Sochi Olympic largesse barely touches nearby Circassian villages


Take a drive north of Sochi into the hills and it won’t take long to escape the Olympic bubble. Gone is the new highway. The slick railway ends. The road turns to gravel, then mud, where cows roam free with passing cars. The spending spree didn’t spread its wealth as far as the neighbouring Circassian villages of Bolshoy Kishmai and Mali Kishmai. Some still hope it will, while others are resigned and say it will never happen.

“I didn’t receive anything and I won’t receive anything,” one woman, Sonya, explains to us as she shovels dirt for her garden. Sonya is Circassian, a Muslim ethnic minority native to the Caucasus with a long history of persecution under the czars and, later, Stalin.

“An improvement to our standard of living, so things would be better.… would be good. But I’m pretty sure we will never see this happen.”


Nina Chernachenko watches the Olympics on her television. She can’t afford to attend the Sochi Games in person, unlike some luckier people in her community. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

Another villager, Nina Chernachenko, invited us into her home to escape the cold and pelting rain. She has indoor plumbing; not everyone here does. While there is a large natural gas pipeline less than a kilometre from her village, she does not have gas heating in her home. Instead, she watches Olympic coverage on television, in the one room with an electric heater.

“It’s too bad people won’t see your [news] report here in Russia,” Chernachenko tells me. “Maybe Putin would give us a better apartment.”

Then she laughs, uncomfortably, and adds: “Hopefully they don’t expel us.”

To create the Olympic Park and its marvellous venues, Russia bulldozed everything in its way. Anyone who didn’t like the plan got pushed aside.

But 150 years ago, another group that angered the state was dealt with even more harshly. The Circassians are indigenous to this region, but were expelled by the Russians after the Caucasus War.

Most were pushed onto ships and deported across the Black Sea to the Ottoman Empire. Many of those who survived the crossing were killed by disease. The ones who remained in Russia were resettled to far-off lands, or killed en masse.

The population went from 800,000 to just a couple of thousand very quickly.

We visited two villages where Circassians now live, though some of the traditional mountain people prefer to be called “Adyghe” (pronounced “a-dee-gee”). Our first stop was an apiary, full of wooden houses for bees, with an elaborate roundhouse designed for hordes of visiting tourists. Except – there aren’t any.

The village has gone to considerable expense, but seems doomed to learn “if you build it, they won’t necessarily come.”

The woman selling honey and trinkets told us: “People come here [to the Black Sea] to holiday and to swim. But they have no idea how the Circassians live, our traditions, our dances, our culture. Many never knew we were here.”

The Circassians lobbied to be included in the extravagant Sochi opening ceremony. While it featured multiple facets of Russian history, the role of the country’s indigenous people was not part of it.

Circassian farmer Rashid Achimikov says he felt excluded from the Sochi Games. “At every other Olympics, they always show the indigenous people of that country during the opening ceremonies. It’s sad.”

There is an exhibit, complete with well-attended daily stage shows inside the Olympic Park. But no one is rushing to the hills around Sochi to visit their ancestral lands.

The Circassians are reluctant to criticize anything. Many Russians are. Those we met spoke positively about hosting the Olympics. They share in Russia’s pride. One farmer pulling hay out for two of his cows made it to one of the signature events, Russia taking on the U.S. in men’s hockey. (It didn’t end well for the Russians so we didn’t ask too much about it.)

Halid Tlif, an elder we met by a fire inside the village’s makeshift cultural centre along the river, explained, “Our destiny has been very tragic, what happened to our people, and now we have to try so hard to hold on to our culture and our traditions, for what our ancestors fought for.”

As the crow flies, the villages lie only about 40 kilometres north of Sochi, a place where buckets of money spilled freely into Olympic projects. But the inkblot of cash did not reach much farther on the map.

For the Circassians in the hills, life is unchanged by the party below.

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New York        Dr. Cesar Chelala


As the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is broadcast, a little-known tragedy continues to be ignored: The terrible fate of hundreds of thousands of Circassians who inhabited that area. They were the victims of one of history’s greatest genocides.

Circassia, a fertile plateau in the northeastern region of the Caucasus, was located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The region extends between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Historically, many Circassians considered Sochi their traditional capital city.

Most of the population of Circassia was brutally expelled from their country by the Russians in the 19th century. The Russian-Circassian War ended in 1864 with the departure and expulsion of the Circassians from their territory in what many historians consider the ethnic cleansing of the Circassians.

The events that took place were aptly described by Walter Richmond in “The Circassian Genocide.” Richmond wrote, “Circassia was a small independent nation on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea. For no reason other than ethnic hatred, over the course of raids the Russians drove the Circassians from their homeland, and deported them to the Ottoman Empire. At least 600,000 people lost their lives to massacre, starvation, and the elements while hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homeland, and the Circassians had to become one of the first stateless peoples in modern history.”

Towards the end of the conflict, the Russian General Yevdokimov was given orders to drive the remaining Circassians out of the region, mainly into the Ottoman Empire. In this way, Circassian tribal groups were resettled or killed en masse.

The long-lasting war ended with the defeat of the Circassian forces, and their leaders signed loyalty oaths to the victors on June 2, 1864.

Since the defeat, descendants of those killed fought for international recognition that genocide had been carried out against the Circassian people. In May of 2011, the Georgian parliament voted unanimously (95-0) a declaration that Russia had carried out genocide when it engaged in massacres against Circassians in the 19th century.

Today, the dispersed Circassians are found in several countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Serbia, Egypt and Israel. They are also found in Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and the United States, in places such as New Jersey and California.

Circassians living in the diaspora have faced significant challenges in their efforts to maintain their identity and traditions, while keeping alive the memory of their homeland.

In what ethnic Circassians consider an insult to the memory of their ancestors, the 2014 Winter Olympic facilities in Sochi were built in areas that are considered to contain mass graves of Circassians killed by the Russians. Protests ensued and the Russian government responded by arresting eight prominent Circassian activists.

Despite the accusations, Vladimir Putin is proud that the Olympics took place without any major incident. He could have been more justly proud if he had acknowledged the historic roles that the Circassians played in that troubled region, and respected and honored their memory.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is the foreign correspondent of The Middle East Times International (Australia).

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a security guard on a beach in village Loo points out where main olympic venues are to an out-of-town volunteer.

a security guard on a beach in village Loo points out where main olympic venues are to an out-of-town volunteer.

With the end of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, there has not been so much global attention paid to the Black Sea city since the time of the American Civil War. In the eighteen-sixties, it was hard to read the news and not see a mention of the Caucasus Mountains, made famous by Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin, and Lord Byron. These writers were among the many who extolled the beauty of the women from the region, particularly the Circassians, an indigenous group in the Caucasus. The plight of Circassian women sold into what was called white slavery—sexual slavery in Ottoman harems—led to intense interest from abolitionists across America and Europe. When Alexandre Dumas began his 1859 book, “Adventures in Caucasia,” with the declaration, “I have no doubt that my readers know of the region as well as I do,” he was probably right.

Part of the rabid attention had to do with the racial lore of Circassia and the Caucasus. The influential German physiologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach made the claim that the Caucasus was where one could locate the origins of the white race, inaugurating the term “Caucasian” for whiteness. Circassians, who were white, primeval, and supposedly close to God’s image for humankind, were cast as the most beautiful racial type. Yet Circassians were so decimated during the Caucasian War (1817-1864)—Russia’s battle to obtain access to the Black Sea—that few people today have even heard of them. Fewer still know how the region, once seen as the homeland of “whiteness,” became a divining rod for American’s own struggle with racial identity.

At the end of the Civil War, newspapers in the U.S. were focussed on the demise of Circassia as if it were a stand-in for the end of America’s Confederate South. “CIRCASSIA IS BLOTTED FROM THE MAP,” said a headline out of Newport, Rhode Island, on June 4, 1864. “The last hope of Circassia has vanished,” The Deseret News reported on July 6, 1864, “so has come the end of a brave and heroic people.” The Circassian warriors seemed to vanish. Decimated, the Circassians were regarded as an “extinct race.” To Americans, this mattered. To contemplate the history of Sochi, of Circassia, was to consider the racially complicated fate of America itself.

The battlefields of the Northwest Caucasus, particularly of Sochi—the last stand of the Caucasians against Russia—offered a clear, if distant, comparison with the outcome of the Civil War. With the leader of the Caucasus, Schamyl, referred to as the region’s Jefferson Davis, Circassia became a thinly veiled analogy for Southern Confederate striving. As reports emerged about the Circassian plight during the Civil War, the vision of mass death, suffering, and national upheaval had a special significance for a nation laying its fallen soldiers to rest. By 1865, approximately six hundred and twenty thousand soldiers had died in the American Civil War. By 1864, more than five hundred thousand Circassians had died in the last phase of the Caucasian War, in the fight against invading Russian forces. Many accounts in American newspapers described Circassian bodies being “thrown out,” cast overboard with a frequency that recalled slaving practices, and “washing on shore” on the Black Sea coast. The combat, the death toll, and the white slavery in the Circassia-connected Black Sea battle were echoes of Civil War nightmares.

The more that readers in the U.S. learned about the Caucasian War, however, the more they saw that the Caucasus was nothing like the pure-white image put forth by racial science. Nearly all of the assertions that Blumenbach had made about Caucasians—from their supposed exemplary whiteness and laudable beauty to their antiquity-rooted heritage—were contested. The storied locus of white racial purity became seen as the heterodox region it actually was: an area bound by what were, at the time, considered to be opposites—Europe and Asia, Christianity and Isla—with a plurality of racial groups nestled between the White Mountains and the southern Black Mountain.

George Kennan, an American traveller to the Caucasus in 1870, tried to explain the confusion to the American Geographical Society soon after he returned: “In thinking of the Caucasians we must remember that the Caucasian mountaineers as a whole are made up of fragments of almost every race and people in Europe and Western Asia,” he said. “How such a heterogeneous collection of the tatters, ends, and odd bits of humanity ever blended into one coherent and consistent whole I don’t know, but there they are, offering problems to ethnologists and comparative philologists which will be hard to solve.”

In September of 1864, in a time of fraught racial tensions in New York City, the consummate trickster P. T. Barnum saw a chance to capitalize on this Janus region of the Caucasus. He débuted a performer at his American Museum on Broadway, in New York City, as an “extraordinary living FEMALE SPECIMEN OF A NEW RACE from a remote corner of Circassia.” The impresario presented a pseudo-ethnographic narrative of her life, alluding to her homeland. The widely popular Circassian Beauty, as she would become known, would sit still on the museum stage with a hairstyle that looked a bit like an Afro. It was done up “in a great mass, like the boll of a ripened dandelion,” one journalist wrote, and was large enough to “just about fit a bushel basket.” More Circassian Beauties followed, and at least one was of African descent. The Circassian Beauties remained popular because they embodied the racial riddle of the Caucasus. This performance, popular from the eighteen-seventies through the turn of the century, shows how the idea of whiteness itself was a curiosity worthy of the stage.

Who could be considered Caucasian is one question, but the Caucasus’s strife had opened an even more fraught concern: What did the people from the Caucasus, now Russia’s south, actually look like? President Woodrow Wilson was concerned enough with the question that he took the time in 1919 to request “a report on the legendary beauty of the Caucasus women” from his Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army and the leader of the American Mission in Georgia and Azerbaijan. What was most provocative about Wilson’s request is not that he asked to see the Caucasus women’s image but, rather, when he did. At this historical moment, Wilson was engaged in international peace negotiations, and presided over a political period when concerns over what constituted “whiteness” sheeted and stretched over the U.S. political and cultural landscape like a shroud.

When Wilson asked for his beauty report, there was a continuing sense of bewilderment about the image of the Caucasus. In 1913, for example, reports and photographs had emerged of villages in Circassia being somehow made up entirely of “Negroes.” The Russian newspaperKavkaz had published a story about the discovery of nearly five hundred “Black Russians living in the Caucasus,” to the Sukhumi district of Abkhasia, the heartland Circassia. In 1927, the Russian writer Maxim Gorky even went to Adzyubzha to discern thee origins of these black Caucasians. Five years later, Langston Hughes travelled to the southern Soviet Republics, just east of the Caucasus, and noted in his diaries that he was surprised to find himself around people who would be considered “colored” in America. He thought some were “brown as russet pears” or “dark as chocolate.”

Questions about the look of Caucasians continue today. In Russia, some now describe “peoples with Caucasian features” as “black.” During the Chechen wars in the nineteen-nineties, the darker-skinned men and women of the Caucasus were called “black” in Russia. None of this will be told in the guidebooks to Sochi. It is not uncommon to see a standard Black Sea atlas mark where the Circassians lived from 1800 until 1860 and in a map of the region after 1860 to find that they are simply gone, as if a mythical, invisible group. Yet what has endured in America is the idea of the Caucasus, the hopelessly tangled racial riddle that created the false foundation for the concept of whiteness.

Read David Remnick’s Letter from Sochi, in this week’s issue.

Sarah Lewis is the author of “The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery” and a forthcoming book about the Caucasus, the Civil War, and Frederick Douglass.

Photograph: Misha Friedman

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Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown – One Week to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown – One Week to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 49th 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  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
London Warns Terrorist Attacks in Russia ‘Very Likely’ Before or During Games.Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office says that terrorist attacks are “very likely to occur” in the Russian Federation before or during the Sochi Games. According to the BBC, “the FCO advises against all travel to Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kursky in Stavropol Krai. It alsoadvises against all but essential travel to North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria” (
Russian Physical Security Quite Good at Sochi, Experts Say, But Counter-Intelligence on Terrorism Questioned. Most Western experts and officials say that Russia has established good but not absolute physical security in Sochi and at the Olympic venues, but the unwillingness of Russia to share information raises questions about whether Moscow’s intelligence about terrorists is equal to the challenge that the Russian government faces, especially given the proclivity of terrorists to exploit international sports events and the “uptick” in security threats there that US officials have spoken of in recent days. Experts are also concerned about the implications of Russia’s rejection of significantly expanded cooperation with the US and the UK despite its being offered and the possibility that physical security in Sochi will lead terrorists to attack elsewhere(,,,
Russia Doesn’t Need NATO’s Help with Sochi Security, Lavrov Says.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Russia does not need assistance from NATO to provide security at Sochi. Moscow is full capable of doing so by itself (
US-Russian Security Cooperation on Sochi Strictly Limited.  The US Department of Defense and the Russian Ministry of Defense have agreed to maintain close contacts during the Sochi Olympiad, but Moscow has been unwilling to agree to large-scale American involvement  in Sochi because of underlying mistrust between Moscow and Washington. There will be a small FBI presence in Moscow and Sochi, but experts say that the role of the US will be far more limited than it has been in other Olympiads over the last two decades. That has led some in Congress to express concern, although most who have spoken on this issue have expressed confidence that the games themselves will be safe (,–oly.html, and
US Olympians Urged Not to Call Attention to Themselves.  The US Olympic Committee has told its athletes to avoid wearing uniforms in public that identify themselves as Americans lest they attract the attention of terrorists. The US State Department says this is a normal precaution and does not reflect any finding that terrorists in the North Caucasus are targeting US citizens (,  and
Families of Some US Olympians Choose Not to Go to Sochi. Because of security concerns, some family members who would normally attend such competitions will not be going to Sochi. Those who are planning to attend say that security issues are never out of their minds but that they hope the Russians will be able to prevent any attack (
Russian Sports Minister Acknowledges Sochi Not Ready. As the clock ticks down to the time of the opening ceremony on February 7, it is becoming harder and harder for Russian officials to maintain their stance that everything is ready.  Some, like Mayor Pakhomov try, but most are backing away and using words like “almost” and “nearly.”  But Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has now acknowledged that “to be honest, not everything is” and that in some places, “there is more to do” ( Evidence that there is a lot more to do, especially involving roads, sidewalks, hotels, and support facilities is provided by local reporting and extensive pictorial documentation, including,
Putin Said Using Olympiad to Solve Domestic and Foreign Policy Tasks. Islam Tekushev, the editor of the Prague-based “Caucasus Times,” says that it is clear that “the Olympiad in Sochi has become for the Kremlin a suitable pretext for the resolution of certain domestic and foreign policy tasks, above all the issues of societal mobilization and an increase in patriotism … and  an expansion of its presence in the Caucasus and on the Black Sea. Putin’s Moscow has broadened its presence in Abkhazia and South Osetia” still further as a result of the games. Other analysts have made same point and suggested Putin may use the Games to attack Ukraine or somewhere else just as he did the Beijing Games in 2008 to attack Georgia  (
Sochi  Games Likely to Be Declared Successful If There is Snow But No Terrorism.A commentary in London’s “Spectator” newspaper said that “given the incredibly low expectations” that most people have for Sochi, “the Russian games may even be judged a success as long as the weather stays cold and no terrorist attack takes place.”  But even if those conditions are met, the Games have “backfired” against Vladimir Putin because of the anger that many Russians feel about the cost and corruption involved and because of the opposition of many in the West to his “broader campaign against homosexuality.” This general lowering of expectations is reflected in articles which specify that things are fine in Sochi because the torch hasn’t gone out recently ( and
IOC President Criticizes World Leaders for Not Coming to Sochi …  Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, criticized those world leaders who are refusing to come to the Sochi Games. They are politicizing something that should be about athletic competition.  He acknowledged that “there had been many problems in Sochi but one must consider that the IOC has worked on them if they concern the Olympics.  I call for a discussion based on facts,” he said (
… While Russia’s Chernyshenko Says 60 are Coming …  Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Russian organizing committee, says that despite being some of the busiest people on earth, some 60 chiefs of state, heads of government, and senior national and international organization officials will be coming to Sochi. According to his count, that will be the greatest number ever to attend a Winter Olympiad (
… And Complains Bach Didn’t Go Far Enough in Opposing Protests.  Although the IOC’s Thomas Bach said that athletes should not engage in political demonstrations at the Olympics, Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of Russia’s organizing committee, said the IOC head should have gone further: “He might have mentioned that there is a rule 50 in the Olympic Charter which limits the expression of any propaganda during the Games,” Chernyshenko said. “I don’t think they (athletes) are allowed by the Charter to express those views that are not related to the sport at the press conference room.” He said that any athlete or visitor who felt he or she had to make a statement hould do so at the “Sochi speakers’ corner” some 7.5 miles away from the venues (
Many ‘Volunteers’ in Sochi are in Fact Security Officers.  Many of the security officials working in Sochi are dressed as volunteers, the better to fit in but a possible explanation of what many see as the impolite and off-putting behavior of the volunteers. Many of the security personnel who have been brought in are living in Spartan conditions and are unhappy with their lot, according to Russian reporters (
Two Cows Wander through Sochi Olympic Village. Two unsupervised cows wandered into and out of the Olympic village prompting residents to ask “has anyone lost a cow?” ( and
Picture of Two Toilets in One Sochi Stall Goes Viral, Prompts Sharp Russian Reaction.  A photograph taken by BBC correspondent Steve Rosenberg showing two toilets in a single stall in a Sochi facility went viral. Many Americans wondered what was going on, but many Russians viewed this as symbolic of much that is wrong with the Sochi Games. Russian officials only made it worse by putting out an implausible story about how these toilets were not connected and one of which was about to be moved ( and
Both Supporters and Opponents of Sochi Games Drawing on 1980 Moscow Olympic Motifs.  Both those who want the Sochi Games to be a big success and those who believe the preparations for the Olympics have undermined that possibility, experts say, are using many themes derived from their predecessors who either supported or opposed the Moscow Games 34 years ago. ( and
Torch Travails Continue and Intensify in the North Caucasus.  The Olympic torch arrived in the North Caucasus where it not only suffered the same problems it faced in other parts of the Russian Federation including going out when it wasn’t supposed to, isolated protests on a variety of subjects, a heavy-handed security presence and a negative reaction by Russian bloggers to people doing the lezginka, something they had objected to earlier as well, but also some new ones in addition.  Concerns about security led officials in several of the republics to reduce the length of the route the torch was carried, the number of bearers, and even the size of crowds.  Elsewhere officials gave people the day off and ordered students, faculty and government officials to attend. Meanwhile, officials in Sochi itself were preparing for the torch’s arrival there by handing out detailed instructions to residents about how they are expected to behave when it does (,,
Harassment of Foreign Journalists in Sochi Increasing, Norwegian Reporter Says.Øystein Bogen, foreign affairs correspondent for TV2 in Norway, says that the experience of his crew in Sochi earlier this month when they were “stopped,arrested [and] detained more than six times in the course of 48 hours” is becoming increasingly common there.  Police there said they suspected he was taking drugs and insisted tht he take a drug test. “I never imagined that any topic would be  critical enough to provoke such a reaction,” he said (
Russian Authorities Increase Pressure on Opposition Activists in Rostov.  Russian officials have fined one activist who held up a sign when the Olympic torch passed an have harassed others in a sign that the authorities hope to intimidate them ( and
Pakhomov Says ‘There are No Gays’ in Sochi.  Speaking to the BBC, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said “we don’t have any gays” in the city but would welcome any among the athletes or fans who attend the games.  His claim, undercut by the existence of gay clubs there, recalled the old Soviet line that “there is no sex in the USSR” and sparked widespread derision not only of Pakhomov but other official claims about Sochi (
Pakhomov Says Everything is Ready for the Olympiad Except for a Little Polishing. Despite widespread evidence to the contrary, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said on Russia Today that everything is ready for the opening of the games except for a little cleaning and polishing (
Sochi Not Ready for Paralympics Either. Photographs show that Sochi has not been transformed into the barrier free city it is supposed to be under Olympic rules. But officials are upbeat and say they will hand out special maps to participants and visitors to the Paralympics to guide them on their way ( and
Sochi Seen Leading to ‘Final Break’ between Russian People and Putin. Pavel Basanets, a Moscow commentator, says that the Olympiad will “begin the final break” between the authorities and the people, a prospect that frightens both because of the unpredictability that will entail (
Russian Officials Using Fan Passports to Exclude Opposition Figures. Many have been concerned that Moscow’s requirement that all fans attending the Sochi Games have a “fan passport” would allow Moscow to collect information on a wide swath of people, but now more Russians are worried that the authorities are using these documents to exclude those who oppose the regime or who are in categories that Moscow assumes might be a problem (  and
Navalny Launches Interactive Website on Waste, Fraud and Abuse at Sochi.  Aleksey Navalny, a leading Russian opposition figure who has made his name by fighting corruption, has launched an interactive website detailing the massive waste, fraud and abuse at Sochi, with particular attention to the corruption and violation of rights these things have involved (,,
Ukrainian Protesters Call for a Boycott of Sochi.  A group of Ukrainians taking part in the anti-Yanukovich Maidan have called for the international community to “demonstrate solidarity with Ukrainians by boycotting the Sochi Olympic Games” because Russian “dictator Putin is heavily involved” in supporting the incumbent Ukrainian president’s repression of his own people. Meanwhile, an unconfirmed rumor is circulating that the NHL may decide its players should not go to Sochi because of security questions. Meanwhile, some Russian nationalists are saying that the West organized the Ukrainian demonstrations in order to take revenge on Putin for Sochi  (, and
Daghestani Salafis Told Not to Travel Beyond Their Republic While Sochi is in Progress.  Salafi Muslims in Daghestan have been told by officials there not to travel beyond the borders of their home republic while the Olympics are in progress, a violation  of the Russian Constitution but a step taken because the Salafis are often identified by Russian officials as jihadists (  and
Moscow Seeks to Coopt and Use Circassians as ‘Decoration’ at Sochi.  Circassians overwhelmingly oppose the holding of the Olympics in Sochi because that was the site of the 1864 genocide visited upon their people, but both because the Olympic Charter requires the host country to acknowledge indigenous peoples and to counter Circassian calls for a boycott of the Sochi Games, Russian organizers are using some Circassian leaders who are prepared to cooperate and have invited them to attend the first three days of the Games. (At that time, the Russian hosts released a statement they claimed the group had made but which its members subsequently said they knew nothing about.) That invitation was extended to the Circassians who visited the North Caucasus on Moscow’s invitation last year.  Circassians both in the diaspora and in the homeland doubt that the Russian authorities will allow them to play any but a scripted and “decorative” role (,,
US Congressman Says Sochi Games Violate Memory of Circassian Victims. Representative Bill Pascell of New Jersey has issued a statement in support of the Circassians and their national aspirations.  He asks colleagues to join him in recognizing those rights and also to find that Russia is continuing to violate them and insult the memory of the hundreds of thousands of Circassians who were killed in Sochi and the surrounding area 150 years ago (
Russian Anti-Circassian Rhetoric Increasingly Harsh and Extreme.  Ever more articles about the Circassian cause are appearing in the Russia media, and an increasing share of them are adopting intemperate language comparing supporters of the Circassians with the Nazis and denouncing as “myths” the genocide and the mistreatment of the Circassian nation by the Russian state.  At the same time, ever more articles are appearing in Europe and the West recounting the tragic history of the Circassians (,,,
Circassians Continue Actions in Memory of the Genocide. Circassians in the North Caucasus and in the diaspora continue to hold meetings on a weekly basis to mark 150thanniversary of the genocide visited upon their ancestors by Russian forces (
Ground Water in Some Parts of Sochi Dangerous for Human Consumption. Environmental groups have called attention to the contamination of the ground water in parts of Sochi as a result of Olympic construction, and officials have in effect confirmed their worries by trucking in water for residents, although some of that alternative supply may have been the result of frequent water shut offs also occasioned by construction (
Sochi Residents Face New Problems. In addition to the problems they have faced over the past year, including but not limited to official malfeasance and harassment, the lack of reliableelectric, water and sewage services, the leakage of raw sewage into public spaces, the expulsion of more than 2000 from their homes, many of whom have gone uncompensated, and the destruction of already problematic infrastructure, this week Sochi residents faced some new problems: the closure of familiar markets, the rerouting of traffic, an increasing number of fences and barriers, the absence of police when residents called for them, and the risk that their pets might be killed if they somehow got out of the house without their owners being nearby. Not surprisingly, some Sochi residents are now saying that the Sochi Olympics have destroyed their city and that it may be “your” Olympiad it isn’t theirs (,,,,,,,
Trash Heaps Rising in Sochi as Builders Rush to Dump and Hide Construction Waste. Wherever they look and often where they don’t expect it, Sochi residents are encountering rising piles of trash from Olympic construction as builders try to meet the opening deadline (,,
Sochi Officials Putting Out Poison to Kill Stray Dogs and Cats.  Sochi officials, although they have not been willing to confirm this, are putting out poison to kill homeless animals or those which are unfortunate enough to get out of their homes without a human partner.  Animal rights activists are furious not only because officials have not kept their promises to build a shelter but because of the indiscriminate and cruel means they are using to remove the animals from the streets. One activist has distributed a guide on what to do if a pet is inadvertently poisoned as a result ( and
Cartoons Against Sochi Become Sharper.  Those who are angry about the Olympiad and Vladimir Putin’s policies are increasingly drawing and disseminating cartoons to make their point. Among the best this week was one showing Putin surrounded by security guards doing a snow angel and another showing Russian police using a bomb sniffing dog and a gay sniffing dog to ferret out “enemies.”  Another popular way of making such points are posters like one tht says “Friends don’t let friends go to Sochi” (,
Ruble’s Fall Could Boost Foreign Attendance at Sochi.  The head of the Russian tourism organization says that the fall of the ruble will make coming to Sochi less expensive for foreigners and thus may boost attendance, but other Russian officials say that the Olympics will lead to an upward correction in the value of the Russian currency relative to others (  and
Voice of Russia Says Advertising of Sochi Sets Record for All Olympics.  The Voice of Russia said that “the total values of contracts with sponsors, suppliers, and licensees” amounts to “almost half a trillion dollars [sic].”  (That would be 500 billion dollars or ten times the amount even critics say the games cost and is almost certainly a misprint. The network probably meant rubles in which case the amount would be 16 billion US dollars.) That amount, it said, “is an all-time record not only for Winter but also for Summer Olympic Games.” Andrey Mamontov, a Russian marketing expert, said that “of course, advertising contracts will not cover all expendituresfor the preparation for the Olympics, but they may bring a substantial income”(
Sochi Merchandise Not Selling as Well as Predicted.  The Russian Olympic organizing committee will receive only about 30 million US dollars from its licensing of Olympic-themed products, far less than the 51 million US dollars the Vancouver Olympiad realized and than the Russian committee had originally projected (
Two Suspects in Volgograd Bombings Arrested.  Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said police have arrested two accomplices in the December 2013 Volgograd bombings.  It said the two were part of a terrorist group based in Daghestan (
Serbian Gastarbeiters Returning Home from Sochi Say They were Mistreated. According to a report by RFE/RL, “apparently the much-touted ‘Slavic brotherhood’ beteen Russians and Serbs doesn’t extend to migrant workers.”  Approximately 100 ethnic Serbs from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have now returned to their homelands and report they were mistreated and harassed by Russian companies and officials in Sochi (
Many Russians View Sochi Games as “Just Another Disaster to Be Survived.”  “Even beyond the societies of social activists and environmentalists,” Bellona reports, “there are plenty of people [in Russia] who have plenty of Olympic-related woes on their mind[s].  But few of them areespecially forthcoming.  It’s all just another disaster to be survived, another turn of the Kremlin gears they hope not to get crushed by … As one activist [said], ‘It’s just something called life in Russia’” (
More than 50 Olympians Call for Moscow to Repeal Anti-Gay Laws.  Some 52 current and past Olympians have signed the Principle Six Campaign which calls for Moscow to repeal its anti-gay legislation.  Among them are Martina Navratilova and Greg Louganis (
Bad Weather Traps 158 Buses Heading for Sochi.  A major snow storm has blocked 158 buses travelling to Sochi for the Olympiad. The snow has also limited travel on even the largest roads and delayed but not yet stopped trains in the area.  More bad weather is predicted for the next week in the mountains north of Sochi (  and
IOC President Reiterates Sexual Minorities Won’t Face Problems in Sochi.  Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, says that his group has “guarantees from the Russian authorities” that the Olympic Charter will be observed and that during the Games there will not be any manifestations of discrimination including on the basis of sexual orientation” (
Russian Finance Minister Acknowledges Moscow Spent 50 Billion US Dollars in Sochi.  Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told Ekho Moskvy that Mosco had spent a total of 1.5 trillion rubles (50 billion US dollars) to get ready for the Olympiad, a figure far closer to the estimates of independent experts than the ones that continue to be offered by President Vladimir Putin and his administration ( ).
Sochi Games have Made North Caucasian Instability ‘More Visible.’ Michal Romanowski, program coordinator for the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Warsaw, says that the North Caucasus has “for two decades been on a steady, permanent boil.” The Sochi Games have simply made this reality “mmore visible,” and he suggested that “the terrorists of the North Caucasus will do their best to ensur that the world does not forget them” (
Moscow Furious at Use of Olympic Torch in Dubai.  Russian officials, from the Olympic committee to the foreign ministry, have expressed outrage that several hotels in Dubai are displaying Olympic symbols and even conducting what Moscow has called an “illegitimate” torch relay.  Sochi organizers say that only  they are allowed to have such a relay at the present ( and
US-Born Buddhist Among Sochi Torch Bearers.  Erdni Ombadykov, a Kalmyk lama from Philadelphia who returned to the Buddhist region of the Russian Federation earlier at the suggestion of the Dalai Lama, was one of the torch bearers in Kalmykia (
Obama Received Standing Ovation in Congress for Reference to Sochi.  US President Barack Obama was given a standing ovation during his State of the Union address when he referred to Sochi by saying “We believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. Next week the world will see one expression of that commitment when Team USA marches the red, white and blue into the Olympic stadium and brings home the gold” ( Obama subsequently said that he would suggest that friends consider going to the Sochi Games even though he will not be attending (
UNGA Issues Call for Olympic Truce. John Ash, the president of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, formally issued the call to countries participating in the Sochi Games for an Olympic truce (
German City Refuses to Host ‘Welcome to Sochi’ Exhibit.  The German city of Kassel said that it would not host an exhibit of the satirical works of Vasily Slonov about Sochi, not because of the content of his pictures but because he is not a resident of that city (
ICG Says Putin’s Approach in North Caucasus Points to More Violence Ahead.  The International Crisis Group in a report entitled “Too Far, Too Fast: Sochi, Tourism and Conflict in the Caucasus” says that the approach Russian President Vladimir Putin has adopted to secure the Olympics “may temporarily suppress the symptoms of the North Caucasus insurgency, but they cannot solve the core problems” (
Refugees in Ingushetia Plan Flashmob for February 7.  Refugees who were forced to flee as a result of the conflict between Chechnya and Ingushetia in the early 1990s say they will stage a flashmob on the day of the opening of the Sochi Olympiad in the hopes that they will be able to attract international attention to their plight (
Was Report about ‘Black Widows’ in Sochi an FSB Provocation? Some in Sochi have suggested that a story about the presence of the so-called “Black Widows” in that city, a story the FSB has since disowned, was given to Aleksandr Valov, editor of, in order to discredit his independent reporting ( and
Valov Tells Putin Moscow Apparently Doesn’t Want to Know about Sochi Problems.Aleksandr Valov, the editor of, has posted an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that the response of the Russian security forcess to reports about problems in Sochi suggests that Moscow doesn’t want to know the truth so that it can fix things but only to ensure that nothing critical appears.  That is not only preventing the problems from being corrected but is undermining public confidence in the central government. If that continues, “then it will be necessary to create a GULAG on the bass of the FSB or organize mass shootings on the eve of the Olympiad” (
Supporters and Critics Agree Sochi a ‘Litmus Test’ of Russia’s Future.  Supporters of the Sochi Games say the Olympiad marks the revival of Russia, while critics say the event is “an illustration of the ineffectiveness and corrupt nature of the Russian state.” But the two agree that Sochi is “a litmus test” of the direction Russia is heading, although they continue to disagree about that as well, a Moscow commentator says (
Cemetery Near Olympic Park Heavily Damaged by Games Construction.  Russian reporters have played up the fact that the Sochi venues were carefully built around an Old Believer cemetery, but they have generally ignored the fact that the same construction has left another cemetery at the periphery of the Olympic park full of puddles and waste (
Sochi Cultural-Historical Center Still Only a Skeleton.  The Sochi Cultural-Historical Center where Russian officials had promised that local cultures would be represented is far from completion. Indeed, pictures show that only some of the framework has been done and that most of the building remains covered, a la a Potemkin village, with canvas (
Sochi Officials Say They’ll Deploy Sochi Youth During Games.  Sochi officials have announced that children of families living in the Olympic city will be forced to help out the holding of the Olympics regardless of what their parents think. That has sparked anger among some about state interference, despite President Vladimir Putin’s promises, in the lives of families (
European Federation of Journalists Warns of Problems Those Covering Sochi Face. The EFJ says that those who travel to Sochi to cover the Games will face violence against journalists, the blocking of critical online comment, homophobic laws and action, restrictions on their work and open harassment, among other problems (
Foreign Governments Give Advice to Those Planning to Go to Sochi.  In an article entitled “Don’t Drink With People You Don’t Know and Don’t Express Your Opinion,” Moscow’s “Kommersant” newspaper says that the governments of countries taking part in the Sochi Olympiad are giving those planning to go a variety of advice.  The Spanish foreign ministry say that its citizens should learn at least a little Russian, its German counterpart says German visitors mustn’t photograph military facilities, and its French counterpart says French citizens must avoid taking photographs of any Russian security officers or police (
Sochi Shaken by Small Earthquake.  A small earthquake, 3.5 on the Richter scale, centered off the coast of Sochi was not felt by most people but serves as a reminder that the entire region is tectonically active (
Sochi Hotels Will Have to Be Converted into Condos After Games.  In order to recoup some of their investments, those who have built hotels for the games are likely going to have to covert them into condominiums after the games, Russian real estate experts say. The implication of this is that most of them do not believe that Sochi will attract the continuing flow of visitors that Moscow officials have projected (
Sochi Residents Warned Against Manipulation by Media. published a list of ten ways in which the media seek to manipulate people, including distracting attention, creating problems in order to offer a solution, using emotions rather than reason, and knowing more about people than the people know about themselves (
Russians Joke about How Future History Books Will Treat Sochi Games.  According to some Russians, “20 years from now, history textbooks will have a chapter entitled ‘The Period of the Restoration of the Economy After the Sochi Olympiad, 2014-2014.’” That joke appears to be an implicit commentary on a new book that officials have released entitled “The Olympic Heritage of Sochi” which talks about the future only in the most glowing terms ( and…).
Drink Up for Snow and a Russian Victory.  Merchants are selling glasses with various slogans for various sizes of drinks. The  marker for the smallest amount is “for snow and good weather,” an intermediate one is “for will to victory” and the line for a full glass reads “For a Russian Victory” (
You Know You’re a Real Sochi Resident If … has published a list of 25 things that will instantly identify a Sochi resident from visitors.  Among them is the ability to distinguish an Abkhazian from an Armenian or Georgian, a dislike of hearing anything about the Olympic, and an immediate smile if anyone talks about how terrible lines and prices are in Moscow (
HRW Says Human Rights Abuses in Sochi are of ‘Olympian’ Proportions.  In its latest report on Sochi, Human Rights Watch says that officials have abused the rights of residents, LGBTs and immigrants and that the IOC, National Olympic Committees and corporate sponsors should urge Russia to end these abuses which violate the principles of “human dignity” and non-discrimination enshrined in the Olympic Charterand work to prevent similar abuses by future Olympic host cities” (
Kadyrov Says He’s Bringing 400 Chechens to Sochi.  In an interview given to “Izvestiya,” Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov says he is taking 400 of his co-ethnics to Sochi not because he has been assigned a quota but because he is such an enthusiastic fan (
Morozov Says He’s Been Threatened Since Fleeing Russia.  Valery Morozov, who fled Russia to London after talking about the demands for payoffs Russian President Vladimir Putin made to contractors, says he has been threatened with death.  He told ABC News that he fears there will be an attempt on his life after the Sochi games are over (
Russian Security Efforts in Sochi Focused More on Putin Opponents than on Terrorists.  The security arrangements Moscow has put in place in Moscow suggests that “Putin and his security minions are incapable of focusing their energies” on the terrorist threat and instead are targeting “gay activists, pro-democracy advocates and other agitators” instead, according to a commentary published by “USA Today” (
CPJ Denounces Russia for Restricting News Coverage of Sochi.  The Committee to Protect Journalists has released a report detailing the ways in which Russian officials have limited honest coverage of what is taking place in Sochi.  What is particularly a matter of concern, CPJ said, is that to get the word out, “activists havehaving to take on the functions of journalists,” a step that sometimes leads others to dismiss what they say as reflecting their own narrow interests. The Russian authorities,” one of the authors of the report said, “have cracked down on journalists, rights defenders and civil activists in a way not seen since the break-up of the Soviet Union” ( and
Moscow Commentator Denounces Turkey for Anti-Russian Propaganda about Sochi. An article in  Moscow’s “Geopolitika” says that Turkey has exploited the Sochi Olympics to launch a new wave of anti-Russian propaganda, something the article says the Russian authorities must do more to counter ( and
New Yorker Cover Shows Putin as Figure Skater Being Judged by Putin Look Alikes.The cover of the “New Yorker” this week shows Vladimir Putin in the guise of an Olympic figure skater being judged by five Putin look-alikes, an illustration that will recall the infamous behavior of the East German judges in earlier Olympiads.  Barry Blitt, who drew the cover entitled “Jury of His Peers,” says that “Mr. Putin is a gift to caricaturists but to humanity in general, not so much” (
Poster Suggests Impoverished Russians are Sochi’s Main Sponsors.  A poster now circulating online suggests that Russians impoverished by President Vladimir Putin’s extravagant spending on the Sochi Games are the main sponsors of the Olympiad, an indication of just how unhappy many Russians now are with something that Putin intended to be a celebration (
EWNC Says Kozak Misled about Expansion of Sochi National Park.  Russian Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak’s claim last year that Moscow had expaned the area of Sochi National Park is untrue, Suren Gazaryan of the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus says. In fact what has happened is “not so much the increase in the area of the national park as the illegal redistribution of its lands” that has reduced the amount of land protected from despoliation and increased the amount available for commercial development (
Caucasus Emirate Says Krasnodar is Part of Its Territory.  The Caucasus Emirate has released a map showing the still predominantly ethnic Russian Krasnodar Kray on which Sochi is located as part of its territory, a step Russian commentators suggest is nothing more than an aspiration but that is certain to frighten many ethnic Russians in that region and more generally as an indication that the Emirate’s agents may launch a terrorist campaign there (
Daghestan Vilayat Calls on Russians to Overthrow Putin or Face New Violence.  The militant group that has claimed responsibility for the Volgograd bombings says in a new message that Russians will face attack if they do not rise up and overthrow Vladimir Putin. “Gone are the days when it was possible to destroy Muslims gratuitously,” the group says. “Today, one mujahid could destroy doens or even hundreds of people in your cities … The Kremlin gang leaders make cannot fodder of you and your children,, while they themselves accumulate billions in this war. If you do not decapitate this hydra, you will not see a quiet life” (
Reports Moscow Planning to Display Orcas in Sochi Spark Outrage.  Unconfirmed reports that the Russian authorities plan to put orca whales on display in Sochi have sparked outrage among environmentalists who say that the criticism Moscow has received on this score “may have forced the Russians to reconsider because at last report the orcas were still in Moscow (
Russian Bureaucrats Promote Sochi Not Out of Patriotism but to Save Their Jobs. According to a “Svobodnaya pressa” commentator, Russian officials promoting pro-Sochi propaganda are doing so not for patriotic reasons or out of an interest in sports but rather because in the event the games somehow fall short of Vladimir Putin’s expectations, many of them could lose their jobs in what would literally be “an earthquake” as far as they are concerned (
Organized Crime Boss Said to Have Helped Putin Win Sochi Games.  Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, says that Gafur Rakhimov, who is accused of being an organized crime boss and major heroin trafficker, helped Russian President Vladimir Putin convince the International Olympic Committee to award the games to Sochi (
Ski Resorts around Sochi Won’t Be Profitable, Russian Experts Say. A group of Russian experts meeting in Novosbirsk said that the ski resorts around Sochi are unlikely to be profitable not only because the region has ever less snow cover because of climate change but also because of transportation and other infrastructure bottlenecks (
Moscow’s Sochi Effort Seen Marginalizing Russians Who Want to Get Rid of North Caucasus.  A conference on “Russia in the Caucasus” organized by the RIA Novosti news agency said that Moscow’s promotion of Sochi has had the effect of marginalizing those who had earlier said that Russia should get rid of the North Caucasus but that that effort had not yet succeeded in promoting “a positive image” among Russians of the people living there (
Astrakhan Hospitals Refuse to Treat North Caucasians.  Medical facilities in the southern Russian oblast of Astrakhan are refusing to admit residents of Daghestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, on the basis of an order from the regional health ministry.  Chechen officials have already complained that this practice violates the constitutional rights of the peoples of the North Caucasus (
Islamist Site Likens Putin’s Olympics to Hitler’s. Pakistan’s Islamic Jihad Union, an ally of Al Qaeda, has put out a four-minute video likening Vladimir Putin’s Sochi Olympics to those of Adolf Hitler in Berlin in 1936. It says that as a result of Putin’s actions, “an atmosphere of fear and terror”  now hangs over Russia (
IOC Marketing Chief Says Sochi’s Cost May ‘Scare Away’ Olympic Host Hopefuls. Gerhard Heibert, the head of marketing for the International Olympic Committee, says that the enormous amount of money that Moscow has spent on Sochi may “scare away” possible bids by cities that otherwise might have wanted to host the games in the future. He said steps must be taken to reduce the costs of hosting the games (–spt.html).
Moscow Says EU Seeking to Impose ‘Alien View’ of Homosexuality on Other Countries.  The Russian government says in a 153-page report on human rights in EU countries that the European Union is seeking to impose”neo-liberal values as a universal lifestyle for all other members of the the international community” (–spt.html).
Visa Problems, Terrorism and Lack of Upscale Hotels Keep Americans Away from Sochi. American tourist agencies say that the Sochi Games appear on course to attract fewer Americans than have attened such competitions over the last 20 years, a reflection of problems with visas, fears of terrorism, and a shortage of upscale hotels.  One touro operator said that few are likely to go to Sochi in the future either: “I don’t think many people are going to see this Russian destination they’ve never heard of in the opening ceremonies on TV in the dead of winter and say, ‘You know, that’s where I want to go next weekend,’” he said (
Romney Says He’d Be ‘Comfortable’ Taking His Family to Sochi. 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney says that despite security threats, he would be “comfortable” taking his family to Sochi.  ”There’s never been a games I know of that have been so targeted for specific threats as you’re seeing in Sochi,” he said. “At the same time, the level of security preparations appears to be at an unprecedented level. So I think people can recognize that the hard sites will be safe. The athletes will be safe, spectators when they’re in the venues will be safe. But it’s the soft places you can’t be 100% certain will be entirely safe but my guess is the Russians have done everything humanly possible to protect the games” (
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Note:  This is my 48th 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  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Putin Promises to Do Everything Necessary for Sochi Security…  President Vladimir Putin said he will do everything to provide for a secure Olympiad while trying to ensure that “the security measures taken aren’t too intrusive or visible and that they won’t put pressure on the athletes, guests and journalists.” He added that “we will do our best to ensure that these measures are efficient.” ”If we allow ourselves to show weakness and fear, display our fear, then we will be helping the terrorists to achieve their goals” and called for international cooperation against terrorism (
… Denies Any Corruption in Sochi and Says Price Increases Reflected Improvements … President Vladimir Putin said that he has not seen any “manifestation of corruption” in the preparation for the games and that the only prices that have risen from their original estimates were those where improvements were made along the way ( and
… Argues Sochi Games Not about Him but About Russia’s Recovery from 1991 …President Vladimir Putin said that the Sochi Olympics are not “about [his] personal ambitions.” The competition is instead “about the direct and concentrated interest of the state and our people” who “after the collapse of the Soviet Union, after the tough and bloody events in the Caucasus” were in “a pitiful and pessimistic state. We need to shake that off. We need to understand and to feel that we can ulfill large tasks.”  The Sochi Olympics are thus “a triumph of Russia” ( and
… Says Gays Will Be Welcome But Must ‘Leave Children in Peace’ … President Vladiimir Putin said gay athletes and fans will be welcome and can be “at ease” in Sochi as long as they “leave children in peace, please.”  He also said in his ABC interview that “acts of protest and acts of propaganda are somewhat different things” and that those criticizing Russia for its laws should realize that many in their own countries agree with Moscow’s position.  He suggested that in some American states homosexuality was still a crime, something his interviewer pointed out is not the case. And he said he had “no reaction” about US President Barack Obama’s decision to include openly gay people in the US delegation.  At the same time, the Russian president may have lost as much as he gained by his statements because he lumped homosexuality and pedophilia in the same category (
… Not Worried about Any Boycott or Empty Seats … President Vladimir Putin said that he does not think anyone believes in a boycott and that he is therefore not concerned there will be one. He also said he is sure that he will be able to fill all the seats at Sochi even if not all the tickets are sold. “Why should places go empty?” Putin asked rhetorically (
… Urges Sochi Volunteers to Display Humor and Patience …  At a meeting with Russian volunteer workers in Sochi, President Vladimir Putin called on them to display “humor, patience, professionalism and perseverance” because “these emotions form the very atmosphere of the games” (
… And Adds He Won’t Make a Bet about the Games with Obama.  President Vladimir Putin said that he and US President Barack Obama will not be making any bets over the outcome of the games. “We never make bets like that,” he said (
Medvedev Says Security Threats to Sochi No Greater than at Other Olympiads.Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says that “threat at the Sochi Olympiad are no greater than they have been at Olympic Games in other places.”  He adds that Russian officials are “absolutely certain that we will be able to defend all sportsmen … and we are tryingto conduc the Olympic Games in a very good way.” Medvedev says that Russia has a great deal of experience in fighting terrorism and that for the games it is using not only that background but is cooperating “with our partners,” including the Americans . “We inite everyone to watch the Games and those who hve purchased a ticket to come to Russia as see everything in person”  (
Email Threats to Olympic Countries Dismissed as Hoax. IOC officials said that emails sent to at least five European countries threatening them with violence if they take part in the Sochi Olympics were a hoax sent by someone outside of Russia who has sent similar messages before. Nonetheless, various commentators suggested that even if these messages were  a hoax, they have put many people on edge and may cut attendance at the Sochi Olympiad (–, and
Russian Officials Search for ‘Black Widow’ Terrorists in Sochi.  Russian security officials said they were searching for three or four female Islamist terrorists who may be operating in Sochi.  There were discrepancies in Russian reporting about how many such “black widows” may be there, how long they have been operating, and whether the photographs the Russian officials released were new and accurate ( ,,
Obama Offers Putin Assistance for Sochi Security.  US President Barack Obama in a telephone call offered Russian President Vladimir Putin American assistance to promote security at Sochi.  US and Russian officials discussed what that aid might look like but Moscow has not yet indicated that it is prepared to accept any such assistance beyond intelligence sharing. Many US officials have expressed skepticism that Moscow would ever agree to any on-the-ground aid. Several US congressmen have expressed equal skepticism about how much information Moscow is prepared to share with the West on terrorism and Sochi  (,,, and
US to Send Two Ships to Black Sea for Sochi Evacuation in the Event of Need.  The US Department of Defense says that Washington is sending two navy ships to a location in the Black Sea near Sochi so that they would be available to evacuate Americans in the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency (, and
US Participation at Sochi Would Be Threatened by Combination of Three Things, Former NSC Aide Says. Juan Zarate, a former US deputy national security advisor for combating terrorism who now serves as senior advisor at the CSIS in Washington, says that no one wants to see Olympic disrupted and that only a combination of three conditions would lead the US to consider pulling out: “a very serious, credible set of threats directed at U.S. athletes or at venues that U.S. athletes would be attending, combined with a sense that the Russians aren’t sharing enough information about what’s being done to counter it and a sense that we have an inability to counter it ourselves.” In that event “and so if there’s a real sense of serious risk to our athletes that is imminent, that is material, and that can’t be countered, then you would start to see a discussion in the Situation Room around what is to be done” (
Medvedev Says He has ‘No Data’ about Sochi Corruption.  Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says that he has no information about corruption in Sochi, adding that one can assess whether there is any onlyif evidence is presented.  He says that he does not think there will be any indication of massive corruption, although he said there may have been some problems. On another subject, he indicates that the total cost of the Sochi Games is close to 56 billion US dollars, 50  billion for infrastructure and six billion more for the Games themselves. Those figures are higher than the ones Russian President Vladimir Putin has been citing (
Washington Post Says IOC Put Athletes and Fans at Risk by Awarding Games to Sochi.  Sally Jenkins, a sports columnist for “The Washington Post” says that the IOC “jeopardized the safety of athletes and fans in awarding the Games to Putin’s Russia.”  The Sochi Games, she continues, are “already a catastrophe and if [they] become a tragedy too, it will be because the IOC has become the tool of ‘colossal authoritarian branding,’ to borrow a phrase from Russia scholar Leon Aron. The choice is an ugly one: Removing the Games at this late date would devastate Russians who have invested national self-worth in them, and the athletes who have trained for them. Therefore the only option is to watch Sochi become a contest for prestige between two warring parties: a corrupt strongman who wants to flex his political authority, and the murderous jihadists who have vowed to strike in Sochi. Why should the Olympics lend its prestige to either? But that’s exactly what’s happening” (
Sochi Receiving ‘Harsher’ Judgments than Putin Expected, NY Times Says.  Steven Lee Myers of “The New York Times” says that “if, as Putin has said, hosting the Olympics is ajudgment on Russia, then so far the judgment has been a harsher one than he expected” (
Most Countries Participating in Sochi Relying on Russia for Security But Some are Taking Steps Themselves. Most of the countries sending teams to Sochi say they are worried about security but are relying on Russian officials to take care of the situation.  A few, however, are developing their own security plans or hiring special security contractors,, including the US and the United Kingdom (
German Olympic Uniforms Called ‘Silent Protest’ Against Moscow’s Anti-LGBT Law. German competitors at Sochi will wear rainbow-colored uniforms, something that many commentators are describing as “a silent protest” against Russian anti-gay legislation especially since many German athletes have openly condemned the Russian law (
IOC Says Circassian Culture to be Part of Sochi Festivities.  In an email to Circassian organizations, te IO says that “elements of Circassian culture are already part of Sochi’s 2014 cultural festival.”  Circassian activists welcome that if it is true but note that Moscow has yet to talk about these elements or to indicate just how they will be incorporated in the Olympic celebration (
United Russia Deputy Comes Close to Acknowledging Genocide, Admits Most Circassians Oppose Sochi Games.  In a wide-ranging interview in which he praised the Circassians for their unique ability to resist Russia’s military advance in the Caucasus and noted their continuing problems with Moscow, Adalbi Shkhagohev, a United Russia deputy in the Russian State Duma, said that he did not want to use the word “genocide” to describe “the human and historical tragedy” that happened in 1864 because of current considerations. But his comments leave no doubt that he puts the blame for the ethnically specific tragedy of tsarist Russian forces. He also acknowledged that the majority of Circassians oppose staging the Olympiad on the site of that tragedy although he said he was not among their number ( ).
Circassians Made Great Progress as a Nation Last Year, Analyst Says.  Despite Russian policies “infected by imperialism and colonialism,” the Circassians made progress during 2013 in coming together as a people and advancing their interests, according to Tamerlan Urusov, a legal specialist.They have not yet won the war, he continued, but they did win at least some of the battles and are now better positioned to move forward after Sochi (
Circassians Attracting More Western Media Attention.  Although Circassian organizations did not succeed in getting any country to boycott the games, they have been receiving far more attention from the Western media in recent weeks, with ever more journalists discussing the genocide and Russia’s unwillingness to face up to its history ( ,,
German Greens Leader Urges World Not to Forget What Happened to Circassians at Sochi. Cem Ozdemir, the leader of the Greens faction in the German Bundestag, says that the international community must not allow the euphoria of Olympic competition to cause them to forget the horrific crimes inflicted by Russian authorities on the Circassian nation there in 1864 ( ).
Sochi Officials Launch Campaign to Kill Homeless Animals. Concerned that homeless animals will be a problem for visitors and having let a 2.5 million ruble (90,000 US dollar) contract for their removal, Sochi officials have begun shooting homeless dogs and cats in the streets. Animal rights activists and ordinary people are horrified and have launched a counter-effort to adopt or to find at least temporary homes for these unfortunates.  What makes this situation especially appalling is that the Sochi city government had earlier promised to build a shelter for animals: that has not happened ( and
Olympic Torch Travails Continue.  The Sochi Olympic torch continued its passage with all the same problems it has had in the past, but this week, people along the path were especially disturbed by the extent to which they were discommoded by official behavior and security arrangements in Volgograd, by the detention of a leading television journalist in Taganrog, by the arrest of opposition figures in Rostov before the torch passed, and by the detention of a gay activist who tried to hold up a rainbow pride flag (,,, and
Kozak Says Almost Everything is Ready But Photographs Show Otherwise.  Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak says that 11 of the 13 Olympic venues is ready, with the other two awaiting certification, but he did not say that Fisht Stadium where the opening ceremony is to slated to be held is in fact near completion.  Photographs posted online, however, show that much of the infrastructure is still incomplete or so badly installed that it is likely to create problems even before the end of the competitions (,,, and
HRW Says Moscow Will Launch Even Harsher Crackdown after Sochi.  As horrific as Moscow’s moves against the civil and human rights of its people in the run-up to Sochi, Human Rights Watch’s Tatyana Lokshina says, her organization expects the crackdown to intensify after international attention turns away from Russia at the conclusion of the games.  She expressed particular concern about theNorth Caucasus where Moscow, having failed to pacify the situation so far, is likely to adopt even more violent and punitive measures (
Moscow Bank Restructuring of Sochi Debt.  Russia’s Vneshekonombank is restructuring more than half of the debt incurred by companies involved in Sochi construction, extending the loan period and thus reducing the burden on these institutions.  The owners of many of them had been complaining and this restructuring should keep them quiet until after the games when the Russian authorities may either be forced to forgive much of the debt or otherwise allow the companies who were involved to escape full repayment for what arebecoming non-performing loans (
Sochi Organizing Committee Publishes Rules for Olympic Fans.  The Sochi 2014 Olympic Organizing Committee has posted online a list of rules that fans must follow while at the games. Most are quite ordinary for major events, but some are intended to stifle any possibility of dissent. Officials say that violators will be removed from the venue and in severe cases stripped of their fan passports and thus of the possibility of attending any future events at Sochi (
Moscow Wants to Extend Ban on Liquids on Planes Past Olympiad.  In an indication that many of the rules Moscow has imposed in advance of the games may continue well after it, the Russian transportation ministry as that it wants to extend the unpopular ban on passemgers carrying any liquids, including medicines, at least until April 1 (
Gref Seeks a Las Vega Future for Sochi.  German Gref, head of Moscow’s Sberbank, is pushing to develop casinos and other gambling facilities in the southern Russian city as a way to attract visitors and thus help those who have invested in Sochi recoup their money and make a profit. Many Russians are asking whose “pocket” Gref is in or most worried about (
Suffering of Sochi Residents Epitomized by Tragedy of One Older Woman.  Many residents of Sochi have suffered during the construction of Olympic facilities, but perhaps none has done so more that Nadezhda Kukharenko, an older woman who has had to choose to give up heat in order to be able to buy food and has not been able to get to stores because of her infirmity and the collapse of public transit in her part of the city.  Her case, portrayed on a video clip, has attracted attention from around Russia. She is, as the video says, truly “outside the games” (
Kozak’s Claims on Air Quality Belied by Official Russian Statistics. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak’s claims that Olympic construction had improved air quality in Sochi by a factor of two are false as will be clear to anyone who looks around. But they are also undercut by official Russian government statistics which show that air quality in the Olympic city has in fact deteriorated and in some cases now represents a clear threat to public health ( ).
Sochi isn’t Ready for Visitors, Valov Says.  Aleksandr Valov, the editor of, says that anyone who walks through Sochi will see that official claims of readiness of the games are overstated.  Many facilities are either unfinished or slapped together in a sloppy and unsafe way, roads and sidewalks are either incomplete or already disintegrating because they were not built properly, and piles of trash have been left in public places without any sign that they are going to be hauled away in the two weeks left before opening ceremonies ( ).
Sochi Doesn’t Have Local or Self-Administration, Residents Complain.  Sochi does not have “local government” or “self-administration” despite what the Russian Constitution promises. Instead, they insist, it is run from the outside without their interests ever being taken into accout (
Moscow’s Spending on Power Backups for Games Infuriates Sochi Residents Living without Power.  Russian officials say they are spending 20 million US dollars to provide back up power supplies in case the power grid fails during the games.  Residents are outraged because these same officials have done nothing to keep the power on regularly in their neighborhoods. Most have suffered some power outages over the last two years, and many have not had power, heat or water for long periods (
Georgia to Send Delegation to Sochi But Continues Criticism of Moscow on Abkhazia. Georgia announced its plans to send a delegation of 19 to the Sochi Olympiad, but Tbilisi officials took the occasion to denounced the latest illegal move of the border between Russia and Georgia 11 kilometers deeper into Georgian territory and said that Georgian sovereignty represented a red line that it was not prepared to cross in order to improve relations with Moscow ( and
Lavrov ‘Values’ Tbilisi’s Offer of Security Assistance but Condemns Its Refusal to Recognize Post-2008 ‘Realities.’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Moscow “values” Georgia’s offer of security assistance for Sochi but adds that Georgia’s continuing refusal to recognize “the realities” that emerged after August 2008 “constrains” the improvement of relations (
Investigators Call for BlogSochi Editor to Appear January 27. Angry at Aleksandr Valov’s reporting about official malfeasance, government investigators in Sochi have ordered the BlogSochi editor to appear before them on January 27. They say he is being questioned about possible criminal charges. Whether that is true or not, the timing of this notice suggests it is intended as an act of intimidation designed to keep him from working as more attention turns to the Olympic city ( ).
Footbridge May Not Be Save But It’s Not Our Problem, City Officials Say.  In November, pointed out that a footbridge many visitors to the city may use is unsafe because it has been improperly constructed. Now officials have responded with an official letter saying that the bridge may not be safe but that they are not responsible for ensuring that it is (
Not All Sochi Signs are Properly Transliterated into English.  Many Russians involved in making road signs for Sochi clearly do not know English and thus are transliterating the Cyrillic alphabet into Latin script incorrectly. One sign pointing to an Olympic venue, for example, renders Krasnaya Polyana in Russian as Krasnaya lolyana in English (
Sochi Contractors Put Obstacles on Tacticle Paths for Those with Sight Problems. More than any other Russian city although far less than many non-Russian ones, Sochi has installed facilities for handicapped people in preparation for the Paralympics which follow the Olympiad. One of the biggest efforts has been to put down tacticle strips to guide those who are blind or have difficulty seeing. Unfortunately, some Sochi contractors have shown no respect for these strips, scraping them off or even putting physical obstacles on them which would block anyone using them to guide his or her way (
Yarst Now Reporting for Nikolay Yarst, an embattled Sochi journalist, has prepared a report on conditions in Sochi for the news agency, detailing what visitors to the city can expect and warning them against doing certain things. He says that visitors should know that “local residents for a long time have been waiting not for the Olympics but for the time when they will be able to return to their accustomed way of life and they hope that bureaucrats will fulill their promises” and actually bring gas and electricity to their houses. Yarst’s next court date is January 29  ( and

Sochi’s Toiletgate Scandal.  A BBC journalist photographed a strange arrangement in a Sochi facility: two toilets in a single stall. His pictures, which he almost immediately had to deny having created by photoshop, hve gone viral and sparked comments like “while it might be nice to get to know your competitors a little better, this is surely far too cosy to catch on and has already been attacked as a waste of money. Oops” (

Moscow is ‘Prepared for Beslan But Not Smaller-Scale Attacks.’  Mark Galleoti, an NYU, specialist on Russian crime and security, says that Russian officials in Sochi “are prepared for  Beslan but not a smaller-scale attack.”  His words echo those of Andrey Soldatov, Russia’s leading independent expert on that country’s intelligence services, who says that Moscow has transformed Sochi  “into a fortress” because officials have “confused control with security.” To counter terrorism, they should be focusing on intelligence instead. No matter how many troops are on the ground, he suggests, terrorists can find a way around them (
Ukrainian Violence Linked to Sochi Games. Jiri and Leni Valenta, two American specialists on foreign affairs, says that “linkages exist between the ongoing peaceful-turned violent demonstration in Ukraine and Chechen threats to the Olympics.”  At the very least, concerns about Sochi security have distracted the attention of many from what is going on in Ukraine and thus opened the way for the crackdown there (
In Advance of Sochi, Adygeya Sets Up Special Security Group.  The police in the Republic of Adygeya have established a special group to ensure law and order in the mountainous portions of that Circassian republic.  Because the terrain is so rough, the group will be using helicopters and drones to monitor the situation there (
Islamic Militant Group Warns of Sochi ‘Surprise’ if Moscow
Doesn’t Withdraw from Caucasus.  An Islamic militant group said
that it would violently disrupt the Olympics with a “Sochi surprise” if
Moscow does not withdraw its “occupation” forces from the North
Caucasus. In a video statement, the group, Ansar al-Sunna, also
caliimed responsibility for the Volgograd bombings last month. Neither
Russian nor Western officials have yet concluded whether the threat or
the claim is credible, but this latest development has increased attention
to the danger of violence in the region around Sochi (
Sochi Security Zone Extended into Abkhazia. Part of Abkhazia will be included in the Sochi security
zone with special checkpoints set up and passes required, officials there said. That development will
simultaneously anger Abkhazians who have seen many restrictions but few benefits from the games and
Georgians who will view this as the latest Russian attack on their sovereignty (
No One has Yet Applied to Use Protest Areas, Sochi Officials Say. Officials in the Sochi mayor’s office
say that no one has yet applied for a permit to use the special protest zone that Russian officials have set
up in Khosta, seven miles from the nearest Olympic venues, to allow Moscow to suggest that it will tolerate demonstrations.  One local activist, Yevggeny Vitishko, expressed pessimism about the future. He told “The New York Times”that “the civil socity that could have gotten together at a place like this has already been destroyed” (
HRW Describes Protest Zones as ‘Potemkin Villages.’  Jane Buchanan, deputy director of Human Rights
Watch for Europe and Central Asia, says that the special protest zones Russian officials have set aside are
nothing more than the latest iteration of the old idea of “Potemkin villages,” designed to fool outsiders by
covering up a sorry reality (
Police in Sochi from St. Petersburg Get Drunk, Try to Go Home. In order to boost security in the Olympic
city, Moscow has pulled police from across the Russian Federation, but many of those sent to the region are
unhappy about going there. One group of St. Petersburg policemen became drunk and tried to return home,
forcing other police to detain them and prevent them from deserting their posts, an indication that not all
those charged with providing security in the Olympic city are enthusiastic about their responsibilities (
FIFA Head Who Said Racism Can be Overcome with a Handshake Says Sochi Opens Door to
Sepp Blatter, FIFA resident, opposes a boycott of the Sochi Games because of Russia’s anti-LGBT laws.
The Olympiad, he says, is a good opportunity for dialogue on the issue and “a refusal” to take part in the
Games is a refusal to have a dialogue. “We must fight every form of social exclusion. Anyone who decides
to boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi will be surrendering on this important issue, just as anyone
running away from a problem will never be able to resolve it, he said (
Violence in North Caucasus Continues. Nine people were wounded in a terror bombing in Daghestan
this week, one of several militant attacks there and elsewhere in the North Caucasus over the last seven
days. Although these attacks have not attracted the level of attention that the deadly Volgograd bombings
did, they are a reminder that the area around Sochi is anything but stable (
Chinese Leader Will Attend Sochi Opening Ceremony.  The president of the Chinese Peoples Republic
has announced that he will attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Sochi. He becomes the first
major foreign leader who says he will take part in that event (
Sochi Policeman Sued for Beating Comes Up with New Witnesses.  A lawyer for a man who is suing a
former Sochi policeman for damages resulting from the beating he received last April says that he is “not
especially surprised” that now the case is going to trial, those supporting the policemen have brought “new
witnesses” to the courtroom, even though none of these were involved in the investigation which found for
the man who was beaten (
More Gaps in Sochi Security Identified.  Sochi residents say that despite all the security in their city,
there are gaps on the rail lines and roads that terrorists could exploit ( and
Stockholm Won’t Bid for 2022 Winter Games Because of High Costs. Sweden’s ruling party said their
country won’t bid for the 2022 winter games because of the high costs involved and because many of the
venues which would have to be built have no use after the games, a reaction to and judgment on what has
Russian Officials Denounce ‘Apocalyptic’ Commentaries on Sochi by VOA and RFE/RL. A Russian
commentator has lashed out at what he calls “apocalyptic predictions” by the US radio stations about
what will or could happen at Sochi. Their programs, he said, in terms that recall Soviet times, are internally
flawed because they complain both about the security measures Moscow has adopted and the security
Moscow Gay Club Owner Says Anti-LGBT Law May Have Unexpectedly and Unintentionally Positive Impact.  Andrey Tanichev, who owns Moscow’s only gay club, told Deutsche Welle that Russia’s anti-gay
law, as draconian and wrong as it is, has had the effect of raising the issue of gay rights in Russia, formerly
a completely taboo subject, and consequently could lead to some improvement in his country in the future (
Workers Conclude Large Dacha is for Medvedev When Told to Finish by Opening of Games.
Construction workers who have been told that they are working on a resort facility have concluded that
in fact they are building a dacha for Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev because they have been
ordered to complete work before the opening ceremonies. Their comments reflect both the failure of
contractors to finish work on key sites in Sochi and the efforts of officials to hide what many facilities
Chechen Leader Says Doku Umarov has Been Killed But No One Confirms That.Chechen President
Ramzan Kadyrov says that Doku Umarov, the North Caucasian militant who earlier threatened to use
violence to prevent or explode the Sochi Olympiad has been killed. Neither Russian nor Western officials
have confirmed that.  At the same time, Kadyrov points out that even if Umarov has been killed, that in
and of itself would not mean the end of the terrorist threat in the region and to the games
Security Concerns, High Prices Keep Sochi Ticket Sales Slow. Even members of the IOC say that sales
of tickets for the Sochi Olympiad have been slow, the result they and others say of concerns about security
in Sochi and the high costs of getting there. At present, about 30 percent of the seats remain unsold:
President Vladimir Putin says he will fill them with volunteers if need be to guarantee full houses (
Fewer than Two Percent of Sochi Olympic Buildings are Green – and Even Those Aren’t Fully So.
Only six o the 352 buildings put up for the Olympics meet green standards over all, and those six, experts
say, do not meet the international standards in every detail. The IOC had required and Moscow had
promised that all Olympic buildings would meet these standards. That has not happened at all
Sochi Residents ‘Praise’ Electric Supplier for Keeping Russian Curse Words and Lies Alive.
Sochi residents are so angry at the local electricity supplier, Kubanenergo, that some of them say the
only good thing they can about that company is that its lies and failure to supply electricity as and when
promised are helping to keep alive Russian curse words and lying (
Regions Near Sochi Told Internet Will Be Slow During Games.  One indication of the thinness of Russian
Internet connectivity and possibly of Russian monitoring of visitors to the Sochi Olympiad is that some
residents in nearby areas have been told to expect that Internet speeds will slow down during the
Sochi Maps for Visitors Not Accurate.  Local people say that the maps visitors to Sochi are being given
are not accurate. Some of the divergence from reality may reflect efforts to present a lot of information in
a limited space, but some of it may be a product of a longstanding Russian tradition of not providing maps
that are entirely correct lest someone use that information against the state (
Sochi Residents No Longer to Have ‘Power Outages’ — They Face ‘Prophylactic Tests’without Power.
 For months, Sochi residents have been informed by the media that one or another of their neighborhoods
will be without power because of construction or accidents.  But that is now a thing of the past, especially
since Moscow officials insist that everything is in readiness. From now on, they will only have to deal with
“prophylactic tests,” although these too will leave them without power (
Sochi Residents told Not to Hang Underwear on Balconies During Games.  Sochi city officials have
asked residents not to hang underwear to dry on the balconies of apartment buildings during the games.
The request is part of a general effort to improve how the city looks(
Sochi Residents Face Two New Challenges: All-Night Construction and Forbidden Zones. In addition
to power, heat and water outages which continue despite official denials, Sochi residents this week faced
two new challenges: noisy all-night construction as contractors try to complete the work that officials say
is already done and the imposition of unexpected forbidden zones that cut them off from work, school, or
Rumor Spreads that Sochi Residents Will Get Medal for Surviving Olympics. A rumor is circulating in
Sochi that residents will be presented a medal “For Patriotism” for putting up with all the problems associated
with construction of Olympic facilities and the influx of crowds for the games themselves (
Religious Missionary Activity Prohibited During Sochi Games.  Russia’s Inter-Religious Council says
that while there will be facilities in Sochi for prayer and services, no missionary activity will be allowed
Weather Forecasters Promise Warm Opening for Games … Russian weather forecasters say that Sochi
will have a high of ten degrees centigrade (50 degrees Fahrenheit) on opening day. Temperatures in the
mountains will be cooler but still near or above freezing (
… But Pledge Not to Interfere with Weather. Meteorological officials in Moscow say that the Russian
authorities will not try to influence the weather by seeding clouds or other measures, unless something
very unexpected happens (
Russian Transport Minister Says There are No Problems in Sochi.  Transportation Minister Maksim
Sokolov says that the transportation infrastructure in Sochi is complete and that there are “no problems”
in the region.  Pictures provided by local residents on various blogs call that assertion into question as do
extremely long lines of cars and trucks in many locations (
IOC Requires US Goalie to Eliminate Pro-US Slogans from Her Helmet.  The IOC has ordered Jessie
Wetter, goalkeeper for the US women’s hockey team, to cover up the slogan s“Support our troops!” and
“Miller Time!” on her helmet.  The IOC says that such things violate Olympic rules (
Moscow Detains 33 Serbians Working Illegally in Sochi.  Russia’s Federal Migration Service has detained
33 Serbian gastarbeiters who have been in Sochi working on Olympic sites illegally (
Vitishko Appeal Continued Until Next to Last Day of Olympics.  The appeal of Yevgeny Vitishko, an
environmental activist who has been sentenced to three years imprisonment for his activities, has been
continued until February 22, the next to last day of the Olympiad. The timing suggests that the authorities
hope to be able to say that the case is still proceeding if anyone criticizes their approach to environmental
issues His colleagues continue to be harassed and his supporters continue to demonstrate ( and
Environmental Activists Say Moscow Violating Olympic Charter in Sochi.  Yulia Naberezhnaya, an
activist with the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, says that “according to the Olympic Charter,
the Olympic Games cannot proceed in a place where human rights are violated. And we call upon the IOC to
express their criticism of the persecution of activists” in and around Sochi.  Other activists say that “the
Olympic project” as Moscow has carried it out “has created opportunities to destroy the most valuable
natural areas in the name of commercial development” and that Soch has become “less a celebration of
sport and increasingly a celebration of officialdom and a demonstration of governmental ambitions” (
Trash Heaps Keep Rising as Officials Try to Hide Them.  Illegal dumping of construction waste and the
failure of the city to pick up trash has led to mounting piles of trash around the city. In response, officials
have tried to hide the trash behind walls or buildings in the hope that visitors won’t see it. Such efforts may
work for some visitors, but local people say that the illegal heaps are clearly visible (
‘Putin Jailed Us When He Found Out We’re Gay,’ Olympic Mascots Say in Cartoon. Cartoons have
become an increasingly important commentary on the Sochi Olympics.  One of the most amusing shows
the two bears who are symbols of the Sochi Games being put in a prison cell. “Putin arrested us when he
found out we are gay,” the two say. Another cartoon shows Putin as an Olympic gold medalist having
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