Friday, August 18, 2017

More than 100 Neo-Nazi Sites Now Active on Russian Social Networks



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 18 – After its American internet providers refused to continue to carry it, the American neo-Nazi publication, The Daily Stormer, relocated to the Russian domain; but before it could begin posting, the Russian authorities first requested and then ordered that it be taken down.

            Given the vicious content of this publication, one can only welcome the decision of Russian officials. But Moscow is getting more credit than it deserves because The Daily Stormer -- and more than 100 additional neo-Nazi sites that have been blocked on Western social media -- are now functioning without problems on Russian social networks (meduza.io/feature/2017/08/17/amerikanskie-i-evropeyskie-ultrapravye-massovo-pereselyayutsya-v-rossiyskiy-internet-chto).

                “Western ultra-right groups have begun to migrate to the Russian segment of the Internet because of Facebook’s blocking of these groups. In ‘VKontakte,’ one can find more than a hundred nationalists groups whose users include people from the US, Germany, Sweden and other countries,” the Meduza news agency says. 

            Most of these groups migrated to the Russian social networks last year, but some have done so “already after the events in Charlottesville,” the agency says.  One US extreme nationalist told Meduza that “’VKontakte for us is a new discovery,” where they can more freely disseminate their messages.

            The management of that network says that it will block groups that call for cruelty and violence but not those that simply put out an ideological message. A few of the neo-Nazi groups have been blocked, it appears; but most continue to operate. Both Russian law and Russian practice allow for their removal, but penalties are minimal in most cases, lawyers say.

Russians Continue to Stand in Long Lines but for New Reasons



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 18 – The line has been a Russian tradition for more than a century. Under Nicholas II, Russians stood in line for his coronation. Under Stalin, they did so for his funeral and often for food, under Gorbachev, for McDonald’s and under Yeltsin, for humanitarian assistance, Igor Zalyubovin and Karina Bashayeva write.

            And today, the two Snob journalists say, “lines haven’t disappeared, but they have changed. Now, [hundreds of thousands of] Russians stand for hours for spiritual nourishment” of various kinds ranging from various art exhibits to the display of church relics (snob.ru/selected/entry/128077).

            They provide statistics on the numbers, the hours waited, and other details of these lines, but they fail to point to the most important aspect of this largest public activity in Russia, one far larger than any political demonstration for the regime or against it: the creation of a specific civic space where people can share ideas, information and rumors about what is going on.

            As Olga Grushin described this phenomenon in her 2010 novel The Line, Russians are profoundly affected by lines independent of why they are standing in them, with the experience itself reinforcing their understanding of what is going on and how they should respond to it whether merely surviving or participating in what they may sense is a chance for change.

            And thus they may begin to ask more than the two questions that Russians passing a line asked in Soviet times: “what are they giving?” and “who’s last?”  Instead, they may ask more radical ones like those who stood in line for physical food in 1917 even though they are now waiting for spiritual sustenance instead. 

Even if August 1991 Putschists had Acted Decisively, They Couldn’t have Saved the USSR, Svanidze Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 18 – On the eve of the 26th anniversary of the August 1991 coup attempt that many see as the event that triggered the end of the Soviet Union, Komsomolskaya Pravda organized an interview with Aleksandr Prokhanov, who backed the coup, and Nikolay Svanidze who didn’t (kp.ru/daily/26720.7/3745067/).

            Prokhanov, the Russian nationalist editor of Segodnya, reprised his longstanding argument that the coup could have succeeded if the leaders of the force structures had acted decisively and arrested Boris Yeltsin but that it failed because they didn’t and also because they were too linked to Mikhail Gorbachev who in fact promoted the coup to eliminate Yeltsin.

            Svanidze, a longtime Moscow commentator, offers a different, more interesting and more persuasive argument in the course of answer the Russian newspaper’s question. He acknowledges that had the coup leaders shown more boldness, they might have succeeded in restoring the Kremlin’s position over Russia but that “the USSR wouldn’t have been preserved.”

            “These are different things,” he reminds his readers. The coup leaders might have been able to hold on for a time “at the price of blood,” but “the Soviet Union was condemned economically and politically. Many republics had run from it, and those who remained couldn’t be held for long.”

            The center no longer had any carrots and its sticks were too short, Svanidze continues, and “cruelty is a poor substitute for power.”  The only chance the Soviet system had and it was a long one was the conclusion of a new Union Treaty among the republics.  But the coup delayed its signing and ultimately made its conclusion impossible.

            Svanidze also points to some important distinctions between how many view the country beyond Moscow’s ring road.  “In Russian history,” he says, “all fateful events occur in the capitals. The people in our colossal land waits until something happens whether in Petrograd in 1917 or Moscow in 1991.”

            But the fact that they waited “does not mean that they were sympathetic to the coup plotters. They already hated the communists” who had lost all authority because they had led the country into ruin. “The shelves in stores were empty. There was bread for only a few more days … Hunger threatened us. The people felt it.”

            And for that reason, “the putsch was condemned in principle,” even if the plotters acted decisively. “They understood that their situation was hopeless. Some were ready to be cruel, and some were not.” They could not be certain of the military or the KGB, and they were afraid of what would happen to them if they acted decisively.

            The plotters understood as well, Svanidze says, “that if they shed blood today, tomorrow their blood would be shed. And they weren’t ready to risk that.  “To save the country was possible only by involving other economic mechanisms. But the coup plotters were not ready to do that. They were prepared only for conservative decisions.”

            Those as events would have shown had they acted decisively in those August days, the Moscow commentator says, were not enough.

            And thus, “Yeltsin’s victory in August 1991 was objectively decided in advance. And in fact, this was a positive variant for the development of events. Without large-scale bloodshed, and with a soft variant of the disintegration of the Union. We escaped from under the rubble of the USSR without a catastrophe and we live in a new country.”