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Russian Politics and Society
February, 2010

The following resource is meant to quickly introduce the reader to everyday life in Russia: how Russians live, study, relax, and worship. This news review is part of SRAS's monthly "obzor" publications. For more reviews, see the newsletter for this corresponding month.

To receive the free monthly newsletter and obzori by email, simply sign up.


Civil Society

With 'Land Grabs' On Rise, Will Russians Find New Issue to Rally Around?
Nearly a week after bulldozers, police, and demolition crews moved in to destroy several luxury homes in the western Moscow neighborhood of Rechnik, they returned in force on January 26 to tear down two more.

Russia's Whistleblowers in Peril
Blowing the whistle on corruption and malpractice inside the Russian police force can be a dicey matter.
One officer who did - Olga Shvachko, the head of Moscow's Basmanny precinct inquest unit - emerged from the experience comparatively unscathed. 
Economic Crisis Highlights Growth of a Specifically Russian Kind of Civil Society
The current economic crisis in Russia has "clearly demonstrated" that there has been a growth in "social solidarity among Russians" and hence of "the construction of a civil society," albeit of a uniquely Russian because largely non-political type, according to a Moscow analyst.

Moscow Setting Up Ever More GONGOs to Sow Confusion and Allow Corruption
"Like mushrooms after a shower," ever more non-governmental organizations are appearing in Russia, but an increasing number of them are "pseudo-NGOs," set up by the government as a means of undercutting genuine activist organizations or of funneling money to individuals and groups favored by the government, a Moscow paper says.

Activists, OMON Meet to Discuss Human Rights
Human rights activists are pleased with today's meeting with the command of Moscow's OMON, or riot police, force. "This is our first meeting of this kind. We met to begin a conversation about human rights in the OMON itself and about human rights in the course of their work," Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told reporters.


Crime and Corruption

Kremlin Fires Senior Policeman Over Dead Journalist
The Kremlin sacked a regional police chief on Friday after a journalist died of injuries sustained in custody, one of a string of scandals involving violence and corruption in the force, news agencies reported.
Jury Trials in Modern Russia
On January 1, 2010, jury trials were introduced in Chechnya, the only federal Russian region that did not have this institution. This was the final step in the jury reform process that began in 1993-94, when pilot juries were implemented in nine federal regions before the system expanded to other regions.    

1 Injured in Russian Railroad Bombing
Russian officials say a bomb explosion on railroad tracks in St. Petersburg injured one worker and is being considered a terrorist attack.     

Policing the Peace
Is Russian authorities' approach to crowd control completely irrational?        

Exiled Billionaire Berezovsky Begins Libel Battle Over Claim he Killed Litvinenko
One of Russia's richest oligarchs will appear at the high court in London tomorrow to begin his libel battle with a man who accused him of killing Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian secret agent who was ¬poisoned in 2006.

Bombs Kill Two, Injure 33 in Russia's Ingushetia
A series of bomb blasts in Russia's Ingushetia region Friday killed at least two people and wounded 33, including senior police officials, authorities said.     

Outcry at Putin Ally Over Deadly Crash
The daughter of a powerful Siberian official is facing a police investigation after an internet outcry that she was not going to be charged over a horrific car crash that left one woman dead and another paralysed. 



Images of Fascism
The current issue of Kultura on 'Images of Fascism' in Russian post-Soviet culture bears clear evidence of the improvisational and fragmentary. It was partially inspired by the discussion on the social acceptability of 'Fascism' among the established art scene and the new ruling class provoked by the award of the prestigious Kandinsky Prize.     
Russians Announce Cash for Medals Offer to Athletes
Russian gold medal winners at the Vancouver winter Olympics will be rewarded with 100,000 dollars as well as other top prizes, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko announced Tuesday.
Exposure, But No Screen Time, as Young Russian Filmmakers Attend Sundance
While none of the Russian directors' films were part of the official program at Sundance, the invitation to attend is seen as a recognition of their talent and a valuable opportunity for them to hobnob with the best and brightest in American independent filmmaking.

Russia's Historic Hammer-and-Sickle Building Faces Wrecking Ball
On Ulitsa Novosadovaya in Samara, one building stands out -- especially when viewed from above. In satellite photos, like those on Google Maps, one can clearly see the bright blue roof of a building in the shape of a hammer and sickle -- the only such building in the world.

Will the Real Holden Caulfield Please Stand Up?
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is when J.D. Salinger was born, what his lousy childhood was like, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap.

Scaling Mount Olympus
Saving face at the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 doesn't just mean winning more medals, but also placating the angry ecologists.



Russia Considering Massive Resettlement from Single-Industry Towns
Russia may undertake the large-scale resettlement of residents of single-industry towns in a bid to tackle high unemployment in the country's depressed regions, a business daily said on Thursday.
Russia's Marriage, Baby Boom  
Love is in the air in Russia - last year the number of marriages and births in Russia went up for the first time in years.
Russia Ends 14 Years of Decline in Population on Immigrants
Russia's population increased in 2009, ending 14 years of declines, after growing immigration helped offset the country's "natural decline," the Federal Statistics Service said.

Russia's Car Market Keeps Speeding Downhill
Contrary to recent rosy forecasts, the Russian car market keeps rolling downhill. According to a report by the Association of European Businesses, the sales of cars and light commercial vehicles in January 2010 were down 37 percent against the same month of last year, to 74,086. This has been the Russian automotive industry's worst data since the global economic crisis erupted.

Russia's Anti-Alcohol Campaign Proves Slow-Going
Analysts say that the latest campaign against heavy drinking, declared by the Russian authorities last year, has proved very slow-going so far. They blame this on the population's "legal nihilism" and, largely, on the activity of the strong pro-alcohol lobby.



Once a Science Superpower, Russia is Now a Fading Light
Russia is no longer a world leader in science and intellectual thinking, according to a new report that details a "shocking" decline in its research output.    

An Open Exchange of Books
The meeting between Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama last summer has led to a promising cooperation between the U.S. Library of Congress and Russia's new Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library. Some previously closed archives should open to scholars in both countries.

1 Million Euro Grant for Professor of Russian Literature
A Cambridge academic has received what is being cited as the largest grant ever awarded to Cambridge in the humanities.   


Russia's Weather Out of Whack
When it comes to global warming, don't let the cold snap fool you. January has seen temperatures in European Russia plunge 5 degrees Celsius below a 30-year average, but this is simply more evidence of man-made climate change, Russia's climatologists say.

Ecologists Concerned About State of Forests
Enthusiasts from the international environmental group Greenpeace held a flash-mob Thursday outside the presidential administration reception office, as volunteers dressed up as tree stumps handed over a petition from Russian citizens asking for the country's state forestry service to be restored.

Russian Activists Protest Import of French Nuclear Waste
A dozen or so environmental activists in St. Petersburg have protested the arrival of 480 tons of uranium waste to the city, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports. The Russian northern navy's "Kapitan Kuroptev" brought the waste from France to St. Petersburg late on January 31.

Russia Supports Plan to Clean Up Baltic in Preparation for Gas Pipeline
Vladimir Putin today threw Russia's weight behind an ambitious international plan to clean up the Baltic, one of the world's most polluted seas, amid concerns from environmentalists that a gas pipeline across the Baltic seabed would disturb highly toxic sediment on the sea bed and marine habitats.

Russia May Become 'Absolute' Leader in Space Exploration
The U.S. administration's decision to abandon ambitious space exploration programs, including a manned Lunar mission in 2020, is giving Russia a chance to strengthen its position in manned space flight projects, Yuri Kara, a member of Russia's Tsiolkovsky Cosmonautics Academy, told Interfax-AVN.



Moscow Remembers the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
In late December 2009, the Russian press carried numerous articles reflecting on the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and its impact on the fate of the Soviet Union.
'Billboards Will Not Improve Stalin's Role in History'
The idea of the Moscow authorities placing stands with information about Joseph Stalin during World War II has immediately found its supporters and opponents.   
US Soldier's Story Puts Relations in Focus
The latest exhibition to open at the State Russian Museum this week puts the extraordinary wartime experiences of one U.S. soldier into the broader context of U.S.-Russia relations.

US Ambassador Opens Exhibit Honoring Father
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle on Thursday told reporters the story of his father Joseph, who fought against fascism during Word War II with both the American and Soviet armies.



Russian Opposition Newspaper Comes Under Hacker Attack
Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta has said it was the target of a hacker attack after its web site crashed on Tuesday, January 26.

Moscow's New Rules
Islands of press freedom in a country of control.

The Kremlin's Love-Hate Relationship with the Internet
"On the internet 50 percent is porn material. Why should we refer to the internet?" This was Vladimir Putin's answer to widespread claims on Russian internet websites that the October regional elections were rigged.

Russia's New Media Paradox
Can Russia's bloggers and online news sites start a transformation similar to the one that took place in the Soviet Union two decades ago?       

Lost Exile
The unlikely life and sudden death of The Exile, Russia's angriest newspaper.



Russia's Medvedev Orders Police Cuts, Cleanup
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has fired two deputy interior ministers and 16 other high-ranking police officials as part of a reform of the country's beleaguered law enforcement bodies.
Putin, Medvedev Push Rival Tech Projects
A new technology and innovation commission headed by Premier Vladimir Putin is being seen as a rival to one on modernisation reporting to President Dmitry Medvedev. But Kremlin deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov insists that Putin's working group is merely aimed at making government financing of economic development more efficient.

Medvedev at St. Petersburg State University
Excerpts from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's speech at ceremony awarding top students with Anatoly Sobchak scholarships at St. Petersburg State University.


Opposition Politics

Russian Police Break Up Protests, Scores Detained
Russian police broke up anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Sunday and detained scores of demonstrators, including three prominent opposition leaders.

Russia Bids to Limit Protest Damage
Russian officials have scrambled to contain the damage after thousands of people took part in the country's biggest anti-government protest since the start of the economic crisis.

Communists Predict Wave of Anti-Putin Protests
The head of Russia's largest opposition party on Wednesday predicted a surge in protests against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's government as soaring prices force the middle class onto the streets.
Straining to Define Itself, Opposition Tests Limits
For a few days this month, Moscow political circles were transfixed by a rather exotic spectacle: the leader of an opposition party was criticizing Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.
Arkhangelsk Against the Authorities
Despite temperatures of minus 25, information boycott by the local media and pressure from the authorities, more than 3000 people on Sunday gathered in the central square of Arkhangelsk in the biggest regional protest rally in 10 years.


Party of Power

Luzhkov v Kremlin
Behind a small dispute over housing in Moscow is a bigger story. 
Kremlin Warns Moscow Mayor with Reshuffle, Vedomosti Reports
The Kremlin sent a warning to Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and other long-serving local leaders by declining a fifth term for the leader of the oil-rich Tatarstan region, Vedomosti reported, citing an unidentified official in the Russian presidential administration.
Parliament Speaker Could be Dismissed Over Anti-Putin Remarks
Russia's ruling United Russia party has said they may demand the resignation of the Federation Council speaker Sergey Mironov over his criticism of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's policies.
Kremlin's Invisible Primaries
Winston Churchill famously observed that the Kremlin's political struggles are like a fight among bulldogs under a carpet: Outsiders hear plenty of growling, but have few clues who is winning until the fight is over.

Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation
Full text of the official military doctrine of the Russian Federation, approved by President Dmitry Medvedev on February 5, 2010.

Kremlin Sets Up Two Nonprofit Associations
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed two initiatives today aimed at strengthening Russia's international standing.

Russian Democracy Needs Evolution, Not Revolution
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russian society should develop in an evolutionary, not revolutionary, way.


Public Opinion

Russians Ready for a 'Softer' and 'More Civilized' Iron Curtain, Levada Center Expert Says
Russians, as a result of their history and actions connected with the rule of Vladimir Putin over the last decade, increasingly believe that their country must follow a "special" path, one that sets the stage for dividing it and them from the rest of the world by "a softer and more civilized" Iron Curtain, according to a leading Moscow sociologist.

Poll Indicates Lack of Trust in Russian Army
A poll conducted by sociologists from the Levada Center and quoted by Russian news agency Interfax, has shown that many Russians are still concerned about a military threat to their country from other states, while they are less trusting of the capability of the Russian armed forces to defend the country in case of a threat.



A New Take on the Caucasus 
New policy in the Caucasus suggests power Is shifting to Dmitry Medvedev.
Winter Storm in Tatarstan 
Jobs are scarce, pension rises mediocre and the local authorities have even taken away the Christmas trees. But despite the disquiet, appetite for protest in Tatarstan remains low, says Oleg Pavlov.
Khloponin Becomes Member of Powerful Russian Inner Cabinet
Alexander Khloponin, recently appointed deputy premier in charge of the volatile North Caucausus, has been included into the powerful inner Cabinet, the government said on Tuesday.
Caucasus Most Likely Flashpoint in Eurasia - US Intelligence Chief
The US Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence held an open hearing on "Current and Projected Threats to the United States."
Russia's Ruined Far East Metropolis
Vladivostok is disintegrating, chaotic with traffic, but it wants to be the Vancouver of the Far East and is proposing a rebuilding plan that will enrich only the usual few. Meanwhile, Russia has passed a protectionist law that has crippled the port's major trade in reliable used cars built outside the country.
Ten Militants Killed in Russia's North Caucasus
Russian security forces killed 10 militants in the turbulent region of Ingushetia on Thursday, a local law enforcement official said, highlighting an escalating Islamist insurgency on the country's southern flank.
Kremlin Stumbles in Regions as Unrest Mounts
There was tension in the air when Kremlin envoy Nikolai Vinnichenko stepped behind the podium at the Khanty-Mansiisk legislature to introduce President Dmitry Medvedev's candidate to replace the region's highly popular governor.
A Siberian Tandem?
Local media in Khanty-Mansiisk are reporting that an agreement is in the works to settle the simmering dispute over the controversial replacement of the Siberian region's long serving Governor  Aleksandr Filipenko.
In Dagestan, Laugh Track Echoes Across Mountains
Some say the joke-telling tradition grew out of topography. Before the Soviets connected village groupings, or jamaats, with paved roads, bards would hike from one to another, singing ditties about the neighbors' peculiar clothes or mannerisms, said Enver F. Kisriev, a Dagestani sociologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences.



Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report
Summer 2009 in the North Caucasus was no time for relaxing in the sun. Rather, it was bloody time, one driven the Caucasus Emirate's jihadi violence. As noted in the previous IIPER, 2009 has seen the revival of the Caucasus jihad's fortunes to a level unprecedented since 2004-2005.
The Tireless Preacher
Patriarch Kirill's first year in office has laid the ground work for further reform. 
Kremlin Ties to Orthodox Church Raise Concern
Human-rights activists say 2009 represented a breakthrough in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government.  But they say the closer ties appear to place other faiths at a disadvantage. 
Openness Without Conformity
A theologian and composer with an Oxford degree, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has chosen to give his first interview in this new position to Russia Profile.
Kiev Church Opposes Russian Patriarch's Inauguration Prayer in Ukraine
Ukraine's Orthodox Church criticized president-elect Viktor Yanukovych for inviting the Russian patriarch to lead a church service before his inauguration as politically incorrect.



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