Saturday, August 29, 2015

Skyrocketing Unemployment among Young Russians Sparking Anger about Injustice

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 29 – The three most important news items last week, two journalists say, is that unemployment among Russians aged 15 to 24 has risen 500 percent this year, that one in every three of them is ready to leave the country, and that ever more of them are animated by a sense of injustice about the way things are being done in Russia today.

                Yelena Zhurvaleva and Kristina Busarova say that the explosive and unprecedentedly rapid growth of unemployment among young Russians is hitting those who come from poor families, those with many children or one parent missing as well as those who have recently graduated from school or left orphanages (

            One young unemployed Russian told them that he had not been able to fine work for more than six months and that he fears even though he is “a qualified specialist” he won’t be able to get anything better than a low-paying job unless he can come up with the money for a bribe to get one for which he is qualified.

            This young man added that dissatisfaction and anger are growing among young people like himself. According to him, the freeing of Yevgenya Vasiliyeva was the straw that broke the camel’s back: “Those who steal billions return to their state jobs,” but those who are law-abiding can’t even get a position after sending out “dozens of resumes.”

            Gennady Gudkov, a former Duma deputy, said that it is clear that “the people has been impoverished, something especially obvious in regions where there is now a high level of unemployment, low incomes and a difficult situation in families with children. The purchasing power of citizens has fallen,” and stores are closing.

            He told the journalists that young people driven to desperation are given to “revolutionary” ideas and that “under certain conditions,” they will “take part in protest actions and seek to use radical means to express their dissatisfaction.”

            Therefore, Gudkov said, “actions could occur in Novosibirsk, Tomsk, St. Petersburg, and locally in Moscow. Yekaterinburg is also a city known for its large number of students.” And according to him, they are angry about the Vasilyeva case, something he called the latest “public expression of [the authorities’] contempt for the people.”

            Denis Volkov, a sociologist at the Levada Center, suggested that the regime might be able to avoid such protests for the time being because there is still a widespread sense that Russia is again “’a great power.’” But “if the current negative trend continues, the situation may be radicalized by 2018,” when he said he expected Russian dissatisfaction to reach its “peak.”

            But he agreed that the freeing of Vasilyeva has added to popular anger about the destruction of food and convinced more people that the existing system is rigged against them and unjust.
            A third expert with whom the journalists spoke, Yaroslave Ignatovsky of the Polit Generation Analytic Center, said that one must keep in mind that there are two groups of young people now: those who are able to get good jobs and are pursuing advancement, and those who can’t and increasingly sense they have no future.

            Ignatovsky says that those who are on the losing end will chose “internal emigration” in the short term, moving from one place to another in the hopes of finding work. But “if this continues for decades, a whole class of people will grow up who will not view the state as a form [within which they must live] and a generation of people who in general will spit on everything.”


Moscow Needs to Be Worried about Assimilation of Ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Nevzorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 29 – An increasing number of ethnic Russians in Ukraine not only are identifying themselves as part of a civic nation in Ukraine but also are taking the next step and assimilating to the Ukrainian ethnic nation, a trend that Vyacheslav Nevzorov says Moscow should be worried about and that should be the focus of study by Russian scholars.

            Nevzorov, who writes for the portal, earlier sounded the alarm that ethnic Russians in Ukraine are quite attracted to the Ukrainian civic nation ( Now, he is expressing concern about complete assimilation (

            The Moscow commentator says that “the Russian super-ethnos,” which according to him included Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians, is splitting up and that many “Russian-language people with classical Russian family names have fallen in love with ‘Ukraine’ as a project” and have added to the number of “Russian-language Ukrainians.”

            According to Nevzorov, he has “lost many close relatives who were themselves born in Russia and came to Ukraine in the 1980s,” as well as many “fellow students … whose parents were sent from the RSFSR to the UkSSR.” And he says he wants to know why they are shifting their identities from Russian to Ukrainian.

            Specifically, he says, he wants to know why lies behind the phenomenon in which his “relative at the door of [his] home told me: ‘Go back to your Russia!’” to the same city from which his relative had come originally.

            “Today,” he continues, “it is fashionable to say that we have lost Russians in Ukraine only because” of Ukrainian propaganda and censorship that he says emerged after the Maidan. But in fact, the roots of what he calls the problem of the re-identification and assimilation of ethnic Russians in Ukraine have deeper roots.

            Among the most important, Nevzorov says, were the de-industrialization of Ukraine and the collapse of Russian media between 1995 and 2003 “before the mass appearance of the Internet and cable television where Russians of Ukraine could form their own playlists” and maintain contact with their native culture.

            Another cause is to be found in the Ukrainian educational system. Even where there are Russian-language schools, he says, these “do not give information about the history of Russia and Russian literature” but rather declare “in Russian” that “Bandera is a hero.”  That helps create “Russian-language Russophobes.”

                At present, he continues, this phenomenon has become large enough that Russian institutions must investigate it and provide answers to nine questions:

·         “Why in a country where there hasn’t appeared a single children’s film and only a couple of adult ones over the last 24 years are Russian-language young people drawn not to Russian but have been enthusiastic about the ethno-culture of Galichina?

·         “How has the rejection of the Soviet project influenced the assimilation of ethnic Russians in a fraternal Slavic culture on a fragment of Soviet Russia?”

·         How has consumerism led to the formation of a Ukrainian political nation and “why have glamourous Russian-language girls and guys begun to wear in night clubs [traditional Ukrainian clothes] rather than Versace and Gucci?”

·         “What is Galichina” not only generally but for Russians in Ukraine? Why have the village and the village worldview won over Russian-language cities like Kharkov, Odessa, Dneprpetrovsk and even Zaporozhe?”

·         “Is the absorption and assimilation of Russians in more radically different non-Slavic cultures possible?”

·         Why does Ukrainian education have such an influence on Russians?

·         What is the proper role of the Black Sea Fleet in maintaining Russian identity in Crimea?

·         How did Russia’s problems in the 1990s affect how Russians in Ukraine saw Russia and their own futures?
Can this process of assimilation be stopped and reversed or have things gone beyond the point of no return?

For all his emotionalism, Nevzorov raises three points which many in Russia and the West have been unwilling to address: First, it is not just Russian-speaking Ukrainians who have joined Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians to form a civic nation in Ukraine over the last two decades; it included Russian-speaking Russians who have done so as well.

Second, this pattern reverses what was typical in Soviet times and one that Russians and many others have assumed is the only one available – that Russians assimilate other peoples, not the other way around. But today, Russians are being assimilated not just politically but ethnically in many places and in the first instance Ukraine.

And third, that highlights something that even fewer people have been willing to consider up to now: Russian national identity, despite Moscow’s bombast and the assumption that assimilation only goes in the Russian direction is fact often far weaker than the national identities of other peoples on the post-Soviet space -- even when these nations continue to use Russian.

For many ethnic Russians, as Nevzorov’s words suggest, those three things constitute an existential threat; but for many non-Russians, and especially now for Ukrainians, they provide a basis for hope in the future, something all too many of their ancestors had despaired of ever having.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Time Against Him, Putin Prepares for Major War Sooner Rather than Later, Felshtynsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 28 – Given his economic problems at home and Western sanctions over Ukraine, many in the West have convinced themselves that Vladimir Putin will not launch a major war. But despite or even because of these challenges, Yury Felshtynsky says, Putin is preparing for just such a conflict, even though time is working for Ukraine and the West.

            And because time is working against him in that regard, the Russian analyst based in the United States says, the possibility that he will launch a major attack in Ukraine or against other targets in the near future is far greater than many think (

            Felshtynsky says that those who have been following Putin’s aggression since March 2014 can be divided into optimists and pessimists. Among “the optimists,” he says, is Andrey Piontkovsky who argues that Putin is stymied by his current difficulties and that those around him will soon remove him.

            Felshtynsky puts himself among “the pessimists” because he believes that “Putin and the people which he has put in power and who have entered his closest entourage have not understood and do not understand” the nature of the situation they face. Consequently, they are likely to act in erratic, even irrational ways from the point of view of others.

            “The junta ruling Russia today consists of primitive, uneducated officers of the Soviet and Russian special services who have studied all their lives the specific science of destructin. They have never learned to create and build.” They can sell raw materials like oil at world prices, but they are incapable” of managing the country in the direction of development.

            This group “seized power in order to restore the Soviet Union, the Russian Empire, the ‘Russian world,’ but not a civilized, cultural, economically developed and independent state,” the analyst says. Thus, Felshtynsky argues, “it is early to conclude that the danger of a third world war has been liquidated by falling oil prices and the low ruble exchange rate.”

            “If it were possible to buy peace,” the analyst continues, “there never would be any wars because any war is more expensive than peace.” A corollary of that “a low ruble or a high ruble is not a guarantee of European or world security.”  Wars happen not just because of what one side wants but also how the other side acts or is perceived to act.

            Thanks to the recent Bloomberg report, we now know that the West told Kyiv not to react militarily when Russia seized Crimea. “One after another in March-April [2014] leaders of Europe and the US in one voice as from a script told their populations that Crimea is “immemorial Russian land,’ and that Russia has every right to seize it.

            And then these same leaders turned things on their head and said that the fact that “Ukraine had surrendered Crimea without a battle” proved that it was not really Ukrainian because countries do not give up land that is really theirs.

            Piontkovsky is among those who have suggested that what took place was the result of a new “Munich,” in which the West “paid for peace with the division of Ukraine” just as it had in September 1938 with “with the division of Czechoslovakia.”  Nonetheless, the question remains: will the West go to war against the aggressor as Britain and France did in September 1939?

            “No one has yet declared war on Russia, but Russia, in contrast to Hitlerite Germany, has stalled at the initial stage of its aggression,” Felshtynsky says. Already for a year and a half, it has not been in a position to break through beyond the borders of its puppet DNR and LNR,” despite its enormous concentration of forces nearby.

            Moreover, the Russian analyst says, “Russia continues to exacerbate the military-political situation on the borders with all its neighbors,” not just the Baltic countries and the former Soviet republics but “also with traditionally neutral states like Finland and Sweden.” And it has sent its aircraft along the US borders as a provocation.

            And while this is going on, “throughout the Russian Federation are being carried out military training exercises, increases in military spending, changes in laws governing call ups of reserves, concentration of forces in Crimea and Kaliningrad, and so on and so forth,” Felshtynsky points out.

            “Absolutely everything points to Russia’s general preparation for a world war.”

            How has the West reacted so far? Has it done enough to convince Putin that he must not act? The answers to those questions are not clear.  “No one has yet imposed serious sanctions on Russia. The West is optimistic. It also considers that Russia is so weak economically and militarily that it cannot possibly think about a major war.”

            “Therefore,” he continues, “the leadership of Europe and the US, having replaced the slogan about Crimea as ‘immemorial Russian land’ for a demand for the return of Crimea to Ukraine and the withdrawal of Russian forces from occupied areas of eastern Ukraine is waiting while preparing to give a rebuff to the aggressor.”

            And “the leaders of the free world justly consider that time is working for them and for Ukraine,” a conclusion Felshtynsky shares. But precisely because it is, that could prompt Putin to act more quickly and more broadly than they expect.

            Putin certainly has concluded, the analyst suggests that if he is going to act, he must do so while Barack Obama is still in office as US president, that is, sometime before January 20, 2017.  That is not because “Obama is bad or good” but because “Obama came to office to end the wars begun by the previous administration and hardly in order to begin new ones.”

            “For that reason,” Felshtynsky argues, “Obama would be the last person in the US ready to begin a war with Russia over Ukraine or with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program. Putin, just like Ayatollah Khamenei understands that perfectly.”  And the Kremlin leader understands something else as well.

            Putin recognizes that “the new president of the US, regardless of who it is and which party, will take a harder line toward Russia and toward Iran.” That means, Felshtynsky suggests, that if Putin is going to move, he will want to do so before that happens and before time really works against him.