Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rural Russia No Longer Dominated by Agriculture, Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 21 – Approximately 200,000 Russians move from rural areas to urban ones every year, but today “the majority of those working age people who remain do not work in agriculture” but in the budget sector, according to a new study by Nikita Mkrtchyan and Tatyana Nefedova of the Higher School of Economics (

            The popular image of rural to urban migration is that it is the result of young people fleeing from the farm to the bright lights of the big cities, the two geographers say; but the modernization of agriculture from labor-intensive to capital-intensive forms also plays a key role.

            In many areas, young workers are no longer needed in the number that were only a decade or so ago; and so rural residents are forced to find other jobs in their home areas or, when they can’t, to move to the cities, often with the greatest reluctance as shown by the numbers of “backtrailers” who either maintain rural homes or retire to their home villages.

            “Every year,” Mkrtchyan and Nefedova says, “between 90,000 and 174,000 villagers move into the urban settlements of their regions,” with the villages declining by between 31,000 and 76,000 people as a result. (The difference reflections immigration and returns, the two scholars point out.)

            Official data suggest that immigration compensates for about a third of the rural to urban flight, “but in reality, there are significantly fewer such migrants in the villages: having gotten their registration there, they live and work in cities.” And so they do not in fact compensate for rural flight.

            People aged 18 or so are the most likely to leave the villages: they do not yet have jobs or families and so feel freer to move, the two geographers say.  This has been true since the 1950s, and it means that rural areas lose young people who have just completed their educations and the population as a whole becomes older.

            Indeed, if one considers migration flows by age cohort, they say, out-migration from rural areas is much higher than in-migration among those under 40, but then the situation reverses itself with in-migration becoming higher than outmigration for each older group. At present, about 800,000 in official figures and many more in unofficial ones are returning to villages.

            At present, they conclude, “the majority of labor-capable rural residents do not work in agriculture.” In most places, fewer than one in four or only 4.9 million out of 21 million do so. Far higher shares work in budgetary spheres, in some cases as high as 70 or 80 percent. These trends, the two say, are likely to continue. 

Central Asians in Russian Prison Said Behind Spread of Islamist Extremism There

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 21 – Anatoly Rudy, deputy head of Russia’s prison system, says the number of followers of “aggressive trends of Islam” is growing rapidly because of the activities of 29,000 Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kyrgyz now behind bars in Russia.  The situation is so dire that he has appealed to Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSDs) in those countries for assistance.

            In the past, Russian penal officials have placed the blame for this problem on Muslims from the North Caucasus who have been sentenced for “extremism” and who some jailors would like to see segregated out from the general prison population.  Rudy’s remark is intriguing because it links extremism to gastarbeiters (

                “In one colony,” Rudy says, “where half of the condemned consist of people from the republics of Central Asia, disorders have occurred. The religious community has entered into conflict with ‘the common jail subculture’ and as a result, force had to be used to address” this challenge to the order of the prison.

            “We have fascists and nationalists and we know how to work with them,” the prison official said. “But with people who profess aggressive forms of Islam, we do not know what to do.” If Muslim officials from these countries or from Russia can help, that would be extremely welcome, Rudy concluded.

            The penal official’s comments will undoubtedly help to power a new upsurge in anti-Central Asian attitudes among Russians.

Only Political Russophobia Can Save Russia and the World, Muzhdabayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 23 – When Germany went haywire under Hitler, Ayder Muzhdabayev says, “Germanophobia didn’t surprise anyone and everyone understood its usefulness and its basis.”  And that political Germanophobia disappeared overnight when Hitler was defeated and the Germans committed themselves that such outrages would never happen again.

            Today, the Crimean Tatar journalist argues,“political Russophobia” is equally justified and equally needed by both the Russian people themselves and by the international community and that it will also disappear overnight once Russians recognize the source of their problems and commit to change (

                In an article in Kyiv’s Novoye vremya, Muzhdabayev argues that the world “must become consistently Russophobic, in everything from economics to sports,” something justified by Russian attitudes and Russian actions rather than by any specific hatred to ethnic Russians as such, despite what many of them believe.

            No one ‘fears Russians’ or ‘doesn’t like Russians’” just because they are Russians, a sharp contrast to the attitudes of anti-Semites toward Jews.  And no one “doesn’t like Russians’ as specific personalities and individuals. If an ethnic Russian behaves, no one will ever say a bad word abut him.  These are objective facts.”

            What political Russophobia is about, the journalist continues, is a horror about the specific actions of the Russian state and the Russian world – “wars, murders, illegality, the destruction of the histories and cultures of others, moral terror, and in fact the racist hatred of part of Russian society to other people, countries and peoples,” to name just a few.

            Just as Germanophobia was useful in opposing Hitler and disappeared when he was defeated and Germans committed to change, so too “Russophobia is useful and justified in our time. Russophobia is not ethnic and not anti-human; it does not touch specific innocent peoples or their human rights. Russophobia is political.”

            It reflects, Muzhdabayev says, the real concerns many have about “the threats which Russian society in its overwhelming majority albeit in the interests of others and its ‘own’ outcasts has generated on its own. There are no other guilty parties.”  Until these causes are removed, “Russophobia in the world will only grow.”

            Indeed, he argues, “political Russophobia as a conscious strategy of the civilized world in relation to ‘the Russian world’ – on all fronts – is not only an inevitable but also vitally necessary option.”  And “not to be a political Russophobe now means not to recognize reality and not to assess objectively the extent of the threat.”

            “The world must become consistently Russophobic in all sectors, from economics to sports,” Muzhdabayev says. If it doesn’t, “the fascistic majority of Russian society will never recognize” that it is hated not because of who it is but because of what its leaders do and will not see any reason to change.

            Perhaps even more important, the writer concludes, “Russophobia is the only path of salvation not only for the entire world from Russia but of the Russians themselves from the chauvinist paranoia” which now infects their society so dangerously.