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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
June 20, 2016

Publication: Windows on Eurasia
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Nationalism Breeding Its Nemesis: Increasingly Angry and Radicalized Non-Russians
Staunton, VA, June 20, 2016 - The ever more vulgar, offensive, and even racist qualities of some kinds of Russian nationalism, including that of many politicians and government officials, are rapidly generating their nemesis: increasingly radicalized nationalism among many of the peoples within the borders of the Russian Federation.

Today, for example, members of the Sakha nationality have reacted with anger to the statement of Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky that he is very much put off by the large number of “Asiatic faces” on cartoons that Russian children watch.

The Sakha tell TV Rain that they are very much ashamed to live in a country where a minister of culture could make such uncultured statements and remain in office, an indication they suggest that far more people in Moscow share his bigoted views than the narrow circle of his most vociferous Russian nationalist supporters.

A more serious and extended discussion of the ways in which Russian nationalist expressions are radicalizing non-Russians is provided by Buryat scholar Zurtan Khaltarov who explains both why such Russian actions are radicalizing his people and why the Russians nonetheless feel they must offer them in order to mobilize the Russian world.

In an interview with the AsiaRussia portal, Khalturov discusses the introduction by the Bolsheviks of highly offensive terms for the Buryats, popularized by the Russians, which thus promoted the growth of pro-Moscow “Buryatophobes” among all non-Buryats in that republic.

“It is no secret,” the Buryat scholar says, “that in present-day Buryatia, the so-called pro-Russian community includes representatives of various ethnic groups who lost their ties with their own native peoples as a result of exile and forced labor” and are united only by “the propaganda of Buryatophobia as the single means of joining themselves to the Russian world.”

For those in this group, he continues, “the only possibility to show themselves is to stand in opposition to some ‘dangerous elements’ which are trying to destroy Russia. And if these do not exist, then it is necessary to think them up,” something that presents few challenges given Russia’s history and diversity.

This can be seen in the case of the now widely-used denigration of Buryats as “Burnatsiki,” a slighting diminutive with clear connotations of the Soviet-era term “bourgeois nationalists.” The “bur” of course in Buryatia can refer both to the titular nationality and to that formerly- disgraced class.

There are four reasons the pro-Moscow Russian nationalists have begun spreading this term:

First, they want to invent “a Buryat threat” in order to unite pro-Moscow people and to justify repressions.

Second, they want to suggest that Buryats aren’t patriotic but rather involved in some “pan-Mongol” schemes, even though the latter aren’t banned by Russian law.

Third, by adding the diminutive suffice “-ik,” these pro-Moscow figures are seeking to attach it to all Buryats and thus transform it into “a kind of yellow ‘Star of David’” for them in order to ghettoize the nation. Russians are doing the same thing by adding diminutive endings to other nations like the Tatars, Tuvins, Yakuts, and so on, Khalturov notes.

And fourth, the Russians can’t help themselves. They are projecting their own hatred onto others just as they did in the past with their anti-Semitism and Judophobia. For all these reasons, he continues, Buryats must insist that “we are not Burnatsiki” as the Russians imagine, “but rather Buryat nationalists” who are proud of that fact.

Both Russians and Buryats must understand, Khalturov continues, that those “rocking the boat” in Buryatia are the ones with “imperial ambitions,” something the Buryats who do not number more than 300,000 in the world as a whole cannot have and do not aspire to. But they do have goals, and those include an end to discrimination and repression.

The Buryats understand that one can’t cure problems like this by decree and that the only way is for those who have been victims to press their case until those who are victimizing them change their approach. That isn’t easy: It may even require sending Buryats abroad so that they can learn to be Buryats rather than become the deracinated “Burnatsiki” Moscow wants.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Five Rules for Living Through and Looking Beyond the Putin Stagnation
Staunton, VA, June 20, 2016 - Those who lived through the Brezhnev stagnation, commentator Dmitry Gubin says, know that “when the chances for change for the better don’t exist, one must particularly carefully filter information and choose one’s strategy of behavior.” Now, Russia is in another such period, and to help them, he offers five “rules of life at a time of stagnation.”

In Russia today just like in Brezhnev’s times, he argues, “we do not have a crisis, because a crisis can be overcome.” Instead, Russians are living in a state of stagnation when there aren’t going to be any changes except for the worse” until a time of radical change after Putin’s death or their own.

And they need to adopt certain rules of behavior, Gubin says, or they will find themselves in the future like some who physically survived the Brezhnev stagnation who proved incapable of adapting to the radical changes that came after his death. To that end, he offers five rules of how to live now so as to be prepared for later.

· Rule No. 1: Ignore the Government and Focus on Larger Things. Joseph Brodsky showed how Russians should respond to stagnation, Gubin says. He ignored what Brezhnev was doing and read the poems of John Donne. The first proved to be incredibly temporary; the latter had and have permanent importance. The same rule applies now. Russians should stop obsessing about “Crimea is Ours” and ask some larger questions instead.

· Rule No. 2: Buy Property. The experience of post-Brezhnev Russia suggests that just about the only thing that will retain value is property and therefore Russians should seek to own as much as they can. “We are urbanized peasants. Our apartment is our cow.” And regardless of what happens, it, like the cow, will retain its value and save Russians during the coming times of troubles. Russians today really don’t need anything more than an apartment with a computer on an IKEA table.

· Rule No. 3: Stop Watching Domestic TV. At times of stagnation, “the main product” the authorities can produce is “information noise.” Avoid it by not watching domestic television. It is better to watch French channels even if you don’t know French, Gubin says, and listening to Western channels like the BBC, CNN, Sky News and Fox are a more profitable way to spend one’s time. Indeed, “if one is honest, the is more useful than many Russian internet media outlets taken together.”

· Rule No. 4: Learn English. “The Russian education system imitates education in the same way [Russia’s] election system imitates democracy,” the commentator says. “It is a decoration” and the country’s higher educational institutions are simply designed to keep young people occupied and off the streets. In this circumstance, the only strategy for parents is to make sure their children learn English so that they can study abroad and be ready for the future.

· Rule No. 5: Get Ready for the IT Revolution Rather than Re-Fight the Industrial Revolution. Many in the Russian government are fighting a war that is already over everywhere else. They want to make an industrial revolution while the West is undergoing an information technology revolution. Russia will lurch forward in that direction after Putin, and those who prepare themselves for that now will be in the best position to succeed, Gubin says.
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Putin Understands West but West Doesn’t Understand Putin, Moscow Hybrid War Specialist Says
Staunton, VA, June 20, 2016 - Russia’s power does “not even come close” to that of the US, Andrey Manoylo says; but Moscow has an advantage “right now” because it understands the value of “asymmetric action” and because “the US clearly has difficulties with predicting Russia’s activities,” because of Washington’s overly simplistic models of Russian behavior.

“We already know perfectly well how Obama and John Kerry will act even before they get into a situation,” the former FSB officer who now advises the Russian defense ministry and Security Council tells Estonia’s Diplomaatia journal; but “nobody knows Putin will act,” despite the fact that “there is a pattern for [his] behavior."

“Unpredictable behavior is also in fact an element of predictability,” Manoylo argues, and “Putin’s behavior always remains within the confines of logic.” If one examines his actions in the past, one can see “a very simple logic,” one in which “he has applied the style of domestic policy from the 2000s where he often made seemingly very unexpected decisions to making foreign policy.”

“In today’s circumstances,” according to the widely published expert (for a list of his key works, see here)  “where all warfare is already hybrid, the Americans are still betting too much on brute force, on the [notion] that force can resolve any kind of issue. But it is no longer the most important thing in the world.”

"It is no longer important to strike a mighty blow from the outset; instead you need to have very fine fencing skills.”  And that is what Moscow has and the West doesn’t, the Russian expert suggests.

In the first decade of this century, Manoylo worked as an FSB information warfare specialist and then began to focus on color revolutions. Since 2012, he has been employed as a political science specialist at Moscow State University and serves as an advisor to both the Russian Security Council and the Russian General Staff.

He has been involved in the development of Russian thinking about hybrid warfare as articulated over the last three years by General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff. (For a discussion of this, see Andrew Monaghan, “The ‘War’ in Russia’s ‘Hybrid Warfare'

In his Diplomaatia interview, Manoylo expands on Gerasimov’s ideas and suggests how the general sees the military playing a role in countering color revolutions in the post-Soviet space, a role that is driven by Moscow’s assumptions about the nature of such revolutions and how they differ from other kinds of public protest.

According to Manoylo, Gerasimov believes that “when people protest spontaneously, there are never immediate massive protests as in color revolutions; instead, people initially gather in small groups, which start to create larger groups until they form demonstrations. This takes at least a month.”

But in the case of “color revolutions,” the general believes, the situation is different: “as soon as the incident occurs, it signals the protesters to take to the streets all over the city led by their activists, which means that this protesting electorate has been formed earlier and is only waiting for the signal.”

"This is preceded by recruitment and building of a city-wide hierarchy of protest cells, where each cell has its own leader, who does not know the leaders or members of other cells, only his direct superior,” he continues. “This system is very similar to how Al-Qaeda is structured or how the underground boyevik units operated in the Northern Caucasus.”

Consequently, Gerasimov thinks, “it is very difficult to fight such organizations, which act as networks, because destroying one cell does not take you to the next.” And he further understands that “there is no warfare that is not hybrid. Such wars begin long before war is officially declared and end long after a peace treaty has been signed.

These wars “begin in the form of information warfare, diversionary acts and guerrilla warfare, and this is what the headquarters level proceeds from in planning modern warfare,” and that in turn means, Manoylo says, that “defense attaches need to be excellent specialists in information warfare, influencing the public and psychological operations.”

As a result of this understanding, the Moscow hybrid war specialist says, “the proportion of people without epaulettes is growing fast in the [Russian] military,” including a new push for private military corporations that can be deployed with deniability because it allows governments to “participate in military conflicts in their active face while not risking military involvement at the state level.”

“Not risking the lives of the soldiers of your own army,” Manoylo points out, “is a typical hybrid-warfare tactic … This guarantees that they will not clash with each other, until a certain moment of course. An ideal future war would be two PMCs doing the fighting” because they are a screen that effectively “legalizes” mercenary forces.

According to the Russian expert, “hybrid warfare without PMCs is probably not even possible anymore … direct confrontation between the main opponents is only a worst-case scenario. In hybrid warfare, world powers monitor each other’s strength, potential, and readiness to protect their interests, usually on the battlefields of the developing world.”

At present, he suggests, “Ukraine and Syria are typical” of this, “but they are not the only ones.”  Asked by his Estonian interviewer whether the Baltic countries fit into this category, Manoylo responds: “the Baltic States are too small for that. I don’t want to offend anyone, but the Americans are very good at manipulating the Baltics. As the Baltic States are very small, they can be easily scared. This panic will later spread to larger European countries as well. Then they of course turn to the US for help, which enables the Americans to set the condition for the Europeans that they finally need to pay the famous two percent” on national defense.