Note: This is my 45th
special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the planned Olympiad on the nations in the surrounding region. These WOEs, which will appear each Friday over the coming year, will not aim at being comprehensive but rather will consist of a series bullet points about such developments. I would like to invite anyone with special knowledge or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
… Winning Him Additional Support among Russian Nationalists …
In the “Berliner Zeitung,” commentator Ulrich Krökel says that the Volgograd explosions will work to Putin’s advantage inanother way: they will allow him to play up the nationalist themes he has been using in recent months and win more support from ethnic Russians against others. But he notes that “despite and perhaps maybe because Putin is a anatic about security, [Russia] is not a stable country.” Instead, “Russia’s multi-national society is held in check exclusively by the power apparatus and raw materials wealth” (inopressa.ru/article/30Dec2013/inotheme/volgograd_obzor.html
… And Setting Stage for Moscow to Denounce Domestic Opponents as Backers of Terrorism and Those Foreign Leaders Who Don’t Come as Cowards.
In “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Russian commentator Aleksandr Ryklin says that the Kremlin will use the Volgograd violence both domestically and internationally. It will “call those who refuse to come to our Games cowards … and label the internal opposition which has called for one or another kind of boycott of the Olympic Games in Sochi as accomplices of the terrorists” (ej.ru/?a=note&id=24114
Volgograd Bombings Highlight Terrorist Risks and Shortcomings in Russian Approach.
Commentators in Russia and abroad said that the Volgograd bombings not only had undercut Putin’s charm offensive against the West but called attention both to the difficulties of combatting terrorist actions by small groups of people and shortcomings in the Russian effort. Several observers suggested that the terrorists were clearly more “professional” in their actions than the Russian security services, that the FSB had lost too many good people to retirement in recent years, that Russian officials had been slow to introduce effective security checks at transportation facilities,and that, as a result, more attacks can be expected in the future. At the same time, there was general agreement in both Russia and the West that the attacks were linked to the North Caucasus and timed to affect Sochi (tbo.com/ap/russian-suicide-bombings-raise-concern-over-sochi-olympics-20131230/
Recent Security Exercise in Sochi Far From Successful, MVD Sources Say.
The recent security exerecise in Sochi failed to stop 25 of the 48 people posing as terrorists from carrying out their missions, according to Sergey Ogurtsov, deputy head of the Sochi interior ministry administration. That failure, according to a local journalist, highlighted how relatively easy it would be for someone to carry out a terrorist attack, despite everything that Moscow has done. The one thing the security exercise did do, that journalist said, was to expel many of the migrant workers who had been in the city. Indeed, Semen Simonov, coordinator of the Migration and Law network in Sochi, “many of the measures taken are not very effective for capturing terrorists but they do harm the interests, rights, and freedoms of citizens” (kavpolit.com/antiterror-i-olimpiada-gde-slaboe-zveno/
Moscow has Already Spent 2.5 Billion US Dollars on Sochi Security
As of June 2013, Russian analyst Sergey Markedonov says, the Russian government had spent 2.5 billion US dollars on security in Sochi. Before the games are over, it will undoubtedly spend even more, with this line item alone being as large or larger than the total amount spent for most past winter Olympiads. At the same time, Markedonov adds, Moscow has been constrained somewhat in the security area lest its measures in this area become the story of the Sochi games (caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=21229
Volgograd Attacks Point to Mistake of Awarding Olympics to Sochi, Satter Says.
David Satter, an expert on Russia, says that “the terrorist attacks in Volgograd on December 29 and 30 are an ominous sign that the decision to hold the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi may lead to one of the greatest catastrophes in the history of the Olympics. The first danger is from the terrorists. In addition to the danger from terrorists, however, there is also a danger from the Russian forces. As past experience shows, in a hostage situation, the Russians will make no effort to spare innocent lives. Because of the irresponsibility of the Olympic Committee in indulging Putin’s desire for a propaganda spectacular, the stage may now be set for there to be many more” (edition.cnn.com/2013/12/31/opinion/opinion-russia-terror-sochi/index.html?hpt=hp_t2
IOC’s Bach Condemns Volgograd Attacks, Expresses Confidence in Sochi Security. In a statement released after the two bombings in Volgograd, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, expressed his “condolences to the Russian people,” adding that he is “certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games … This is a despicable attack on innocent people and the entire Olympic movement joins me in utterly condemning this cowardly act. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the victims” (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131230/711831447.html,usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2013/12/30/sochi-winter-games-bombings-russia-putin-security-ioc/4248745/ and craveonline.com/sports/articles/623711-sochi-olympics-2014-bombings-question-safety).
More than 20 European Leaders Will Be at Sochi, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Says
. Vladimir Titov, Russia’s first deputy foreign minister, says that “it is already clear that more than 20 European countries will be represented in [Sochi] at the level of chief of state or head of government as well as royalty.” He added that plans for bilateral meetings are still being “formulated” (ria.ru/interview/20131231/987383131.html
Everything is ‘Ready’ for Olympiad and Security is ‘Guaranteed,’ Russia Today Says
. Those who rely on the Russia Today television channel were told on New Year’s Day that “everything is ready for the Olympic Games in Sochi” and that “security will be guaranteed for all athletes and guests” who attend (blogsochi.ru/content/russia-today-v-sochi-vse-gotovo-k-olimpiiskim-igram
Russian Prime Minister ‘Not Sure’ Olympics will Go Smoothly.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medveev says that he is certain that everything will in fact be ready for the opening of the Sochi Olympiad on February 7, but he added that “to tell you the truth, I’m not sure that everything will be ideal and smooth.” At the same time, he suggested that he doesn’t “think we’ll have the worst variant” and that he doesn’t “have any concerns about the Olympics” (en.ria.ru/sochi2014/20131228/185992398/Medvedev-Not-Sure-of-Smooth-Sochi-Olympics.html
With Sochi, Putin Trying but Failing to Re-Brand Russia and Himself, US Paper Says
. The Chicago Tribune says in an editorial that “Putin may have thought hosting the Olympics would boost his stature in Russia and elsewhere. The actual effect, though, has been to focus more attention on his thin skin, contempt for Western values and unquenchable need for control. So even his gesture of charity toward the prisoners he freed merely underscored the arbitrary, secretive nature of his rule, while reminding everyone that those people should never have been jailed in the first place.The Winter Olympics could have been Putin’s opportunity to show the world a country far more humane, democratic and open than it was when the Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. Instead, he is likely to face protests, overt or oblique, by athletes and spectators. He will find foreign news media examining how he steered Russia off the democratic path it took after the collapse of communism.Unlike the regime that held power in 1980, Putin has avoided a mass boycott of the festivities by other nations. But he won’t avoid a spotlight that reminds the world of his abuses” (chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-russia-putin-olympics-0102-20140102,0,2986892.story
Don’t Cancel Sochi Games but Move the Competitions Elsewhere, US Columnist Urges
. Philip Hersh, a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune, offers a creative solution for getting around “the problem of having the Winter Games in a hard-to-reach locale with a subtropical climate, repression of gay rights, obscene spending (and related corruption), environmental despoilment and human rights abuses of its residents. And, oh yes, apparently serious threats to disrupt the Games by nationalist insurgents — aka terrorists — from nearby Chechnya. (Not to mention Dagestan, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.)” The answer, he says, “isn’t to cancel the Olympics. And it’s too late to move them en masse. I have another idea: Stage them — and the Paralympics — over the regularly scheduled time period in manageable pieces at some of the cities or countries that have been previous Winter Olympic hosts, many of which have World Cup competitions every year. Because 99 percent of the world consumes the Olympics via television, some people may not even notice the difference … To those who say this would be giving in to terrorists, my reply simply would be that it is, rather, an 11th-hour return to sanity after the misguided International Olympic Committee decision in 2007 to indulge Putin’s folly. This is how my 2014 Olympics would play out: The opening and closing ceremonies can stay in Sochi. In lieu of athletes, the thousands of military who would be on hand can march into the stadium, which will be filled with all the friends of Putin who have gotten rich off the Games.Is this a joke? No less so than the idea to give the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi in the first place” (chicagotribune.com/sports/chi-a-lesson-plan-to-spare-the-olympics-from-sochi-20140101,0,3859512.column
FSB Approach to Sochi Security, ‘Questionable at Best,’ Soldatov Says.
Andrey Soldatov, editor of Agentura.ru and Russia’s leading independent analyst on that country’s security services, “the way in which the Russian secret services [are] responding to the threat looks questionable at the very least.” Instead of putting counter-terrorist experts in charge of the effort, the FSB has put its “main spy hunter.” Moreover, Soldatov says, “it seems the Russian secret services do not understand that maintaining control over everyone and everything (essentially the idea inherited from the Soviet past) and preventing a terrorist attack are far from being the same thing” (telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/10544470/Russia-terror-analysis-Volgograd-and-an-Olympics-under-threat.html
Businessweek Documents ‘Waste and Corruption’ of Putin’s Games.
In the current issue of
“Businessweek,” Joshua Yaffa documents what he calls “the waste and corruption of Vladimir Putin’s 2014 Winter Olympics,” including paying off Putin’s friends, massive kickbacks, poor planning and mafia-like interactions of the players, government and non-government alike. At the same time, he concludes that Sochi is, in the words of one of those he interviewed, hardly unique. “You will see the same thing, maybe even more,” elsewhere in Putin’s Russia. Indeed, his interlocutor said, “Sochi is just what is happening in Russia everywhere” (businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-02/the-2014-winter-olympics-in-sochi-cost-51-billion
Russian Officials Collecting Detailed Information from and about Activists. Activists in Sochi and adjoining parts of the North Caucasus have been complaining for the last several weeks that security officials, working from a list, are forcing anyone that the Russian government deems unreliable to provide detailed information about themselves and their activities between now and the end of the Sochi Games. This week, more information about the list became available in a report by Olga Loginova in “Nezavisimaya gazeta.” She writes that “criminal investigation departments have required those considered inclined to engage in extremist activities to provide detailed information and subject themselves to official supervision” To aid the authorities, such people are required to show up at police stations and provide information about any special physical characteristics, information on drug use, and data about their organizational affiliations (ng.ru/regions/2013-12-27/1_sochi.html and sobkorr.ru/news/2/52BD2F6BB5724.html).
Olympic Torch has a Better Week. Only one serious incident involving the Olympic torch was reported this holiday week. In Samara, after one torch would not light the next one, a man lit the new torch with a lighter and then the torch burned out of control. It was thrown to the ground, smothered by a blanket of some kind, and a replacement torch was found and ignited by a lighter. Meanwhile, prices for a torch on Internet sites continued to rise, reaching 300,000 rubles (10,000 US dollars) in some cases, and officials along the route took the opportunity to buy torches for 12,800 rubles (400 US dollars), perhaps in the hopes of making a quick profit (http://www.echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/1226655-echo/, privetsochi.ru/blog/humor/39830.html and vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22025-glava-chuvashii-vykupil-svoj-olimpijskij-fakel).
Olympic Athletes Concerned about Sochi Security After Volgograd.
US speedskater Jilleanne Rookard said that she is “scared [Russia’s] security may be involved [in the violence]. I don’t know if Inecessarily trust their security forces I’m sure they want to save their image and their pride” Swedish hockey player Johan Franzen said that now “the security will be higher [in Sochi] than they intended from the start” (thetranscript.com/localsports/ci_24825233/2014-sochi-games-athletes-wary-threats
Amnesties All about Improving Russia’s Image Before Sochi, Russian Commentators Say.
Moscow’s recent amnesties do not represent any “thaw” in Russian politics but are all part of a broader effort to improve Russia’s image in advance of the Sochi Olympiad, according to three leading Russian commentators with whom the Nakanune.ru news agency spoke (nakanune.ru/articles/18481/
Sochi is ‘Opposite of What an Olympic City Should Be,’ Italian Athlete Says
. Federica Brignone, an Italian skier, says that Sochi is “the opposite of what an Olympic city should be,” that it “lacks the Olympic spirit,” and that security measures have put a damper on the way in which athletes and fans interact. “To put it in simplest terms,” she said, one can say that as an athletic venue, “Sochi … is a ghost city built in an empty space, ugly and without residents, memory or freedom” (inopress.ru/article/31Dec2013/repubblica/sochi.html
‘Welcome to Sochi’ Artist Now Preparing Olympic Calendar ‘with Erotic Subtext.’
Vasily Slonov, who attracted international attention for his “Welcometo Sochi-2014” series of posters, now says he is preparing an Olympic calendar “with an erotic subtext” as a way to attract even more attention and to criticize Moscow’s anti-gay policies (globalsib.com/19115/
Olympic Spending Now Affecting Russia’s Banking Sector.
The amount of money Moscow has been spending in preparation for the Sochi Olympics is affecting ever more sectors of Russian life, according to a Russian analyst, forcing cutbacks in spending on a variety of projects and now hitting the banking sector, both directly and as a result of concerns that Russian banks may face even larger problems ahead if Sochi’s costs go up and the Russian economy continues to stagnate or deteriorate (apn.ru/publications/article30829.htm
Sovkhoz ‘Rossiya’ a Metonym for the Problems of Sochi and Russia.
The residents of Sovkhoz “Rossiya,” the last population point before the Olympic Park, face a concentration of all the problems that other residents of the Olympic city and indeed much of Russia now face: bad roads and sidewalks, regular power and water outages, many the result of Olympic construction, sewage lines that are either badly connected or not connected at all, terrible smells, the destruction of much of the beach and green spaces, and a sense that officials are totally uninterested in doing anything about the problems of the people (kavpolit.com/chto-poluchila-rossiya-ot-olimpiady/
Olympic Construction Leads to Massive Power Outages in Sochi.
Some 2,000 Sochi residents were left without power after Olympic contractors mistakenly cut through a major electric line, the latest example of such accidents and a problem that seems to be increasing as the contractors cut corners to try to finish the construction that Moscow officials insist is already finished (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/235979/
Olympic Contractors Repeatedly Tear Up Roads and Sidewalks
. Sochi residents have watched as contractors dig up roads and highways, then repave them,and then dig them up again because there does not seem to be any plan to install infrastructure all at once and then pave once and for all. As a result, the roads are poorly installed, leading to the formation of huge sinkholes dangerous for cars and people alike, dust and mud are regular features of life in the city, and many residents cannot get to school or work because the roads are obstacles rather than pathways (privetsochi.ru/blog/sitiproblem/39876.html
Raw Sewage Flowing into Streets, Rivers and Black Sea.
Because sewage lines have either been improperly installed or not installed at all, raw sewage with all the smells and dangers to health and the environment it involves is flowing into the streets, rivers, and even the Black Sea in the Sochi region. The situation appears to have gotten worse as construction has been speeded up in recent weeks (blogsochi.ru/content/kanalizatsiya-po-ulitse-krasnaya
Sochi Officials Close Public Markets Before Opening Promised New One.
Officials have closed several publc markets, possibly to enhance security but leaving Sochi residents with few choices to buy food, long before the new and more modern market the officials have promised to open later this year (privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/39817.html
No Insulin Available for Sochi Residents.
Sochi pharmacies have run out of insulin, leaving the city’s numerous diabetics at high risk of illness or even death. Some of them are asking who is responsible but so far have received no answer. In general, health care facilities for residents have deteriorated even as officials have promised world-class medical care for Olympic visitors (privetsochi.ru/blog/Wailing_wall/39761.html
Situation of Sochi Residents So Dire that Human Rights Watch Speaks in Their Defense.
As a result of Olympic construction, Sochi residents have been left without power, heat, water, road access, and sanitation but with massive and illegal trash heaps and impassable streets and roads, a situation that has prompted Human Rights Watch to speak out on their behalf. The organization’s Jane Buchanan said she was doing so because local officials were either ignoring the problem altogether or taking steps to suppress those who were calling attention to it (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236054/
Sochi Mayor Admits to Being Involved with ‘Catastrophically Great Work’…
Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov who has angered city residents for his failures to protect them against the depradatios of Olympic construction admits that over the past five years he has been involved in “catastrophically great work,” an admission that says more than he perhaps intended. He says road problems have been solved but that difficulties with electricity, water and heat remain (sochinskie-novosti.com/ /
Sochi Resident Wants to Know If He Can Have Foreigners in His Home.
One Sochi resident has asked Privetsochi.ru whether it is possible to have “foreigners (not from the near abroad) in their homes.” The blog responded that one must “temporarily register” the foreigner as being at your address and keep the registration certificate (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/39908.html
PrivetSochi Says New Law Makes It Impossible for Blog to Announce Some Meetings
. A new measure signed into law by President Vladimir Putin imposing criminal penalties not only on those who submit a news item about an upcoming meeting that may have goals the authorities do not approve of but also on the site itself means that the blog will be far more cautious than it has in publishing such announcements (privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi_site/39903.html
Demolition of Caucasus Riviera Complex Won’t Be Completed Before Olympiad.
The demolition of the Caucasus Rivier complex will be suspended during the Olympics because work crews will not be able to finish the job before the games begin. (http://www.sochinskie-novosti.com/
Russian Efforts to Suppress Environmentalists in Sochi Diverse and Longstanding
. Russian officials have devoted particular attention to blocking the work of Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus in large part it appears because the group has not only exposed massive violations of environmental laws and commitments during Olympic construction but also reported on the ways that officials from Vladimir Putin on down have done whatever they want to make their own vacation residences there meet their needs. This official campaign to “neutralize” EWNC is chronicled in the organization’s annual report at ewnc.org/node/13366
Berlin Protesters Call for Recognition of Circassian Genocide and Boycott of Sochi Games.
Members of the Circassian-Russian Union for Justice, joined by Kurdish, Israeli, Daghestani and Turkish activists, organzed a demonstration in front of Berlin’s Russian House of Science and Culture to demand the right of return for Circassians, international recognition of the Circassian genocide, the restoration of a Circassian state in the North Caucasus, and an end of racism and xenophobia in the Russian Federation. Some of those taking part carried signs calling for a boycott of the Sochi Olympiad (kwas-1972.livejournal.com/708775.html
FSB May Stage Terrorist Provocation at Sochi, Circassian National Movement Warns.
The Circassian National Movement says that it fears the FSB will carry out a “mega-terrorist action in Sochi” in order to place the blame on the Circassians and thus justify in the eyes of some further repression of the Circassian nation. It says Circassians oppose all such violence and support only “civilized methods of struggle” (freecircassia.ucoz.com/news/oficialnoe_zajavlenie_cherkesskogo_nacionalnogo_dvizhenija/2013-12-17-352
Volgograd Blasts Latest of 32 Terrorist Incidents Involving Fatalities in 2013.
The Kavkaz-Uzel.ru news agency says that the two terrorist incidents in Volgograd bring to 32 the number of such incidents involving one or more deaths in the North Caucasus over the last year. It notes that “many experts have more than once spoken about the danger of possible terrorist acts of extremists directed at guests and participants of the 2014 Games” (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/235965/
Memorial Issues Special Report on Instability in the North Caucasus.
The Memorial Human Rights Center has issued a new book assembling its quarterly reports on the North Caucasus since 2009. Prepared by Memorial’s OlegOrlov, the book, entitled “Three Years of ‘Stability,’” in fact highlights the continuing instability in the region. According to Memorial’s head, Aleksandr Cherkashov, there are now “two ‘authors’” of what is taking place there: “the armed underground and the Russian federal authorities which are carrying out a policy of struggle with the band formations” (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/235973/
Bookings at Sochi Hotels Lag Behind Predictions, Officials Say.
The Sochi Organizing Committee was expected to rent 3,000 rooms at hotels in Sochi for the events, but to date, it has reserved only 613, just one of the reasons why overall bookings at many but far from all hotels in the Olympic city currently lag what had been projected As a result, at least some hotel owners are considering converting their rooms to condominiums and offering them for sale while attention is focused on the city. (bfm.ru/news/240247?doctype=article
Blogger Suggests Olympic Torch in Sochi is Giving the World the Finger.
In a post on Blogsochi.ru, one writer says that whatever Moscow intended, the Olympic torch that will stay lit during the games represents in his mind what can only be “our response to the world according to Freud” (blogsochi.ru/content/nash-otvet-miru-po-freidu
FMS Office Open Only One Hour Each Work Day for Migrants to Registe
r. In yet another move clearly intended to force gastarbeiters to leave Sochi, the Federal Migration Service has opened the office such workers must visit to gain registration only one hour each working day. According to Blogsochi.ru, the lines are long and many of those in them are extremely frustrated (blogsochi.ru/content/ufms-%E2%80%93-khozhdenie-po-mukam-prodolzhaetsya
Handicapped Face Dangers in Sochi.
Despite Moscow’s pledge to ensure that the Olympics will be accessible to all persons with physical handicaps, a requirement of getting the Games, activists in Sochi have documented that in many places, the special strips designed to warn the blind that they are at the edge of a road or rail line are so poorly attached that they are coming off. According to one, “if someone without good eyesight tries to rely on them, he could become an invalid confined to a wheelchair” (blogsochi.ru/content/taktilnye-polosy-v-olimpiiskom-sochi
After the Games, Sochi Makes Plan for Becoming a ‘Resort without Tourists.”
Because its projected income will fall faster than its projected expenses, the Sochi city government is planning to sell off some of its property beginning as early as later this year. In addition, in looking to the future, the city is planning to fundamentally revise its current general plan given that it is going to be, in the words of officials, “a resort without tourists” (sochinskie-novosti.com/
Circassian Genocide of 1864 Recounted in National Geographic.
The January issue of “National Geographic” provides a chilling retelling of the Circassian genocide of 1864. “The Circassians made their last stand in the small canyon that is now called Krasnaya Polyana,” one of the Sochi Olympiad venues. “After their surrender in 1864 the Circassians were expelled, and refugees died by the thousands on their way to Sochi. Survivors were shipped to various corners of the Ottoman Empire. Some of them died aboard the Turkish vessels, cast overboard into the Black Sea” (ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/01/sochi-russia/forrest-text?rptregcta=reg_free_np&rptregcampaign=20131016_rw_membership_n1p_intl_ot_w#
Sochi Ethnographic Museum Focuses on Circassians and Those Who Displaced Them
. The museum contains some 1,000 items on the Shapsugs, a sub-group of the Circassian nation and its millennia in the region, but also on the history of the culture of the various nationalities who arrived after the Circassians were expelled from the region in 1864. It is possible that Russian officials will point to the existence of this museum as evidence that they are not ignoring the Circassian issue during the games, although Circassians say that the museum itself is more about anthropology than history and contains little or nothing about the tragedies their nation has suffered over the last two hundred years at the hands of Russian forces (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=691450694232531&id=192171867493752