Friday, March 23, 2018

Russia Isn’t Going to Militarize Because Moscow Lacks the Money to Do So, Pryanikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 23 – Many in Russia and the West have been impressed even overawed by Vladimir Putin’s promises to transform his country into a great military power by a massive program of rearmament, but commentator Pavel Pryanikov argues that there isn’t any militarization going on now and there won’t be because “THERE IS NO MONEY.”

            In a note for Rosbalt, he points to official acknowledgements that one prominent rocket program isn’t in the cards despite the Kremlin build up. The project, officials say, simply doesn’t work “from the point of view of economics,” a euphemistic phrase suggesting it costs more than they have to spend on it (

                Similar arguments are appearing in other military sectors as well – see, for example, regarding the lack of funds for an aircraft carrier – but Pryanikov is more blunt that most others: “There is no militarization,” he says. “Because THERE IS NO MONEY.” The Kremlin has money for videos; it doesn’t for real arms programs.

            Unlike the more powerful USSR whose elite “was not sitting in London using stolen money,” Moscow simply can’t quickly raise the funds it needs to launch a genuine program of rearmament without going after those near the Kremlin that are the basis of its power. That isn’t likely to happen.

            Consequently, the commentator says, “there is no militarization and there won’t be any. If by chance it should occur, you’ll know immediately: one part of the patriots and the democrats will be dispatched to sharashkas,” the facilities within the GULAG that Stalin used for his build up. “The other part will be sent out of Moscow to places they’ll be assigned to work in factories.

            This is not to say, of course, that there won’t be a sense of re-militarization. Many Russians noticed that new apartment blocks in the capital now again have bomb shelters in their basements (, and eight million Russians competed to name the new super weapons Putin talks about but may never have (

Centenary of Russian Civil War May Create More Problems for Moscow than Did That of 1917

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 23 – Many people assume the Kremlin dodged a bullet by getting through last year, the centenary of the two 1917 revolutions, without that historical event opening too many old wounds and deepening the divides about that event which still exist within Russian society. 

            But in doing so, they generally forgot that Moscow must now cope with the centenary of the Russian Civil War, an event that in many parts of the empire revealed even deeper splits than did the revolutions themselves and on that lasted one year but three or far more depending on which part of the country one is talking about.

            Articles and books about the Russian Civil War are beginning to appear, and yesterday the Fergana News Agency published a discussion of one aspect of that conflict: the Basmachi movement in Central Asia, the anti-Soviet and anti-Russian movement that challenged Russian control of that region throughout the 1920s and in some places into the 1930s and 1940s as well.

            In an article entitled “One – Basmach, Two – Basmach. In Kyrgyzstan, the Local Heroes of the Civil War are Again Being Recalled,” Abdumomun Mamaraimov says that scholars in that republic are beginning to prepare papers and host conferences on a group that in the past Moscow invariably denounced as reactionary (

            According to Mamaraimov, “the Basmachi in Kyrgyzstan have sparked a public discussion in which many are challenging the still dominant Soviet view of the Basmachi.  Far from everyone has a negative attitude about the Basmachi. “Some see in the participants of the Basmachi movement patriots and defenders who gave their lives for their native land.”

            Some Basmachi fought for religious reasons – many initially called themselves muhajidin – and some for ethnic reasons – they fought for those of the region against the Russians. They came from all classes of the local population, and they fought well, enjoying for many years enormous local support. Had it been otherwise, they would have been easily defeated.

            The Basmachi came into existence in response to Soviet excesses, including the brutal suppression of the Kokand autonomy, the Fergana News journalist says; and their resistance forced the Soviets to change their policies and ultimately offer the local people national republics and a less repressive environment at least initially.

            The Basmachi movement was very complex as was the military situation it found itself in. One longtime student of the movement, Almas Turdumamatov, says that people fought “from despair. Each then had his own war,” something that is obscured by a class approach to what happened.

            Another scholar, Zukhra Altymyshova, says that “the war of the local population against Soviet power was provoked by the colonizing policy of Russia,” an assessment very much at odds with what Moscow and many in Bishkek would prefer.  More such judgments are likely to emerge in the coming months and years.

            According to Kyrgyz historian Muratbek Imankulov, “our goal is not to condemn oe site but to present an objective assessment of the events and their participants. We must draw lessons from this in order not to allow mistakes in the future.”  That reasonable attitude may frighten Moscow more than almost any other.

 (For a brief introduction to the subject of the Basmachi in English, see Martha B. Olcott’s “The Basmachi or Freemen's Revolt in Turkestan 1918-24,” Soviet Studies, vol. 33, no. 3 (1981), pp. 352-369.)

Kamchatka Broadcaster Suspended for Calling Putin Voters ‘Primates’ Speaks Out

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 23 – The managers of Kamchatka’s Radio SV on March 20 suspended Rosina Budans for comments she made a day earlier about the presidential election in which she described those who voted for Vladimir Putin as “primates.” Her remarks have sparked discussions on social media across Russia, and she has now spoken out about her case.

            Budans observed on air the day after the elections that “the farce of course has been completed,” with some getting food and vodka at the voting booths where they cast their ballots for “stability.” But she then asked “Does it seem to you that you should call what exists in Russia stability?” (

            “A stably bad life in a country full of energy and other resources, a country where politicians build themselves palaces abroad and pensioners die from hnger and cold, invalids cannot go out on the streets, and workers of socially important professions can scarcely make ends meet,” Budans said. “Such stability has triumphed.”

            But as for herself, she continued, she has ever more often had the impression that she “lives in a country where 74 percent of the citizens are primates,” adding she wanted to give “a special greeting” to those in Kamchatka who stuffed the ballot boxes. “How do you sleep at night?” she asked. “In a stable fashion perhaps?”

            The following day she was suspended from appearing on air after calls from the local government, according to her, but by station management on its own, according to station management. Vitaly Kim who runs the station said that this was “an internal affair of the editors. There were no phone calls from the government.”

            What attracted the most attention was Budans’ use of the work “primates.”  The Kamchatinfo news service in reporting this noted that the word refers to “one of the most progressive branches” of animal life, “including “monkeys and MAN.”  Not surprisingly, most who reacted positively or negatively took her reference to be to the former.

            Now Denis Golovatenko, the news editor of the After Empire portal in Tallinn, has spoken with Budans by telephone and published her responses.  He asked her if she had been fired and she said “not yet,” only suspended from appearing on air. “I hope they won’t fire me,” she said (

                Budans defended her remarks: “I said what I thought, society was divided into two camps, and there was reaction. The local election committee demanded public apologies; certain listens as well; and the radio station’s contracts were disappearing.” 

            “If they fire me,” the woman now known in certain circles as “the voice of Free Kamchatka” said she would publish a book she has almost completed.  It is called “Interference,” and there are “a few words about primates. But it isn’t about politics and Putin. It is fiction, about prostitution and a serial murder. A thriller!”

            Asked if she was afraid, she said she wasn’t: “I want to believe that I will survive!”