Stalin wiped from Soviet Gulag museum

RUSSIA perm-36 fencing

The director of a Russian museum at a Stalin-era prison camp says local officials have taken over the site and removed references to the Soviet dictator’s crimes.

“Of course it’s a political move,” Viktor Shmyrov told the BBC.

Perm-36, in Russia’s Ural mountains, is the only surviving camp with buildings dating back to the Stalinist terror. A non-governmental group has been managing the museum, but is disbanding after arguments with Perm officials.

Mr Shmyrov said the takeover by the Perm authorities was less about a rehabilitation of Stalin than “connected with the political situation in the country“.

“We are already seeing the creation of a Stalinist-type state – enormous power is concentrated in the hands of one man,” he said.

Under President Vladimir Putin “there is no need now for repressions – the people have become obedient”, he said.

“The political system is returning to totalitarianism.” RTWT

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‘Only darkness ahead’: Russian liberals bury Nemtsov – and democratic prospects


Thousands of Russians, many carrying red carnations, on Tuesday filed past the coffin of Boris Nemtsov, the Kremlin critic whose killing last week [see footage below], friends say, showed the hazards of speaking out against Russian President Vladimir Putin, Reuters reports:

Aides to Putin deny any involvement in killing Nemtsov, who was shot in the back four times on Friday within sight of the Kremlin walls. Nemtsov’s friends say he was the victim of an atmosphere of hatred whipped up against anyone who opposes the president.

“The shots were fired not only at Nemtsov but at all of us, at democracy in Russia,” Gennady Gudkov, a prominent Kremlin opponent, said in a speech delivered next to the coffin.

Some worried, too, that Nemtsov’s assassination last Friday by an unidentified gunman within sight of the Kremlin walls might mark the end of the vision he had long championed, The Financial Times reports:

After the casket was lowered into the earth, [liberal journalist Mikhail] Fishman warned that his generation’s hopes for a more free and open Russia appeared to be being buried too. While an estimated 50,000 marched through the capital on Sunday in Nemtsov’s memory, the journalist said the demonstration was a shadow of the pro-democracy protests that broke out in the winter of 2011-12.

russia nemtsov2“It is probably the death of the idea of the 1990s, that Russia could become a normal democracy,” said Fishman. “[President Boris] Yeltsin considered Nemtsov as his successor, but then chose Vladimir Putin. So he was this symbolic alternative of what could have happened.”

“It was big but it was empty of emotion,” he said. The battle for real democracy would some day resume, he added. “But for now, I see only darkness ahead.”

Two European dignitaries were unable to attend the ceremony because Russian officials would not let them into the country, Reuters adds:

Moscow said one of them, a former Latvian foreign minister, had for some time been subject to a travel ban for her “anti-Russian activities”…..

For four hours, Nemtsov’s coffin stood in the centre of a hall at a human rights centre named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. ….Nemtsov was later buried at the Troyekurovskoye cemetery, on the outskirts of Moscow. Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist and Kremlin opponent shot dead in 2006, is buried at the same cemetery.

russia putin 2Some EU politicians and a prominent Russian opposition leader have been prevented from going to the Moscow funeral of politician Boris Nemstov, the BBC reports (HT: TOL)

Among those barred were a Polish politician refused a visa because of sanctions imposed against Russia and a Latvian member of the European Parliament, who was turned away at Moscow airport, according to the news agency….. 

No arrests have been made and police have yet to find a motive for the murder, but pro-Kremlin Russian news website LifeNews has released video of what it says is the presumed getaway car of the killers. 

U.S. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, told the Reuters news agency that the killing of Nemstov reflects the worsening climate in Russia for civil rights and media freedoms. 

“This is an indication of a climate at least inside of Russia in which civil society, independent journalists, people trying to communicate on the Internet, have felt increasingly threatened and constrained,” the president said. 

The Guardian’s Luke Harding, a former Moscow correspondent, says the only explanation not provided by Russia for Nemtsov’s killing is “blindingly obvious”: he was killed for his opposition activities. 

“Specifically, for his very public criticism of Putin’s secret war in Ukraine in which at least 6,000 people have been killed over the past year, and which – according to his friends – he had been about to expose,” Harding writes.

RUSSIA NAZI PACT‘Putin brought Nazism into politics’

I met Boris Nemtsov in the early evening last Monday at Shamrock, an Irish pub downstairs from the Ekho Moskvy radio station, where he was due to go on air two hours later, the FT’s Kathrin Hille writes. What follows are edited highlights from our discussion.

On the state of present day Russia:

Compared with 2012, we live in a different country. A country of war, of humiliated, hypnotised people, who in 2011 were nostalgic about the empire and now think of themselves as great. Mass hysteria about annexation of Crimea, aggressive propaganda — that the west is the enemy, and Ukrainians fascists etc.

Putin uses this — he’s following the principles of Goebbels: propaganda must be primitive, the truth has no significance, the message has to be simple, and must be repeated many times. And must be extremely emotional.

Putin has brought Nazism into politics.

On the need for ‘healthy patience’:

Public opinion can’t continue to be like this forever. Like little children, they stop crying eventually. Putin lies. But he can’t hide things forever. There will be more and more graves. And people will feel it’s bad that he’s fighting with a brother nation. Hitler had a reason for not attacking Austria.

We need healthy patience. I believe we will have to struggle with Putin for a long time, it will be a long battle. We’re talking about 2024. Why am I an optimist? Because I believe that you can achieve nothing with cynicism. Putin uses cynicism.

On Putin:          

He is a totally amoral human being. Totally amoral. He is a Leviathan.

Putin is very dangerous. He is more dangerous than the Soviets were. In the Soviet Union, there was at least a system, and decisions were taken in the politburo. Decisions about war, decisions to kill people, were not taken by Brezhnev alone, or by Andropov either, but that’s how it works now.

On Putin’s inner circle:            

The people around Putin are rich and weak. There has been a selection. There is not a single bold person left who can influence him. They’ve all left to somewhere. Including [former finance minister Alexei] Kudrin, the boldest of all. So they can’t influence him, they can only adapt.

On Putin’s future:        

So I think the key thing will be that Putin’s rating will fall, gradually. That will take years.

Look at [Serbian president Slobodan] Milosevic and sanctions. Within one-and-a-half years or two, the people will start understanding that Putin is responsible. Therefore, my job as a politician and a blogger is simple: Show them that Putin means crisis, Putin means war...

The opposition will appear in the army, and in the special services. Why? Because they will start to realise that Putin betrayed the army. Look, the army is fighting in Ukraine, but he says it isn’t, they get killed, and he doesn’t help them. The people who know someone who has experience that will be more and more. And from that will rise a deep disgust, in the army and in the special services. He’s not a traitor of Novorossiya — forget about those, they are freaks — but of the real army. Pskov division, Ulyanovsk division, Bryansk division...

The second is business. Once Putin’s rating falls, they will start financing us. The high support rating — that is fear. And when it falls, the fear will recede.

On ‘the absolute low point’:   

I don’t see a revolution scenario. Only countries which have energy have revolutions. We don’t have any energy. For that, you need youth, and Russia has very few young people.

Look where there have been revolutions in the past few years — all countries with lots of energy, and lots of young people. The only exception is Ukraine, and Ukraine was the only country where there hadn’t been ANY reforms for the last 20 years.

In 2011 there was an opposition. Now there is no longer an opposition, only dissidents. Now is the absolute low point.

On Russia’s state TV:

State TV as developed by Putin — that’s a diabolic machine. [All the disinformation programmes about Ukraine] This is recruiting for death. The people who produce this — they are criminals. The west needs to stop treating them like journalists. I’ve told those morons that they have to understand that these people are not journalists, they are propagandists. They work in the FSB, in the presidential administration, they are not journalists. Why are you not putting them under sanctions? RTWT

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Aiding civil society: ‘a movement mindset’?


Aid-to-Civil-Society-A-Movement-MindsetSupporting local agents of nonviolent change is critical to preventing violent conflict and advancing democratic development, notes a new report from the US Institute of Peace.  But effectively aiding civic movements that are fluid, diverse, decentralized, and often loosely organized is tricky, says the analysis, drawn from a review of the literature and numerous interviews with international policymakers and civil society leaders, which explores both the ways donors engage civil society and creative new approaches to supporting nontraditional actors.

Few have attempted to critically examine the effectiveness of foreign assistance tied to goals of social and political transformation—democratic development, human rights, accountability, and most recently countering violent extremism, note the authors Maria J. Stephan, Sadaf Lakhani and Nadia Naviwala. One question that emerges from this new context is how foreign aid can most effectively be used to support civic campaigns and movements whose goals align with international norms.

The vast majority of such assistance goes to professional, and often registered, NGOs, they write:

Despite the groundwork and brokering role they can play in raising awareness of rights and in providing information to the public, however, NGOs are often not the most salient actors in mobilizing people to bring about social and political change. Grassroots movements that mobilize diverse constituencies are certainly no elixir—but they do tend to be the drivers of democratic change…..

When donor support does go to more grassroots-oriented organizations, often in the service-delivery space, this support is typically not linked to efforts to improve policy advocacy and responsive governance. Fragile and conflict-affected contexts face particular challenges in that violence often erodes the social cohesion and networks required for mobilizing and sustaining social movements. Furthermore, as an interviewee from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) noted, often civic movements, particularly youth-led movements, lack the basic accounting and management skills to effectively absorb resources, particularly those coming from the outside. This lack is a critical challenge to donor support given the priority donors attach to accountability and formal reporting.


  • Civic campaigns and movements are key drivers of social and political development but receive inadequate attention and support from development actors.
  • External support for diffuse, decentralized, and often leaderless movements that engage in nonviolent direct action, however, is neither straightforward nor uncontroversial. It differs from support for traditional NGOs.
  • Traditional NGOs are especially effective as brokers to provide information, raise awareness of rights, and push to widen democratic space within which civic campaigns and movements can emerge.
  • Supporting movements requires shifts in the way donors understand and engage civil society, creative new approaches to supporting nontraditional actors, and a willingness to take calculated financial and political risk.
  • A movement mindset would stress agile funding mechanisms, nonmonetary support, and development of convening spaces in which to bring movements, NGOs, and governments into contact with each other. Regional hubs for civil society currently being developed by USAID, Sida, and other donors could help advance these goals.

Elements of an Alternative Approach

Assisting civic movements, as outlined, differs from the ways in which most donors support NGOs, from identifying entities for support to accountability mechanisms. Certain general guidelines point the way to identifying and engaging civic campaigns and movements, the report suggests:

Prioritize locally rooted nonviolent civic campaigns and movements. Such actors tend to be known and respected locally and to have demonstrable popular support. They may not be led by professionals and may not organize their work in the form of projects, but they often have positive links with professional institutions.

Identify local change agents from a broad spectrum of civil society that includes youth, artists, workers, women, professionals, journalists, and others specific to the cultural context. These networks should be developed and maintained on an ongoing basis by donor officials. When security restrictions preclude wide and regular exposure to such networks, local staff and consultants should be encouraged to help with outreach. Criteria for supporting local actors should be based on the clarity of their goals and needs, their volunteer base, locally raised financial contributions, and demonstrated ability to mobilize diverse groups.

Provide smaller, longer-term, and more flexible forms of financing. Onerous reporting requirements should be dropped for micro-grants below a certain threshold or for entities with already high local support and legitimacy. Simplifying and streamlining the processes for securing and maintaining funding is necessary. Relationship-based management— emphasizing text messages, e-mails, phone calls, and in-person conversations—combined with site visits can be more revealing than formal reports, especially for partners who do not speak English as a first language…….


The U.S. Institute of Peace invites you to a panel discussion on Friday, March 6, on strategies for governments and non-government supporters to lend backing to movements for social change.RSVP

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‘From Paper State to Caliphate’: Islamic State’s ideology & propaganda

ISIS MEMRIWhile the Islamic State dominates headlines through its brutal tactics and online propaganda, questions persist about its ideology and recruitment techniques. Two new Brookings papers break down ISIS’ ideology and social media methods to trace how the group rose from a “paper state” of little influence to a global jihadi movement.

Drawing from private correspondence, speeches, and Islamic theology, Cole Bunzel analyzes the Islamic State’s doctrines and development since 2002 in “From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State.” In “The ISIS Twitter Census,” J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan answer fundamental questions about how many Twitter users support ISIS, who and where they are, and how they participate in its highly organized online activities.

On March 11, the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World will convene a panel of the papers’ authors and experts on the Islamic State’s propaganda to discuss what the group wants and how to counter it. After the discussion, the panelists will take audience questions.

When: Wednesday, March 11, 2015, 10:00 – 11:30 AM

Where: The Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036

RSVP This event will be live webcast. Join the conversation on Twitter using #ISISPropaganda.

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