Monthly Archives: November 2013



Note:  This is my 40th 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 Says Sochi Contractors Will Have to Work Through New Year Holiday.  In the clearest  indication yet that many sites are unfinished and that far more work remains to done before Sochi is ready for the games, President Vladimir Putin told officials at a meeting in Sochi that “much has been done, but things remain far from completed,” adding that ““the New Year holidays are approaching,” but “for you and those working on Olympic sites, the New Year will come after the Paralympic Games end on March 17. For you, New Year will be on March 18” when the Paralympics close. For Russians, that holiday is one of the most sacred of the year. Asking workers and officials to give it up is asking a lot (
Half of Vneshekonombank Loans for Sochi Need to Be Restructured or Written Off. Not only is Sochi construction coming in late and over budget, but ten of the 20 construction loans backed by Vneshekonombank are not “performing” and must be either restructured or written off as bad debt, a situation that is exacerbating tensions between the Kremlin and the oligarchs who received many of them.  According to Scott Antel, a Moscow-based financial analys, the oligarchs were forced into “a deal with the devil,” effectively being told “you will do your civic duty and build facilities in Sochi so we can have this coming-out party for the new Russian state. This is your indirect taxation to be allowed to continue with your main business activity.” ( ,, and
Putin Says Russians Shouldn’t Be ‘Xenophobic’ about LGBTs.  Russian President Vladimir Putin, asked about recent attacks on LGBTs in his country, said that “we should not create a society of such xenophobia against anyone else, including with respect to people with different sexual orientation.” Russian gay activist Vyacheslav Revin said one can eplain Putin’s statement “in three words: It’s a lie. If he wants to really talk about changing policy on LGBT people, then he can arrest all the ‘Occupy Pedophilia’ participants in all regions of Russia. In doens of cities, there are victims of extra-judicial reprisal and homophobic bullying” (
Russian TV Said Conducting ‘Hate Campaign’ Against Gays.  Even as President Vladimir Putin said that promoting anti-LGBT “xenophobia” is wrong, Russian television and especially the Special Correspondent program on Russia-1 has been broadcasting what many observers are calling “a hate campaign” against gays and lesbians in Russia and blaming the appearance of LGBTs in Russia on a well-financed campaign by what it called “a strong homosexual lobby in Europe.”  The program’s host, Arkady Mamontov, used the broadcast to retell the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  “Ever since then, the real name by which homosexuals are known, just so you, our viewers, know, is: They are not gays, they are sodomites,” he observed
Putin Says Russians of All Income Levels Can Come to Sochi.  President Vladimir Putin said that flexible ticket prices and price controls on hotels and restaurants will allow Russians from all income groups to come to Sochi. But many estimates by others suggest that the games will not be financially accessible to many (
Kozak Concedes Gastarbeiters Remain But Pledges to Remove Them.  Russian Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Olympiad for Moscow and who earlier pledged to have all the gastarbeiters working there removed by November 1 now says he is “certain” those remaining will be out “in the course of a month (
Russian LGBT Group Seeks Approval for Demonstration Backing Putin’s ‘Defense of Gays.’ Nikolay Alekseyev, a Russian gay rights activist, has requested permission from the authorities to hold a rally to “disseminate the words of President Vladimir Putin” in defense of gays.  The application says the group plans to assemble 20 people on December 4th.  On his twitter account, Alekseyev said that “if Moscow authorities forbid us from publicly expressing and disseminating in society the direct quotes of Russia’s president, we will all be witnesses to the complete absurdity of the current situation, absolute disrespect of the fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech” (
Russian Journalists in Sochi Treated Far Worse than Foreign Ones.  Olga Beskova, editor of “Sochinskiye novosti,” and Irina Gordienko, a reporter for “Novaya gazeta,” say that Russian officials in Sochi are targeting journalists who report on environmental and human rights abuses and treating Russian journalists far worse than they are treating those from abroad whose travails at least attract broader attention. Inna Sangazhieva, Russia projects coordinator for the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, agreed, according to a Bellona report, “saying the veneer of being a foreign journalist in such circumstances offers a modicum of protection that Russia journalists and activists will not have. Instead, they will endure actual arrests, beatings, false criminal charges, kangaroo courts and perhaps disappearances because of their views and efforts to illuminate the truth. What will happen to Sochi when the athletes and international press coverage recede is anyone’s guess” ( Ranert, who coordinates media training projects in the former Soviet space, says she has encountered problems like those in Sochi before “only in Uzbekistan” (
New Film Documents Sochi Corruption … A film called “Putin’s Games” produced by a European consortium tells the story of massive kickbacks to the Kremlin during the run-up to the Sochi Games (
… Prompting IOC to Object … The International Olympic Committee was so angry about the film tht it demanded the editors eliminate the word “Olympic” in the title or in Archival footage, according to Britain’s “Telegraph” newspaper(
… And Moscow to Try to Bribe Its Producers. Russians apparently liked with the authorities offered the director 600,000 British pounds not to show her film.  That was twice the amount that had been spend on producing it.  Simone Baumann says that she turned it down twice and then didn’t answer her door. “In a society where they think they can buy anything – and usually can – if you ask for a price, you are already a buyer,” she said, explaining her refusal to enter into negotiations to sell her film to the Russian authorities. “You must never ask the price. I simply told him that I was not interested and walked away” (
West Using Circassian Cause ‘to Liberate Caucasus from Russia,’ Moscow Analyst Says. A Moscow analyst says that the West “ascribes high priority to the Circassian theme” and has made the Circassian nationalist movement “among the most dynamic in the post-Soviet space. The goal of the movement is “to liberate the Caucasus from Russia” and to “somehow make Russia pay – morally or materially – for the events which took place two centuries ago.” If Circassia did gain “independence from Russia,” its future would be like “thatof Chechnya under J. Dudayev” (
Circassians from Around the World Come to Hamburg Exhibit.  Some 300 people, including representatives of Circassian communities around the world, came to the opening of the Circassian exhibit in Hamburg.  The museum’s director said that the world must recognize that in 1864, Sochi was “the last capital of the Circassians” and the site of horrific human suffering.  That is simply a matter of respect as required by the Olympic code and as exemplified by the respect shown to the First Nations of Canada during the Vancouver Games ( and
Circassians Demonstrate in New York’s Times Square Against Sochi Games.  Carryig signs saying “No to Sochi Olympics on the Land of Genocide,” a group of Circassians and their supporters organied a demonstration in New York’s Times Square (
Moscow Acknowledges Circassian Opposition to Sochi Games. Russian officials and experts on the Caucasus now acknowledge that “part of the Circassian social organizations both in Russia and abroad sharply criticize the Sochi Olympic project first because it corresponds on the calenda to the 150th anniversary of the final pacification of the Caucasus by the Russian Empire which cost the life or exile of many Circassians and second because the Circassians in their opinion are insufficiently involvd in the preparation of the Olympiad” (
‘Something Very Bad is About to Happen in Sochi,’ US Blogger Says.  An American blogger says that “something very bad is about to happen in Sochi,” not an Olympic Games but rather “a massive public relations campaign” for Vladimir Putin and his regime (
Sochi Residents Collectively and Individually Increasingly Angry at Russian Authorities.  Sochi residents are increasingly angry about the way they are being treated and especially the frequency with which they say they are being lied to.  Some of them are taking part in protest meetings.  One Sochi resident expressed his frustration by saying that he was now “ashamed” of his city and of the country of which it is a part (
Russian Officials Continue to Delay Ecologist’s Trial.  Yevgeny Vitishko, an activist for the Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, has seen his trial repeatedly delayed over the past few weeks, and his supporters believe that the authorities, who do not have a real case, simply want to keep him in jail or otherwise legally entangled for the next two months in order to prevent him from exposing more environmental devastation in the Sochi region (  and
Authorities, Population Clash Over Environmental Protection. In a series of meetings, residents complained to Sochi officials about the destruction of the environment during preparations for the Olympiad, and officials engaged in obfuscation, including refusal to specify exactly what the borders are of nature preserves and which laws apply, and parliamentary procedure to declare one meeting invalid. The two sides appear set to continue their battles in the future, although the longer the fight goes on, the more the environment of Sochi will suffer (,
Sochi Organizers Say Prices Won’t Go Up During Games – But They are Going Up Now.  Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Russian organzing committee for the Sochi Games, says that hotel prices will not go up during the games, but local residents have said that local businessmen are boosting prices now on a wide variety of goods and services to create the baseline that Moscow will then supposedly enforce ( and
BlogSochi Editor Detained for Trying to Photograph Tunnel.  Aleksandr Valov, editor of, was detained by Sochi police while attempting to photograph one of the tunnels under construction in that city. The police told him that he was guilty of violating the law on “specially protected” sites but subsequently released him (
Russian Bankruptcy Law Putting Sochi Apartment Buyers into the Streets.  Because Russian laws on bankruptcy provide little or no protection for those who have purchased apartments in buildings that have not been declared completed, a regular feature of the pre-Olympic period in Sochi, some companies in Sochi are declaring bankruptcy, evicting the residents who have already paid and moved in, and leaving them with no place to go. In several cases, the courts have proved deaf to complaints by such residents (
Polish Deputy Calls for EU Boycott of Sochi Games.  Marek Migalsky, a Polish deputy in the European Parliament, said at aWarsaw conference entitled “Don’t Play with a Dictator!” that “the Olympiad in Sochi is a classical eample of the use of a sporting event for the legitimation of a brutal regime and that the Europe Union cannot agree to that.” Also in attendance was Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition figure, who said that “if EU leaders would say that we are prepare to come only when you release political prisoners and there are already 70 of them in Putin’s Russia, theen there is a chance that they would really be released. And in that event, at least something useful would come from the Olympiad” (
Olympic Construction Breaks Same Water Main for a Second Time. As Russian building firms rush to complete construction projects in Sochi, they seem to be ever less cautious regarding the digging up of streets. On one street in the center of the city, for example, they have broken the same water pipe at least twice in the last two weeks, leaving residents in the area without water (
Russia’s Torch Travails Continue …  This week, the torch exploded into flame and set on fire the jacket of a bobsled team member, Petr Makrchuk, who was carrying it in Abakan. Some observers suggested that the torch instead of being fixed was in fact becoming ever more dangerous.  And more cartoons and photoshopped pictures of the torch, including one featuring Lenin carrying it, have been appearing (
… But Buddhist Leader Blesses Torch.  There was one piece of good news for the Olympic torch this week: finally, a  religious leader blessed it without qualification. After weeks in which Russian Orthodox prelates have debated whether the torch and other Olympic symbolism is pagan or not, that constitutes what must be a welcome relief for Sochi organizers (
 ‘Zeus Alone Knows if Torch Will Reach Sochi,’ Many Russians Say. A self-selected online poll found that the largest share of those answering said that “Zeus alone knows” whether the torch will get to Sochi. One in six said it wouldn’t, and just under one in four said it would (
Tkachev Says Sochi Ski Resort Equals Those in West. Krasnodar Governor Aleksandr Tkachev says that the ski resort at Krasnaya Polyana ranks with the best ski resorts in Western countries and thus will give “a powerful impulse” to the development of the entire North Caucasus (
Rogozin ‘Thinks’ Sochi Checkpoints Will Be Ready by End of December.  In yet another implicit acknowledgement that arrangements in Sochi are running far behind schedule, Russian Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that “on the whole I think that before the end of Decemer all checkpoints of the Russian Border Service in Sochi will work” (
Russians Say Terrorist Acts and Protests Likely in Sochi.  A Levada Center poll found that almost half of the Russian population thinks that there will be some misfortune during the Sochi Games, with one in four saying that a terrorist incident is likely and one in six saying that there will be boycotts or other protests about Russian human rights policies (
Nemtsov, a Sochi Native, May Run for Mayor.  Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has filed preliminary paperwork to be a candidate in the Sochi mayoral elections on April 26, but observers say that he has not made an irrevocable decision to run and despite widespread name recognition, he would face a serious uphill fight against the preferred candidate of the authorities in Krasnodar Kray (
Islamists Arrested in Moscow Said Preparing to Attack Sochi Games …  The arrest of a group of Islamist militants identified as members of the At-Takfir val-Hijra group in Moscow has led one Russian nationalist site to suggest that these militants are part of preparations by the radicals to launch terrorist attacks on the Sochi Games (  and
… But Soldatov Says Case is Unclear.  In an article in “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Andrey Soldatov, Russia’s leading independent expert on the security services, says the recent arrests do not allow sweeping conclusions about the intentions of the militants involved. The weapons and explosives found on them, he says, may be for the commission of ordinary crimes rather than a terrorist attack (
Moscow Analyst Describes Sochi as “Muddied and Bloodied Aquarium of Conflict.’Oleg Nechiporenko, a senior analyst at the Russian National Anti-Terrorist and Anti-Crime Foundation, says that the Sochi region is “such a muddied and bloodied aquarium of conflict that to pick out any one fish is impossible.” Consequently, it is difficult if not impossible to say who might be prepared to engage in attacks on the Games (
Gay Pride House in Sochi Would Propagandize LGBT Values, Russian Judge Sayss. In issuing an injunction against the construction of a Pride House in Sochi, a Russian judge said that such a facility, already a regular feature of international sports competitions elsewhere, would violate Russian law: “Pride House incites propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation which can undermine the security of the Russian society and the state, provoke social-religious hatred, which is the feature of the extremist character of the activity” (
Sochi Project’s ‘Atlas of War and Tourism in the North Caucasus’ Now Available. A 392-page book with that title, the result of four years of effort by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen in what they have called “The Sochi Project” is now available for sale online ( For one of the first reviews,
Despite Moscow Media Claims, Sochi Underpass Won’t Be Ready Before Mid-January.  An underpass near the center of Sochi promised several times this year and reported as completed by Moscow media outlets won’t be ready until mid-January, only a few weeks before the games, according to local people who have watched the on-again-off-again construction (
Sochi Games Seen Boosting Russian Shares Before Hand and Then Sending Them Down.  A commentary in the Moscow newspaper “Vzglyad” says that shares in companies involved with Sochi construction are likely to rise in the coming  weeks but face “a correction” when the games actually begin.  “No one,” not even those behind the Olympiad, has been able to “change the old exchange rule: ‘buy on the basis of expectations, and sell on the basis of events’” (
Moscow to Spend Another 300 Million US Dollars on Opening and Closing Ceremonies.  The Russian authorities have announced plans to spend an additional 300 million US dollars on the opening and closing ceremonies in Sochi and to add insult to the injury that many Russians feel about Olympic spending, most of this will go to an Italian rather than a Russian company.  Some observers suggest that even this additional amount may not be the last word about what Moscow plans as a media extravaganza (
KAMAZ Builds Special Armored Vehicles to Provide Security at Sochi.  The KAMAZ factory is building special armored vehicles called Typhoons to provide security at the Sochi Games. The contract for these vehicles was let by the defense ministry in 2010. The vehicles are now being tested by the military and will go into service in advance of the Olympiad (
Sochi Businesses Can’t Find Enough Workers or Get Deliveries on Time.  A meeting of the Trade and Industry Chamber of Sochi complained that entrepreneurs in the city often can’t find enough workers to ensure their operation, the result of tightening restrictions on gastarbeiters, difficulties of living in the city, and official obstructionism.  Moreover, participants warned that security arrangements may be so tight that shelves will be empty at the time of the games because delivery trucks will not be able to get through. There is only one road for delivery vehicles to use, it is already the site of long lines, some eleven hours long; and the question naturally arises, the businessmen say, of what conditions will be like during the Olympics themselves. Moreover, possibly with an eye to lining their own pockets, officials have stepped up their “inspections” of local businesses, creating yet another set of problems ( ).
Moscow Holds Back 30 Percent of Olympic Tickets for Russian and Foreign Delegations.  Nearly a third of all tickets to all Olympic events are being held back in the expectation that these seats will be filled by Russian and foreign delegations, according to the Sochi 2014 organizing committee.  That will allow the Russian authorities to offer tickets to particular groups of Russian citizens and mean that any decision by officials to boycott games if it is not announced until the last minute may leave many empty seats (
Russian Court Orders Sochi Airport to Provide Handicapped Parking.  Despite Moscow’s oft-repeated and much-ballyhooed pledge that the Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi will be handicap friendly, it has taken a decision by the Adler District Court to  force the airport at the Olympic city to provide specially marked parking places for the handicapped (
Only KPRF Backs Protests against Illegal Trash Dumps in Sochi Region.  Of the political parties which have deputies in the Duma, only the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has chosen to back protests by Sochi residents against trash dumps and the pollution of the Mzymta River, despite widespread acknowledgement that this trash poses a threat to public health long into the future ( Meanwhile, residents of varioius parts of the city and beyond continue their protests about the dumping of trash in their neighborhoods (
Putin Games about Corruption and Banditry, Golts Says.  In a commentary on “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Aleksandr Golts says the Sochi Games organized by Vladimir Putin are about corruption and banditry from beginning to end, beginning with the unlimited funds for lobbying the IOC to get winter games in a subtropical zone and ending – so far – with a crude attempt to purchase a film critical of the games to prevent it from being shown. In between, he reports, businesses have been hit with a requirement that they pay 15 percent or more of the contracts awarded to them to officials in Putin’s power vertical. In all these ways, of course, he concludes, “Sochi is [only] a microcosm of contemporary Russia” (
Human Rights First Urges White House to Include LGBTs in US Delegation to Sochi.  Human Rights First, a gay rights group, called on the White House to include prominent American LGBTs and their allies on the official US delegation. In a letter to Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Barack Obama, the group said that “the selection of the members of the official U.S. delegations for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics is an important opportunity to signal to Russia and the world the priority the Obama Administration places on equality and human dignity. Those selected for the honor of representing the United States will project the values of our country on the global stage” (
Kremlin Operatives Take Control of Circassian Group.  According to Khazrail Khanakhok, a Circassian activist, pro-Moscow officials manipulated the vote for members in the governing body of a Circassian group in Adygeya to ensure that it would not criticize the Sochi Olympics but rather support whatever the Kremlin wants (
Organizers Reject Putin Plea for Yekaterinburg to Host 2020 World Expo.  Organizers chose Dubai over Yekaterinburg to host the 2020 World Expo despite a video appeal by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the English language.  This represents one of the first times the Kremlin leader has been rejected in recent times in his efforts to attract spectacles and athletic competitions to his counry ( But Russia may do better in the future because many countries are opting out of such competitions, viewing the costs of hosting competitions and festivals exceeds their value to the despair of some heads of international organizations like the IOC’s Thomas Bach( In Russia itself, there is also growing opposition with the residents of St. Petersburg saying that the only beneficiaries of such games are corrupt officials (
Sochi Roundtable Says Circassians Will Have a Role During Games.  A rountable organized by the North-South Center for Political Analysis in Sochi said that “It is clear that culture of Circassians will play a well-desrved role in the upcoming Olympic Games.” Chachukh Majid, vice president of the International Circassian Association and head of Adyge Khaseh of the Black Sea Adyghe-Shapsugs, added that “the small” ethnicity Shapsugs has full opportunity to preserve national culture, traditions, customs. The palette of colours of Olympic Sochi will have a piece of unique culture of our people.” None of the participants, however, said exactly what that role would be besides providing the names for some of the venues (
Putin Miscalculated on Sochi and the Circassian Issue, Expert Says.  John Colarusso, a specialist on the North Caucasus at Canada’s McMaster University, said that Vladimir Putin’s decision to hold the Olympiad in Sochi “handed the Circassians a silver tray upon which to air their grievacnes to the world.  It’s a genuine blunder on the part of Putin,” who Colarusso said, is “otherwise fairly astute as rulers go” (
HRW Says Corporate Sponsors Have Failed to Speak Out about Rights Abuses at Sochi.  Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human rights Watch, says that major corporate sponsors have failed to speak out about the various rights abuses associated with the Sochi Games, preferring instead to hide behind IOC and Russian government assurances. Those assurances, Worden said, “are vague and misleading.”  For eample, what Vladimir Putin says is a law to protect children is in fact a signal to support anti-gay activism and thus is “a flouting of Olympic rules” (
Turkey to Help Provide Security in Sochi.  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Taiip Erdogan told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ankara will help provide security for Sochi. Among the areas of cooperation, experts suggest, will be monitoring the actions of Circassians living in Turkey (
Russian Meteorologist Says There Will Be Snow at Sochi.  Roman Vilfand, head of Russia’s Hydrometeorology Center, says he cannot yet give a prediction of whether snow will fall during the Sochi Games but he is certain that there will be “snow on the Olympic courses in any case” as a result of earlier snowfalls ( To ensure this prediction is correct, Russian officials are making plans to seed the clouds just before the Games (
Sochi Winter Olympics to Feature Swimming.   For the first time in modern Olympic history, a winter games will open “unofficially” five days early in order to allow for time for competitions normally associated with summer games: swimming.  According to the Russian Olympic Committee, swimmers will enter the “icy” waters after the Olympic torch arrives in the city (
Krasnodar Airport, Backup for Sochi, Limits Operations to Allow for Upgrades. Because the airport in Krasnodar will serve as the backup field during the Sochi Games, it is currently undergoing upgrades, something that is limiting the time of its daily operations and forcing the rescheduling of flights (
Russian Olympic Winners to Be Paid 200,000 US Dollars Each.  Russian athletes who win gold medals at Sochi will be paid 200,000 US dollars each, two-thirds from the federal treasury and one-third from Krasnodar kray. Those who win silver and bronze will receive proportionately less (
Sochi Residents Won’t Be Charged for Bad Water.  Those residents of Sochi who had evil-smelling and colored water flowing into their homes won’t be charged for that, officials say, but the system set up to issue refunds is sufficiently cumbersome that many of those who had water of all colors of the rainbow and smelling like feces may never see these refunds ( and Meanwhile, many residents aren’t getting any water, heat or sewage services at all (
Sochi Represents in ‘Concentrated’ Form Russia’s Problems.  A blogger says that nothing that is occurring in Sochi is something Russians elsewhere have not seen, but it is the case that “we encountner there an unusually high concentration” of these problems and therefore they attract more attention than they do when seen elsewhere (
IKEA Drops Lesbian Couple from Its Russian Catalogue. Fearing prosecution by Russian authorities, the Swedish furniture firm IKEA dropped a photograph showing a lesbian couple in its Russian-language capital. speculated that they had perhaps replaced that photograph with “a hastily photoshoppped image of Stalin hanging out with friends.” And it said that IKEA’s lawyers feared “running afoul of [Russia’s] anti gay propaganda laws. “In essence, they’re ‘just following orders,’ another historical reference wwith absolutely no negative baggage whatsoever, said (
US Anti-Gay Activist Praises Moscow, Says Gays Behind Violence.  Scott Lively, an anti-gay activist in the US, says that the Russian government deserves praise for its anti-LGBT legislation and that “The guys that are beating up gays in Russia—and it’s not any more prevalent than it ever has been really and it isn’t all that prevalent at all—but the ones that are doing it are butch homosexuals who are beating up effeminate homosexuals, the same thing that happened in Germany; this is gay-on-gay crime.” He added that while the “United States is becoming a gay Soviet Union” and “collapsing into totalitarianism with a heavy gay emphasis,” Russia is emerging as “a great Christian country thanks to their laws suppressing gay rights.” “I’m taking some credit for this,” he said (
Anti-Terrorism Exercise Continues; Muslims Harassed. The counter-terorrism exercise Moscow announced two weeks ago continues, with ever more reports of harassment of Muslim parishioners, gastarbeiters and journalists (
Putin Won’t Change Government Until After Sochi Games, Zyuganov Says.  KPRF chief Gennady Zyuganov says that Putin has long planned to replace the Russian government headed by Dmitry Medvedev but that he won’t “touch” doing so until the Sochi Games are over lest changes disorder the administration (
Local Prosecutors Powerless against Moscow’s Intervention.  A Krasnoyarsk prosecutor has acknowledged that he would not have allowed such a minimum punishment for a Sochi official had those higher up on the power vertical intervened to protect that official after her trial (
Sochi City Day Doesn’t Go Well. Despite Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov’s upbeat claims about improvements, Sochi City Day this year did not go well. A fountain that was supposed to be ready didn’t work. And officials had to concede that the city administration was deeply in debt because of poor tax collection ( and
Prague Says It Can’t Afford Czech Olympic House in Sochi.  The government of the Czech Republic says that it lacks the funds to open a national Olympic House in Sochi, an indication that governments no longer see spending on such things as a sacred cow that cannot be touched (
Russians Will Have to Register in Sochi Face to Face.  The requirement that Russians register with the authorities if they are in Sochi for more than three days has now been clarified. Despite the hopes of some, they will not be allowed to register via the Internet  but will have to come to the central registration office to do so, apparently a decision reflecting security concerns (
Moscow Plays Up Intra-Circassian Divisions.  Russian officials are playing up tensions between the Abaza, historically a subgroup of the Circassians who some Russians insist now want their “own place in the sun” and the broader Circassian community by highlighting the support of the former for the Sochi Games which Abaza leaders say will take place on Abaza lands and the supposed involvement of the latter in the elimination of three Abaza districts in Soviet times (
IOC Head Promises Toughest Drug Testing Regime Ever at Sochi.  Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said national Olympic committees must ensure that their athletes do not use drugs because the IOC is imposing the toughest drug testing regime ever at Sochi.  He did not say whether the temporary suspension of the Russian drug testing laboratory had yet been lifted (  and
Computer Records Should Clear Yarst, Lawyers Say.  Nikolay Yarst, an ORT correspondent who has been pursued by Sochi prosecutors for months because of his coverage of events involving preparation for the Olympiad should be cleared, his lawyers say, by the results of an investigation into computer records. At the very least, the lawyers add, prosecutors will  have to re-cast their charges against Yarst (
Even Sochi Bird Park has Cost Overruns.  The Ornithological Park in Sochi will cost 3.4 times the original estimate, an indication of the reality that everything in that Olympic city costs more and takes longer to complete than officials originally estimate (
Mutko, Admitting Problems with Sochi Construction, Removed from World Cup Preparation. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko concedes that infrastructure in Sochi is far from complete, despite all his earlier upbeat promises.  He said things will be ready by January 7. But perhaps because of this, the Russian government has removed him from the chain of command preparing the 2018 World Cup competitions that will take place in Russian cities (  and
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Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown – 11 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown – 11 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 39th 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
Russian Sports Minister Says Anti-Gay Law Should Have Been Adopted Only After Sochi.  Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister and the man who has had to defend Moscow for the Russian law banning the propaganda of LGBT values to young people, told RBK that “perhaps the state authorities should have waited a little … It was possible to calculate how much resonance it would cause in the West,  especially in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics.” In short, for Mutko, the law is appropriate but it should only have been adopted after the games (
Austrian Paper Sees ‘Unmistakable Parallels’ Between Sochi 2014 and Berlin 1936. “Der Standard” says that there are “unmistakable parallels” between the Sochi Olympiad in 2014 with its anti-LGBT background and the Berlin Games of 1936 that occurred even as Hitler was preparing the Holocaust, parallels that people should not ignore (–Sotschi-2014-Unuebersehbare-Parallelen). Anti-Sochi activists are drawing the same parallels, photoshopping pictures of Hitler and Putin, with the suggestion that “every leader wants his own Olympiad” (
LGBT Supporters Rally against Russia Day at NY Stock Exchange.  LGBTs and human rights activists demonstrated against the holding of a “Russia Day” at the New York Stock Exchange because of Moscow’s anti-gay laws. The protest is part of a broader US LGBT effort against the Sochi Olympiad.  One guard said that the protesters had achieved a signal success: in contrast to past “days,” the Exchange did not put up the Russian flag outside its headquarters (
Russian Anti-Gay Law is an Attempt to ‘Exclude Sexuality’ from Human Rights and Citizenship, Expert Says.  Writing in the “Russian Analytic Digest,” Kai Wilkinson, an Australian expert on gay rights, argues that “the introduction of legislation seeking to keep LGBTQ people firmly behind a close and policed closet door … marks an attempt by Russia to actively exclude sexuality fromnorm of human right and by extension citizenship. [This step] representsthe operationalizationof traditional values as a basis for human right [and] sets a dangerous precedent for the denial of the rights of citizenship to any group  at odds with traditional values, as well as encouragingthe use of moral vigilantism to censure dissent of any kind” (
Attacks on Gays in Russia Continue.  Two gunmen opened fire in a Moscow gay club. Meanwhile, in an indication that the Russian authorities are not doing enough to stop such violence, a Russian Orthodox activist was not sentenced to jail after shooting at a gay demonstrator who was carrying a balloon that the activist said “offended” him (
Russian Court Fines Lady Gaga for Promoting Homosexuality. A Russian court fined the group that organized Lady Gaga’s tour in Russia last May 615 US dollars for violating the Russian law against gay propaganda to young people.  One of those who was found guilty in this case said “the Russian government is criminal. Oppression will be met with revolution. Russian LGBTs you are not alone. We will fight for your freedom” (
International Anti-Doping Agency Provisionally Suspends Russian Drug Testing Lab. The World Anti-Doping Agency gave the Russian authorities until December 1 to bring its drug testing laboratory up to international standards or face the prospect that WADA would permanently suspend it.  If the suspension stands, that would be both an embarrassment and create significant delays for Sochi competitors. WADA did not specify in public just what the problems were but at least one of them appears to be that the director the Russians had hired to head the Olympic lab had been arrested for drug abuse in the past. Russian officials have pledged to correct the problems promptly (,,
Russia’s Torch Travails Continue, Sparking Mockery and Cartoons. The Olympic torch apparently did not go out this week as often, but its route through the Russian Far East sparked mockery and cartoons. Some focused on the expenses incurred – some 22,000 troops are guarding the route – but others found the pictures of it either absurd – flags and torches coming out of rivers, to give but one example.  As a result, a Yelkin cartoon showing Putin in Olympic garb carrying Russia as an Olympic torch that is burning at the other end went viral (,,
Russians Lied about Circassian Support for Sochi Games, US Activist Says.  Russian media claims that a delegation of Circassian leaders from abroad adopted an official expression of support for the Sochi Olympics are a complete invention, according to Nikhad Yunis, a member of the International Circassian  Organization from the United States. In fact, he said, he and most Circassians continue to oppose the gameson the site of the genocide of their ancestors ( and
Circassians Use Istanbul Marathon to Oppose Sochi Games. Circassian participants in the Istanbul marathon wore shirts and carried signs calling on Turkey and other countries not to take part in the Sochi Olympiad ( and
Maykop Circassians Declare 2014 ‘Year of Grief.’  The Maykop Adyge Hase votedto declare2014, the 150th anniversary of the Circassian genocide “a year of grief.” Members said they would have done so even if the Olympiad had not been scheduled to take place in Sochi but that that decision makes this declaration especially necessary and important ( and
Current Definition of Genocide Reflects Stalin’s Ideas and Needs to Be Broadened. Circassians who have sought to gain international recognition for the genocide of their ancestors at Sochi in 1864 have typically been told that the international definition of genocide doesn’t apply to them. But that definition, Stanford’s Norman Naimark argues in a new book, “Stalin’s Genocides,” reflects the Soviet dictator’s thinking and is too narrow. He says that it must be broadened to include other forms of mass murder of groups ( and
Circassians are Only Asking for an Apology, Scholar Says.  Sara Rainke, a specialist on Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, says that the Circassians are demanding “only an apology” for what Russia did to their ancestors.  If Moscow were to meet them part way on this, “the problem with Sochi would not be so large,” she writes in Berlin’s “Tageszeitung” (
German Greens Leader Says Sochi Games Must Acknowledge Circassian Tragedy. Speaking at the opening of an exhibit on Circassian history in Hamburg, Cem Ozdemir, the head of the German Greens movement, said that at a minimum Moscow must acknowledge the tragedy that the Circassian people suffered there in 1864 ( and—Vom-Kaukasus-i-n-alle-welt).
Germany’s Circassians Call for Berlin to Boycott Sochi. The Circassian Cultural Union of Hamburg has issued a new appeal for the German government to boycott the Sochi Olympiad because the competitions are set to take place on the site of the 1864 genocide of the Circassian people (
Spending on Sochi Threatens Future of Circassian Scholarship in North Caucasus. Because of the high cost of the Sochi Games, Moscow has fired 45 rsearchers at the Adygey Republic Institute of Humanitarian Research who have  been workingon Circassian issues. While the Russian government has been cutting staff at many universities around the country, this draconian move will almost certainly reduce the amount of research being conducted and published on Circassian issues in the future (
Openly Gay New Zealand Athlete Plans to Challenge Anti-LGBT Law at Sochi. BlakeSkjellerup, a New Zealand speed skater, won’t “go back into the closet in any way” to avoid drawing the wrath of Russian officials. He may wear a special rainbow badge that has been designed for him bearing the words, “Blake Skjellerup – Proud 2014” (
Accident at Fisht Stadium Claims a Life. An industrial accident at the still-uncompleted Fisht Stadium where the Olympic Opening Ceremony is suppoed to take place cost the life of one worker and sent two others to the hotel (
Charges Brought Against Two Airlines for Delaying Flights at Sochi.  Russian prosecutors have filed charges against two airlines for failing to maintain their schedules and delaying  some 300 passengers as a result ( ).
English-Language Sochi Radio Begins Broadcasts.  Sochi Today, an English-language station, has begun 24/7 broadcastsat 101.5 FM in Sochi and 105.8 FM in Krasnaya Polyana to provide news and information to visitors (
Riviera Hotel Caught Dumping Untreated Waste into Sochi Sewers.  The luxury hotel, like many new buildings in Sochi, has now been connected with the city’s sewer system, but unlike most of them, it has refused to set up a filtration system to prevent the flow of certain toxic substances into the city’s sewers.  A special city commission has identified the violation of city ordinances and may bring criminal charges because of the harm this is doing to the city and its budget (
Leaning Towers of Sochi Case Settled. A Sochi court has partially satisfied those who brought suit against a construction company for failing to follow building rules and thus allowing the erection of buildings there that began to tilt and had to be destroyed lest they collapse on residents or passers by (
No Sochi Group Prepares ‘Know Sochi’ Kit for Athletes.  The organizers of the NoSochi movement acknowledge that they have failed to stop the Winter Olympics which will take place on the site of the 1864 genocide  and are now focusing on providing special kits for athletes that will tell those taking part in the games the tragic story of the Circassian deportation and genocide.  The group plans to send these kits to more than 300 athletes from 60 countries ( and
Moscow’s NTV Says Circassians Among Those Who Seek Russia’s Disintegration. NTV broadcast a program entitled “Who Wants to Divide Russia?” in which it accused various people in the Russian Federation and abroad, including the author of these lines, of seeking the disintegration of the country. Among those singled out for special attention was Ibragim Yaganov, a Circassian activist ( ). Circassian groups denounced the attack as a “provocation” ( Harasses Deutsche Welle Journalist.  Officers of the Federal Migration Service in Sochi detained Yekaterina Lukyanova, a journalist working for Germany’s Deutsche Welle radio, claiming she was “a foreign agent” and violating Russian law, although when challenged, the officers could not specify which one.  She in turn accused the officers of theft when they took her tape recorder, and they backed down and allowed her to leave the FMS facility, Moscow’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta” reported (
Human Rights Watch Calls on Sponsors, Journalists to Challenge Russia’s Anti-Gay Law at Sochi.  HRW has joined All Out in calling on Western sponsors of the Olympics and journalists who will be covering the games to challenge Russia’s anti-gay law but so far with little success.  When the sponsors have responded at all to the appeals, they have said that they have turned the issue over to the International Olympic Committee, which has already made it clear that it has no intention of making an issue of the Russian legislation.  Not a single corporate sponsor has agreed to do more, HRW officers say. All Out for its part has gathered 150,000 signatures calling on Coca Cola, one of the sponsors, to take a stand, but it is a measure of the level of fear in the Russian Federation that only 88 people in that country have joined in a corresponding effort (
IOC Demands Russia Block Broadcast of ‘Pirate’ Videos during Games.  In order to protect the rights of the sponsors of the Games and the contracts with the media companies covering them, the International Olympic Committee has demanded that the Russian authorities set up a system to ensure that any private and thus “pirated” videos of the competition that are put on line are taken down within a few minutes. Russian officials say they will form a group consisting of experts from the country’s force structures to do so (
6,000 Journalists Have Visited Sochi to Date. Even though the Olympics are more than three months away, some 6,000 journalists from other parts of the Russian Federation and abroad have visited Sochi.  Many of them have come on Moscow-organized and supervised tours, but many others have come independently. As a result, there is a steady and increasing flow of stories which not only flatter the authorities but point to the differences between what officials say and what is actually the case (
Krasnodar Governor Sends 3000 Workers to Help Finish the Job at Sochi.  Krasnodar Kray Governor Aleksandr Tkachev has organized the dispatch of 3000 “volunteers” to Sochi to help ensure that Olympic construction is completed.  “You must undertand,” he told them, “that everything depends at home. Yes, your wives and children remain at home and that’s tough,but you are building the Olympiad and you should be proud” (
EU-Russian Civic Forum Calls on Moscow to End Persecution of Environmentalists in Sochi.  The EU-Russian Civic Forum, a coalition of NGOs of the European Union and the Russian Federation, has called on Moscow to end the persecution of members of the Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus and other environmental activists working in the Sochi area ( The procuracy of Krasnodar Kray has now said it will investigate the matter (
Jordan’s Prince Ali Calls for Attention to Circassian Issue at Sochi. Prince Ali of Jordan says that the international athletic community should not be focusing only on the FIFA competition in Russia in 2018 but also on the Sochi Olympiad and that while it is “not FIFA’s job to get involved in the internal politics of a country,” the group “has a responsibility” to ensure that the competitions are conducted within the rules and after having addressed issues like the status of gays and the Circassians. Ali, who is a vice president of FIFA, adds that “The issues of racism or any discrimination – be it from players against players, be it from fans against fans or from workers or against workers – need to be tackled. At least we have to try our very best to diminish it as best we can” (
Billions for Sochi But Nothing for Russian Teachers and Doctors or for Public Safety. Ever more Russian commentators are pointing to the ways in which spending for Sochi means that Moscow has no money to pay teachers and doctors promised salary increases or to guarantee public safety. For example, Yuliya Latynina says,  so much has been spent on stunts like sending the Olympic torch into space that the Russian government couldn’t find funds to guarantee the security of planes or airports. Indeed, other writers say, spending on Sochi has divided Russia into “two worlds,” one of Moscow officials who enrich themselves and another of ordinary Russian people who are increasingly impoverished as a result of what the Kremlin is doing  ( and
Moscow Puts Olympic Committee Not FSB in Charge of Information Security at Sochi, Soldatov Says. Andrey Soldatov, Russia’s leading independent specialist on the intelligence and security agencies there, says that Moscow’s latest moves to monitor and control the use of cellphones and other electronic devices at Sochi are disturbing not only by their unprecedented breadth but also by the fact they are being done entirely openly, with Moscow assigning responsibility for them to the Olympic organizing committee rather than the FSB.  That means, Soldatov says, that “the Russian authorities consider such monitoring of Olympic guests so natural that, without thinking about it,” they have given responsibility for it not to the security services but to a body that has not performed such functions ever before. While that does not mean that the FSB will not be involved, it does indicate that there has been a spreading of such security efforts into parts of Russian officialdom many have assumed were separate from them (
Sochi Security Zone to Cover 4,000 Square Kilometers, Jane’s Clements Says. Moscow is is focusing its security effort on a zone extending100 kilometers along the coast and 40 kilometers inland, according to Matthew Clements, an analyst at Jane’s Defense Weekly. What is striking about his report is that most observers had assumed that any threat would come from inland rather than by sea (
Trash and Bicycles as Sochi Security Threats.  One Sochi resident suggests that trash in bags around Sochi could easily conceal a bomb, and other Sochi residents say that the ongoing counter-terrorism exercise suggests that Russian authorities are especially concerned about the possible use of bikes as the vehicles of choice for any terrorists entering Sochi ( and
Moscow Postpones Trial of NGO Accused of Being ‘Foreign Agent’ Until After Sochi.  A Russian court has postponed the trial of the Public Verdict NGO which the authorities have accused of being a foreign agent until February, possibly in order to avoid attracting more unfavorable media publicity in advance of the Olympiad (
Sochi Spending Hurting Many Russian Regions, Zubarevich Says.  Moscow’s spending on Sochi is leading to cutbacks in subsidies for most Russian regions even though the central government has done nothing to eliminate the unfunded mandates it has imposed on them, according to Natalya Zubarevich, a professor at Moscow State University who has served as an expert advisor at the UN and the World Bank. She says that as a result, the country’s economy is not recovering but rather sinking deeper into recession (
Moscow Cracks Down on Pirating of Sochi Trademark.  The Russian authorities continue to crack down on companies that exploit without permission the Sochi Olympiad trademark ( and But it has so far not succeeded in blocking those who seek to sell Olympic torches online or prevented the sale of its own special Sochi-themed Sochi currency for more than face values ( and
Ever More Sochi Officials Charged with Crimes.  Although many officials in Sochi have benefitted financially from preparations for the Sochi Games, an increasing number of them are being charged with a variety of crimes and even sentenced to prison terms.  In 2010, only one official was charge with the misuse of his office; in 2012, six cases, involving nine city officials, were begun (
Sochi’s Law and Order Movement Seeks Prosecution of Local Paper.  The local newspaper in Sochi, “Mestnaya,” has attacked the independent Law and Order Movement there for its  criticism of the city administration. In the past, the group has felt that the best response is not to dignify these charges by responding at all. Now, however, in the face of what is views as increasingly slanderous attacks, Law and Order has called on prosecutors to bring charges against the editors of the paper. Whether they will or not remains to be seen, but any court case would shine a bright light on  the way in which the city has used this outlet to repress independent groups (
Some Olympic Sites Declared Open But are Not Really Finished.  According to local residents, officials have declared certain Olympic-related facilities open even though visits to them shows that they are far from finished.  One example of that is the Adler railroad station which President Vladimir Putin officially opened but which as photographs show still requires a great deal of work to actually finish (
Kremlin Said Using Sochi Not Only to Steal from Russians but to Take Away Their Rights. Anaatoly Baranov, the editor of FORUM.msk, says that in addition to using the Sochi Games to steal from Russians and enrich themselves, the members of the Putin regime are showing a complete disregard for the constitutional rights of Russian citizens. It turns out, Baranov says, tht “a certain Putin can simply by his own order suspend the application of the Constitution of the Russian Federation” by requiring registration and limits on movement that the 1993 basic law prohibits ( Meanwhile, a Duma committee has approved special traffic rules for Sochi, further limiting Russians’ right of free movement. Igor Levedev, the vice speaker of the Duma from the LDPR, says that instead of passing such legislation, Moscow should “simply say to the citizens of Russia that the Olympiad in Sochiis not for them” but only for the elite and for foreigners (
Damage from September Storm Still Not Overcome.  The September 25 storm that knocked down trees, flooded parks and streets, and damaged the seawall and many buildings has still not been fixed nearly two months later, local residents and journalists say.  The city administration says that it doesn’t have the equipment it needs to do so because that is being used to finish Olympic buildings.  But as a result, many parts of the city are still a mess and may well continue to be through the time of the Games (
New Trial of Drug Dealers Points to Expanding Problem.  Three gastarbeiters in Sochi have been sentenced to lengthy terms in prison for selling illegal drugs, a case that will do nothing to ease relations between Russians and these Central Asian and North Caucasian workers. But this case, the latest in a series of such actions in recent months, suggests that the illegal drug trade is expanding in Sochi as more money and more people flow into the city in advance of the games (
Plane that Crashed in Kazan was Originally Slated to Fly to Sochi.  The Boeing 737 that crashed near Kazan was originally scheduled to fly to Sochi, but it was shifted to the Kazan route because “the number of passengers for Kazan exceded the number who were flying to Sochi,” according to company officials (
‘Misha and His Mothers Go to the Olympics’ Book Now Online. A children’s picture book that an American group has printed 10,000 copies of for distribution in Sochi to protest Russia’s anti-LGBT laws is now online.  Among the legends of the pictures in it are the following words of Misha: “I dream of a Russia where my family can be treated equally like in other countries. I’m scared when the men on TV say they want to take me away from my moms.  My name is Misha. My family has two moms and a dog named Laika. My moms and I went to the Olympics and new new friends from around the world. My new friend Pascal has two dads who are married. They live in France. . I’m scared when the men on TV say they want to take me away from my moms.  It made me feel sad to see the police beat up people who are gay like my moms. I dream of a Russia where my family can be treated equally like in other countries. I’m scared when the men on TV say they want to take me away from my moms.”  The producers of this book say that they do not believe it violates Russian law but say that local officials may nonetheless seek to confiscate it and arrest those who distribute it (
Some Sochi Residents Fear Their City Will ‘Go the Way’ of Stavropol.  Some Sochi residents fear that the influx of people from the North Caucasus to help build Olympic sites will trigger the kind of ethnic tensions that already are defining life in Stavropol. Their fears are especially great because in Sochi, as was the case in Stavropol, ever more ethnic Russians are leaving, thus accelerating the transformation of the ethnic mix of the city and its environs (
Some Sochi Residents Stop Paying Rent Because They Haven’t Been Paid Wages. The failure of some contractors to pay wages to people working on Olympic construction projects has now had a cascading effect. Beginning November 1, residents in some Sochi apartment buildings are not paying their rent.  If landlords move to expel them, the residents will use the court cases to protest wage arrears (
New Sochi Construction Impressive, But Who Will Use It After Olympiad?  Many Sochi residents and visitors are extremely impressed by the Olympic facilities now being completed. But an increasing number are asking who will use all these buildings after the Games and why “people on the Black Sea coast need yet another [city like Moscow]?” ( For a listing of just how many new buildings, roads, and infrastructure lines have gone up, see
Olympic Opening Ceremony to Feature Lezginka Dancing.  The organizing committee has announced that a group of young artists from the North Caucasus will dance the lezginka at the opening ceremonies of the Sochi games, despite the fact that many Russians are offended by that dance when North Caucasians do it in their cities (
Few Ordinary Russians Will be in the Stands at Sochi.  According to Maksim Gladkikh-Rodionov, the director of an auditing firm, few ordinary Russians will be in the stands at Sochi because of high prices. Most of the seats will be taken by “representatives of the [Russian] bureaucratic elite” and foreigners (
Two-Thirds of Russians Think They’re At Risk in Terrorist Attacks.  According to a new Levada Center poll, 66 percent of Russians say that they “do not exclude” the possibility of new terrorist attack, and 71 percent say they are concerned that they or those close to them could be among the victims (
Some Muslims in Russia Fear Sochi Portends for Them What 1936 Berlin Olympiad Did for Jews.  According to a commentary on the, some Muslims find themselves worrying about whether the Sochi Games could presage the kind of violence against them that Hitler’s Olympiad did for the Jews.  Most, the commentary says, do not think that the situation in the Russian Federation is that dire, but all hope that such fears will prove without foundation (
Olympic Contractors Continue to Illegally Dispose of Trash. Despite the protests of environmentalists, contractors working on Olympic sites are continuing to dispose of trash illegally and in ways that threaten public health. Sometimes they create new dumps without authorization; at other times, they simply throw the trash out (  and
blog/komunalka/37556.html). Meanwhile, a group of Sochi residents is using trash to make art, both to highlight how much construction and other waste there now is and to try to make something beautiful out of what is anything but (
Olympic Construction Destroying Sports Facilities for Sochi Residents.  Sochi residents are increasingly complaining about one of the ironic developments in their city over the last year: The companies building Olympic facilities are destroying many of the most popular sports facilities that residents and especially their children had been accustomed to use ( and
Blogger Proposes Contents for Sochi Survival Pack.  Anyone living in Sochi needs a survival pack, one blogger has said, and it should include water, heating devices, batteries and generators, and internet connectivity. Otherwise, he says, the individual’s fate will be less than good (
Many Sochi Residents Continue to Live without Electricity and Gas … Despite promises and claims to the contrary, many people in Sochi do not have regular electric power or gas for cooking and heating. That is forcing many of them to live “by the light of the moon” (
… without Potable Water …  Sochi’s water supply has been so contaminated that many people are posting pictures of water that is green or black or brown and reporting that it has terrible smells and is unsafe for drinking.  The authorities have responded by dumping massive quantities of chlorine into the water supply but that hasn’t helped in many cases, residents say. Some are now calling the water that comes out of their taps “Olympic juice” (
… Without Heat or Safe Streets… The heating season has begun in Sochi, but many residents are not getting any heat or hot water.  The city authorities have claimed that everything is in order, prompting some Sochi residents to ask “why do they keep lying to us?” Others are complaining that walkways, underpasses and streets are so torn up that it is impossible to move safely fromone place to another (,,
… But Now with Smog … Sochi residents have seen somethingthat they suspect is worse than fog: smog, the result of construction fumes and atmospheric conditions (
… And Higher Prices. Because Moscow has imposed a price freeze during the Olympic Games, many merchants in Sochi are boosting prices now in order to establish a higher baseline during the Olympiad (
Sochi Airport Attracts 12 Percent More Passengers This Year than Last.  Russian officials proudly noted that 2.1 million passenger have passed through Sochi’s airport so far this year, 12 percent more than for the same period in 2012.  But visitors note that despite many upgrades, the airport still has “a reading corner” that resembles those of Soviet times (  and
Casting Call for Female Olympic Medal Presenters.  Russian Olympic organizers have advertised for 113 female assistants who will present the medals at the Sochi Olympiad. Only women between 17 and 35 are eligible, the organizers say, and they must be at least 5’5” tall. Once seleted, the presenters will be trained in make up and hair styling (
North Capital Can Aspire to 2024 Summer Games if 2014 Winter Games in Sochi Succeed. The Russian Olympic Committee says that St. Petersburg would be “a serious contender” to host the 2014 Summer Games if the Winter Games next February in the southern Russian city of Sochi are a success (
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Note:  This is my 38th 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 Using Sochi to Keep Himself in Power, BBC Program Says. All host countries use the Olympics to boost themselves internationally, but “Russian President Vladimir Putin is also taking the opportunity to cement his own position in the world’s largest country,” according to the BBC.  But he has so strongly identified the games with himself that many who oppose them view the competition as “Putin’s games” rather than Russia’s.  Many Sochi residents are outraged by what has happened in their city.  “We don’t know what to do,” one of them says. “We would like to petition God but we haven’t got his address. He’s the only person we haven’t petitioned yet.”  Another asks “how can you have a positive attitude toward the Olympic Games when you are sitting at home with a candle.  There is no light,no water, and in the distance ou see the Olympic Park and it is always illuminated …So you end up with the feeling that everything is being done for the Olympics and not for the residents” (
Another Terrorist Attack in the North Caucasus.  Seventeen people were wounded and one killed as a result of the latest terrorist attack in the North Caucasus, this time in Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan, Kavkaz-Uzel reports in its ongoing chronology of violence in the region near Sochi (
Kostroma Residents Organize Anti-Sochi March.  Residents of Kostroma were prevented from carrying torches to a demonstration protesting Vladimir Putin’s spending of billions on the Sochi Olympiad but doing little or nothing to promote sports among children. The police said that carrying Olympic-style torches represented a fire hazard. Consequently, the protesters carried kerosene lanterns instead (
Kamchatka Resident Protests Sochi’s Cost – And Almost Loses Her Shirt.  The arrival of the Olympic torch in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy was met by the largest crowd in that Far East city’s history. Among it were protesters like Natalya Butova who carried a sign denouncing the high cost of the Olympiad and the consequent failure of the authorities to support the population.  After that sign was taken away from her by the police, they discovered she was wearing a t-shirt saying “For Russia without Putin.” They tried to take that off, apparently unsuccessfully. This case prompted an Ekho Moskvy blogger to suggest that the massive presence of siloviki along the torch route was not intended to protect the Olympic flame but to suppress any dissent (
Sports Events like Sochi Costing Russians Their Pensions, Moscow Analysts Say.Commentators in Moscow suggest that the Kremlin is raiding the pension funds of Russian citizens to fund things like the Sochi Olympiad and that after the games, there won’t be enough money left to pay Russians what they are owed.  Recent Russian government proposals to reduce pensions in the future have lent credence to these charges (
Moscow’s Use at Home and Abroad of Anti-Gay Position Undercuts Claims about Sochi.  Russian officials, and echoing them, IOC officials, have suggested that Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda law is strictly limited and in any case will not be applied to competitors or fans at Sochi.  But Moscow’s use of its position on gay rights in its effort to increase its influence in Eastern Europe and its tolerance of anti-gay violence at home undercuts that argument.  Russian officials frequently find themselves trapped between these claims and this reality as when Moscow city fathers banned a pro-Putin demonstration by Russian gays in the Russian capital ( and
Gay Rugby Star Says Gay Athletes Should Compete and Win at Sochi … Gareth Thomas, a former rugby great who is openly gay, says that “nothing should hold back” gay athletes from going to Sochi and winning.  “If I was part of a squad going to these countries, I would go there as a gay man and be the best at what I was doing and prove that their laws cannot stop me at being the best I can be in my sport.  Athletes often have only one chance to be the best and they have worked so hard to get there that nothing should hold them back” ( ).
… But Gay Commentator Says World Must Not Repeat Mistakes of 1936.  Lorelei Erisis, who identifies herself as a transwoman, says that the international community must boycott the Sochi Games to demonstrate its solidarity with and support for LGBT people in Russia.  “In 1936 we chose to ignore the plight of Jewish people in Germany in favor of ‘good sportsmanship.’ We all know how well that worked. Let’s hope we don’t repeat the same mistake today” (
Russian Commentators Attack Circassians for Opposition to Sochi … Russian writers have stepped up their attacks on the Circassians, arguing that Greater Circassia never existed, that no genocide ever occurred against them, and that all claims to the contrary are simply propagandistic inventions of those who forget that the Americans wiped out the Indians, an argument often invoked by Soviet authors against criticism of Moscow’s policies ( and
 … But Divide on Whether a Genocide Occurred in 1864 … Most Russian authors despite the existing evidence deny that the Russians engaged in an act of genocide by forcing out the Circassians from their historical homeland and killing many of the members of that nation in the process. But a small number of Russian writers are beginning to acknowledge that the Russian forces in the 19th century engaged in what would now be called ethnic cleansing and that the events of 1864 were a tragedy all around. Most Circassians have objected to the Sochi Olympics precisely because that city was the center of this Russian action and because the Games will occur on the 150th anniversary of that event, something that for many of them only adds insult to injury  (,
Circassians from Syria Help North Caucasian Circassians Revive National Culture. Officials, scholars and activists in the North Caucasus say that the Circassians returning to their homeland from wartown Syria are helping their co-ethnics to revive their national culture because in the words of a hotel operator in Nalchik, “they possess cultural values we lost in the Communist era” (
Despite the violence, Circassians say they feel comfortable in their ancestral homeland.
Hamzeh Labeeb, a native of the Syrian city of Homs, came to Nalchik in 2002 to study at a local university — and decided to stay.”They’ve always treated me like their own,” said the bespectacled 29-year-old computer engineer.Meanwhile, locals think that their arrival benefits Russia. “They possess cultural values we lost in the Communist era,” said Vladimir Kaskulov, general director of the hotel chain in Nalchik that hosted more than 150 Syrians free of charge.
Circassians Urged to Look Beyond Sochi.  Tiago Ferreira Lopes, a specialist on international security, says that the Circassians need to look beyond Sochi and “reshape” their ethnonational agenda.”  If they do so, they still have the chance to achieve “an autonomous republic or independent Circassia,” even though they have not succeeded in their efforts to promote a boycott of the Olympics (
Russian Ethnographers Describe How Sochi Ceased to be Circassian and ‘Became Russian.’  V.V. Trepavlov and L.S. Gatagova, two scholars at the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, have published a new study entitled “The Resettlement of the Circassians into the Ottoman Empire – or How Sochi Became Russian [in Russian].”  Thus study describes the expulsion and deaths of the Circassians during that process but does not characterize the event as a genocide.  However, in contrast to many Russian articles, it does acknowledge that the memory of those events remains powerful in both the Circassian diaspora and in the Northwest Caucasus” within the Russian Federation” (
Circassians are the ‘Real’ Torches of Sochi, Artist Suggests. In a new painting, an artist suggests that the Circassians who died in Sochi and those who live there and in the diaspora now are the “torches” of Sochi unlike the Russian Olympic torch which continues to go out (
Circassians in Turkey Call for Recognition of 1864 as Genocide.  A group of Circassian activists and their supporters in Turkey are circulating a petition calling on Ankara to officially recognize the1864 mass killings and deportation of Circassians from the North Caucasus by Russian forces as an act of genocide (
Putin Says Russians Visiting Sochi Will Have to Register with Police Within Three Days.  President Vladimir Putin has issued an order requiring that all Russian citizens visiting Sochi between January 7 and March 21 but not saying in hotels or other public accomodations will have to register with the police if they remain in the Olympic city for three days of more. Such registration which recalls that of Soviet times is clearly intended to help combat the possibility that militants will infiltrate the city. The order, however, could also be invoked to arrest and remove anyone the Russian government deems undesirable (
Russian Officials Promise Electric Power Won’t Go Out During Games.  Because power shortages and blackouts in Sochi have been widely reported and the failure of the Olympic torch to stay lit has received even more attention, Russian officials are promising that they will have enough electricity in Sochi during the games to ensure that the lights will be on. It is not clear whether their promises refer to the Olympic facilities alone or to the entire urban area where many residents remain without regular electric supplies ( and
Aeroflot Employees Say Company Must Follow Olympic Principles and Ensure Passenger Safety. Employees of the Russian airline have staged a demonstration in Mosco calling on Aeroflot to observe “basic Olympic principles” of non-discrimination and to stop putting profits above the safety of passengers. The protesters complaints were wide-ranging, but they have clearly used the reference to Sochi to get national and international attention (
Newly-Appointed Krasnodar Official to Oversee Circassian Issue at Sochi Games. According to Asker Sokht, the president of the Circassian Public Organization of Krasnodar Kray, Mugdin Chermit, the vice president of the International Circassian Association, has been named deputy head of the department of domestic policy in Krasnodar and will oversee Circassian issues, including the issue of the “positive” presentation of the Circassian community during the Sochi Olympiad (
Pussy Riot’s Samutsevich Calls for Boycott of Sochi Games. Yekaterina Samutsevich, who served several months in jail after participating in the Pussy Riot protest against Puti, says that the international community must boycott the Sochi Olympiad just as it did the Moscow games in 1980. “An event which should be purely about sport is becoming highly politicized and rife with conflict. Our authorities are to blame for that,” she said, adding a boycott “has to happen because the latest policies go too far.” President Vladimir Putin is “obviously tightening the screws. Samutsevich suggested that “a lot of people will boycott” Sochi (,0,3678262.story).
European MPs Concerned about Moscow’s Surveillance Plans at Sochi.  Three European parliamentarians have called on the European Commission to investigate Moscow’s plans to use unprecedented surveillance techniques at the Sochi Games.  Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch member, said that”gGiven that everybody seems to be spying on everyone else these days, it seems legitimate to ask questions not only about the EU and the United States but about Russia as well …  Russia is a particular problem because of the Olympics, which it is using as a pretext for stepping up surveillance, with no court oversight” (
Sochi Geography Society Says Real Crackdown Will Come After Games When No One is Looking.  Maria Reneva, the head of the Sochi branch of the outspoken Russian Geographic Society that Moscow has harassed and tried to close in recent months, says that the real crackdown against groups like hers will come only after the conclusion of the Sochi Games. Then, no one will be paying attention to what the Russian authorities will do, and they will be free to act as they please (
Moscow Must Actively Oppose ‘Geopolitical Enemies’ Now Exploiting Sochi Games. A Russian analyst says that “the geopolitical enemies of Russia” are exploiting the Sochi Games to expand their “information war” against Russia.  Consequently, the Russian government and all patriotic Russians must respond harshly to these efforts being conducted by “a whirligig of different forces, organizations and personalities.”  Moscow can only “win” if it “takes an active stand in the ‘Great Game’” now going on in the Caucasus (
Improperly Disposed Trash Harming North Caucasians’ Health.  Builders involved in Olympiad and tourist resort construction are improperly disposing of construction waste, and poisons contained in this trash are leaching into the water supply and harming the health of people in many parts of the North Caucasus (
On the Occasion of Olympiad, Muscovites Can Ride Subway Free if They Do 30 Squats.  In a move intended to call attention to the Sochi Games and to promote public health, the Russian authorities are offering free rides on the Moscow subway to those who do 30 squats or lunges in front of a camera in one station (
Sochi Should Be Renamed Putingrad, Editor Says.  Konstantin Remchukov, editor of “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” says that eventually Sochi should be renamed Putingrad in honor of the Russian president’s investment in the region.  Others might think that such a renaming would be appropriate to highlight the ways in which the Kremlin leader has overseen the Olympiad (
‘Stalin was a Hipster’ T-Shirts on Sale at Sochi Airport.  According to a Facebook post, visitors at the Sochi airport can purchase t-shirts featuring the legend, “Stalin was a hipster” (
Someone is Stealing the Manhole Covers of Sochi.  In addition to all the other problems that plague the Olympic city, thieves are making off with 30 to 50 manhole covers every day and selling them for more than 100 US dollars elsewhere in Russia. Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhmov says that “it’s already become a business that’s seriously harming the city.” The thefts are adding to the problems of driving attempting to navigate the city’s already much-torn-up streets ( and
Could Putin Use Sochi as He Did Beijing to Attack a Neighboring Country? A cartoonist suggests Vladimir Putin may use the Sochi Games as the occasion to use military force against a neighboring country much as he did in 2008 when he sent Russian forces into Georgia while many world leaders were out of their home capitals and at the Beijing Olympiad ( ).
Olympic Torch’s Problems are Heaven’s Response to Evil Empire, Russian Regionalist Says. A commentator on the Ingermanland movement website,, says that the problems that Moscow is having keeping the Olympic torch lit reflect the attitude of the Heavens against Putin’s “parody” of an Olympics in “the Evil Empire” (
Cartoonist Uses Gay Matryoshka Dolls to Condemn Putin’s Anti-LGBT Policies. Cartoonists have used many images to criticize Vladimir Putin’s anti-LGBT policies in advance of the Sochi Games but perhaps none is more telling than a cartoonist who showed two archetypically Russian matryoshka dolls holding hands on an Olympic medal ( Meanwhile, a Georgian artist has photoshopped a picture that shows Olympic medals in the form of gold, silver and bronze handcuffs to make a similar point about repression in Russia today (
Olympic Construction Firms with Friends in High Places Routinely Violate the Law, Activist Says.  “Certain officials of the procuracy and the police in off the record conversations acknowledge that [these] firms have protects in the kray force structures and administration” and that there is nothing that law enforcement bodies can do against them, according to activists in Sochi.  One of the worst consequences of their ability to act above the law has been their use of sand for construction, something that has become so massive and uncontrolled that many of the beaches for which Sochi is famous for have been effectively destroyed (
MVD Will Monitor Most But Not All Visitors to Sochi.  Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokotsev says that competitors and fans at the Sochi Olympiad will be subject to photographic and video monitoring except for those who are deemed special VIPs.  That exception, some security analysts say, could open the way for militants who might want to disrupt the competition.  Iosif Linder, head of the International Counter-Terrorist Training Association, says that there are always such exxceptions, but that many of them can be exploited by terrorist groups (
Sochi Airport Remains Unfriendly to Russians.  Even in third world countries, Russians say, there are special lines for the citizens of those countries at passport control facilities, but in Sochi, the authorities have not opened such lines despite complaints.  Consequently, Russian visitors to the Olympic city have to wait in line far longer than they should, several bloggers say (
Muslim Prayer Rooms Will Be Available for Competitors But No Mosque for Fans. Askerby Kardanov, the head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Adygeya and Krasnodar Kray, says that there will be a prayer room for Muslim competitors in each of the parts of the Olympic village but that unfortunately there will not be any mosque in the city for Muslim fans who may attend the Games (
Russia to Field 64 Competitors at Paralympics.  The Russian Federation will field a team of 64 for the Paralympics folloing the Sochi Games.  The team has faced some problems in being assembled, but both Russian and international Paralympic officials are pleased that Moscow is sending such a large contingent in contrast to the past.  What officials in both places are now worried about is that ticket sales for this competition are lagging, and many of the competitions may take place in sites with numerous empty seats (
Gay NBC Correspondent in Moscow Condemns Russia’s Anti-LGBT Laws.  Thomas Roberts, in the Russian capital to cover the Miss Universe pageant, spoke out at Russia’s law on gay propaganda to children. “I know the law is very vague and still hard to interpret for many people,” but it is discrimination and that’s definitive. And I don’t think that the LGBT population in Russia or anywhere should be marginalized to that degree. We are not asking for special protection. We’re just asking for equal respect” (
Sochi Officials Oppose But Ultimately Don’t Block Anti-Fascist March.  Sochi police initially sought to ban an anti-fascist march there on the basis of President Vladimir Putin’s ban on demonstrations there. But that ban does not kick in until January 7, and after hurried conversations with more senior officials, the police allowed the march to go on (
FSB Hosts Security Officials from ‘More than 50’ Countries at Sochi.  Russia’s FSB hosted a three-day conference in Sochi that included representatives of the security services of more than 50 countries to discuss cooperation in advance of the Olympic competition.  The centerpiece of the meeting was the confirmation by the head of Britain’s MI-6 that London has renewed security cooperation with Moscow (
Sochi’s Rivers to Be Monitored for Possible Flooding.  Because of the recent flooding in Sochi, the result of abnormally strong storms and the weakening of the city’s natural defenses because of Olympic construction, officials are installing special monitoring devices in the city’s rivers so that they will be able to issue more timely warnings about any flood threats in the future (
Sochi Residents Protest Plans to Drill for Oil in Black Sea.  Activists from the Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, Green Russia, Yabloko, and the World Wildlife Fund organized a picket in Sochi to protest plans by Rosneft and ExxonMobil to drill for oil in the Black Sea region near Sochi.  The activists said that such drilling threatened an already wounded ecological system ( and
Flap about Smartphones Reflects Language Problems and Russian Contracts. Reports that Russian officials were going to ban the use of smartphones at Sochi were untrue. They reflected a problem with translation and the fact that Moscow’s contracts with companies covering the games restrict the right of others to film them.  As Russian and IOC officials noted, participants and fans can use social media including taking still photographs as much as they want, but they cannot film the games for commercial broadcast elsewhere (, and
Russian Orthodox Criticism of Olympic Symbolism Provokes Satirical Response. Statements by prominent Russian Orthodox clergy suggesting that Olympic symbolism is pagan and therefore not appropriate in a Christian country have provoked a satirical response by Alex Melnikov, a blogger for Ekho Moskvy.  He offers what he describes as a memo to Mr. Zeus, Mrs. Hera and Mr. Apollo about how they should proceed given the Moscow Patriarchate’s opposition ( and
Russian Crackdown Against Ecological and Rights Activists in Sochi Seen Spreading. Detentions and arrests of activists in the Sochi area are increasing, their organizations say, an indication that the authorities may be planning an even broader crackdown against all civil society groups in the near future in order to prevent them from using the games to call attention to repression in Russia (,,,
Abkhazia Becomes a Problem for Russia Because of Sochi.  Security along the Russian-Abkhaz border nd the resulting lines and delays, Moscow’s failure to push for an Abkhaz team at the games, and some confusion in how Russian commentaries are treating events involving the Abkhaz and the Circassians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have transformed Abkhazia from what many in the Russian capital had hoped would be an asset at the Olympiad into a problem for Moscow because some Abkhazians are now upset about what Russia is doing and not doing on their behalf (,  and
Sochi has More Cars Per Capita than Does Moscow and Even Worse Roads.  There are 410 cars for every 1000 residents of Sochi as compared to only 297 for every 1000 Muscovites, and the roads in Sochi are not only narrower but torn up from continuing construction.  As a result, getting around is hard and getting harder not easier, despite Russian denials which are further undercut by plans to arrange special transportation for journalists so that they won’t see the traffic tie ups at the time of the Olympiad. The authorities are reducing the problem slightly by seeking to identify and cart off cars that have been abandoned because they no longer work (,, and
Sochi Residents Said Increasingly Angry at City, Region and Moscow.  The disruptions to electricity, water, sewage, gas, and heat, streets torn up for the installation of new lines, and the unwillingness of officials at any level to respond to their complaints is angering Sochi residents and leaving some of them in what bloggers call an “increasingly revolutionary” mood. Some have indeed protested, but most are simply sharing their anger with each other and with journalists Russian and Western who visit their city ( , ,,,,,, and
Foreigners Have Problems Getting Visas and Russians Have Problems with Cost. Some analysts are wondering whether the Sochi Olympiad will attract as many people as officials project because foreigners are reporting problems with getting visas, despite the opening of special “windows” at some Russian missions abroad and because the costs of attending are beyond the means of many Russians.  Most experts say that 90 percent of attendees will be citizens of the Russian Federation, and they are unanimous in saying that Sochi will not attract as many people after the Olympiad as the Kremlin has suggested in trying to amortize the enormous costs of the games (,
FMS Told Workers Not to Register; Now It Arrests Them.  The Federal Migration Service told gastarbeiters in Sochi not to register or extend their registration in order to make it easier for construction companies to get the labor they need. As a result, however, many of them have never been paid because they do not have the documents they need. And increasingly, many of them are being rounded up by the very agency that told them not to register in the first place and is now expelling them without their having received their wages (
Georgia Remains Undecided on Sochi.  Despite Russian claims, Western pressure and the statements of individual Georgian politician and commentators, Georgia remains undecided as to whether and how it will participate in the Sochi Olympiad ( and
Krasnoyarsk Officials Want the Money But Residents Don’t Want the Universiade …   Officials in Krasnoyarsk very much want the influx of money that holding the Universiade there would bring, but more than 84 percent of the residents are against the idea because of the disruptions in their lives that they believe it would cause, another consequence of reportage about Sochi ( and
… And Sochi’s Bad Reputation Means Munich Doesn’t Want 2022 Games.Meanwhile, Germany’s “Tageszeitung” reports that officials in the Bavarian capital have concluded that they don’t want their city to compete for the 2022 Games.  The paper said that what the officials and people in Munich had heard about Sochi was a major reason for that conclusion (
No Swimming or Flying in Sochi During Olympiad. The FSB continues to issue new restrictions on Sochi residents and visitors. They will not be allowed to swim or fly any kind of plane during the Games.  Meanwhile, the Emergency Situations Ministry says it will add another 10,000 officers to its detail in Sochi to help provide security (,
Moscow Officials Worried about Plunge in Sochi Property Values after Games.  If apartments and land in Sochi are sold off too quickly after the Olympiad, prices could plunge putting at risk residents, investors and the banks. Consequently, Moscow officials are discussing ways to ensure that sales after the games close will proceed more slowly.  The details of just how that might work have yet to be announced, but it is an indication that the Russian government recognizes that it has created a bubble in Sochi and that that bubble could burst, harming some of its supporters and moneymen (,
Sochi in ‘Chaos’ and Still Far from Ready for Games, Residents and Visitors Say. “Complete chaos” is one of the descriptions of the roads and other infrastructure offered by local residents who say that they do not believe official claims that everything will be ready in advance of the Olympics.  Roads are still torn up. Electric power lines continue to be cut. Water, sewage and heating pipes are not installed. And the interior of many buildings is not finished.  But one blogger, Tivur Shaginurov, says he would not want anyone to think that he had only negative impressions. “That isn’t so. Having fled from [Sochi], I fell in love with the sea and thought: who knows, three months from now there will  not be any Sochi, 30 years from now there won’t be a Russia, and 300 years from now, quite possibly there won’t be any huan beings.  But the sea will remain, unless of course Gazprom has its way” (, and
Ongoing Counterterrorism Exercise Elicits Skepticism and Anger.  The Russian siloviki launched a major counter-terrorism exercise in the Sochi area on November 10.  Most residents think it is all for show, but they are annoyed by how it is being carried out – officers playing terrorists are frightening people, schools and transportation are being disordered, and the Russian force structures are using the occasion to throw their weight around, arresting some people and disturbing the peace of others.  Some commentators have used the word “pokazukha” for what is going on, but others say the exercise needs to be described as “a senseless violation of the rights and interests of citizens.” And no independent observer thinks it has been effective or shows that the Russian security services are really able to provide security. There are at least three clear targets: the Circassians and their various subgroups, human rights and ecological activists, and journalists who are being excluded from certain zones in the name of security and thus cannot offer independent assessments of what is going on (, and
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Paul Goble
            Staunton, November 13 – Mounting piles of trash improperly disposed of and the poisoning of runoff water from them have already been identified as major problems at Olympic construction sites in and around Sochi, but the threat trash poses to the population is much broader and now affects the population of the entire North Caucasus.
                In an article in “Novyye izvestiya” today, Veronika Vorontsova says that “many reions of the North Caucasus Federal District now rank at the bottom as far as ecological well-being is concerned, with Ingushetia at 75th out of 83 regions and Daghestan at 65thoverall (
              Given all the other problems of the North Caucasus, the state of the environment might seem a secondary matter, but environmental contamination often caused by industrial plants which simply dump their wastes into rivers or construction efforts which put highly toxic waste in poorly constructed trash heaps are causing cancer rates to jump among people there.
              Like officials involved in Olympic construction efforts in Sochi over the last several years, plant managers say they have been taking steps to reduce emissions and to dispose of waste properly, but Vorontsova says, “local experts and residents do not believe” what the official and businessmen are saying.
              And both point out that these two categories of people provide the clearest indication possible that they are not telling the truth. Unlike other residents who often have no choice but to live near the plants or waste sites, the families of the officials and businessmen never live close to where the pollution is coming from.
              If the environmental situation is especially bad in Daghestan and Ingushetia, it is also threatening in other North Caucasian republics as well. A plant built in Karachayevo-Cherkessia to support Sochi construction, to give but one example, is regularly putting poisons into the atmosphere and water supply, activists say, and people are getting sick.
              Residents have staged protests and written petitions to local, regional and federal officials, but to date, they have seldom received the kind of action they want.  Officials talk about taking care of the “unique nature” of the region, but they allow almost anything in the name of economic development.
              And what they allow in one area may make it far more difficult to correct problems in others: Widespread deforestation is not only contaminating the rivers on which the population relies, but it is reducing the capacity of the natural environment to clean itself either now or in the future. As a result, polluted rivers are staying polluted far longer than in the past.
             Gayirbeg Abdurakhmanov, the deputy chairman of the Green Party in Daghestan, blames this pollution for the rapid growth of the number of cancer victims “in all regions of the North Caucasus Federal District.”  In Daghestan alone, 6500 organizations and firms are putting waste directly into the water supply without any effort to filter it out.
           Elena Ilina, a member of the Ecological Water on the North Caucasus, says she is especially concerned about “the absence of organized trash pickup from small cities and settlements.”  That means that poisons leach into the water supply.
             Unfortunately, she says, the authorities “are not devoting sufficient attention to this problem.”  What they are focusing on instead is harassing environmental groups like Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus to prevent them from calling attention to this problem in advance of the Sochi Olympics.
              Unlike doing anything to protect the environment and the health of the people of the North Caucasus, arresting activists is something the Russian authorities always seem to manage to do quickly and efficiently.
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Vladimir Putin may think he has trouble enough on Moscow’s streets without worrying about demonstrators outside the country. If so, perhaps he should think again. This week in Istanbul, New York, Brussels, and other world cities, protesters are taking aim at his most cherished project: the 2014 Winter Olympics. Although the facilities at the Caucasus Mountains resort of Sochi are already winning enthusiastic praise from visiting skiers, thousands of angry activists are determined to spoil Putin’s party.


The marchers are Circassians, the descendants of a people who once had their own country on the shores of the Black Sea, between Crimea and the modern-day Republic of Georgia. They lost it a century and a half ago to a brutal campaign by the imperial Russian army to seize the entire Caucasus region. The Circassians resisted for four decades until May 21, 1864, when they finally surrendered and were expelled from the land of their fathers. Until recently their descendants marked the date only with quiet remembrance ceremonies. But in 2007 the International Olympic Committee accepted Russia’s bid to hold the 2014 Games at Sochi—the very place where the Circassians surrendered in 1864. Since then, May 21 has become a day of rage.

“How would you feel—how would the Russians feel, if athletes came from all over the world to ski or ice-skate on the graves of their ancestors—and [the athletes] did not even know they were doing it?” demands Danyal Merza. Last May 21, the 29-year-old telephone technician, along with two other ethnic Circassians, his friends Clara and Allan Kadkoy, traveled from their homes in New Jersey all the way to Turkey, where most members of the Circassian diaspora now live. The four of us ended up near the head of a chanting crowd of thousands of Circassians. The human wave, topped by a foam of anti-Sochi banners, poured down Istanbul’s Istiklal Street before breaking against a triple line of police who stood with truncheons and tear gas outside the Russian consulate.

Speaking into a bullhorn, Merza squared his shoulders and shouted the group’s demands in English: no Sochi Olympics, recognition of the Circassian genocide, and the right to move back to the homeland the Russians seized a century and a half ago. His listeners roared their approval in Turkish, and their voices resounded from the steep houses on either side: “We don’t want Olympics in Sochi!” Allan pumped his fist and shouted along with them. “It’s the first time I’ve chanted without knowing what the words mean,” he told me afterward. His wife was similarly transported. “I could never imagine feeling like this,” she said. “We might not speak Turkish, but we’re all saying the same thing in different languages.”

For Putin, being chosen to host the 2014 Games was a personal triumph. Sochi, where the forested Caucasus Mountains drop into the Black Sea and you can swim in the morning and ski in the afternoon, was to be the perfect venue to show the world that Russia had recovered from its post-Soviet problems. If there was any threat to the Sochi Games, security experts said, it would come from the opposite end of the mountains, in Chechnya. So when Circassian protesters turned up at the Vancouver Games in 2010, waving green-and-gold flags and demanding the Games be moved away from Sochi, most commentators were baffled. Circassians? Who were they?

A century and a half ago, people didn’t have to ask. The Circassians were the world’s favorite freedom fighters, the darlings of Western diplomats who viewed Russia’s expansion as a threat to global stability. They battled for their homeland against almost impossible odds, holding out five years longer than even the Chechens had. And their defeat was catastrophic. Driven from their homes, they fled across the Black Sea to Turkey in dangerously overcrowded boats. No one was keeping count of the victims, but a contemporary historian estimated that 400,000 died, and almost half a million were deported. Only a relative handful were allowed to stay in Russia. And although their exodus was front-page news in the West, they soon slipped out of history, remembered only—if at all—as a source of concubines for the Sultan’s harem. As far as I know, I am the only non-Circassian to have written a book about their tragedy, and that came out only in 2010.

Documents from the time tell how the Russians loaded hundreds of thousands of Circassians onto sailing vessels and turned the evictees’ abandoned homes over to the empire’s shock forces, the Cossacks. One military report speaks of the crops that were left in the fields for the Cossacks to harvest and eat. My own research in the British archives has turned up letters describing the terrible conditions of the Circassian refugees. “Everywhere you meet with the sick, the dying, and the dead; on the thresholds of gates in front of shops, in the middle of streets, in the squares, in the gardens, at the foot of trees,” wrote an Ottoman Empire health inspector from the town of Samsun, a place where 200 Circassians a day were dying in 1864, according to letters from the Russian consul at the time.

With the end of the Cold War and the rise of the Internet, Circassians began to piece together their history. In 2005 a Circassian activist and shopkeeper named Murat Berzegov asked the Russian Parliament to recognize the destruction of his nation as genocide. The request seemed reasonable enough: the legislators had previously acknowledged that Stalin’s deportations of a whole list of nations—the Chechens, the Crimean Tatars, the Volga Germans, and many others—had been genocides, and the Circassians’ tragedy was every bit as bad. But the Russian Parliament took those votes when its deputies included Soviet-era dissidents. By 2005 those justice seekers were long gone, however, replaced by party hacks in expensive suits, and Berzegov’s petition brought him nothing but threats and harassment.

But his example inspired other Circassians to stand up. After the International Olympic Committee chose Sochi in 2007, Circassians around the world appealed the decision, but the IOC refused to reconsider. Asked for an explanation, the IOC’s media director replied to Newsweek in an email: “Our philosophy is that hosting the Olympic Games can help bring positive developments in host countries and also be a catalyst for constructive dialogue. The IOC’s role is to ensure the Olympic Games are of excellent quality, while remaining relevant and ensuring they deliver a long-term legacy to host cities. We believe that through sport we can achieve a lot but cannot resolve all the issues that a country might face.”

Nevertheless, the Sochi Games give the Circassians a unique chance to mobilize their scattered nation. “We, whose fathers were subjected to genocide, once again underline that we condemn in the strongest terms the IOC’s decision,” said a statement from the Circassian group No Sochi 2014, which includes activists from Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Germany, France, and Belgium, as well as the United States. “Don’t give the torch that the freedom lover Prometheus fired in the Mountains of Caucasus to the murderer of liberties, Russia.”

As the movement gathered momentum, the Russian government launched a counterstrike. Leading the charge was one of the Kremlin’s most trusted spin doctors, Margarita Simonyan, editor of the state-owned English-language Russia Today channel. An episode of her television show What’s Happening, broadcast in April last year, mocked the outcry. Simonyan listed Sochi’s real problems as traffic, traffic, and sewage. Then she displayed a graphic supposedly proving that since wars have been fought all over the world, the Games should not be held anywhere, after which she opened a satellite feed to an American foreign-affairs analyst, only to grill him about the weather in Washington.

She followed this performance with a furious blog post. The opponents of the Sochi Games were guilty of “clear, intentional, premeditated anti-Russian activity,” she wrote. “We are talking about international hypocrisy, about loathsome attempts to rock first one, then another of our Russian ethnic boats, under the cover of concern for small nations. I do not like it when former CIA agents … argue with sad expressions about the fate of a nation whose name they only heard the day before yesterday.”

Simonyan’s attacks only strengthened the Games’ opponents. A video of her show was emailed throughout the Circassian community, snowballing anger and disbelief as it went. Amid the furor, Russia’s Duma—the lower house of Parliament—finally agreed to meet with a handpicked group of moderate Circassian activists, and, shortly before last year’s May 21 protests, a small group of deputies formally received a list of Circassian demands. Once again the campaigners called on the Russian government to acknowledge that what happened in 1864 was a genocide. But more than that, they called for the repeal of all laws preventing ethnic Circassians from moving back to their ancestral homeland, and they demanded that Russian authorities cease interfering in Circassian organizations. Everyone involved must have understood that the session was an empty formality.

Speaking to me after the meeting, Sergei Markov, a Duma deputy and historian, readily conceded that “mass killings” of Circassian civilians had taken place. He told me he had studied many books about their history. Even so, he insisted, anyone who believes there was a Circassian genocide is either illiterate or has sold out to an anti-Russian conspiracy. “The question is being awakened by those who want to make Russia weak,” he told me. “They want Russia to always have to fight in the Caucasus, to explode the Circassian bomb.” Markov has a history of spotting anti-Russian plots. At the time of the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia, he argued that it had been ordered by Dick Cheney to help John McCain’s presidential campaign.

In fact, the Circassians are finding allies among those with grievances against Moscow. A year ago the Georgian Parliament voted unanimously to recognize the conquest of Circassia as a genocide, the first country in the world to do so. This May 21 the Georgians are taking their campaign a step further, unveiling a Circassian genocide memorial in the town of Anaklia, some 200 kilometers down the coast from Sochi and, not coincidentally, practically next door to the Kremlin-backed breakaway Republic of Abkhazia. Meanwhile the Circassians’ own protests grow bigger every year. “A lot of our friends say that it’s almost 150 years and that we should move on,” Allan told me. “But they don’t understand. For us it’s like yesterday.”

“I second that,” said Danyal.

“I third it,” said Clara.

Even if they can’t stop the Sochi Games, they intend to use the occasion to tell the world their people’s story. And for the first time in a century and a half, that will put the Circassians back on the front pages.

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