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PAPER REVIEW

Grigoriev, Andrey & Lynn 2009
Studies of Socioeconomic and Ethnic Differences in Intelligence in the Former Soviet Union in the Early Twentieth Century


Abstract:

This paper reviews the studies of socioeconomic and ethnic and racial differences in intelligence carried out in Russia/USSR during the late 1920s and early 1930s. In these studies the IQs of social classes and of ethnic minorities were tested. These included Tatars (a Caucasoid people), Chuvash and Altai (mixed Caucasoid-Mongoloid peoples), Evenk (a mixed Caucasoid-Arctic people), and Uzbeks (a Central-South Asian people). The results of these studies showed socioeconomic differences of 12 IQ points between the children of white collar and blue collar workers, and that with the exception of the Tartars the ethnic minorities obtained lower IQs than European Russians.

This is essentially a short history of psychometrics in the USSR/Russia.

(1) The first measurement of Russian IQ was performed in 1909 by A.M. Schubert, who used the French Binet test with n=229 children: “She concluded that the Binet test appeared to be too difficult for Russian children and the scale should be moved on 1 to 2 ages to be appropriate for them.” Since Mental age ÷ Physical age × 100 = IQ, this implies their average IQ was perhaps one S.D. lower than that of the French, though later researchers pointed out those children were drawn from lower socio-economic strata.

In 1930, now in the USSR, another study found the following:

They tested 414 children aged between 8½ and 11½ with the American Stanford– Binet (administered in Russian translation). The sample consisted of 200 children of peasants,141 children of blue collar workers, and 73 children of white-collar workers. All children were from Moscow or the Moscow region. The results were that the children of peasants obtained a mean IQ of 87 (the standard deviation=10), the children of blue-collar workers a mean IQ of 91 (SD=8.6) and the children of white-collar workers a mean IQ 98 (SD=8.4). The mean IQ (unweighted) for three groups was 92… Thus, the total weighted mean for Russian children in this study was 90.3 (these IQs are in relation to American Stanford–Binet norms).

Capture This brings to mind a 1920s study quoted by Anne Anastasi in her book Differential Psychology (pp.524), in which Russian immigrant children to the US got 90.

This 10 point difference was presumably there because Russia was a more economically backwards country, with a more repressed average IQ due to gaps in schooling, malnutrition, parasitic load, etc.

(2) As in the West, consistent differences were found in the IQs of people from different socio-economic strata.

Another study of relation of IQ to social class was carried out by M. Syrkin (М.Сыркин)(Сыркин,1929) who compared the intelligence of fourth grade children (N=338, age approximately 10 years) belonging to six socio-economic groups. The lowest group was described as “ blue collar workers and at least one of parents illiterate”and the highest group was described as “white-collar workers and at least one parent educated in an institute of higher education”. Intelligence was assessed with five verbal tests measuring comprehension and verbal reasoning. There was a difference of 1.42d(equivalent to 21.3 IQ points) between the lowest and highest socioeconomic groups.

The USSR really did expel, kill off, or otherwise limit the reproductive fitness of its best and brightest.

In 1928, E.I. Zverev (Е.И. Зверев)(Зверев, 1931) tested the IQ of 114 children just admitted to school and aged about 7½– 8 years, in and around the city of Kursk, about 500 km south of Moscow. The children were tested with the Binet– Bert test (a Russian adaptation of the Binet). The mean IQ of these children was 80.8. This is much lower than the IQ of children obtained by Gurjanov, Smirnov, Sokolov, & Shevarev (Гурьянов, Смирнов, Соколов,&Шеварев, 1930) for Moscow and the Moscow region. Probably this difference was due to methodological and sample differences, but there is a possibility that the regional factor was also involved.

The latter hypothesis is likely the correct one.

In the 2009 PISA test, there was a 12 IQ point difference between Kursk and Moscow, which is an incredibly concentrated cognitive cluster.

(3) Now we go on to the most “controversial” part – ethnic differences in IQ.

Central Russia

There were also some studies of the IQs of non-Slavonic but predominantly Caucasoid peoples.I. Bektchentay (И .Бикчентай) and Z. Carimowa (З.Каримова )(Бикчентай &Каримова, 1930) tested the IQs of 380 Tartar children aged 8– 18 in fi ve Tartar schools in Moscow with the Boltunow–Binettest(aRussian adaptation of the Binet). The Tartars are indigenous to the Caucasus in the far south of Russia and the former Soviet Union, but a number of them live in central Russian towns and cities. The mean IQ of the Tartar children in this study was approximately the same as that of Russian children. The correlation between the Boltunow– Binet test and school achievements (assessed by teachers’ estimates) in their study was 0.84.

Yes, this is a pretty major distinction.

The Volga Tatars – the Muslim and Christianized Tatars of central Russia – have an average IQ of around 100 (about equal to modern Russia/Europe). Population genetics studies have found them to be basically acculturated Slavs.

The first of these was reported by F.P. Petrov (Е.П. Петров) (Петров, 1928) who tested the IQs of 1398 Chuvash children aged 3–13 in 1926–1927 with the French Binet–Simon test… The figures inTable 2 show a median IQ of 87 for boys and 84 for girls, and means (unweighted) of 89 for boys and 86 for girls. These are in relation to 100 for French norms, but no normative data are reported for Russian children. The IQs of the Chuvash children show a decline with age, with the lowest IQs among the 12 and 13 year olds.

Chuvashia is currently about average for the Russian regions.

Tundra

Also tests carried out on indigenous tundric peoples, such as the Evenks (Bulanov 1930):

The results are presented as typical for Evenk children, but because of the small samples, their IQs may not be regarded as reliable. The results are as follows. For the Binet test the mean IQ was 70.16 (for 5 children, and in relation to French norms). The results obtained with the Rossolimo test showed lower average IQs of the Evenk (Tungus) compared with a Moscow sample on some abilities, namely, memory for pictures and words, ability to comprehend combined pictures, ability to comprehend visual incongruities, and, according to Bulanow’s interpreta- tion, ability to retain a high level of attention. As regards memory for pictures, the results contradicted the sometimes described capacity of Evenk (Tungus) to remember exactly long routes on wild territory (Encyclopedic Dictionary by Brockhaus & Efron (Энциклопедический словарь Ф .А . Брок – гауза и И.А .Ефрона ), 1902, vol. 67, p. 66)….

Bulanow also reported some observations on Evenk (Tungus) children and adults concerning their great difficulty in understanding the concepts of measurement and number. He reported that when Evenk children were questioned about devices for measurement, they did not have the concept of an absolute unit of measurement. They thought that the unit changed with the material measured. Bulanow reported further that when he asked Evenk adults how many children they had “ It was difficult, almost impossible, to get from parents precise information as to how many of their children were alive, how many of their children had died, what was the age of their children, and so on.” (p. 198).

… and on the Altai (Zaporochets 1930):

The results for the Binet test were as follows: mean IQ for total group was 66.9 (sd. 8.5), mean IQ for children aged 8– 12 was 69.15, and the mean IQ for children aged 13–16 years was 64.8. As noted by Zaporojets, this test was tedious for the Altai children. Some tasks were especially difficult for them. These were tasks involving calculation, logical operations, and the fluency task to name as many as words as possible during 3 min. As for the Rossolimo test, the most diffi cult tests for Altai children were those requiring the ability to retain a high level of attention and to comprehend visual incongruities. Their mean IQ for the Pintner–Peterson test was 75.

Zaporojets noted that the Altai children did not have a clear understanding of units of measurement. He observed that when they were questioned about the length of a meter, the Altai would often ask: “Which meter?”They thought that the meter in one shop could be longer than in another. An adult Altai said about distance: “It is 100 big versts (approximately 100 kilometers)” (he apparently thought that the number of small versts must be more).

Zaporojets’ paper contains some interesting observations on adult Altai. Although adult Altai performed calculations poorly at the time of study, they showed a remarkable ability for visual estimation of large quantities. A herdsman, who could count only to 20–30, noticed very well the absence of one horse, cow or sheep in a herd of many hundreds. He looked at a huge herd and noted that a particular cow was absent. Another example of the great visualization ability of the Altai was that they could remember and showed the way through wild territory, where they had been only once many years previously.

Common theme: No numeracy (they’d have a very bad Whipple’s index), very premodern and non-abstract ways of thinking, but quite well suited for their environment.

In PISA 2009, Yakutia had the lowest score of any tested Russian region, including Dagestan (though Chechnya and Ingushetia were not included). Ethnic Yakuts, who probably have similar IQs to the Altai and Evenks, constitute 50% of its population, though probably more like 2/3 amongst the children taking PISA due to their higher fertility rates. This might imply that the average Yakut IQ is in the low-to-mid 80s.

Central Asia

First test was carried out in 1926 by A. Schtelerman: He did not give IQs but reported that the scores of the Uzbek children were lower than those of children in Moscow.

A series of studies by V.K. Soloviev on Russian and Uzbek army cadets and professionals found that “the test scores and the educational level of the Uzbeks were lower than those of the Europeans.”

The third study of the intelligence of the Uzbeks was carried out in 1931 by A.R. Luria (А.Р . Лурия ), at that time at the Institute of Psychology in Moscow. Luria did not use intelligence tests but gave a descriptive analysis of the Uzbeks’ cognitive abilities. He distinguished two modes of thought designated graphic recall (memories of how objects in the individual’s personal experience are related) and ca- tegorical relationships (categorisation by abstract concepts). He found that the thought processes of illiterate Uzbek peasants were confined to graphic recall and that they were not able to form abstract concepts. For example, they were shown a hammer, an axe, a log and a saw, and asked which of these did not belong. The typical Uzbek answer was that they all belonged together because they are all needed to make firewood. People who are able to think in terms of categorical relationships identify the log as the answer because the other three are tools (an abstract concept). Illiterate Uzbeks peasants were unable to form concepts of this kind. They were also unable to solve syllogisms. For instance, given the syllogism “There are no camels in Germany; the city of B is in Germany; are there camels there?” Luria gave as a typical Uzbeks answer “I don’t know, I have never seen German cities. If B is a large city, there should be camels there.” Similarly, Luria asked “In the far north, where there is snow, all bears are white; Novia Zemlya is in the far north; what color are the bears in Novia Zemlya?”. A typical Uzbek answer was “I’ve never been to the far north and never seen bears”(Luria,1979, p. 77–8). Thus, Luria concluded that these peoples were not capable of abstract thought: “ the processes of abstraction and generalization are not invariant at all stages of socioeconomic and cultural development. Rather, such processes are pro- ducts of the cultural environment” (Luria, 1979, p. 74). Luria proposed that the ability to think in terms of categorical relationships is acquired through education. He did not suggest that the Uzbeks have any genetic cognitive deficiency.

I wrote about Luria back in the late 2000s when I still agnostic about genetic racial differences in IQ.

Today those factors no longer really hold, but Central Asians do very poorly on international standardized tests.

Kyrgyzstan came at the very bottom of PISA 2009, with a PISA-equivalent IQ of around 75.

Table below is from David Becker’s database of national IQs:

National Ethnic Age N Test IQ Study
Kazakhstan 8 to 16 617 SPM+ 87.30 Grigoriev & Lynn (2014)
Kyrgyz 85.60 Lynn & Cheng (2014)
Tajikistan 13 to 15 674 SPM+ 88.00 Khosimov & Lynn (2017)
Uzbekistan 10 to 15 51 SPM+ 86.00 Grigoriev & Lynn (2014 )
Uzbekistan 11 to 13 614 SPM+ 85.00 Salahodjaev et al. (2017)

Still, Luria has some of the best arguments against that position, so its a bit surprising that the blank slatists don’t cite him more.

stalin-the-tajik(4) Or maybe not, because it still didn’t save him him from the SJWs’ ideological predecessors, Sovok Justice Warriors:

These early studies carried out in the years 1926– 1931 found that there were substantial socioeconomic and ethnic/ racial differences in intelligence in the Soviet Union. These conclusions were not consistent with Marxist orthodoxy which held that these differences would disappear under communism. Accordingly, these studies, particularly that of Luria, attracted a great deal of criticism in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. This has been described by Kozulin (1984): “Critics accused Luria of insulting the national minorities of Soviet Asia whom he had ostensibly depicted as an inferior race. The results of the expedition were refused publication and the very theme of cultural development was forbidden” . In 1936 intelligence testing was banned in the Soviet Union. It was not until the 1960s and early 1970s that this prohibition was progressively relaxed (Grigorenko & Kornilova, 1997). Luria’s work was not published in Russian until 1974 and English translations were published in 1976 and 1979 (Luria, 1976, 1979).

As Lynn and Grigoriev point out, this was closely correlated to the suppression of genetics research, though at least Luria and Co. weren’t outright murdered like Vavilov.

The history of work on intelligence in the former Soviet Union parallels that of genetics, where mainstream Mendelian theory represented by Nikolai Vavilov in the 1920s was likewise suppressed in the 1930s and replaced by the environmentalist pseudo-genetics of Trofi m Lysenko. The domination of science by political theory was relaxed in the 1960s and 1970s, and in recent decades both intelligence research and Mendelian genetics have been rehabilitated in Russia.

Scientifically, there is real work being done on psychometrics in Russia, though in comparison to the US it is very meager and basically inconsequential.

Since it is not politicized in the US, it is neither promoted nor prosecuted.

If psychometric considerations were to move closer to politics, e.g. by tying them to the hot potato that is Central Asian immigration, things can go any which way. Although Russians have a more commonsense take on these matters – if 25% of Americans seriously think intelligence is a “social construct,” it’s probably more like 5% in Russia. On the other hand, the Leftists, Stalinists, and even many Eurasianists are aggressively opposed to the idea that intelligence is heritable and differs significantly between races, and in the event that the authorities side with them, Russian scientists don’t have the First Amendment or an fair and impartial court system to hide behind.

 

Latest from Aftonbladet:

sweden-terrorist-uzbek

There were a grand total of 1,890 men of Uzbek nationality in Sweden in 2016.

This past week hasn’t been a good one for the Central Asians don’t do terrorism stereotype, what with the Saint-Petersburg bomber being Uzbek, and the Kazakh Islamist cell in Astrakhan.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Central Asia, Immigration, Sweden, Terrorism 

Here is why Russia also needs a BBW (Turkestan edition):

births-russia-vs-central-asia

Number of births: Red = Russia; Green = Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan).

In 1897, there were ten times fewer people in Russian Turkestan than within the modern borders of the Russian Federation.

Today, they constitute 50% of the Russian Federation’s population.

They have produced about as many children in the past thirty years as Russians, especially once you account for the mass emigration of Russians from Central Asia.

Therefore, later in the century, the population of dry, landlocked Central Asia may converge with or even come to surpass that of the Russian Federation.

(The usual disclaimers: No further regatherings of Russian lands, no radical life extension, no real life Fallout, etc.)

Open borders between Russia and Central Asia will probably result in Russia acquiring a permanent underclass of lower-IQ Muslims, and in the worst case, outright transforming it into Russabia (impossible with its current ethnic makeup, but the Turkestan demographic reservoir is an order of magnitude bigger than that of the Muslims in the North Caucasus).

The situation is very redolent of the challenges facing the United States vis-a-vis Central America and Europe vis-a-vis the Middle East and Africa.

One of the things I’m looking forwards to doing here is transmigrating HBD insights to Russian realities. On the plus side, it’s socially easier (no WEIRD “racism” taboos) and intellectually easier (since innovation is harder than copying, even if one does have to coin a lot of terms – e.g., “human biodiversity” itself – that don’t exist in Russian). On the negative side, there’s no First Amendment here, as in the rest of Europe.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Central Asia, Demographics, Russia 

A few weeks back Navalny brought my attention to this lovely song extolling Putin’s achievements by Tolibjon Kurbankhanov, a Tajik singer from Dushanbe.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcnQ9imDrWk&w=640&h=360]

Navalny exhorts his minions to spread this clip far and wide. The writing between the lines is obvious. His reasons aren’t nice and altruistic, but utterly insidious, playing on xenophobia towards Central Asians. The idea being that hearing a Tajik singing in support of Putin will hurt his standing among “true” Russians. “Liberal fascism” may be met with bemused grins in the US, being the rhetoric of unhinged demagogues like Jonah Goldberg, but in Russia the term accurately describes the emerging alliance between liberal podpindosniki and ethnic nationalists, as best embodied by Navalny.

That said, I’m spreading this clip nonetheless. Not because I support Navalny, nor even because I support Putin, but because I support the idea of Russia as a multi-national federation. And because it really is a very nice song.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 

It is now increasingly evident that Russia’s population has settled on a small but decidedly firm upwards growth trend. I have been vindicated.

According to the latest data, in the first eight months of the year births fell by 1.4% (12.5/1000 to 12.3/1000) and deaths fell by 6.2% (from 14.6/1000 to 13.7/1000) relative to the same period last year. The rate of natural population decrease eased from -198,3000 to -128,800. The big fall in the death rate is due to two factors: (1) the continuing secular increase in life expectancy, due to decreasing alcohol consumption and more healthcare spending; (2) specific to 2011, the “high base” effect of the mortality spike during the Great Russian Heatwave last year.

This natural decrease was more than compensated for by 200,255 net migrants during the same period, making for a population increase of 71,500 this year to August. This more than cancels out the population decrease of 48,300 for the whole of 2010, and let it be reminded that it rose by 23,300 in 2009. In other words, in stark contrast to the avalanche of doom-mongering articles that continue to be written in the Western press about “dying Russia” – of which two of the most egregious examples are this and this – the reality is that today in net terms Russia’s population is now larger than it was in 2009.

At this point an important methodological point has to be made. This year, Rosstat switched to only accounting for immigrants who “register at the place of residence” in their population updates, as opposed to the previous method of accounting for anyone who enters the country with a permit to stay for a year or more. The former number is much smaller than the latter: whereas there were the aforementioned 200,255 net immigrants by the old method, Rosstat’s registration method only shows 68,822 (with the result that Rosstat says that Russia’s population actually decreased by 60,000 in the first eight months of this year). However, as Sergey Slobodyan (a frequent guest blogger here) noted at the JRL, this was an opaque and rather bizarre switch. For a start, even using the first method in the years before 2011, which gives far more emigrants than the by residency method, Rosstat still under-counted the numbers of migrants in Russia by one million – the 2010 Census showed there to be 142.9 million Russians, as opposed to the 142.0 million estimated by Rosstat on the basis of projections from the 2002 Census. And even on an intuitive level, doesn’t it seem obvious that far from every migrant to Russia will immediately bother (or be able to afford!) registering at a place of residence? Slobodyan speculates that the reason the new methodology was adopted was because of nationalist tensions over immigration levels in the run-up to the upcoming elections, which may have pressed the Kremlin into pressuring Rosstat, at least for the time being, into purposefully under-counting immigrants; hence the unexplained switch in methodology.

Particularly encouraging in the statistics for this year is that “mortality from vices” continues to fall very rapidly – things such as homicides, suicides, poisonings, etc., that have a much higher than average negative impact on life expectancy (because people who die those deaths tend to be younger) and the social problems they are typically associated with. Note that all of these figures are already lower than in 1990, the last year of Soviet normality (more or less). The same trend can be seen for deaths from accidents. Now to be accurate these death rates are still very high by global standards: whereas Russia’s total numbers of deaths from “external causes” (suicides, homicides, accidents, etc.) was 134 / 100,000, thus dipping below the levels of 1990, it is still far from the 40 / 100,000 types of figures in countries like Australia. No-one doubts that there is still a lot of work to be done on the health and safety front.

Predictably, none of this gets mentioned in the Western media, which is still replete with tropes about the mass emigration of Russia’s middle classes (debunked here multiple times), non-existent population collapse, and citations of outdated CIA World Factbook figures which are cited in lieu of official Rosstat ones. To the contrary, the population has stabilized, and the “brain drain” is now a mere trickle (only 400 Russian R&D specialists emigrated abroad for an undefined amount of time in the first half of 2011, which is a drop in the ocean besides its population of 143 million). Meanwhile, they have missed the true demographic apocalypse that is occurring not in Russia itself, but in one of its neighbors, Latvia, long lauded as a pro-Western and economically liberal “Baltic tiger”: almost as many people are now leaving Latvia every year as leaving Russia. But Latvia’s population is 75 times lower!

S/O, vindicated

Three years ago, based on my own demographic models, I predicted that Russia’s demographic future will be either one of stabilization, or slow population growth. In late 2009, I wrote that even under undemanding assumptions, “the population size will remain basically stagnant, going from 142mn to 143mn by 2023 before slowly slipping down to 138mn by 2050.” This was highly counter-consensus, even scandalous, at the time, given that the debate was dominated by the likes of Nick Eberstadt and most of the main demographics agencies believed a decline to the low 130 millions was likely by 2025. For instance, in the professionally titled Spring 09 article Drunken Nation, Dr. Eberstadt wrote: “UNPD projections for the year 2025 range from a high of about 136 million to a low of about 121 million… The Census Bureau’s projections for the Russian Federation’s population in 2025 are 128 million.”

Now the big demographics agencies are recognizing that things have fundamentally turned around. For instance, in its most recent 2011 World Population Data Sheet, the PRB’s Medium forecast for Russia’s population in 2025 is now 139.0 million. In the 2010 Revision of the World Population Prospects by the UN Population Division has Russia’s population falling to 139.0mn in 2025, with the High forecast being 144.5mn in 2025. Russian statistics agency Rosstat forecasts 140.9 million in 2025, the High version being 146.7 million (note that they still use the base population of 142.0 million for this estimate, not the 142.9 million revealed by the recent Census; in reality, once this is accounted for, their 2025 would logically be by a million bigger).

Whither now? I believe the current Low scenarios, envisaging a drop to the low 130 millions by 2025, have become very unlikely – they assume that many of the trends we see today, such as falling mortality, and net emigration, almost completely stall. In the light of the government’s campaign against excessive alcohol drinking – the primary cause of Russia’s high mortality rates – and the historical successes that tend to accompany such campaigns (e.g. Karelian Finland in the 1970′s and 1980′s), not to mention the more recent Baltic experience; as well as continued economic growth that will enable more resources to be diverted to healthcare and for consumers to pursue healthier lifestyle choices; means that life expectancy will continue rising relatively quickly. Meanwhile, as long as there remains a substantial income gap between Russia and the Caucasus and Central Asia, immigrants will continue to come. Some commentators have argued that fertility convergence in those regions will reduce the number of potential migrants to Russia in the years to come. Perhaps. On the other hand, as Moldova and the Baltic nations show, even being in demographic straits of their own does not necessarily lead to diminishing supplies of emigrants from economically-behind countries.

The above graph is a set of Low, Medium and High projections from Rosstat in 2000, with the High version (green) being a stabilization at 142.7 million people in 2011. As one can see, the mere fact that Russia’s population is at 142.9 million is a surprise to the upside as viewed from a decade ago. If things go well – the economy continues growing, mortality rates keep falling, etc. – then it is entirely possible that Russia’s population will follow today’s mainstream High projections (144-147 million) or even surpass 150 million (as in my original High projection) by 2025.

EDIT: This article has been translated into Russian at Inosmi.ru (Российская демография: развенчивая мифы).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 

One of the staples of the neocon-Russophobe narrative is that Russia is alone in the world, utterly bereft of friends, left only with the likes of Nicaragua and Nauru to indulge it in its anachronistic “imperial fantasies”. Not really. Conflating the West with the world won’t change the fact that amongst the peoples of China, India, and most of the Middle East and Latin America – that is, the regions containing the bulk of the world’s population and future economic potential – Russia is actually viewed rather favorably. But what about peoples recently liberated from the oppressive, iron boots of Russian chauvinism – surely they dislike Russia? Not that simple. Some sure do – Estonians, Poles, West Ukrainians, Georgians… But plenty more don’t (Armenians, Bulgarians, East Ukrainians). It’s a complex picture of significant political and geopolitical import.

Back in November 2008, the VTsIOM polling site released some very detailed results about what peoples in the former Soviet Union think about each other. The first graph below asks people which countries they consider to be friends or allies of their country.

And these were the results. Some 74% of Belarussians, 58% of Ukrainians, 49% of Moldovans, 82% of Armenians, and 67-89% of Central Asians named Russia as a friend and ally. In contrast, only 11-17% in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Lithuania like Russia this way, but that is hardly surprising. (The Latvians are rather higher at 26%, presumably because of their large Russian minority, though far higher numbers, almost half of them, orient themselves with the other Baltic states).

The poll below is even more telling. It asks peoples in the former USSR to name which countries or blocs they would like to unite with, the main contenders being Russia, the EU, and “independence”.

Russians are mostly split between those favoring some kind of Slavic or Eurasian bloc (37% – Belarus, 29% – Ukraine, 24% – Kazakhstan), and Russia-as-is (32%); the European Union really isn’t that popular at 15%. This isn’t much different in Ukraine or Belarus. Some 56% of Belarussians and 47 of Ukrainians would like to unite with Russia, while 25% and 22% favor the EU, and 18% and 25% favor independence, respectively. Some 51% of Kazakhs favor Russia and 32% independence.

The Moldovans are equally split between Russia and the EU or independence (which in practical terms would mean the Romanian sphere of influence). The Azeris identify most strongly with Turkey, with 31% expressing a desire to join it, followed by 24% yearning for the EU and 24% for continued independence. Big majorities (65-73%) in the Central Asian nations of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan would like to rejoin Russia, which is unsurprising given their relative underdevelopment and the relative success of Russification there. Georgia has always had a strong sense of national identity, including during the Soviet period, so by far the majority there wants independence (38%) or the EU (37%); only 10% wouldn’t mind falling back into Russia’s sphere of influence.

Why is this important? Because to some extent, even in semi-authoritarian systems, national leaders are to some extent beholden to popular sentiment. This is not to say, of course, that this is the only factor – an objective assessment of national interests (which are often synonymous with the interests of the ruling elites) almost always trumps anything else. But it does illustrate that the much ballyhooed “Russian resurgence” across the former USSR rests on firmer foundations than just political pressure or economic takeovers – of at least equal importance is that many of the peoples in its path back to regional hegemony aren’t actually that averse to it*.

PS. Another useful survey of attitudes towards Eurasian regional integration by Gallup: “In all countries except Azerbaijan, the median average wants at least an economic union across Eurasia”.

* The big exception is Georgia. This is where there is both a clash of primary geopolitical interests (the irreconcilability of Georgia westward path and Russia’s desire to anchor itself in the South Caucasus) and of civilizational values (AFAIK, the only social grouping in Georgia with a real pro-Russia tendency are the monarchist “People’s Orthodox Movement“). Coupled with simmering border tensions, it is probably not surprising that this developed into a flashpoint for armed conflict.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 

The Western MSM (mainstream media) was abuzz the last few weeks about how Obama’s apparent extension of a hand to Russia did not make them willing to unclench their fist, citing the closure of the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan. This was linked to Russia’s announcement of 150mn $ in aid and 2bn $ of credit to Kyrgyzstan, which was widely interpreted to be a bribe, a snub to the US or in some particularly nutty cases open support of the Taliban – as SWP put it, “objectively chosen to aid 8th century religious fanatics”.

Kyrgyzstan is a poor state relying on remittances from its workers in Russia, workers who are now being laid off as construction grinds to a halt. It is the only country in post-Soviet Central Asia to have rejected the status of a “developed” country to be eligible for more funds from the World Bank and other international development organizations. Coupled with the economic crisis sweeping the globe, this money is small change to Russia but a life-saver to Kyrgyzstan.

The perception that this is a Russian anti-American machination arrogantly dismisses Kyrgyzstan’s own incentives. It has not been happy with the American presence (see below). It is in their interest to play off Washington against Moscow for more aid; but ultimately, Russia is far more important to their economic development. Nonetheless, it would make sense for them to announce the shutdown of Manas in Moscow, immediately after getting promised these loans and aid, because then American ire would be deflected towards Russia. (After all, the US does have a penchant for sponsoring color revolutions in countries it doesn’t like).

Finally, the claim that Russia is aiding the Taliban is totally bogus. Frankly, considering the number of US military bases dotting the Middle East (there’s fifty) means that this cannot be a serious concern, especially given that Russia has extended its own hand in offering transport of non-military supplies through Russia. This is despite the fact that the US has repeatedly snubbed Russia in that region (and elsewhere) – it explicitly supported the mujahedeen in the 1980′s via Pakistan and Saudi Arabia with dollars and Stinger missiles without holding their beliefs to much scrutiny, negotiated with the Taliban in hopes of being allowed to build oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia through Afghanistan and into Pakistan, bypassing Russian control – in stark contrast to Russia (and interestingly, Iran), who recognized the Taliban for the evil they are early on and supported the Northern Alliance against them and dismissed Putin’s overtures in 2002 acquiescing to an increased American military presence in Central Asia with abrogations of missile-defense treaties and colored revolutions. Getting ahead of myself here, but the point stands that Russia gains absolutely nothing from hindering NATO from effectively fighting the Taliban; when the alternative is doing this themselves.

I found the following article to be particularly insightful, which I see fit to quote in full – The Manas Disillusionment. I have highlighted the more significant parts.

Kyrgyzstan threatens to evict the US from the Manas airbase as Moscow trumps Washington with attractive aid packages, while Bishkek grows increasingly disillusioned with what it views as US usury, John CK Daly writes for ISN Security Watch.

By John C K Daly for ISN Security Watch

If those inside the Beltway are to learn anything from their Kyrgyz experience, it’s that Reaganesque “trickle down” economics in fighting a conflict halfway around the world is unlikely to buy local hearts and minds, much less allies.

Meeting with his Russian counterpart on 4 February in Moscow, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced that he had decided to close the US airbase at Manas – a move that will complicate President Barack Obama’s stated intention to surge an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan and logistics for Operation Enduring Freedom.

When the Kyrgyz parliament votes on the president’s proposal, perhaps later this month, the measure is likely to pass, as Bakiyev’s Ak Jol party controls 71 of the legislature’s 90 seats. Under the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the US will then have 180 days to vacate the base, located some 27 kilometers from the capital, Bishkek.

Manas was established on 4 December 2001 under the joint Kyrgyz-US SOFA agreement, which granted the Pentagon the right to use the airbase for a bargain rent of US$2 million annually. The Defense Department selected Manas because its 14,000-foot runway, originally built for Soviet bombers, could service US C-5 Galaxy cargo planes and 747s in their flight to Afghanistan. Of Kyrgyzstan’s 52 airports, Manas was the only one with a lengthy runway capable of supporting international flights. An adjacent 32-acre field was initially utilized for a tent city for US personnel, which beginning in mid-2004 was replaced by more permanent structures at a cost of US$60 million.

Manas is home to the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing and serves as the premier air mobility hub for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and coalition military operations in Afghanistan. According to the US Defense Department, Manas handles about 15,000 passengers and 500 tonnes of cargo monthly. Last year, coalition KC-135s stationed there flew 3,294 missions disbursing 97,226 tonnes of aviation fuel to 11,419 coalition aircraft over Afghanistan and supported more than 170,000 coalition personnel transiting in and out of Afghanistan.

Pentagon blindsided

Judging by Washington’s reaction, Bakiyev’s decision blindsided the Pentagon – though in reality it is the culmination of years of American obtuseness, arrogance and penny-pinching, the warning signs of which have long been visible.

There is an atmosphere of faint hope in Washington that the announcement is in fact a negotiating attempt by Bishkek to up the rent for the base, but the State Department and Pentagon have been scrambling to find alternatives, holding discussions with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan while dispatching negotiators as far afield as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey in case Bakiyev follows through.

The Pentagon was so certain that it was secure in Manas that last October the Army Corps of Engineers issued a pre-solicitation notice for potential contractors for up to US$100 million in improvements to the base. There were rumors that the Pentagon was also seeking an additional 300 hectares for expanding the base.

Moscow trumps Washington

While both Bakiyev and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev strenuously deny it, generous Russian loans totaling US$2 billion and a non-repayable US$150 million grant, announced the day before Bakiyev made his pronouncement, undoubtedly played no small part in the decision.

To put the proffered assistance in context, Moscow’s financial aid is worth double Kyrgyzstan’s current annual GDP, and the Russian assistance stands in stark contrast to Washington’s fiscal policy over the years towards Kyrgyzstan, which has never offered the country any loans.

But Kyrgyzstan is no stranger to haggling, and for now parliament has decided to delay the vote on closing Manas until it receives the first tranche of Russia’s promised US$450 million.

Besides the US$150 million outright grant, the Russian aid includes US$300 million in preferential credit for 40 years at a symbolic interest rate of 0.75 percent, with a grace period of seven years before the first payment is due.

An intergovernmental agreement signed during Bakiyev’s Moscow visit sets up a joint venture between Kyrgyzstan’s Elektricheskie Stantsii and Russia’s Inter RAO EES, and the bulk of the loan (up to US$1.7 billion) will go towards the construction of the 1,900-megawatt Kambar-Ata Hydroelectric Power Station-1 on the Naryn River.

Kambar-Ata epitomizes why Russia is currently in the ascendancy in Kyrgyzstan and the US is being shown the door. It is an indigenous energy project that has direct bearing on the quality of life for the average Kyrgyz. In contrast, the US for the last eight years has displayed indifference to Kyrgyzstan’s energy sector, as it is devoid of exportable hydrocarbons, viewing the country instead solely in military terms.

While much western commentary implies that the loans were ad hoc arrangements, in fact they represent part of US$2 billion in assistance to Kyrgyzstan first promised by then-president Vladimir Putin in August 2007, which in turn built upon a 15 December 2006 Russian-Kyrgyz agreement to spend US$1 billion to construct the Kambar-Ata-1 and Kambar-Ata-2 hydroelectric cascades. The project is a massive undertaking which on completion could not only supply electricity not only for domestic consumption but also for export to Afghanistan, China and Pakistan.

Against such largesse, Washington’s fiscal assistance to Kyrgyzstan looks miserly indeed. However, the Pentagon insists that the US has given Kyrgyzstan more than US$150 million annually in aid. Furthermore, it insists that it has been paying US$63 million in rent for Manas, but other sources, including the Kyrgyz government, say otherwise.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, funded by the US Congress, the US paid US$2 million a year to use Manas for the first five years of the base’s operation. In 2006, this was increased to US$17.5 million, while the US funded other in-country programs that totaled approximately US$100 million. On 6 February, Kyrgyz Finance Minister Tajikan Kalimbetova corroborated the RFE/RL figures to parliament, according to Informatsionnoe agentsvo 24 press klub in a 6 February report.

“There is not in Kyrgyzstan a single bank representing the interests of the United States, the trade balance is small, there is no major investment project involving US firms. There is sufficient economic potential, but very little use is being made of it, unfortunately,” Informatsionnoe agentsvo Regnum quoted Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov as saying on 7 February.

And for the average Kyrgyz, there has been no “trickle down” of the loudly proclaimed American assistance.

Kyrgyz disillusionment

The potential utility of Manas for the Pentagon is not limited to operations in Afghanistan; the fact that it is only 320 kilometers from the border with China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang means that tankers based at Manas put US aircraft within range of China’s nuclear test site facilities at Lop Nor in Xinjiang. Manas is a sore point with both the Russians and Chinese as it affords the US military the ability to snoop on their military activities.

Unease over the Pentagon’s possible uses of the airbase is not limited to Kyrgyzstan’s neighbors. Kyrgyz lawmakers have grown increasingly apprehensive with what the Pentagon might do with its untrammeled access to Manas.

On 21 May 2007, lawmaker Almanbet Matubraimov quoted remarks by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that in case of a military offensive against Iran, the first air attack would be delivered from Manas, to which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised that Iran would immediately reply by targeting the site from where the attack was launched, Informatsionnoe agentsvo AKIpress reported.

Two years after Manas was established, Russia founded its own airbase at Kant, its first outside of Russian territory since the 1991 collapse of the USSR, under an agreement within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a post-Soviet regional security bloc that besides Russia includes Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia and Belarus. Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the world with both American and Russian bases on its territory.

At a popular level, Kyrgyz disillusionment over Manas developed gradually. When the base opened people hoped that there would be employment opportunities, but the only Kyrgyz hired to work were employed largely as janitors. According to Moskovskii Komsomolets, in 2005-2006, the salaries of these workers were not even paid. ISN Security Watch has not been able to independently confirm this report.

Shortly after Manas began operations, the Pentagon signed contracts with Manas International Services Ltd. and Aalam Services Ltd., the only two aviation fuel suppliers in Kyrgyzstan. Both companies were controlled by relatives of then-president Askar Akayev. In addition Aydar Akayev, the president’s son, was a part owner of Manas. The Pentagon also agreed to international civil aviation rates for the daily take-offs and landings of military aircraft at Manas to Akayev’s cronies as well. None of these Manas-related revenues were reported in Kyrgyz government budgetary statistics.

Following the “Tulip Revolution” which deposed Akayev, the two entities came under the scrutiny of the Kyrgyz government and FBI, but the Pentagon stoutly maintained its innocence regarding the US$207 million it spent on inflated fuel contracts. The new president, Bakiyev, insisted that the US make US$80 million retroactive lease payments and assist in recovering the allegedly purloined contract money. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman responded that “any possible misappropriation of funds is an internal Kyrgyz matter.”

Other simmering complaints included a 26 September 2006 aircraft collision involving a KC-135 and the presidential Tu-154, for which the Americans declined to take responsibility, and the reportedly frequent dumping of tonnes of surplus fuel over Kyrgyz farms adjoining the base.

Things came to a head on 6 December 2006, when 20-year old US soldier Zachary Hatfield shot twice and killed 42-year-old Kyrgyz Aleksandr Ivanov, an ethnic Russian Kyrgyz, at the airbase’s entry gate. Ivanov worked for Aerocraft Petrol Management, which provides fuel services for Kyrgyz and international civilian aircraft. Hatfield maintained that he fired in self defense after Ivanov approached him with a knife. Adding to local anger was the fact that at the time of the shooting Ivanov was about 5-6 meters away from Hatfield and Ivanov’s knife was found 20 meters away from the site of the incident, while rumors swirled that the guard was drunk at the time of the incident.

The Kyrgyz government insisted that Hatfield be handed over for trial, but the US military spirited Hatfield out of the country on 21 March 2007 even as talks about Hatfield’s legal status were ongoing. Adding insult to injury, the US government initially offered Ivanov’s widow US$2,000 in compensation, an amount that Galina Skripkina, a lawyer representing Ivanov’s widow, described as “humiliating,” according to a 12 March 2007 Associated Press report.

Despite the Kyrgyz disillusionment, there are experts who believe that Bishkek’s latest threat is ill-advised. Dr S Frederick Starr, chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center, told ISN Security Watch that Kyrgyzstan’s move to close the Manas air base “is the wrong action done at the wrong time and in the wrong way.”

“It will send the clear signal that Kyrgyzstan has abandoned a balanced foreign policy. But it is not too late for the Kyrgyz Republic and US to work together to correct it,” he said.

Blinded by the perfidious Russian bear

Given the obvious disenchantment with the deal, only the most blinkered of Washington bureaucrats can have been surprised by Bakiyev’s 4 February announcement.

While recidivist Washington cold warriors are quick to see the perfidious Russian bear behind their ouster, in fact the Kremlin has thrown Kyrgyzstan a desperately needed fiscal lifeline even while Russia (along with the former Soviet Central Asian republics) has a desire to see ISAF stabilization efforts succeed in Afghanistan.

Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, succinctly summed up Moscow’s current thinking when he said, “In the event of NATO’s defeat in Afghanistan, fundamentalists who are inspired by this victory will set their eyes on the north. First they will hit Tajikistan, then they will try to break into Uzbekistan… If things turn out badly, in about 10 years our boys will have to fight well-armed and well-organized Islamists somewhere in Kazakhstan,” the International Herald Tribune reported on 24 January.

If the Obama administration is serious about making Afghanistan the focal point of its anti-terrorist operations, it might be forced to reexamine its relationship with Kyrgyzstan. Russia, China and India all have an interest in seeing the pacification efforts in Afghanistan succeed, and Russia has offered to open a supply route for non-military supplies, along with several Central Asian nations.

Washington may yet have an opportunity to remain at Manas, as Melis Erjigitov of the parliament’s press service stated on 11 February the Manas base closure bill was not on parliament’s agenda for February. But this is not likely to happen if Washington refused to change its mindset and one-up Russia in terms of aid.

Is Washington prepared to let Manas go? That is unclear, but a 10 February statement by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates indicates that Washington may give up and look elsewhere. “Manas is important, but not irreplaceable,” Gates said in a quote carried by the Washington Post on 11 February.

Regulars here will know that I don’t see Chavez as the demonic dictator he is frequently portrayed as in the media. In particular they’ve been having a field recently when Venezuelans voted in favor of overturning term limits for certain classes of elected officials, including the Presidency (and thus joined the leagues of such totalitarian regimes like the UK or Australia). Venezuela’s Referendum: Media’s Double Standards has more…

With Sunday’s Venezuelan referendum on term limits, we can expect to hear a lot about Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s “plan to become president for life” and its reflection on “Venezuela’s battered democracy”–as the New York Times editors put it (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/01/opinion/01sat2.html) around the time of Venezuela’s last (failed) term limits referendum.

But when Colombian President Álvaro Uribe’s efforts to change a constitutional prohibition barring a president from serving more than one term succeeded in 2005, the U.S. media took little notice, and Uribe’s reputation as the U.S.’s favorite ‘democrat’ in the region remained intact.

…It would seem the role of U.S. reporting and opinion on Venezuela (and Colombia) is less about informing the public about real threats to democracy and human rights in Latin America than it is about serving as a propaganda arm of U.S. foreign policy. One would be wise to remember this when reading about Venezuela’s referendum this weekend.

Finally, lots of stuff seems to be crashing into each other recently, from satellites to nuclear subs. Freaky. And not a bad metaphor for what is going on with the global economy. More on that this weekend, hopefully.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.


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