Friday, July 21, 2017

Young Daghestanis Don’t View Those Who Fight for ISIS as Enemies, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 21 – Young Daghestanis don’t view those of their compatriots who have gone to fight for the Islamic State as enemies but rather as victims of “brain washing” or “unresolved social problems” at home, according to a new study by three scholars at th Center for Youth Research at the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg.

            Iskender Yasaveyev, Nadezhda Vasilyeva, and Alina Mayboroda conducted 49 in-depth interviews with Daghestanis aged 17 to 27 in Makhachkala who have been active in youth Internet communities there ( and

            Their key findings include:

  • “Those who join ISIS are viewed not as enemies and traitors,” rather as people “who have made a mistake” and brought suffering to their families and friends.

  • “Often,” the respondents said, “leaving for ISIS is connected with unemployment and the need to support one’s family,” something many young Daghestanis find very difficult in the current economic crisis.

  • Those who recruit people to fight for ISIS are individuals “who know how to conduct a conversation” and whom most “find it difficult to resist.”

  • “The main channels of recruitment are social networks and skype, “through which both ‘recruiters’ inside the republic and those who are located beyond the borders of Daghestan and Russia communicate.”

  • Many young Daghestanis are afraid to talk about these things because they fear the information will get back to the special services and they and their families will suffer. For the same reason, most do what they can to avoid attracting attention whatever they think.

  • “However, none of the interviewees called for the severe punishment ‘of those who went.’” Instead, the study found, “a repressive anti-terrorist policy which affects a wide circle of people” doesn’t “enjoy the support of young Daghestanis.”

  • “The majority on the contrary” suggested that “’the best anti-terrorist policy is a good social policy,’ with a solution found in the region to the problems of education and employment.”

To Keep Himself in Power, Putin has Created an Off-Putting ‘State of Fools,’ Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 21 – “By his planned cleansing of the political field of Russia” of anyone who might challenge him, Vladimir Putin has “liquidated any direct threat to the preservation of his power,” Aleksandr Yakovenko says. But at the same time, he “has created a new albeit long-term threat” to him and Russia.

            The essence of this threat, the Moscow commentator says, is that “in Russia today, there exists a critical mass of fools in power and fools with initiative,” a reality that Putin himself occasionally acknowledges as he did with regard to official attacks on artists and directors (

            “But the winner of the competition for the title ‘chief fool of the month’ undoubtedly is DNR head Aleksandr Zakharchenko who declared that he is replacing Ukraine and putting in its place Malorossiya with a capital in Donetsk.”  Unlike most fools in Putin’s entourage, this wasn’t a personal evaluation or a prediction: this was a declaration.

            Holding what he said was “’a constitutional act,’” Zakharchenko listed the 19 Ukrainian oblasts he said would be part of his new state. (Why he didn’t list the other four is uncertain. Perhaps he doesn’t know, Yakovenko says.) Worse yet, “it is obvious that the Kremlin wasn’t prepared to go so far in its own alternative reality.”

            Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov didn’t quite know how to react at all, while Vladislav Surkov suggested that all the “hype” about Malorosia about “the imaginary state of Malorossiya on the whole is useful.”  At least, it will have an impact on Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with Europe.

            To the honor of Ukrainians, Yakovenko continues, “many of them still have” a positive attitude toward Russia and its leadership.”  But “it is difficult to say how the further rapid growth in the number of fools in the Russian leadership and the appearance of ever new foolish initiatives on the relationship of citizens of Ukraine and Russia.”

            “Especially,” he concludes, “if one considers that the author of this main and most foolish initiative on the occupation of Crimea intends to continue to rule Russia until the end of his life and Russians in the same way are prepared to put up with this.”

For the Chekists, Navalny is the Yeltsin of 1987, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 21 – Many have forgotten that in May 1987, Boris Yeltsin, then head of the Moscow city committee of the CPSU, received representatives of the chauvinist and anti-Semitic Pamyat organization, thus sending a signal that he was someone the KGB and its allies could count on to defend their interests, Vitaly Portnikov says.

            Today, 30 years later, the Ukrainian analyst says, Aleksey Navalny is playing a similar role by taking part in debates with Igor Strelkov, “an employee of [Russia’s] special services and the new face of ‘the Russian world’” (

            That the debate occurred “is not important.” Instead, what is important, Portnikov says, “is to show the public, including the openly chauvinist and reactionary, that the future ‘leader’ is capable of talking with everyone,” just as Yeltsin did three decades ago. For that segment of Russian opinion, “the debates are the same signal: here’s their man, a Russian one can talk with.”

            Portnikov stresses that he isn’t asserting that “Navalany is an FSB agent. Navalny rather is a project of the special services in a much broader sense of the world. Yeltsin too waasn’t an agent of the KGB,” the organs then recognized that it was “categorically prohibited” from recruiting someone that senior in the party.

            “But they were not prohibited from talking, cooperating and seeking common interests,” the commentator says. “Yeltsin needed power, a lot of power, indeed all power. And the chekists needed access to financial flows and the preservation of control over the country, total control without the interference of ‘party people.’”  They got that in 1991 and then again in 1993.

            Portnikov continues: “Navalny, although he too criticizes Yeltsiin, says precisely what Yeltsin said earlier, what the average Russian, a chauvinist and obscurantist but at the same time a little man with a childish psychology wants to hear.” Navalny just like Yeltsin is someone who can be counted on to be a strong hand and hold things together.

            “If Navalny came to power in a crisis, he would agree not only with a withdrawal from the Donbass and Crimea but even with the independence of Chechnya or Tatarstan.” For him, “the question will be only this.” Does he and those is allied with have control over the remaining territory.

            “Of course,” Portnikov acknowledges, “the figure of Navalny is incomparable to that of Yeltsin. Even at the first stage of his career, Yeltsin was a real political and looked to be the leader of the masses. Navalny doesn’t.

             “But the possibility of the collapse of the regime today is not so evident and close for the Chekists as was the case at the end of the 1980s,” he continues.  “They prepared Yeltsin to replace Gorbachev who had lost control over the state and didn’t want to change anything in the economy.”

            The current Kremlin ruler “is not Gorbachev. Rather, he is a slowly aging figure who is losing his grip on reality and living in his own world like Brezhnev or Andropov. But if the calculation of the chekists is correct, in place of this Brezhnev will inevitably come a new Gorbachev from his immediate circle.”

            “A Gorbachev who will try to reform an un-reformable system without changing anything in a serious way. And the system, just as at the end of the 1980s is beginning to fall apart in a real way, all the more so because citizens won’t fear this new Gorbachev as they do Putin.”

            For the chekists and bandits, Navalny is a real find, a reserve in case things go really wrong, Portnikov says, and before that happens, they may be able to “grow” him into “a new Yeltsin,” someone with whom they will have agreed about everything well in advance.”