Thursday, May 30, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 36 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 16th 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

Despite FSB Efforts, Circassian Issue is Gaining Prominence and Will Continue to Do So After Games. Over the last year, the Russian special services have devoted “colossal efforts to neutralize the Circassian issue,” Israeli analyst Avraam Shmulyevich says, but “they are not all-powerful” and cannot control even as much as their KGB predecessors did. As a result, the Circassian issue will become even more critical in the run up to the Sochi Olympics and continue to intensify after them as well (

Chechen Leader Killed in Ankara; Some Suspect Russian Involvement.  Medet Unlu, the self-proclaimed honorary consul of Chechnya-Icherkia in the Turkish capital, was found dead on May 22, a date that “Today’s Zaman” says may be related to the 149th anniversary of the Circassian genocide” and pointing out that “in recent years, Moscow has been made more and more uncomfortable by the politicization of May 21 ‘genocide’ talk and the ‘No Sochi’ campaigns against the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics” (

FSB Units to Expand in Anticipation of Sochi Security Needs.  The FSB border service will grow over the next year so as to be in a position to provide security for the Olympiad, its commander says (, and

Moscow Wants Information But Not Direct Involvement of Foreign Intelligence Services, US Scholar Says. According to NYU Professor Mark Galleotti, “so far Russia is taking a more cautious and restrictive approach - asking other countries to hand over intelligence and let Moscow worry about Olympic security. While these are certainly Russia’s Games, true security cooperation is a matter of give and take, a discussion rather than a monologue. The more the Russians are willing to incorporate outsiders, the most productive the process will be. --- However, it remains to be seen if true intelligence sharing between the West  and Russia can take place in time for Sochi” (

Marriot Chain Says It Won’t Be Able to Open Hotels in Sochi in Time for Olympiad.  Construction delays mean that Marriott International will not be able to complete three hotels in Sochi prior to the opening of the Sochi Games, the latest and most public indication that all is far less well in that city than Russian officials maintain and that many of the support facilities will in fact not be ready in time (,  and

Sochi Journalist Released from Custody, Still Faces Charges.  A court has released Sochi journalist Nikolay Yarst in advance of his trial, but his supporters fear that he will suffer more problems in the coming days. A few are calling for the organization of a protest movement to protect him and other journalists from official pressure (,, and

New Storm Brings Down Tree Limbs into Sochi Walkways, Streets. Yet another storm has made numerous walkways and streets impassable, this time by bringing down tree limbs, according to one local resident. Despite complaints, many of the limbs have not been removed. Such storms are not uncommon in that region ( and

Earthquake Shakes Sochi. A 5.8 earthquake shoock Sochi, residents say. Officials suggest that the epicemter was in neighboring Karacheyvo-Cherkesia, 158 kilometers from the Olympic site (

Moscow Refuses to Establish Quota for Foreign Circassians to Study in North Caucasus. The Russian education and science ministry has refused to set a quota that would allow Circassians from the diaspora to study in the universities of the Circassian republics of the North Caucasus (

Circassian Youth Said Being Radicalized by Diaspora. “Argumenty i fakty” reports that local officials are concerned that young people in the Circassian republics are becoming increasingly radicalized at least in part because of their exposure to Circassians from the diaspora (, and

Cartoon Showing Olympic Medals in Form of Skulls Surfaces on Facebook. A drawing showing Sochi Olympiad winners receiving medals shaped like skulls, a reference to the Circassian genocide there in 1864, is now circulating on Facebook (

Moscow Produces Its Own Version of ‘Miracle.’ In advance of the Sochi Games, the Russian government has released its answer to the American film “Miracle” about the US defeat of the Soviet team in 1980 in the form of a film about the Soviet team’s defeat of the NHL team in 1972. In the last month, it has been among the highest-grossing films in the Russian Federation (

Will Contractors Have to Bring In a Special Vehicle to Rescue Other Machines? Sochi residents suggest that potholes and other subsidence problems have left so many construction vehicles trapped that the Russian authorities may have to bring in a special vehicle to rescue those now trapped in the mud (

Sochi Officials Expand Crackdown on Illegal Gaming Sites.  Officials in Sochi have launched a number of raids to try to close illegal gaming sites, but the number and invisibility of many of them suggest that a large number of them continue to operate (

Sochi Residents Outraged that Corrupt Officials Haven’t Been Fired.  Outraged by widespread corruption among Sochi officialdom – yet another was charged last week ( – residents have organized meetings to discuss and protest the failure of the Sochi administration to police its own ranks, with some suggesting that those at the top continue to protect the most corrupt ( and

‘An Olympiad without Electricity?’  Some Moscow observers are now speculating that the failure of Russian officials to address the electricity problem in Sochi may leave the games without enough electricity and some support areas without any, a shortcoming that could seriously complicate the lives of competitors and fans (

Ukrainian President Flies Over Sochi, Tells Putin He Sees Lots of Construction.  Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that he had seen construction “everywhere” when he flew over Sochi. Putin acknowledged that all this construction has created definite problems for visitors this year but said it was necessary for the games (

Sochi Souvenirs Now Among Most Counterfeited Goods in Russia. Forbes reports that counterfeiters are flooding the market with fake and unlicensed Sochi souvenirs, a respond the business journal says to enormous demnd. Russian officials say they are trying to protect the rights of those who have purchased one of the more than 5,000 licenses to produce such goods (

Sochi Games Will Undermine Putin, Khrushchev’s Descendent Says. Nina Khrushchev told Moscow’s independent Rain TV that “Putin awaits the fate of Beria” in that he will be swallowed up by the system he has created.  The Sochi Games in particular, she said, won’t strengthen his position (

Pupils in Sochi Schools Will Begin School Earlier to Have Time Off for Games. Russian officials have announced that students attending schools in Sochi and its environs will begin their school year this fall a week earlier so that they can have a break when the games themselves take place (  and

Price of Sochi Tickets Far Beyond Average Russian’s Ability to Pay. Attending a single Olympic competition at Sochi will cost an average of 6400 rubles (215 US dollars), not including transportation, food and lodging, a figure that puts the games beyond the reach of most Russians. Nonetheless, ticket sales are already strong in Moscow and the North Caucasus, “Sovtsky sport” says (

Officials Plan for Sochi Residents to Watch Games on Television.  Because the costs of tickets are beyond the means of many Sochi resdents, officials there have announced plans for them to watch the competition on television just like those further away will do (

Organizer Says Sochi Games Wll Be “Better and More Secure” Because of International Cooperation.  Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi 014 organizing committee, says the competition next year will be “still better and more secure” following the signing of cooperation agreements with various international partners (

Abkhazians Suffered as Circassians Did, Writer Says.  Metin Sonmez, a Circassian who writes frequently on Abkhazian issues,says that Ruslan Kesh’s argument that the fate of the Ciricassians in 1864 and that of the Abkhazians in 1877 should not be compared does not stand up to historical scrutiny and in fact contradicts the reports of visitors to that region aat the time (

Cossacks Have Their Own Ideas about End of Caucasus War.  The Caucasus diaspora of the Kuban has decided to declare a different 150th anniversary to the end of the Caucasus War than the Circassians do, thus adding fuel to the fires of confusion (

Election Results in Kudepsta Disputed.  The losing side in the elections for the leadership of the Kudepsta territorial social self-administration say that administrative measures were used to ensure the outcome and say that it is illegitimate. Indeed, one calls the outcome “an attempt to seize power” in that region where local people are opposing the construction of a power station for Sochi (

Workplace Problems Seen Leading to ‘Social Explosion’ in Sochi.  The failure of companies to pay wages or to follow workplace rules is likely to lead to a social explosion in Sochi, workers and their supporters say. Som workers have not been paid for three months, and others say that they have not received the necessary construction materials and hence are being forced to violate construction rules in order to meet deadlines. When workers have threatened to strike, their bosses have told them that if they don’t like the way things are in Sochi, they can go back to wherever they came from. The workers say they have written to Putin and other officials without getting any response ( and

Sochi Mayor Admits Olympic Construction Has Messed Up City for This Year’s Season.  Anatoly Pakhomov has finally acknowledged that continuing construction for next year’s games has messed up the city for this year’s tourist season as residents have long complained ( and

Sochi Definitely Not Ready for Para-Olympics.  Despite repeated promises and agreements, Sochi Games organizers have failed to meet minimum standards for access for para-Olympic competitors, and signs have appeared showing those confined to wheelchairs crashing down stairways, the only access to many venues (

Sochi’s Icemakers Profiled. Because of the special role they will play in the first winter Olympiad to be held in a subtropical zone, Sochi’s icemakers have been profiled by local people. Many do quite conventional things like prepare ice for hockey competitions, but others are warehousing snow for next year ( ).

Police Raid Residence of Sochi Environmentalist, Say Looking for Weapons.  Sochi police officers raided the apartment and dacha of Vladimir Kimayev, a member of Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus. They said they were looking for weapons but acknowledged that they didn’t find any (

Russia’s Republican Party Profiles Corruption, Theft in Sochi.  The Republican Party of Russia has put out two video tapes about just how much corruption there has been and remains in the Sochi construction effort (

Nemtsov Releases “The Winter Olympiad in the Subtropics.” Opposition figures Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyukh have released a 32-page pamphlet on the Sochi games, that includes assessments of the amount of corruption involved and the risks the games present for those directly involved and for Russia as a whole ( The full text is available online at

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 37 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 15th 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

Circassians in North Caucasus and Around the World Mark 149th Annivesary of Genocide.  Circassians and their supporters across the North Caucasus and in the diaspora marked the 149th anniversary of the tsarist Russian genocide visited upon the Circassian people in 1864. In many places, participants carried signs calling for a boycott of the Sochi games, the site of some of the greatest violence against the Circassians in the 1860s, and demanding that foreign governments oppose Vladimir Putin’s efforts to use the competition to legitimize his regime. The size and scope of these demonstrations and the fact that they attracted positive statements from officials in Circassian republics and regions including among the Shapsugs of Sochi itself all suggest that Circassian opposition to the Sochi games is growing and that there will be more Circassian activism in the lead up to, during and after the competition, exactly the opposite vector that Moscow had hoped for ( ,,,, ,,,,,,, , ).

Russians Killed or Expelled 98 Percent of Circassians between 1864 and 1870, Documents Show. Circassian arguments that tsarist Russian committed a genocide against them in Sochi and nearby areas are bolstered by recent historical documentation of the tragic reality that the number of Circassians in the North Caucasus was reduced by 98 percent between 1864 and 1870. This devastation led to many proverbs including one that said “now, even a woman can go through the land of the Circassians without fear of meeting a single living man” and “the road to Isanbul by sea is visible because of the bodies of dead Circassians” (  and ).

Turkish PM Issues Statement on 149th Anniversary of Circassian Expulsion. For the first time ever, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement on the anniversary of the Sochi expulsion of the Circassians, noting that that event has had enormous consequences for Turkey where many Turkish citizens trace their ancestry back to those who were expelled and saying that “now, 149 years after the great expulsion, the memory of those days is becoming still stronger and that the rising generation will not forget about them” ( ).

Demirtash Calls for Recognition of Circassian Genocide. Selahattin Demirtash, the leader of the Kurdish community in Turkey , says that his group will press Ankara to recognize the genocide of the Circassian people (   and

Abkhaz Historians Seek to Combine Abkhaz Tragedy with Circassian Genocide.  A Circassian history has disputed Abkhazian claim that the Circassians and Abkhazian peoples “suffered together a catastrophe 150 years ago,” noting that “the genocide of the Circassians” in the course of their resistance to Russian expansion is one thing and “the deportation of the Abkhazians in 1877” is quite another.  It may be that this attempt to combine the two is intended to undercut Circassian arguments by introducing some confusion in the minds of non-experts (

Circassians Recall Marx’s Call for Europeans to Learn from North Caucasus Resistance.  Several Circassians this year have chosen to highlight the observation of Karl Marx that “the peoples of Europe” should “learn how to struggle for freedom and independence by copying the heroic examples of the mountaineers of the Caucasus” (

Sochi Olympic Organizers Promise Security Will Be ‘At Highest Possible Level.’  Promising that security at Sochi will be the bestever, Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi organizing committee, said that Moscow is “doing its best to enure security” and that “the Boston bombings hve proven that terrorism is ‘a global threat,’” comments that have had the unintended consequence of attracting ever more attention to the risks of holding the games at the edge of the restive North Caucasus and at a time when the Russian capital itself has been the target of terrorist attacks ( .

Sochi Residents Refer to ‘Potanin’s Slope’ and ‘Gazprom’s Gondola’ But in Fact Russian Taxpayers are Paying for the Games.  Russian media are suggesting and Western media are reporting that Russian oligarchs are paying for “more than half” of the most expensive Olympics ever, some 30 billion US dollars out of a total of 53 billion US dollars. But in fact, the oligarchs are routinely seeking subventions from the Russian government so that “their” contributions are in fact the contributions of the Russian people (  and

Russian Army Launches Soviet-Style Olympic Training Unit.  The Russian army has created a special unit in which 36 potential Sochi competitors will be trained, and commanders indicate that more such units may be set up if the need arises (

Masked Russian Police Raid Sochi Construction Company. Armed men raised the offices of a company involving in building Sochi venues, a company whose officials denied that the raid had anything to do with an investigation a year ago that its officers had embezzled two billion rubles (64 million US dollars) (

Circassian Center Still Open and Active in Tbilisi. Media reports to the contrary, the Circassian Center in the Georgian capital remains open and active, according to Circassian activist Ibragim Yaganov. Moreover, the center organized a demonstration in Tbilisi on the 149th anniversary of the Circassian genocide ( and

Moscow Opposes Circassian Repatriation from Syria Lest It Change Ethnic Balance in Western North Caucasus, Amelina Says.  Yana Amelina, a Kazan-based expert on the North Caucasus, says that Russia unlike Turkey opposes the repatriation of Circassians from Syria not least because it does not want to see a shift in the ethnic balance in the North Caucasus or a growth in Turkish influence there, something she says has not yet happened (

Georgia’s Ivanishvili Says Tbilisi Ready to Provide Security for Sochi Games.  Georgian PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said that “the Georigan side will provide maximum assistance” to Moscow for Sochi in order to “ensure that no incident takes place during the Olympics,” a proposal that some in Moscow may welcome but that others may see as part of a more complicated political game (

Sochi Police Becoming Increasingly Brutal in Dealing with Population, Residents Say.  Sochi policemen have used brutal force against residents, with some of the former now up on charges and some of the latter suffering serious injury, residents of Sochi say (

Sochi Officials Back Down After Kudepsta Protest.  Officials say they will not build a power plant in Kudepsta to which protesters had objected, a very positive development that may save a lovely neighborhood but a move that may encourage more protests in the future (

Sochi Still Requires ‘Unprecedented for Russia’ Rebuilding of Electrical System.  One of the bottlenecks to the completion of Olympic construction in Sochi is the need to rebuild “in an unprecedented for Russia” way the entire electric power distribution system, Russian officials say

Sochi Residents Complain That They Won’t Benefit from New Housing.  Following official declarations about the completion of housing projects in various parts of Sochi, local residents have posted complaints on a local website saying that these projects are all very nice but that no current Sochi resident is going to benefit from them (

Online Photographs Show Official Claims about Olympic Road Construction are False. Photographs on the site show that claims by Moscow’s highway chief Roman Starovoit concerning the state of street and highway construction in Sochi and its environments are at the very least inflated and in many cases completely false (

Trash Mountains Continue to Rise around Sochi.  Mounds of trash, all of them unsorted and many of them containing noxious chemicals or materials that will not breakdown for hundreds of years are accumulating around Sochi, and local people say there do not appear to be any plans to address the problem anytime soon ( ).

Stalin Built Sochi for Soviet People; Putin is Rebuilding It for Russian Elite, Residents Say.  The showing of a Soviet-era film about the construction of resort facilities in Sochi has sparked comment among residents that there is a marked contrast between Stalin and Putin and not in favor of the latter: the Soviet leader built the resort for ordinary Soviet citizens; the current Russian one is doing so only for the rich ( ).

Olympic Venues Not Ready for Security Challenge.  Photographs form Sochi show that, despite all of Moscow’s talk, perimeter fencing and gates around Olympic venues and facilities are not of a kind which would stop any determined terrorist and that there is little or no evidence that this situation is being addressed at the present time (

Sochi Continue to ‘Drown in Human Excrement.’ Poorly connected sewers in the course of Olympic construction are leading to ever more uncontrolled flows of human waste, leading several local observers to conclude that their city is “drowning in human excrement” and that a health crisis is imminent (, and

Russian Officials Say Sochi Will Set Another Olympic Record: More Drug Tests Than Ever Before.  Sochi organizers say that 570 officials will conduct 2500 doping tests at Sochi, 351 more than were carried out at the last Winter Games in Vancouver (

Russian Officials Continue Media Crackdown in Sochi … Russian officials have sparked outrage among local journalists by charging one of their number with being involved in narcotics trafficking even as they work to prevent other journalists from gaining access to what had been public information (,,  and ).

… Prompting More Sochi Residents to Ask Whether There is Any Free Media in Sochi or Russia as a Whole. “What are independent media? Do any of htem remain in Russia? Are there any left in Sochi? [and] Can one struggle with corruption and official arbitrariness without them?” are some of the questions journalists in the Olympic city are asking. And their questions suggest that as the Olympics approaches, it will be more and more difficult for them to report on what is going on and hence more and more difficult for everyone else to know (