Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukrainian Events ‘Belarusianizing’ Belarus, Kyiv Commentator Says


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, October 21 – As a result of events in Ukraine, a Kyiv commentator says, “a large number” of Belarusians has “suddenly come to understand that to be a Russian speaker living outside of Russia is becoming dangerous,” given that Moscow will send “little green men” to “defend” them even without their asking.

 

            On an NR2.com.ua blog today, Vadin Dovnar says that Ukraine has shown Belarusians that one’s own nation and national language can be sources of pride, sparking a volunteer movement in Belarus to train people there, many of whom speak Russian, their national tongue (nr2.com.ua/blogs/VADIM_DOVNAR/Kak-Ukraina-belorussiziruet-Belarus-82737.html).

 

            That has frightened some Belarusian officials who have moved to shut down such activities, but even if they succeed, they are unlikely to be able to bring Belarusians back to the Russia-centric worldview many of them had only a few weeks or months ago. Ukraine has changed that, Dovnar says.

 

             Belarusians are now taking increasing pride in their language, their history, and their culture. Some are tattooing themselves with Belarusian symbols, others are putting Belarusian flags on their cards, and there have been cases “when Belarusians have stopped cars” sporting Russian national symbols.

 

            Since last spring, even Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been changing his tune, Dovnar says, criticizing Russia and making other comments that can only please Belarusian patriots. But he is so much Moscow’s puppet that few really believe that he means what he says or that he will lead Belarus toward a better, freer and more Ukraine-like future.

 

            But his words matter too because they open the way for others to discuss things and to prepare for “the arrival of times” when Belarusians will be able to replace him as the Ukrainians replaced the pro-Russian Yanukovich with someone more committed to the “Belarusianization” of Belarus and the Belarusian nation.

 

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Moves to Create Alternative Crimean Tatar Organization


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, October 21 – The Russian occupation authorities have announced plans to create a new Crimean Tatar public movement by the end of this year, the latest step in their efforts to isolate, discredit and undermine the Crimean Tatar Mejlis which is committed to a Crimean Tatar future within Ukraine rather than in the Russian Federaiton.

 

            Remzi Ilyasov, the deputy chairman of the Russian-controlled State Council of Crimea, said that the new group, to be called “Kyyram,” will be a public organization because that is “the most flexible form of public organization in Russian law and will allow us to attract to its work a large number of active people both in Crimea and beyond its borders” (nazaccent.ru/content/13594-v-dekabre-v-krymu-sozdadut-novoe.html).

 

                The new movement will have sections in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Krasnodar kray, Moscow , Samara, Rostov-na-Donu, and St. Petersburg, an indication that Moscow plans to water down the Crimean Tatar movement in Crimea itself but a potentially dangerous move if influence flows not as Moscow hopes from the outside in but rather from the inside out.

 

                The Russian news agency Novosti added that the Crimean authorities were taking this step because the Mejlis was ineffective as a result of being “tied up without results in discussions,” a euphemistic way of saying that it opposes the occupation. The new group will have a founding congress in December (ria.ru/crimea_today/20141020/1029179354.html).

 

            Representatives of the Mejlis, including Nariman Dzhelyalov and Akhtem Chiygoz, told “Kommersant” today that their organization does not intend to cooperate with the new group, although they indicated that they could not exclude the possibility that some members of the Mejlis might join (kommersant.ru/doc/2593977).

 

            Creating such alternative organizations is a longstanding Russian tactic, one that is increasingly successful given that many Western media outlets will insist on giving it at least equal coverage in the name of “balance,” something often confused with objectivity, and even give it more coverage because official media in Crimea will give the new group more.

 

Window on Eurasia: Does Moscow have a Plan to Return Yanukovich to Power in Kyiv?


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, October 21 – A Russian Internet portal has published today what it says is a confidential plan by what is says are “structures close” to Viktor Yanukovich to restore him to power, a document that it says it cannot confirm as genuine, but one that is certainly intended as part of an effort to destabilize Ukraine in advance of elections there five days from now.

 

            APN-SPB.ru posts a scan of the document which includes a time line of specific actions Yanukovich and his pro-Moscow backers supposedly plan to take in the coming weeks to restore him to the presidency, steps that combine working within the electoral process and using the pro-Moscow military forces in the southeast (apn-spb.ru/opinions/article18813.htm).

 

            Entitled “Project ‘Return’” and marked as “confidential,” the document says that the Poroshenko-Yatsenyuk regime “has led [Ukraine] to the edge of economic catastrophe and the population to complete impoverishment.” It says that the key moment for those who want to restore Yanukovich is “this winter.”

 

            The document says that the supporters of Yanukovich must work in two directions: first, they must form “a powerful opposition” in the Verkhovna Rada, and second, they must work for “the organization of normal life” in “Novorossiya,” thus using the Russian rather than the Ukrainian label for the southeastern portion of Ukraine.

 

            And it contains a calendar specifying what actions are to be taken by which officials and politicians at what date in the coming months, from preparing public opinion to the eventual redrafting of the Ukrainian constitution and the return of Yanukovich as “the legitimate president of Ukraine.”
 
             Whether this document is genuine and whether it reflects just the hopes of some Yanukovich supporters remain unclear, but regardless of that, it is likely to further exacerbate tensions in Ukraine in this last week before the parliamentary elections, especially since there is mounting evidence that Moscow is working to disrupt or at least discredit them.
 
             Those activities, including some that are simply the dirty tricks characteristic of many elections and others that are a direct attack on the stability and integrity of Ukraine, have received much attention from Ukrainian news outlets, although in many cases it is difficult to be certain which ones are of domestic origin and which from Russia.
 
             For a useful and non-tendentious discussion of these various activities and threats, see unian.net/society/998258-spetsslujbyi-rossii-hoteli-v-den-vyiborov-v-kieve-vzorvat-samolet-obstrelyat-tsik-i-kabmin.html.
 

 

Window on Eurasia: Another Indication a New Russian Attack in Ukraine May Be Imminent


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, October 21 – Many in both Ukraine and the Russian Federation have suggested in recent days that a new and large-scale Russian military attack in Ukraine may be imminent, but perhaps the clearest evidence for that has been provided by an unexpected source: Ella Panfilova, the Russian human rights ombudsman.

 

            In an interview published yesterday in “Rossiiskaya gazeta,” she warns that Russians should be prepared for a “second wave” of refugees from various parts of Ukraine in the near future. She suggests that the reason for this is the approaching winter, but new violence would be even more likely to provoke such flight (rg.ru/2014/10/20/pamfilova-dz.html).

 

            Panfilova said that many Russians think that the refugee issue is disappearing given that many of the 800,000 who came to Russia in the summer have now returned to their homes in Ukraine. But far from all have, and she suggests they are about to be joined by more and not just from the Donbas where violence has been ongoing.

Window on Eurasia: How Kazakhs Become Kyrgyz as a Result of a Tsarist Journalist’s Mistake


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, October 21 – Many people know that in the years before the Bolshevik revolution, the people who are now called Kazakhs were called Kyrgyz, but few know that they were called that because of a mistake by a Russian journalist at the time of Peter the Great and the use of the name Kazakh was not a Soviet innovation but the restoration of historical truth.

 

            That may seem like a small thing, but at a time when some in Kazakhstan are talking about renaming the country Kazakh eli in order to distinguish it from the other “stans” of Central Asia and when relations between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are often anything but settled, such linguistic discussions are not unimportant. Indeed, they may provoke real conflicts.

 

            In the Almaaty newspaper “Express-K” at the end of last week, Kazakh journalist Erik Aubakirov tells the story. He notes that if any resident in Issyk Kul will tell you that “before the revolution, the Kazakhs were called Kyrgyz” and that “at the start of Soviet times, there was no Kazakhstan but there was a Kyrgyz SSR” (express-k.kz/show_article.php?art_id=100301).

 

            Both assertions are true, he says, but they are hardly the end of the story. Instead, they conceal as much as they reveal.

 

            Aubakirov said he spoke with Irina Yerofeyeva of Kazakhstan’s Institute of History and Ethnology about the history of this issue.  She noted that the people who are called Kazakhs today were called Kazakhs from the 15th to the early 18th centuries, and no one thought they should be called anything else.

 

            But then things started to go wrong. Nikolas Vitzen, a Dutch writer assigned by Peter the Great to collect information on the peoples of the Russian Empire published a book in which he was at pains to distinguish between the Kazakhs of the steppe and the Kazakhs of Siberia and elsewhere.
 
            Even that would not have been a problem except for one development. When the emir of Bukhara visited the Russian court in Peter’s time, the “Sankt Peterburskiye vedomosi” asked a journalist to prepare an article about the peoples of Central Asia. The journalist did, but he didn’t read even Vitzen’s book carefully.
 
            As a result, the journalist was confused by the distinctions Vitzen had made and decided to call the Kazakhs of the steppe Kyrgyz.  Because the editors didn’t know any better and because this was an official government publication, the name stuck even though scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries struggled against it.
 
            And things stayed that way right into Soviet times and this journalistic error might have stood forever had it not been for the efforts of Saken Seyfullin, a Bolshevik and senior official in the steppe.  He began writing articles in the early 1920s calling for the return of the correct name, and in 1925, he succeeded, and the republic became Kazakhstan and the people the Kazakhs.
 
            But as the Kazakh journalist points out, Seyfullin suffered for his actions.  He was subsequently denounced as a nationalist, purged from his senior posts, arrested in1938 and shot a year later.
 

 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Might Moscow Partition Crimea as a Way Out of Crisis?


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, October 20 – Almost all discussions about Crimea have talked about it as a single whole and thus considered its future either as being entirely in the Russian Federation or entirely in Ukraine, but in fact, there are two Crimeas, Yevgeny Ikhlov argues, and that could be the basis for a settlement of a kind.

 

            In an article on Vestnikcivitas.ru over the weekend, the Moscow commentator argues that “the simplest variant” of resolving the Crimean dispute “from the point of view of international law” is to “formally return Crimea to Ukraine but keep it under the control of the United Nations” until a referendum can be held (vestnikcivitas.ru/pbls/3556).

 

            But there is a problem with this: “In Crimea there are two subjects of national self-determination: the Russians and the Crimean Tatar people,” and there might even be a third if the ethnic Ukrainians living there become more active and seek a separate status for themselves rather than simply the reintegration of the peninsula in Ukraine.

 

            “The Russians,” Ikhlov points out, “as an ethnic group” form “the majority” of Crimea’s population “like the Albanians in Kosovo,” but they have Russia where “their right to national self-determination” has been realized while “the Crimean Tatar people has no other place on earth for the realization of its rights.”

 

            “Like Palestine, Crimea is a land of two peoples, and there ought to be two state formations, two autonomies or two cantons, if you like,” he continues. Keeping them in one state formation, regardless of its subordination, will simply mean, Ikhlov says, that the Russians will oppress the Crimean Tatars and deny them their rights.

 

            Consequently, he suggested that there ought to be two UN-supervised referenda, one for the larger portion of the peninsula where Russians predominate and a second in those parts of the territory where the Crimean Tatars do. That would reflect “a just and legal position: two peoples, two self-consciousnesses, and two acts of self-determination.”

 

            Such a division would lead to the tragic division of Crimea, “like what has happened in Crimea, in Ireland, in Kosovo, in Bosnia and in Karabakh. Two borders and two walls,” with all the paraphernalia those involved. And it almost certainly would be opposed at least initially by Moscow, Kyiv and the two peoples of Crimea.

 

            But unfortunately, Ikhlov concludes, that is “the price of the crude violation by Putin of the shaky ethnic and civil balance in Crimea and in Ukraine in March 2014.”

 

 

 

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Forced to Intensify Efforts to Find New Natural Resource Deposits


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, October 20 -- Vladimir Putin has approved plans to step up exploration for new natural resource deposits in Russia, a move that reflects his earlier failure to support such explorations, his effort to respond to declining domestic production, and his plans for long-term autarchy without any fundamental change in the Russian economy.

 

            On the “Novaya versiya” portal today, Temur Kozayev reports that Putin has given his approval to a call from Vice Prime Minister Aleksandr Khloponin to create a state corporation for such explorations on the base of the Rosgeologiya state company which currently exists (versia.ru/articles/2014/oct/20/naydetsya_vse).

 

            “The goal of the reforms,” the journalist says, “is to secure the independence of the country in geological exploration,” something that sanctions, the opening of the Arctic, and the contract with China make a first order necessity.  But it is unclear whether this step will work or whether it will simply become another paper reorganization.

 

            Academician Aleksey Kontorovich, head of the Institute of Oil and Gas Geology and Geophysics at the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says there is no time to waste: Russian production of oil will begin to decline in five to ten years, and gas production may decline as well in the future unless new fields are discovered.

 

            Failure to conduct such explorations over the last 20 years, Ivan Nesterov, the director of the West Siberian Oil Geology Institute, says, have cost the country an enormous sum of money, largely because the government has not been willing to commit the funds needed to explore for new sources as it exhausts old one and to do the kind of basic mapping work required.

 

            In Western countries, all the territory has been mapped, but only 40 percent of Russia as a whole and much less in particular regions has been, with the average share of the territory now on accurate 1:50,000 maps being about 20 percent. And in some major areas, geologists haven’t even been allowed to go at all, such as the Taymyr peninsula.

 

            Foreign exploration companies had been involved, but they are now leaving. As a result, Kozayev says, Russia must develop its own capacity in this area as a matter of national security. That will require an enormous investment, something Moscow could make if the money did not drain off in corruption.

 

            The Khloponin proposal that Putin has now approved would put the state at the center of this “import substitution” effort, but the leaders of many major Russian oil and gas concerns do not think that is the way to go. Instead, they argue that the government should help them do the job.  Consequently, Putin’s approval of the idea is unlikely to be the end of the story.

 

            But given the withdrawal of Western firms and the commitments Moscow has made to China, the Russian government may feel it has no other choice than to try to boost an exploration organization that in the years since the end of the USSR, it has given remarkably little support. And if it does not, then Russian production of oil, gas and other natural resources will fall further and faster in the future than many are now projecting.