Monday, October 31, 2016

With a Bell that Never Rang and a Cannon that Never Fired, What Might One Expect of Moscow’s Bomb Shelters?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – The Russian government has proudly announced that it has bomb shelters for all Muscovites in the event of a nuclear strike, but officials involved with maintaining these facilities say that at best they would save only 50,000 to 100,000 of the 12 million residents of the capital and none at all if a nuclear strike hit the city.

            In today’s “Novaya gazeta,” Anna Bessarobova spoke with some of these officials who told her that the bomb shelters that do exist are mostly derelict structures or have been rented out to one of another company, most often automobile firms or fitness centers (

                Mikhail Savkin, head of the Center for Subterranean Research, told the journalist that the situation is so bad that in some places local residents have been asked to make contributions of 500 rubles (eight US dollars) each to try to bring the facilities up to standard.  But in many places, there is no possibility that officials will be able to do that.

            Most of the bomb shelters are so old, so small and so out of date that they would provide little protection in the event of a conventional attack and none at all in the case of a nuclear one despite the official existence of a large number of such facilities and the role of the FSB in overseeing them.

            “The main bunker of Moscow is the metro,” Savkin says. “A megalopolis under a megalopolis. An enormous territory. Only know this: in the case of a nuclear strike, this sill save no one. And during a non-nuclear bombardment it will be able to help only for a maximum of two to three days.” To hope for more without major investment is absurd.

History of the 1917 Revolution Now in Danger, Some in Moscow Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – On February 21, 1918, faced with a German advance, Lenin proclaimed that “the socialist fatherland is in danger” and that it was the duty of all those loyal to the workers’ state to come to its defense. Now, 98 years later, some Russian historians are suggesting that the history of the 1917 revolution is under threat and must be defended.

            In an article in today’s “Kommersant,” Irina Nagornykh and Viktor Khamrayev report that the scientific council of the Russian Security Council have discussed preparations for the centennial of the Russian revolution and the need to oppose efforts to distort the meaning of that and other events in Russia history (

                The experts in that body are calling for the establishment of a new government center to conduct that effort, a center which would take up the role of the commission for preventing attempts at the falsification of history that was disbanded in 2012. But both the Russian Historical Society and the Presidential Administration are opposed to that step.

            Participants at the experts council said that “the basic threats” to the understanding of Russian historian events were “the information campaigns of foreign governments, the historical illiteracy of young people, and the disappearance of historical scientific-popular books as an independent literary genre.”

            They suggested that the most often targeted events in Russian history are “the nationality policy of the Russian Empire (with speculation on ‘the colonial question’), the nationality policy of the USSR, the role of the USSR in the victory over fascism in World War II, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and the USSR and the political crises” in Warsaw Pact countries.

            Those taking part in the meeting suggested that they were particularly concerned about what was likely to happen next year, the centenary of the Russian revolution.  And because of this threat, they urged that the Kremlin set up a system to monitor Western efforts in this regard and then coordinate the response.

             But two important players in this discussion told the “Kommersant” journalists that they saw no need for such an institution.  Yury Petrov, head of the Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that historians have the situation under control. As evidence of this, he pointed to their response to recent discussions about the1916 rising in Central Asia.

            And a “Kommersant” source in the Presidential Administration said that there was no reason for the government to create such a structure. It would have to get involved if and only if there were a violation of Russian law such as the defense of historical monuments.

In an Administered Democracy, Effective Protest Must be Administered as Well, Milshteyn Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – While many engage in protest less in hope of achieving something than in showing off, Ilya Milshteyn says, “responsible people … know that in an era of administered democracy, protest also must be administered;” that is, “those who protest must control themselves” and operate according to the rules of the game.

            They must carefully choose their targets lest in aiming too high they fail to achieve anything except their own repression, they must choose the issues they raise so that they are within limits recognized by the authorities, and they must choose their timing with particular care, the Moscow commentator says (

            A brilliant example of this kind of self-administered protest is the one Konstantin Raykin made at the congress of the Union of Theater Employees ( Indeed, Milshteyn suggests, one could call it “an ideal form of a demarche.”

                Raikin “called on his colleagues to display the solidarity of coworkers. He referred to a constitutional norm: the ban on censorship. He covered with shame extremist attitudes.” And he picked a target, the deputy minister of culture just low enough to allow those above him to sacrifice him in order to protect themselves.

            Because of his cleverness, Raikin attracted attention across the country and won entirely deserved laurels for his remarks. But even more important, “the shamed power in a worthy fashion awarded the artist for his talent and bravery” by recognizing what he said as in part true and taking certain steps.

            Raikin ended his speech with angry words, pointing out that Russians today are living through “very difficult times, very dangerous and very terrible ones, very much like…” But “happily, he immediately stopped himself, because had he gone further he would not have achieved anything but attracting the fire of the authorities onto himself.

            That this should be the case is of course unfortunate and evidence of just how bad things in Putin’s Russia have become, and it is evidence that “administered protest in an era of administered democracy is a very subtle thing: a step to the left or to the right and its administered nature is lost.” And those who engage in it become not protesters but enemies.”

            One would like to see a Russia where those limits did not exist, but clearly the best way for such a Russia to emerge out of the one that does is for people like Raikin to make use of the possibilities for administered protest rather than engaging in actions that will lead nowhere good and that may make the current arrangement even worse.