Paris Talks May Mean Peace for Ukraine
Russia Faces Its Own Migration Challenges
Both sides to the conflict agree to concessions
Central Asian workers struggle as crisis deepens
Politics & Society
The New York Times Wednesday, October 21, 2015
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Syria Washington and Moscow continue to disagree over the best way to fight Islamic terrorism
NEWS IN BRIEF
No Common Ground for Russia, U.S. on ISIS
Weapons Maker Disagrees with Dutch Report on MH17 On Oct. 13, the Dutch Safety Board issued the long-awaited report of its investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. According to the report, MH17 was shot by a Russian-made BUK 9M38M1 surface-to-air missile. Dutch officials came to this conclusion after a detailed analysis of the wreckage of the plane, during which investigators uncovered missile parts at the crash site and inside the cockpit. Also on Oct. 13, Russian state-owned antiaircraft systems manufacturer Almaz-Antey presented its own “report” into the disaster. According to the manufacturer, the plane was hit by an older 9M38 missile. Almaz-Antey claimed it had been able to identify the kind of missile used by analyzing the pattern of damage caused by BUK rockets, though its experiments were carried out on the fuselage of an Ilyushin Il-86 airliner since the company had no access to a Boeing 777. “The results of the experiment completely invalidate the results of the Dutch committee on the type and place of launch,” said Almaz-Antey general directorYan Novikov.“Today we can unambiguously say that if the Malaysian Boeing was shot down by a BUK missile, the missile was a 9M38 from the direction of Zaroschenskoye.” The Dutch report makes no statement as to the possible origin of the missile. Flight MH17 was brought down on July 17, 2014 over eastern Ukraine while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board.
Vostochny Cosmodrome Could Open in Spring 2016
Three weeks after Russia began bombing runs in Syria, American and Russian officials continue their disagreement about the goals of the campaign. YEKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA, ILYA KROL RBTH
On Sept. 30, Russia’s air force began bombing targets in Syria. Since that day, Russian planes have made hundreds of sorties dropping bombs on targets Russia’s Defense Ministry maintains are ISIS-related. American officials have expressed doubts, however. Speaking to reporters on Oct. 13, Pentagon spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren called the Russian airstrikes “reckless and indiscriminate,”adding that the U.S. believes“only a fraction” of Russian airstrikes have targeted ISIS. The aims of Russia’s mission in Syria are as big a question for the United States as its targets. “If anyone had a tiny amount of hope afterVladimir Putin’s meeting with Barack Obama in New York that Russian-American relations would somehow improve, it is now safe to say that this has been erased,” said Georgy Bovt, a political analyst and member of the Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy. According to Bovt, even on the issue of fighting ISIS, where it should be easy to find common ground, the
U.S. and Russia have instead found ways to disagree. At a U.N. conference on counterterrorism the same day that strikes began, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said “We have … made clear that we would have grave concerns should Russia strike areas where ISIL and al Qaeda-affiliated targets are not operating. Strikes of that kind would question Russia’s real intentions fighting ISIL or protecting the Assad regime.” Russia does not deny its support for Assad, but says that striking all anti-government groups is part of its strategy for stopping the momentum of the Islamic State.“Russia’s goal is to reduce the threat of ISIS by supporting the war effort of the legitimate government of Syria,” Nikita Mendkovich, an expert at the Russian Council on International Affairs, told RBTH.
Proxy war? Speaking on CNN on Oct. 1, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) called the actions in Syria a “proxy war”between the U.S. and Russia, with the sides in the conflict fighting with weapons provided by foreign partners as was done during the Cold War. Russian experts say that there are Russian-made weapons being used by Syrian government forces, but this should come as no
surprise considering that Syria has long been a major client of Russian arms manufacturers. “The Russian technology there is mostly the legacy of the Soviet era,”said Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis in Moscow.“This is what the Syrian army has had for many years.” And it’s no secret that American military technology is being used by the opposition in Syria. “The Americans supply light weapons to the so-called moderate opposition. The problem is that in the end, some of it gets in the hands of ISIS,” said Dmitry Kornev, editor in chief of web portal Military Russia. Sergei Karaganov, chairman of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, said that calling the conflict a proxy war based on what weapons were being used is “nonsense,” considering that there are a myriad of groups fighting with a variety of weapons. “There are plenty of different weapons in Syria!”he exclaimed.
Keep calm and fight ISIS Russian experts say that Russia and the U.S. should focus on their common goals in Syria, not their differences on how these goals should be fulfilled.“In the Syrian conflict, there are a lot of players. But we [Moscow and Washington] have one common aim —
to destroy Islamic militarism,” said Karaganov. Political leaders, however, seem content to continue posturing. At the investment forum Russia Calling! on Oct. 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “At the military level, we asked them [the U.S.] to give us the information regarding the targets that they believe are 100 percent belonging to terrorists, and what we received as an answer was that they weren’t going to do that,” Putin said.“The first thing we hear right now is that they’re not ready to cooperate with us and that we’re attacking the wrong targets.” Three days later, at a press conference announcing a communication agreement between the U.S. and Russian militaries to avoid running into each other in Syria, President Barack Obama said,“we’ve arrived at an understanding and some channels for communication. Where we will continue to differ is in the basic set of principles and strategies we’re pursuing inside of Syria.” How these differences in principles and strategies will affect the power of ISIS remains to be seen. For the moment, according to Robert Legvold, professor emeritus of political science at Columbia University, “Syria is a fourdimensional civil war that we all are losing — except for ISIS.”
ISIS fighters parade through the Syrian city of Raqqa, considered the capital of the movement.
© SERGEY MAMONTOV / RIA NOVOSTI
The first launches from Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome should be possible next year, according to a statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin. “You should plan the first launches for 2016, for spring, if you do that by Cosmonautics Day [April 12], that will be good,”Putin said at a conference held at the spaceport construction site. During his visit to the site, Putin ordered the workers to finalize the water supply, electric power and water disposal systems of the spaceport and to prepare for launching space vehicles.
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Politics & Society
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES
MOST READ Poll: Majority of Russians See Western Countries
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Ukraine A compromise on elections reached in early October could be the beginning of the end to the conflict
Russian Search Giant Yandex Wins Victory Over Google
Parties Hope for the Best After Paris Meeting
Ruling says that Google was acting as a monopoly in its agreements with smartphone manufacturers to the detriment of other firms. ANTON KROKHMALYUK SPECIAL TO RBTH
Following negotiations in early October, weapons have been moved back from the front lines in eastern Ukraine and elections are being scheduled. ALEXEY TIMOFEYCHEV RBTH
Hopes are growing that the ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine may be moving toward a lasting peace, as both sides begin withdrawing weaponry from the front lines. The self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (L.N.R.), one of two breakaway entities in the Donbass, confirmed on Oct. 5 the withdrawal by the Ukrainian military of weapons with a caliber of less than 100 millimeters from the line of contact. The L.N.R. itself began the removal of light weapons as early as Oct. 3. These measures were agreed upon at a meeting between the leaders of Russia, Ukraine Germany and France in Paris on Oct. 2, which mainly confirmed that the implementation of the Minsk peace agreements, signed in February, was the only way forward. According to the participants of the Paris meetings, the agreement reached there requires concessions from both sides to the conflict. Representatives from the
two breakway regions — the L.N.R. and the Donetsk People’s Republic (D.N.R.) — were advised to conduct local elections on Oct. 25, Ukrainian general election day, instead of earlier as previously planned. The regions subsequently decided to postpone elections until February. In turn, the negotiatiors recommended that representatives from Kiev adopt a special law on elections in the Donbass in con-
Not all are interested in the peace process, even if difficult and painful — there is a “party of war.” sultation with the breakaway regions’ leadership, pass a constitutional amendment allowing for a special status for the Donbass and grant an amnesty.
A question of stability Russian analysts say that the success of the agreement depends on the will of the Ukrainian authorities, since the request made to the breakway regions is less burdensome than the request made to the representatives from Kiev. “It is easier for the Donbass to fulfill the political part of the agreements, including the re-
scheduling of the elections, than for Kiev,” said Maxim Bratevsky, a political scientist at the Center for European Studies at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “For Kiev, it is a question of stability of the political regime, the internal stability of the country.” At the same time, in the opinion of political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko, head of the Kremlinfriendly International Institute of Political Expertise, the Ukrainian government can easily fulfill the first part of the request made to it in Paris — adopting a special law on elections in the Donbass. Minchenko said that as a compromise, the two breakway regions can be treated as singlemandate constituencies for election purposes and not require all national political parties to be represented on the ballot there.
Lack of support? According to observers, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s willingness to accept the terms of the Paris agreement shows his lack of options and the lack of patience on the part of Western negotiators. “There is an assumption that Poroshenko failed to receive 100-percent support from [his] Western partners [at the meeting in Paris]. Apparently, it was point-
What is the Minsk Agreement? Reached in the Belarusian capital on Feb. 11, 2015, the agreement requires the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry, negotiations on elections and a prisoner swap and amnesty, among other points. It was negotiated by officials from France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine and the breakaway regions in the Donbass.
ed out to him that breaking the Minsk agreements into parts and implementing some agreements while not implementing the others, without engaging in the political process, will not work,”said Bratevsky. According to Minchenko,“from unconditional support for Poroshenko, they [the Europeans] have moved toward a rather critical perception and to the [understanding] that they should put pressure on him so that he fulfills his promises.” “The man [Poroshenko] always promises, but does not do anything,” Minchenko added.
Potential for crisis in Kiev Ukrainian analyst AndriyYermo-
© VALERY MELNIKOV / RIA NOVOSTI
Residents of war-torn eastern Ukraine may finally be able to start rebuilding following a recent round of talks.
layev, director of the New Ukraine Institute for Strategic Studies, agrees that Ukraine’s European partners are losing patience with the lack of progress in ending the conflict. Yermolayev stresses that Europe is forcing Poroshenko to act “even at the cost of significant perturbations in Ukraine itself.” According to him, the implementation of the Paris plan could lead to a “more or less sustainable ceasefire and a decrease in the physical presence of Russia in the Donbass.”However, at this point, even a complete cessation of hostilities would not bring peace to the government in Kiev, which is cobbled together from several factions with varied interests. “Not all members of the current ruling coalition are interested in the peace process, even if difficult and painful — there is a ‘party of war’ and there are supporters of a ‘smaller Ukraine’ [Ukraine without the Donbass],” said Yermolayev. “The president himself — who, unfortunately, does not show consistency or have a clear platform on the issue of the Donbass — is in a difficult position.” Both Russian and Ukrainian analysts agree, however, that a resumption of hostilities in eastern Ukraine is unlikely at this point.
Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has found Google guilty of violating the country’s antitrust laws in response to a complaint filed by Russian search giant Yandex. Now Google has until Nov. 18 to authorize manufacturers of Android devices to preinstall applications of its competitors, including Yandex. Android is Google’s free mobile operating system, which dominates the mobile OS market with a share of 85 percent. In December of last year, Google introduced a dramatic change in how it works with the manufacturers of Android devices, banning them from preinstalling competitor applications, including search engines. Google threatened to prevent the offending devices from being able to use some of its most popular services, such as Google Maps, Youtube, Gmail and the Google Play store, the main source of apps for Android users, if the ban was not upheld. As a result, several smartphone manufacturers — including Fly, Explay and Prestigio, which produce some of Russia’s most popular phones — gave up their partnerships with Yandex. AlthoughYandex has long held off Google to remain Russia’s most popular search engine, the tide is turning. As of last month, Yandex accounted for 57.4 percent of the Russian search market while Google held 34.9 percent, according to data from Liveinternet. In September 2013, their shares were 62.2 and 26 percent, respectively. This change makes it critical for Yandex to maintain its presence on Android phones, particularly as more and more web traffic shifts to mobile devices. According to the ruling, all companies willing to preinstall their applications will have to agree directly with the manufacturers of smartphones. In addition, Google must inform Android users that it is possible to deactivate preinstalled applications and replace Google Chrome as the default search engine, and offer them competitor search widgets and services. For its part, Google seems willing to abide by the ruling — Russia accounts for just 0.5 percent of the company’s profits and it is unlikely that the loss of 0.5 percent would be critical for the company.
Press Companies selling out due to new ownership law and economic realities
Read, Watch and Listen to RBTH’s weekly analytical program, featuring three of the most high-profile recent developments in international affairs.
International Media Leaving Russia As Profits Fall and New Law Looms With a new law limiting foreign ownership of media due to come into force on Jan. 1, 2016, many companies are already leaving the market. MARIA KARNAUKH
SPECIAL TO RBTH
With less than half a year before a controversial law limiting foreign participation in Russian mass media to 20 percent goes into effect, many foreign publishers are already selling their Russian assets as they are simply no longer profitable. In September, two large foreign media holdings, German firm Axel Springer and Edipress of Switzerland, announced that they are selling their Russian assets. President of Axel Springer International, Ralph Buchi, said that the demands of the new mass media law are “not acceptable” for the company. According to IFC Markets analyst Dmitry Lukashov, foreign-
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ENGAGING THE WEST
After Jan. 1, newspapers in Russia will be majority Russian-owned.
ers are ready to leave the Russian media business not only because of the government ownership ban, but also for financial reasons. Due to the economic crisis, ad sales have fallen. According to Alexander Vengranovich, an analyst with Otkrytie Kapital, in the first six months of 2015 advertising
volume in Russian print publications shrank by 33 percent and on television, by 21 percent.
Who’s left? There are some companies that are happy to remain on the Russian market, however. TV channels belonging to Disney and the
Discovery family will be managed by specially created Russian companies, while TV channels from the Fox family will now be distributed by a Russian company. However, Vengranovich noted that restructuring assets and transferring 80 percent of the ownership to a Russian company (with 20 percent remaining for the foreign media company) does not necessarily mean that revenues will be distributed accordingly. “Shareholder agreements can be made that separately determine the distribution of revenues,” he said. Alexei Volin, Deputy Minister of Communication, responded to the situation in an interview with Znak.com.“The law allows for exclusion from the provisions,”Volin said.“If foreign representatives of countries that have corporations working in Russia offer to make bilateral agreements on the stimulation of investment in the media, we are ready to negotiate.”
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Travel Foreign countries are learning to live without big-spending Russian visitors as the value of the ruble forces them to cut back on trips
Economic Pain as Tourists Stay Home in the European Union,”Tyurina said.“In particular, the decline in Norway was 37 percent, Switzerland 28 percent, Montenegro 14.5 percent and Serbia 11 percent.” The R.T.I.U. figures confirm that Russian travel agents and tour operators are currently facing the sharpest decline in the history of the industry. In 1998, when Russia defaulted on its foreign debts and devalued its currency, the drop in business for travel agencies was 24 percent. In 2009, when the global financial crisis finally led the Russian economy into a downturn, travel agencies saw a fall of 23 percent. The current crisis could result in the loss of thousands of jobs, since most Russians still book holidays through a travel agent. Unlike in the U.S and western Europe, the idea of a D.I.Y. holiday booked online is still in its infancy in Russia.
The number of Russians traveling abroad fell by almost 34 percent last year, causing problems for resort towns in Europe and domestic travel agents. BRYAN MACDONALD
Litmus test The French resort town of Cannes has long been a playground of the rich and famous. In the past decade, however, it wasn’t Hollywood stars making waves — it was Moscow’s nouveau riche. But locals say its clear that the number of Russian visitors fell precipitously this summer season. At the Russian store in the city’s Californie district, owner Marcel admits business is down.“I’d estimate by about 30 percent,” he said.“The number of visitors has dropped hugely this year. However, there is a large permanent Russian population in Cannes, and they will always need this service.” Marcel is pretty sure where his missing clients have gone.“Sochi. They are mostly in Sochi. After all, this is what Putin wants,” he said. Added his wife, Tanya, “Maybe we will move there and open a French shop.” The prosperous south of France can arguably cope with the lack of Russian vacationers better than
Resorts such as Adler, on Russia’s Black Sea coast, are seeing an uptick in visitors as demand for trips to Europe and the Middle East falls off.
resorts in the Antalya region of Turkey. The number of Russians traveling to Turkey has dropped from two million to 1.4 million, year on year.Visits by Russian vacationers to Germany have also fallen — by 30 percent — and demand for Greek holidays has slumped by 54 percent, despite that country’s reputation as a cheap destination because of its own economic crisis. Even Bulgaria, long considered a budget destination for Russians, has seen numbers fall by 36 percent.
Luring the big spenders In Spain, a year-on-year decline in Russian visitors of 41 percent has been almost complete offset by a 40 percent jump in Ameri-
prospective Russian tourists about Italian destinations. Part of the site is dedicated to the Expo 2015 World’s Fair, which is taking place in Milan throug the end of this month.Other sections advertise low-cost flights and offer discounts. But Italian industry insiders are pessimistic. “My average number of Russian clients is still the same, but it is easy to recognize all over town that it is not the way it was in the past,”Tuscan hotelier Salvatore Madonna told British newspaper The Guardian. “Friends with shops and restaurants are talking about it. From what I have heard from the Italian government, there are almost
can tourists. Nevertheless, this cannot compensate for a huge drop in spending. The average Russian on vacation spends $176 a day — twice the figure for an average American. Egypt, whose tourist industry has suffered a serious downturn since the Arab Spring, has allowed some Russian tour operators to negotiate trips in rubles rather than dollars. The move has helped the country replace Turkey as the most popular foreign destination for Russian travelers. Italy, hit by a 31 percent fall in visitors from Russia, is also fighting back. The Italian embassy in Moscow has launched a Russianlanguage website, called La Tua Italia (Your Italy), which informs
Nuclear Power New reactor is scheduled to go online in 2020 Rostaom, scientists from France, South Korea, Japan and China are interested in working on M.B.I.R., mainly because there are no such opportunities in their countries. Japan has two research reactors, but they were shut down following the Fukushima disaster and it is unclear if or when they will ever reopen. China has a large reactor, but it is used for demonstration only, not research, while neither France nor South Korea have any facilities even remotely similar to M.B.I.R. Foreign scientists who are currently working at the B.O.R.-60 reactor may also be interested in shifting their research to M.B.I.R., increasing its importance for the international scientific research community. “We have already held preliminary talks with technology companies, large research centers,” Pershukov said.“They are all interested in conducting research on the new reactor.”
Reactor for the future
© IGOR RUSSAK / RIA NOVOSTI
Nuclear scientists from both Russia and abroad will have more options for research once the M.B.I.R. opens.
ANDREI RETINGER SPECIAL TO RBTH
In September, construction began on the world’s most powerful multipurpose fast neutron research reactor, M.B.I.R., in the town of Dmitrovgrad, about 600 miles from Moscow. The reactor is schedule to go online in 2020. M.B.I.R. has a thermal power of 150 MW, two-and-a-half times greater than the most powerful of the research reactors currently operating in Russia — the
B.O.R.-60, which was built almost 50 years ago. M.B.I.R. will be the base for the future International Research Center, where Russian and foreign researchers will explore the possibilities for new types of nuclear fuel, construction materials and heat transfer fluids. The reactor will also be used in the production of radioisotopes and in medical research. The total cost of building the reactor is estimated at $1 billion.
International interest According to Vyacheslav Pershukov, the director of the Innovation Management Block of Russian state nuclear agency
A project unlike any other There is no equivalent to M.B.I.R. anywhere in the world. China’s C.E.F.R. reactor is only a demonstration reactor and not a site for research. F.B.T.R., in India, is only available for use by the country’s national nuclear program, not thirdparty customers. Japan’s fast reactors JOYO and Monju are currently offline and their fate is unclear; Europe’s MYRRHA is still at the draft stage; and the American F.F.T.F. is already partially dismantled.
Russian travel agents and tour operators are currently facing the sharpest decline in the history of the industry. 80 percent fewer Russian clients than there were.”
Historic decline Irina Tyurina of the Russian Travel Industry Union (R.T.I.U.) can cite specific data to back up the casual observations about the fall in Russian travelers to Europe. “The decline in tourist traffic in Europe is even greater if we look at the data of the countries not
Currency Russia may embrace cyber money
World’s Most Powerful Research Reactor Under Construction in Russia
The new reactor will enable scientists to conduct research to develop new fuels and other material required for the nuclear industry.
The one bright spot among the negative news is in domestic Russian travel. According to figures from the Federal Tourism Agency, travel within Russia was up nearly 40 percent in 2014. The traditional beach destination of Sochi, which had seen a serious drop in tourism in recent years as Russians began to explore more exotic shores, has once again become an in-demand destination. “People have begun to travel around their own country and found that it’s not as scary as they thought”, said Irina Schegolkova of government travel agency Rostourism. The government is also pouring money into promoting the domestic tourism industry. The government program“Domestic and Inbound Tourism Development” hopes to increase domestic tourism by 150 percent by 2018. The program involves investment in tourism infrastructure as well as rebranding campaigns for regions and cities interested in attracting more tourists.
“M.B.I.R. will significantly reduce the time necessary for the development of new fuels and structural materials needed for the global nuclear power industry of the future,”said Pershukov.“Such units had not existed until now. This is the reactor for the world’s nuclear energy industry of the future. The greater the power of the reactor, the faster you can get results. If you use standard low-power reactors operating in the world today, the time of research will take decades. The M.B.I.R. reactor allows to reduce this period significantly, three or four times,”said the deputy head of Rosatom. Alexander Uvarov, an atomic-energy expert and editor in chief of Atominfo.ru, said that the importance of M.B.I.R. for the global nuclear energy industry in terms of both what research can be conducted and the international character of the parties conducting it is comparable to the importance of the International Space Station (I.S.S.) for the development of international research projects outside earth’s atmosphere. “Russia invites states interested in developing their nuclear energy programs to participate in this project. In this respect, the M.B.I.R. project resembles such major projects as the I.S.S.,” Uvarov said.
Bitruble Looking to Launch in 2016 Russian payment operator Qiwi is hoping to launch a domestic cryptocurrency next year, but Finance Ministry officials and the Central Bank remain skeptical. MARIA KOLOMYCHENKO KOMMERSANT
In mid-September, Sergei Solonin, general director and co-owner of Russian payment terminal operator Qiwi announced that his company plans to issue a cryptocurrency, to be called Bitruble, next year. To create the currency, Qiwi intends to use either the Blockchain technology, which is the foundation for Bitcoin, or the Bitshares financial platform, a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange. Qiwi is now testing and finalizing these platforms to make sure they adhere to Russian law. Qiwi says that the use of the pre-existing technologies will help reduce the cost of existing processing services and therefore reduce the costs required for traditional currency transactions. The currency is just talk for now, however, since at the moment only the Russian Central Bank can issue money in Russia, said Stanislav Grigoriev, an advisor at the Herbert Smith Freehills law firm. “Without the regulator’s permission it will be impossible to launch a cryptocurrency in Russia,” Grivoriev said. Solonin said that Qiwi, which is the first company attempting to launch a cryptocurrency in Russia, has already spoken informally with Central Bank officials about the creation of the Bitruble. Qiwi is not the only payment operator hoping to work with cryptocurrencies in Russia, however. In September 2014, PayPal announced a partnership with the Bitcoin processing platforms BitPay, Coinbase and GoCoin. Popular Russian online payment systemYandex.Money, however, does not see any opportunity to work with these platforms since they are not regulated under Russian law, said company representative Nadezhda Kiyatkina.
During the economic boom of President Vladimir Putin’s first two terms, which had long periods of double-digit economic growth, Russian visitors were a familiar sight in many parts of Europe. For the Russian elite, London and the Côte D’Azur reigned supreme, while the middle class flocked to more affordable resorts in Spain and Turkey. Today, however, with the ruble down more than 50 percent against foreign currencies in the past year, more and more Russians have been rethinking their travel plans, and the cities that used to host them have noticed.
© MIKHAIL MOKRUSHIN / RIA NOVOSTI
SPECIAL TO RBTH
Bitcoin may face competition in Russia from a local startup.
Should Bitruble be regulated under Russian law, it would have an advantage over foreign cryptocurrencies hoping to begin working in the country. In October 2014, Russia’s Ministry of Finance published a bill that introduces fines for using or distributing virtual currency, noting that government officials believe virtual money can be used for criminal purposes, such as laundering money and financing terrorism. In July, however, President Vladimir Putin announced that payments in Bitcoins could be acceptable in several sectors.Putin’s statement may have contributed to the decision by Solonin and Qiwi to launch the Bitruble. Solonin has stated that Bitruble users, unlike purchasers of Bitcoin, will not be anonymous, which may make the system more acceptable to regulators.
Boris Kim QIWI CO-FOUNDER , IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE RUSSIAN BUREAU OF THE BBC
We cannot say that we are creating a new retail payment market. There will just be a portion of payments converted into these — as it seems to us — more convenient payment mechanisms. Making economic projections is difficult because there are a lot of unknowns, but we do believe in and count on this technology and think that it makes sense at this stage to prepare for the payments of the future.
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MOST READ With Migrant Crisis, E.U. Will Have to Adjust to a
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WHAT MIGRATION MEANS FOR RUSSIA AS EUROPE QUESTIONS HOW TO COPE WITH AN INFLUX OF REFUGEES FROM SYRIA AND AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES DEBATE THE ROLE OF CENTRAL AMERICAN IMMIGRANTS, RUSSIA FACES ITS OWN CHALLENGES
LABOR MIGRANTS: LIFE UNDER THE RADAR Thousands of citizens of former Soviet republics come to Russia every year looking for work, but difficulties obtaining legal status and anti-migrant attitudes make it hard to build lives there. VLADIMIR KOZLOV SPECIAL TO RBTH
Rashid came to Moscow from Tajikistan last year. He is 20, has no particular qualifications and speaks broken Russian. He lives in a two-room apartment in the city’s northern suburbs with his brother’s family and several other people. He works odd jobs, mostly as a loader in a market.“I make about 20,000 rubles a month, sometimes less,” Rashid said. It’s almost a third of the average Moscow salary, but more than he was making at home. As a citizen of Tajikistan, a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.), Rashid didn’t need a visa to enter Russia, and could stay without any additional permission for 90 days. Eighty percent of all migrants to Russia are citizens of countries in the C.I.S., a loose federation made up of all the former Soviet republics except for Ukraine and Georgia, according to Nikolai Kurdymov, who heads the committee on economic migration at business lobby group OPORA Rossii. But Rashid stayed longer, was stopped by the police, and fined for overstaying the 90day limit. Additionally, his name was put on a Federal Migration Service blacklist, making him ineligible for a work permit. And so, like numerous others, Rashid takes whatever work he can find, paid under the table.
Difficult choices “The fact that the vast majority of migrants have no legal status
in Russia is the most painful issue,” said Muhammad Amin Madzhumder, president of the Federation of Migrants of Russia, adding that of the 10 million migrants in Russia, only 1.5 million are in the country legally. A migrant who has overstayed his or her visa or been deported is ineligible for applying for a work permit. More than two million names are on the blacklist of the Federal Migration Service, and as many as 800,000 have been deported. Predictably, living in the country illegally hampers the ability of migrants to integrate into Russian society. Without a legal status, migrants have little incentive to learn Russian and are forced to live in basements, warehouses and other places that don’t require any kind of identity documents. “They’re hiding. They are often surrounded by criminals, sometimes their passports are taken away from them,”Kurdymov said. As Russia slipped into recession in late 2014, reports about migrants leaving Russia in large numbers began to appear. However, experts say that it is too early to talk about a mass exodus of migrants. “Most have stayed,”said Vasily Kravtsov, head of charity Migration XXI Century. “There is one telling indicator: the amount of money they send to their families back home. In rubles, this fig-
ure hasn’t declined; it has even gone up.” And even if some migrants from Central Asia have left, their departure coincided with the arrival of up to two million refugees from war-torn Ukraine, Kravtsov said.
Anti-migrant sentiment For years, there has been antimigrant sentiment in Russian society, based on fears they steal jobs from Russians and commit crimes. The facts dispute this. “It’s wrong to think that migrant workers are taking jobs from Russians,”said Kurdyumov. “Mostly, they work low-qualification, low-wage jobs that Russians are not interested in.” Similarly, reports about high numbers of crimes committed by migrants are not supported by the evidence. Between January and July 2015, just two percent of all crimes registered in Russia were committed by foreign citizens, according to data published on the website of the Interior Ministry.
Confronting the problem Russian authorities have made some changes intended to improve the situation for labor migrants from the C.I.S. who want to stay in Russia legally longterm. One major change came into effect this year 2015, allowing migrants from the C.I.S. to buy“pat-
ents” — a kind of green card — instead of applying for work permits. Unlike work permits, patents allow the holder to switch from one employer to another, and the procedure for obtaining one is simpler. But the new system also has disadvantages. In Moscow, a migrant is expected to pay between 60,000–70,000 rubles ($950–$1,100) a year — well beyond the resources of most migrants. Migrants are also required to get medical certificates stating they don’t have diseases including H.I.V. and tuberculosis, and must pass a test on Russian history, language and law. According to Kravtsov, the new system has encouraged corruption in some cases.“It’s no secret that many medical insurances and language proficiency certificates, which are needed to get the patents, are just bought from dubious companies eager to cash in on the situation,” he said. “And many migrants have continued to work illegally. They just bribe local police officers.” Despite these issues, Nikolai Kurdyumov thinks the new system is at least a start toward tackling the problem.“If at least some migrants will move out of the gray economy thanks to the new system, that will be good,” Kurdyumov said. Rashid, for his part, plans to keep working and living as he is. “I have family here, so they won’t let me down,” he said.
For Some, Migration is Coming Home Galiya Ibragimova JOURNALIST
In July 2014, I decided to move from Uzbekistan, where I was born and raised, to Russia, the country my relatives had left in the 1930s, fleeing from hunger and Stalinist repression. In part, this decision was influenced by reports that Moscow was encouraging Russians living abroad to return — and making it easier for those who wanted to do so, particularly those who spoke Russian and identified with Russian culture and mentality. I easily fit that description. Although I am ethnically a Kazan Tatar, I knew Russian better than Tatar and consider it my native tongue. As a student in a Russian-language school in the provincial town of Termez in southern Uzbekistan, I grew up reading the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. After weighing all the pros and cons of such a move, I decided to take part in the Russian state program to assist the voluntary resettlement of compatriots living abroad. This program allows participants to obtain Russian citizenship as soon as possible — within three months.
I was more fortunate than that. I got my Russian passport in one month through a simplified procedure. It did not take me long to make myself at home in Russia. The country has a lot that I can relate to; there are people here who speak the same language as me. I had no problems finding a job. The Russians treated me as their own. Many did not even suspect that I had arrived in the country recently. When they found out, they were not surprised, knowing that there were many Russian-speaking compatriots leaving the former Soviet republics after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sometimes I was asked questions like, “You came from Uzbekistan, but why don’t you wear a burqa?” Or, “Is there coffee in Uzbekistan and do they sell alcohol there?” It did not offend me; I replied that Uzbekistan is a secular state where people drink both coffee and vodka, and even the most devout women do not wear a burqa. For me, the main thing was that I felt really at home in Russia, and that I was able to return to my native land after many years of separation.
Main types of employment for labor migrants in Russia
Demographic Problems Will Force Russia to Be More Accepting of Immigration Bahrom Ismailov LAWYER
he demographic problem in Russia has come to the fore at various times of the country’s history, but rarely has it been so critical as it is now. In the 1990s, when Russia was going through political, social and economic crises simultaneously, the death rate was one-
and-a-half times higher than the birthrate, according to the State Statistics Service (Rosstat). Until 2009, Russia’s population declined annually by hundreds of thousands of people. However, by the late 2000s, the economic support program for young families that the government launched with the goal of stimulating the birthrate with one-time lump-sum payments began to pay off and in 2009, the birthrate was the highest in 18 years.
But with the current economic crisis, the birthrate is stagnating, which makes another source of future labor — migration — ever more important. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, migrants from former Soviet republics began flooding into Russia in search of work.This trend continues today. According to Rosstat, between 2010 and 2014, Russia’s population increased thanks mostly to the growth of migration — 93 per-
cent of the overall population growth came from migrants moving into the country. Russia is not the only country that has experienced this phenomenon. According to statistics, one out of every 10 people in Germany is a migrant, in Sweden — one out of every six. Currently in Russia, only one out of every 30 people is considered a migrant. There are practically no scientific studies in Russia on the influence that working migrants have on the country’s G.D.P. One reliable source can be the information on the number of permits obtained by foreign citizens allowing them to work in the country. Between 2010 and 2014, the
Russian budget received approximately 45 billion rubles ($714 million) from the fees paid for the more than 6.5 million work permits issued. Migrants also pay rent and buy food, contributing to the overall Russian economy. It is obvious that the economy and demography of modern Russia are dependent on foreign citizens working and studying here. Without the foreign labor force, the situation in Russia would be far different. It is also necessary to understand that migrant flows were spurred by the country’s intense economic growth between 2002 and 2013 when one of the most important engines in the economy was civil and industri-
al construction. None of the main events in the history of modern Russia, whether the Winter Olympics in Sochi or the APEC Summit in the Far East, would have been possible without labor resources from the republics of Central Asia. Today, working migrants are an integral part of the economic, political and social-demographic model of the Russian Federation and the country’s future will largely depend on how it uses this human resource. Bakhrom Ismailov is a lawyer and one of the founders of the Country Without Racism Movement.
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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Integration Still a Challenge in Russia Russian society has yet to accept that mass migration is a fact, which makes it harder for those moving to the country to integrate into society, according to an expert on xenophobia.
ILYA KROL RBTH
The SOVA Center for Information and Analysis is one of the leading nonprofit organizations in Russia examining nationalism and ethnic and religious xenophobia. Founded in 2002, the center regularly publishes material dealing with the issue of migration. RBTH spoke with the head of the center, Alexander Verkhovsky, about the attitudes of Russians toward migrants, multiculturalism and the politically incorrect term “assimilation.” The migrant in modern Russia — who is he or she? Is it possible to draw a typical portrait of such a person? In Russia, the word “migrant” is used in a way that is far from literal: a “migrant” is not an “immigrant,” temporary or permanent, but any person who moves from one place to another if his ethnicity is clearly different from that of the host community. Technically, Russia’s first postSoviet generation of immigrants are the millions of people who have moved from the former Soviet republics to Russia. Ethnically, many of them are Russian, but few would call them “migrants,” although they also had trouble adapting to the new location. In the 2000s, the term “migrants” is primarily used for immigrants and temporary labor migrants from Central Asia and the South Caucasus. There are a few from other Asian countries, rarely from Africa. [The term is] also for those who have moved from the North Caucasus to other
A native of Moscow, Verkhovtsev graduated from the Moscow Institute of Oil and Gas Industry with a degree in applied mathematics, but soon found himself drawn to questions of nationalism and xenophobia. He has been the director of the SOVA research center since 2002 and a member of Russia’s Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights since 2012.
regions of Russia, if these people are not Slavs. One of the key indicators of attitudes toward migrants is the level of xenophobia. What is the situation in Russia? The first wave of xenophobia was in the early 1990s and, of course, it was triggered by the shock of the collapse of the Soviet Union and its dramatic consequences. Then everything somewhat calmed down, and a new abrupt surge occurred at the turn of 1999 and 2000 as a result of the second Chechen war. Understandably, the Chechens were singled out then, but hostility extended to other “nonSlavs.” Between 2000 and 2012, its level was consistently high; about 55 percent of our citizens believed then that the ethnic ma-
jority should have privileges: “Russia is for the Russians.” A recent survey by the independent pollster Levada Center showed that the level of xenophobia in Russian society has gone down. What is the reason, in your opinion? It went down as early as in 2014. By some measures, even below the level of 2012. One of the reasons is the events connected with Ukraine. The theme of migration as a threat has been replaced by the theme of the crisis of relations with the West and the protection of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine. It immediately became clear that the real problems related to migration are not so great, since they are easily forced out of the public consciousness by other issues. Is this a long-term trend or a temporary phenomenon? It inspires cautious optimism that people have started to answer questions like “What to do with migrants”in a more rational way. Mass migration is always a great social problem, and it is unlikely that it can be resolved smoothly, but if the majority of citizens will switch, finally, from pure alarmism to the discussion of constructive solutions, these solutions will be possible. Religion, race, different culture— which is the most frequent trigger of ethnic conflict in Russia? As a rule, it is not economic concerns or security issues — terrorism and so-called ethnic crime — that dominate, but rather what is called “negative perception of cultural distance.” The “others” do everything “in the other way.” Appearance is a marker of cultural distance. Everything else, including religion, are less significant markers. The negative attitude does not neces-
sarily translate into actual aggression; it can be latent. It is believed that xenophobia was practically nonexistent in the Soviet Union — the same Uzbeks, Tajiks or Azerbaijanis who are now coming to Russia as migrants lived with each other and with Russians without any conflicts as Soviet citizens. Is this true? Polls on such topics certainly did not exist in the Soviet Union. But I was born in 1962, so I remember well that there was xenophobia. For example, the word“Georgian” was frequently used as a pejorative, while people from Central Asia were called the same names as now. There were also conflicts on the periphery of the Soviet Union. The other thing is that there could not exist an organized nationalist movement of any kind, and now it does. The only consolation is that organizations of nationalists in no way enjoy mass support. The United States is often cited as an example of a country that has defeated xenophobia, where migrants are really assimilated with the pre-existing population. What is the situation in Russia? The term “assimilation” is now considered not very politically correct, as it implies the rejection of original ethnic and cultural identity. The preferred term is“integration,” which involves the combination of two identities — the ethnic and cultural one in some aspects of life and the general civil in the others. This combination, however, applies not only to migrants, but also to the host population. So far, integration proceeds with difficulty in Russia, because society is not ready to recognize mass immigration as an accomplished fact. In Russia, migrant workers are even called Gastarbeiter [German for “guest workers”]; in the 1950s, the Germans thought that the workers from Turkey were temporary, too. But no, mass migration is here to stay, and, as long as society is not ready to accept it, it is not ready to make efforts to integrate migrants. However, more enterprising migrants overcome all the difficulties, learn Russian, create mixed families.
Migration into Russia by the numbers
Special Report Economic Crisis Could Send Workers Home Jobs in low-paying industries are falling as Russia’s economy contracts, leaving many migrants without work while still trying to support families on remittances. ALEXANDER BRATERSKY SPECIAL TO RBTH
Emomali, 37, a namesake of Emomali Rahmon, the strongman leader of his native Tajikistan, has lived in Moscow since the mid1990s. He rents an apartment in the Russian capital with three other migrant workers, and his expenses, including rent and his work permit, total around 15,000 rubles per month. Emomali considers this number to be reasonable, as long as there is work, but as Russia’s economic crisis deepens, there isn’t always work to be had, particularly in construction, which is the source of most jobs for low-skilled migrants. “I used to send home $1,000. Now it is only around $500,”said Emomali, whose earnings support a large family back in Tajikistan.“Younger people might go to United States or Turkey, but Russian is the only language I speak, so I have no other choice,” he added. Some migrants have decided that the additional expense of living in Russia isn’t worth it any more. “Many are returning from Moscow, because there are no jobs in Russia now,”said Behrouz bin Qader, who lives in the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe. According to Russia’s Federal Migration Service (F.M.S.), there are just under a million migrant workers from Tajikistan living in Russia — 16 percent fewer than a year ago.
Bureaucracy at work While economic conditions have played a major part in decreasing the number of migrants, authorities also said that the changes in legislation, which make it more difficult to get individual work permits, is also a factor. Officials at the F.M.S. are aware of the problems. During a recent
Migrants often live together in small apartments to save money.
roundtable at the Russian State Duma, F.M.S. head Konstantin Ramadanovsky acknowledged that the high cost of obtaining a work permit is a deterrent for workers, calling it “the most important factor.” Getting a work permit requires passing exams in Russian language, history and law and passing medical checks. According to Romadanovsky, the cost for taking the Russian language exam can run from around 5,000 rubles ($80) to 9,500 ($160), depending on the place of the exam. Medical checkups go from 2,000 rubles ($30) to 8,000 rubles ($120). Other officials, however, say that the bureaucratic process and associated costs have cut down on the number of migrants living in the country illegally. During a meeting of migration officials from the BRICS countries in Sochi, Deputy Federal Migration Service headVadimYakovenko said that the number of legally employed migrants has increased notably.“People became more accurate,”Yakovenko said, according to Russian news agency Interfax. Many migrants may have no choice but to return to Russia. however. According to bin Qader, the job options at home are often much worse and inflation is increasing as Russia’s crisis spills over to the former Soviet states.
Changes in migrant ﬂows, 2014-2015
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UNTANGLING RUSSIA’S AIMS IN SYRIA Fyodor Lukyanov SPECIAL TO RBTH
ctober 2015 will be remembered as yet another landmark in Russian political history. For the first time in more than a quarter of a century, the country is officially carrying out a large-scale military operation outside the former Soviet space. And this is not a “politically correct” peacekeeping mission, but rather an operation with strategic objectives. Moscow is calling for an international coalition against terrorism in general and ISIS in particular, but at the same time, the Kremlin is letting the world know that it is ready to act independently. The reasons that caused the Kremlin to take up such a military campaign far from its national borders are clear. ISIS is clearly an enemy that causes much concern in Russia. However, Vladimir Putin’s political intuition also played a role. He seized the opportunity to shake up the situation in the Middle East, forcing other potential players to react to his initiative — and not the other way around. Demonstrating Russia’s significantly expanded military potential is not the aim of the intervention, but it is a factor. So is the formation of a circle of important partners in the region, from Tehran to Beirut. The risks are no less obvious. Moscow is practically involved in a brutal civil war, having sided with one party — President Bashar Assad. It is also involved in a religious war, sympathizing (although just situationally) with the Shiite minority of the Muslim world against the Sunni majority. This requires attentive political maneuvering, since, in the event of failure, the scale of possible harm, including that within Russia itself (considering the confessional particularities of Russian Muslims), could be enormous.
Meanwhile, relations with the West are only getting more complicated. Practically the entire world is interested in doing serious damage to Islamic terrorists, but since Russia’s possible success is linked to strengthening not only its own influence but also the Assad regime, the negative response of the United States and its allies is guaranteed. It is still difficult to predict if this disapproval will result in a direct confrontation. Hopefully, lessons have been learned from previous experiences, but be that as it may, a bitter information war is inevitable — actually, it has already begun. The main dilemma in the wars that large countries are now waging is that these wars do not carry the idea of“victory.”Military campaigns are being conducted almost exclusively with the aim of regime change, and the campaigns have certainly been successful — in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The victors, however, were embarrassed to call them victories or admit that their goals had been achieved. The military success forced the victors to either start “nation building”(as in Afghanistan and Iraq), which was costly and fruitless, or immediately retreat (Libya), leaving behind a failed state. Success in these cases was defined by having an exit strategy. Russia’s involvement in Syria obviously differs from the U.S. and NATO’s actions in the Middle East since the beginning of the 2000s. The principal difference is that Moscow is not trying to change the current government, but on the contrary, preserve and strengthen it. Regardless of what is being said about Assad having lost legitimacy and effective control over most of the territory, Russia’s interaction with the regular army and the administrative apparatus, even though significantly weakened, guarantees more opportunities than helping the rebels. But what is Russia’s exit strat-
egy — especially if things do not go as planned? In the case of Syria, the Americans are conducting strikes against ISIS from the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where they are able to remain should the operation turn against them and their allies. Russian pilots, however, are based in Syria itself. Every war has its own logic, which at one point or another overpowers political expediency. And it is difficult not to get mired down — the experience of almost all the countries that have tried to play the “great game” in the Middle East is proof of this. The history of the region teaches only one thing: Things there never go as planned. And this cannot be forgotten. Fyodor Lukyanov is the Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy of Russia.
POST-SOVIET FROZEN CONFLICTS PROVIDE INSIGHT INTO ACTIONS Sergei Markedonov RUSSIA DIRECT
ussia’s involvement in the military confrontation in Syria has reignited the debate about Moscow’s role in resolving ethno-political conflicts in the former Soviet space. An article showing how Russia is effectively maintaining frozen conflict zones around its borders appeared in the influential Russian business newspaper Vedomosti last week. The opening lines alone are disheartening for
FIGHTING ISIS — BUT WITH A FEW ULTERIOR MOTIVES AT PLAY
MESSAGING APPS: SOCIAL OUTLET OR SECURITY THREAT? Anton Merkulov SPECIAL TO RBTH
nstant messaging mobile software has already managed to attract serious attention despite the fairly recent development of the most popular programs. WhatsApp has 800 million users, the Chinese-developed QQ boasts 600 million and Viber has 250 million. With options for gaming, news and even money transferring, messaging apps are the new social networks — but more. They have proved an effective tool for organizing groups, and so, unsurprisingly, they have attracted attention from security services as well as from terrorist organizations. Pavel Durov, founder of Telegram Messenger and the popular Russian social networking site VKontakte, has recently had to address criticism that ISIS has used Telegram to coordinate some of its actions. F.B.I. Director James Comey has even gone as far as to virtually demand that all messaging services disable encryption in the name of vaguely defined national security concerns, and F.B.I. officials have asked Congress for permission to tap into messaging apps, including WhatsApp. For the moment, requests such as these, which have been strong-
ly criticized by Durov and Apple’s Tim Cook among others — have so far remained just statements. And rightly so. The right to communicate freely is something that is not easy to take away from people. And in the case of instant messaging services, intelligence agencies can only act selectively, as they are unable to comprehensively monitor actions on the myriad sites and services. Those who criticize messenging apps love to shift the blame from shortsighted politicians and incompetent security services to the developers of communication tools. But it is extremely important to understand that these messengers don’t have any par-
ticular special functions that make it easier to commit a crime. It’s not like they have a button that tells users“click here to start a revolution.” Critics find it easier to blame the action on the program rather than examine the underlying causes that drive people to smash shop windows in Ferguson or convert to Islam under the tutalage of savvy ISIS recruiters. In August, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s State Security Council and and a former head of Russia’s security service, the F.S.B., said that Russian officials should not use popular instant messaging services to discuss government matters. His
reason? These communications could be monitored by foreign intelligence agents. Patrushev somehow failed to mention that officials using such services can also keep their dealings hidden from the public eye. Russian officials have nothing to worry about at the moment, however. For one thing, they do not have any governmentapproved alternative communication methods. Additionally, there are plenty of Russian state ministers and employees of the presidential administration whose names can be found among the users of Telegram. Still, Patrushev’s initiative is a concern for ordinary Russian users, since they fear it will be extended to them. Intimidated by the revelations of Edward Snowden, ubiquitous surveillance and omnipresent cyberthreats, users simply want to communicate in a reliable and secure way. And since messengers provide this by technical, rather than political means, authorities everywhere have no chance of prevailing. Controlling the way we communicate is totally unacceptable. There is no alternative argument. Anton Merkurov is an internet expert and a representative of Open Garden, the developer behind FireChat.
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the Kremlin: “Russia is increasingly investing in conflicts that become frozen, and which then require new investments,”the authors wrote.“It is not clear what the outcome of the Syrian operation will be, but Russia has already accumulated responsibility for no fewer than four disputed territories: Transdniester, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the Donbass. This growing list of ‘under-states’ requires not only a large budget, but also competent management. Russia has problems with both.” But Moscow has never had either a strategic objective or an obsession with collecting“disputed territories” and investing in conflicts. In fact, over the past two decades, Russia’s position in relation to these conflicts, as well as the issues of territorial integrity and self-determination, has repeatedly changed. Before the 2008 conflict with Georgia, Moscow operated a blockade and sanctions against the region of Abkhazia, which after the war it was accused of supporting. As far as Transdniester is concerned, Russia offered the Kozak memorandum on the basic principles of the state structure of a united Moldovan state in 2003, demonstrating that Moscow was prepared not only to recognize the territorial integrity of Moldova, but also to guarantee it. Moscow’s political approach is seen as a unilateral movement: What Moscow wants, Moscow gets. But are there not other factors that force it to move in a particular direction? It is not only Moscow’s policy in respect to the conflicts in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transdniester that has changed. The approaches of Georgia and Moldova have also changed — rapidly at times. And the Ukraine that emerged after the Maidan protests from November 2013–February 2014 was very different from the Ukrainian state that preceded it.
We can — and should — debate the results of Russia’s involvement in conflicts, but at the same time, we must not ignore the multidimensionality of the various post-Soviet case studies that are not simply the product of Soviet-style machinations from the Kremlin. It would also be unfair to ignore the positive outcomes of Moscow’s interference. For example, the May 1994 agreement on a permanent ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, which was concluded largely thanks to the efforts of retired Ambassador Vladimir Kazimirov, remains the only such document able to maintain the fragile status quo in the region. The document is both violated and disputed. Yet, so far, no one has proposed a better solution that would encourage both sides to come up with a genuine compromise. Likewise, Moscow stopped the bloodshed in Transdniester in 1992 and in Tajikistan in 1997 by bringing all parties to the negotiation table. Russia also contributed to establishing a peaceful negotiation process between Georgia and South Ossetia in 1992, and between Abkhazia and Georgia in 1994. And had former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili not sought to “unfreeze” the South Ossetian conflict in the spring of 2004, the current dynamic of RussianGeorgian relations would likely be very different. It should also be taken into account that reluctance by the international community to recognize these breakaway regions as independent does not mean a refusal to make decisions that affect the regional populations. One example is the visa restrictions on Abkhazians imposed by the E.U. With such a reception, it’s no wonder the people of these unrecognized states choose instead to establish closer ties with Russia. It’s important for the international community to work together to find the best compromise solution in resolving ethnopolitical conflicts, and not simply a settlement that seeks to minimize Russian involvement and edge Moscow out of the game. Sergei Markedonov is an associate professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities.
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medalists, added a whopping 100,000 euros ($113,500) for the grand prix and promised the kind of international exposure only someone like he could give. He hired an American, Richard Rodzinski, who had been in charge of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (Fort Worth, Tex.) for over two decades to help modernize the competition. In addition to overhauling the voting system, Rodzinski did what he had done with the Van Cliburn Competition to ensure there could be no accusations of favoritism: He live-streamed the entire competition on the Internet.
Nowhere to hide
VALENTIN BARANOVSKY / TASS
Concert of Tchaikovsky laureates offers New Yorkers a chance to hear the next generation of classical music stars conducted by a legend. AYANO HODOUCHI SPECIAL TO RBTH
On Oct. 24, New York audiences will have a chance to hear the winners of the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition at a special performance at Carnegie Hall. Russian maestroValery Gergiev will present the musicians, all of whom are still relatively new to the spotlight. The competition, sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Culture, takes place once every four years and has served as a talent search for new stars since naming its first laureate, Van Cliburn, in 1958. Winners are selected in cello, piano, violin and voice.
Rumors of favoritism Despite the competition’s storied history, its prestige fell after the collapse of the Soviet Union as juries failed to find anyone worthy of the top prize on multiple occasions, and on others, awarded medals to musicians many felt were not good enough for the honor. Rumors of “jury mafias” in which teachers gave prizes to their own pupils abounded, and many musicians did not even bother participating without a supporter on the jury. When the Ministry of Culture named Gergiev as the competition’s chairman in 2011, it hoped that the conductor would make fundamental changes to the system. He proved his sponsors right. For the juries, Gergiev chose celebrated performers, not venerable professors. He upped the prize to 30,000 euros ($34,000) for gold
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FACTS ABOUT THE COMPETITION
At the first Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958, awards were made only in piano and violin. The discipline of cello was added in 1962, and voice in 1966.
Participants in the cello, piano and violin divisions must be between the ages of 16–30 and vocalists between the ages of 19–32.
The 2015 event was the first in which juries heard candidates in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. Earlier, rounds had been held only in Moscow.
SPECIAL TO RBTH
TITLE: THE UNDERGROUND AUTHOR: HAMID ISMAILOV PUBLISHER: RESTLESS BOOKS
irill, the young narrator of Hamid Ismailov’s bittersweet novel“The Underground”mostly goes by his nickname, Mbobo. Born nine months after the 1980 Olympics, his mother is a smalltown girl from Siberia and his father, an “African sportsman” who visited Moscow for the games. “My mother died when I was eight and I died four years later,” he explains near the start. Mbobo does not live for long after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and chapters of“The Underground”are his posthumous reminiscences of life in the late Soviet era, in which domestic violence and ubiquitous racism are tempered by moments of remembered joy. Ismailov uses the Russian capital’s famously palatial metro stations to construct a fictionalized memoir inspired by episodes from his unsettled life. Threatened with arrest in Uzbekistan, Ismailov fled his native Tashkent in the early 1990s and eventually settled in London, where he works for the BBC. In between, as a refugee, he spent some years in Moscow, always moving in search of work and housing. Mbobo’s peripatetic life is based partly on the experiences of Ismailov’s own daughter. Mbobo’s other nickname is “Pushkin” — a reference to the fact that the great-grandfather of the Russian poet was an Ethiopian, Ibrahim Gannibal, who was sent to Russia as a gift to Peter the Great. “The Underground”takes its epigraph from Pushkin’s unfinished novel inspired by his grandfather’s life: “He felt that they saw him as some kind of rare beast, a peculiar, alien creature …” The novel explores multifaceted questions of Russian identity, variously reflected in music, art or architecture. Mbobo compares Mayakovskaya station
with Tchaikovsky’s“frenzied”fifth symphony while ornate Kievskaya reminds him of “a Gzhel figurine or a lacquered Palekh miniature … the very nature of Old Russia”. “The Underground”has its own internal soundtrack: Lyrics, folk tales, unpublished short stories and unattributed lines of poetry, all ably translated by Carol Ermakova, form a glimmering mosaic like the decorations in the metro. “The Underground”is also riddled with Russian literary allusions to writers from Tolstoy to Nabokov. Mbobo’s mother shares her name (and elements of her ambivalent energy) with the eponymous heroine of Andrei Platonov’s “Happy Moscow.” As an existentialist monologue with a subterranean narrator, Ismailov’s novel inevitably recalls Dostoevsky’s“Notes from the Underground.” The idea of literary links becomes a physical one at the writers’ village in Peredelkino, where the bedbugs had “sucked the blood of Platonov and Tarkovsky.” “The Underground”revisits Ismailov’s earlier themes, exploring an intermingling of cultures, as he did in “The Railway.” Just as that novel evoked a Central Asian town, “The Underground” recreates a lost Moscow. The narrator’s memories map out a haunting, bittersweet cityscape, with landmarks that no longer exist (the Hotel Rossiya, the round, open-air pool) and names that have long since changed. Moscow’s underground railway informs the novel’s circular structure and central themes. There are continual parallels between body and subway (“ribcage-like” passages,“stone intestines”). The metro’s metaphorical resonances crucially include the sense of life as the brief, lighted stations and death as the long“maggoty”darkness in between. Viewed from death’s“whistling cavities”,life resembles a metro journey: “lit up with occasional bursts of uncommon beauty”.The tangled map reflects the narrator’s disintegrating, incomplete perspective: “My Moscow glows in shreds, fragments, like a motley patchwork blanket, like a tapestry caught on the loom.”
LITERATURE Read our updated literature section! rbth.com/literature
T R AV E L 2 M O S C O W. C O M
The longest one is 16 km and runs from Muzeon to Victory Park
The most scenic route is through the city center along the river (5 km)
This decision turned out to be a game-changer in multiple ways. Not only did millions around the world get access to an event taking place in far-away Russia, but these people became witnesses to an incident that in previous years the competition might have swept under the rug. Mark Gorenstein, former Music Director of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra, was heard making racist comments to cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan during a rehearsal before the final stage. Many people saved the video of the incident before competition organizers could pull it, and took to the Internet to protest. Gorenshtein was dismissed, the contestants performed for the finals with a different conductor and Hakhnazaryan won the gold medal. This year, popular classical music streaming website medici .tv broadcast the whole competition, complete with jury and contestant interviews, presenters speaking in Russian and English, and an archive where people could access every round of the competition for free. Nine million people tuned in, most of them from outside Russia.Visitors can still watch piano laureate Dmitry Masleev performing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 without turning a hair, and listen to female vocalist prize winnerYulia Matochkina’s rich voice singing Tchaikovsky’s “Maid of Orleans”. And those who hear Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar’s rendition ofYeletsky’s aria (from the opera “The Queen of Spades”) can have no questions as to why he won the coveted grand prix. The Oct. 24 concert marks Masleev’s first performance in New York, and he credits the competition with giving him this big break:“Winning this competition completely changed my life — I got a chance to become a concert pianist, to perform with great orchestras and conductors.” He says performing with Gergiev makes him demand more and more from himself. In New York, he will be performing “Danse Macabre” (Saint-Saëns/Liszt/ Horowitz arrangement) and several other pieces he performed in the competition. Classical music lovers should not miss the chance to hear the four laureates live. They are all heavily booked in the next few months and may not be back in New York for a while.
For every taste
Gorky Park Luzhniki Bridge
Neskuchny Garden Pushkinskaya Embankment
For nature lovers, there are bike paths in in 50 city parks
For those who love speed, there is a cycling track in Krylatskoye Hills
Sparrow Hills Andreevskaya Embankment
The city’s biggest cycling event is the Moscow Veloparade. More than 20,000 people participated in this year’s event, held in August.
For a romantic getaway, ride around the territory of Moscow State University and get a view of the city from the observation deck.
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES
MOST READ The Mystery of the Romanovs’ Untimely Demise rbth.ru/47831
Section sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia www.rbth.com
The last tsar and his family in happier times. From left, Olga, Maria, Nicholas II, Alexandra, Anastasia, Alexei and Tatiana.
History The fate of Russia’s last emperor may have been only speculation but for one man
The detective work of one police inspector during the Russian civil war formed the basis for a postSoviet inquest into the death of Nicholas II. ALLA ASTANINA SPECIAL TO RBTH
Last month, the descendants of the House of Romanov announced their conditional approval of the reburial of the remains of Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria, two children of Emperor Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, in St. Petersburg’s Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress, if the identity of the remains is confirmed. The remains were discovered separatedly from the rest of the family, leading to questions about their veracity. While the fate of the last Russian emperor and his family has always been fodder for conspiracy theorists, claims about their survival would have been much stronger without the work of one man, Nikolai Sokolov. Sokolov’s investigative work in the days after the murder of the tsar formed the basis for a further probe into the deaths by Russian authorities after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sokolov was a provinicial lawyer in the region of Penza, 50 miles southeast of Moscow. Before the revolution, he served as a court investigator and by 1917, he had risen to the post of a major case
investigator at the Penza district court.A monarchist, Sokolov was forced to leave central Russia as civil war broke out. He took sick leave from his job and fled to Siberia, away from the Bolshevik army, according to Vladimir Solovyov, a senior investigator and criminologist of the Main Department of Criminology at Russia’s Investigative Committee who headed the reopened investigation into the Romanov murders from 1993 to 2011. In Siberia, Sokolov met with representatives of the regional government, which remained loyal to the tsar, and was subsequently hired by the Prosecutor’s Office of the city of Irkutsk and, later, the city of Omsk. It was due to his connections with this government that Sokolov found himself in the Urals city ofYekaterinburg with the army of the monarchist White forces eight months after the Bolsheviks had executed Nicholas II and his family in that city.
Instructions from the top Sokolov tells the story of how he came to investigate the tsar’s death in his book“The Murder of the Royal Family.” “On Feb. 5, I was summoned by the Admiral [Alexander Kolchak, White Army commander] ... and entrusted with the investigation.” Sokolov writes that he realized early on that he had been assigned
Imperial servants may become saints The Russian Orthodox hierarchy in the diocese of Yekaterinburg has proposed that the church canonize Yevgeny Botkin, the doctor of Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II, and the three servants of the royal family who were murdered with them in 1918 — cook Ivan Kharitonov, footman Aloise Trupp and maid Anna Demidova. Archpriest Alexy Kulberg, first aide
The relatives of the Romanovs didn’t trust the investigator; they believed that the royal family was alive. a case that would become of crucial importance for the history of the whole of Russia.“In our judicial work, we often seek the truth, operating with well-known facts. They have a special character here — they are historical facts.” According to Solovyov, the main achievement of Sokolov was that he was able to put to rest theories that the family was still alive. “He was able to prove that the royal family was indeed shot,”Sovolyov said. “There were a variety of theories about the fate of
to Metropolitan of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotura Kirill, told news agency Interfax, “We have no information that the life of these four loyal servants of the tsar was sinful and that they did anything in the course of their lives that would tarnish them as Christians.” The Russian church canonized Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children in 2000.
the Romanovs at that time, including those that led to the appearance of false heirs.” Both testimony and physical evidence led Sokolov to conclude that the royal family was murdered by Bolshevik officers of the Cheka, the feared secret police force on July 17. That day, anticipating the entry of White troops in the city and fearful that the royal family would be rescued, the officers took the family and several of their servants into the basement of Ipatiev House, where they had been kept under house arrest since April 30, and shot them. Since time was of the essence, after executing the prisoners, the officers took the bodies to an abandoned mine in the village of GaninaYama. Sokolov found evidence of the bodies there.
FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES
The Investigator Who Found the Royal Family
Last of Russia’s Royal Family to Be Reburied The remains of Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria are scheduled to be interred alongside those of their parents and siblings in February.
Nikolai Sokolov’s name is known to few, despite his role in history.
“The investigator found a large number of small chopped and burnt bone fragments, things and objects that have been identified by persons close to the royal family,”said historian Lyudmila Lykova. She noted that at the time Sokolov suggested that the bodies were burned, which they were, but after attempts to completely destroy the evidence failed, the remains were buried.
IGOR ROZIN RBTH
In 1998, the remains of Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and three of their five children were positively identified and reburied in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg, where Russia’s imperial rulers had been interred since the time of Peter the Great. Two years later, the entire family was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church, even though the remains of two of the children — Tsarevich Alexei and his sister Maria — remained lost. In 2007, the bodies of two people matching their description were uncovered. Although DNA analysis done in 2008 concluded that the remains were those of the missing children, the Russian Orthodox Church insisted on more extensive analysis, as the bones will be considered holy relics. A new round of DNA testing began in late September and the members of the Russian government’s working group on the issue said the reburial will take place in February. The head of the House of Romanov, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, supports the reburial, according to the director of the chancellery of the House of Romanov, Alexander Zakatov. “If the church recognizes the Yekaterinburg remains, [Maria] will welcome the day when the church glorification of the ashes will take place,” Zakatov said.
Preserving the evidence Sokolov continued his investigation into the deaths even when the White army was forced to retreat to the east after suffering a series of defeats. When the inevitability of the White’s defeat became clear, Sokolov carefully coll e c t e d a n d p re s e rve d t h e documents from the investigation and sent them out of the country. Lykova says that the documents were sent to France in two parts — some on a warship and some in a special carriage with diplomatic seals. Sokolov himself left Russia for Paris in March 1920. In Europe, the relatives of the Romanovs didn’t trust the investigator; they believed that the royal family was still alive. In the last years of his life, Sokolov prepared a full report of the investigation for Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna — Nicholas II’s mother, who had fled Russia and was living in her native Denmark —and wrote his book based on the investigation. Sokolov died in France in 1924; he was 42.
PRESS FROM THE PAST
WHAT THE RUSSIAN PAPERS WROTE ABOUT IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE EMPIRE
TESTING OF EAU DE COLOGNE MOSKOVSKY LISTOK, OCTOBER 6, 1915
The Moscow gubernatorial medical administration has set up a special committee to test eau de cologne before it goes on sale. The aim of the committee is to fight the“potable”eau de cologne that has appeared on the market. The alcoholic strength of the eau de cologne to go on sale has been established by the committee at 80 proof with a mandatory three percent of essential oils. “MY THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS” BY GRIGORY RASPUTIN
Newspapers in the early part of the 20th century played as important a role in informing and entertaining the population of the Russian empire as they did in the United States. In the summer and fall of 1915, the local press reacted to shortages caused by World War I and reviewed a book by one notable celebrity. Prepared by llya Krol
There are so many thorny paths in life ….” THE SUCCESS OF RUSSIAN CANARY BREEDING
ductor stopped the tram so that he could jump off and fetch some cigars at the nearest tobacco shop. He has authority, and there’s nothing that can be done.
PETROGRADSKY LISTOK, MAY 11, 1915
In the last three years the Russian canary has obtained such success in America that now special agents are busy buying our canaries and shipping them to NewYork. Special cages are being used to ship the birds to the other side of the ocean — these do not roll back and forth thanks to the fact that they are built like steamship lamps.
BIRZHEVYE VEDOMOSTI, JULY 23, 1915
The soon-to-be-published book, “Grigory Rasputin: My Thoughts and Reflections,” will shed light on Rasputin’s obscure figure. These are observations and religious-philosophical conclusions that Rasputin wrote during his travels to sacred places. Two portraits of Rasputin complete the book, as well as a facsimile. Under the portrait of Rasputin lying in bed (possibly ill) is written:“What tomorrow?You are our guide, God.
MOSKOVSKY LISTOK, JULY 21, 1915
Just a few words about an old, well-worn issue: the rudeness and megalomania of our tram conductors. The conductor, as everyone knows, is the tram’s tsar. He has the power not only to force the public into complying with the — often most absurd — regulations issued by the Moscow City Administration, but also with the rules that he himself creates. Once I witnessed how the con-
“HORSEMEAT” FASHION YAROSLAVSKIYE GUBERNSKIYE VEDOMOSTI, JULY 3, 1915
Do people eat horsemeat? This question naturally arises from the circumstances of the current beef crisis. The acting head of the city horse slaughterhouse, N. Zuyev, gives an affirmative answer. “The consumption of horsemeat has risen dramatically in recent years,” Zuyev said. Due to colossal demand, prices for this type of meat have also increased. But, of course, they are much lower than the price of beef. The increase in the consumption of horsemeat is not due to the needs of the Muslim population. Part of the Christian population has switched to horsemeat because of the high prices. PIGEON-SPIES BIRZHEVYE VEDOMOSTI, JUNE 23, 1915
For its seedy aims, espionage is
also making use of the pigeon — the symbol of purity and innocence. The Telegraph has reported that over 200 pigeons had been taken away from the peaceful residents of Galicia, who used the birds as spies to communicate with Vienna and other cities. The pigeons’ role was uncovered by our investigative department. What role does pigeon post play today? We posed this question to a military expert. “With the appearance of new perfected ways of transporting communication, some think that the role of the pigeon post is finished,” said the expert. “It was thought that radio and the telephone would eliminate the pigeon post. But in reality this is not so. As perfected as technology is, the radiotelegraph or the field telephone requires technical equipment, which for espionage is irrefutable evidence. The other thing is that a pigeon is a timid and peaceful bird. How will you know that such a pigeon, unlike its relatives, is carrying out a mission of betrayal under the guise of a ‘peaceful’ citizen?”
FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES
Read Rasputin’s Book, but Beware Pigeon Spies
Read now: No Common Ground for Russia, U.S. on ISIS; Economic Pain as Tourists Stay Home; Integration Still a Challenge in Russia and more
Published on Oct 21, 2015
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