel as an inexpensive means of getting from one place to another will be hit as well, angering them and possibly putting more pressure on the Moscow regime to reconsider and back down.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tearing Down the Khrushchoby – From Renovation to Deportation to Revolution?



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 23 – The Kremlin’s backing for Moscow city’s decision to tear down the infamous five-storey “khrushchoby” apartment buildings and for extending that program to other Russian cities represents “renovation” in the eyes of the authorities, “deportation” in those of the residents, and could spark “a revolution,” Igor Yakovenko says.

            Even those who would like to live in better places are angry about the program because it violates their rights and because they can see that the Kremlin is taking this step to push poorer people out of the center of cities to the periphery so that wealthier ones and businesses can move into the spaces they vacate, he says (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=58FA25B24DA83).

            The Moscow commentator points out that the most consequential aspect of the Gaidar reforms was the privatization of people’s residences. “Millions of people became owners of real estate” and that made them feel independent people rather than serfs of the state. Now, the Moscow mayor and the Kremlin leader are seeking to drive them back to their earlier status.

            Moscow city officials have been moving in this direction for some time, doing away with kiosks and other businesses that in any way were at variance with the interests of the top one percent. And now with Putin’s approval, this attack has been broadened from small businesses to ordinary Russians. 

            Given Putin’s support for this attack, Yakovenko says, “it is useless to ask what will be the fate of commercial property in the buildings being torn down,” and “it is useless to ask where the means will come from to move pensioners, invalids and the poor,” especially because the costs of “renovation” far exceed Moscow’s budget.

            What that means in turn is that renovation won’t really happen but instead become another “black hole” for the disappearance of public money into the pockets of the Putin elite. The Russian people are once again being reduced to the status of serfs, and they are at risk not only of losing their residences but their self-respect.

            “For a long time already, no one has been posing questions to Sobyanin and Putin, or even more to the deputies in the State Duma,” the commentator says. But “there is a question for Muscovites” now and residents of other Russian cities in the near future that no one can avoid asking.

            “What else must Putin and his band do in order that a million people will go out into the streets of the capital” to protest the Kremlin’s attack on their rights? What they are doing now should be enough, and a million demonstrators in response is “enough for a start.”