2013, Russia

Radicalism or Reconciliation in Russia? – focusing on Religion in the North Caucasus

Radicalism or Reconciliation in Russia?
Focusing on Religion in the North Caucasus

Neville Kyrke-Smith

Censorship, Imprisonment and Death

A friend of mine in Moscow, who will remain nameless, recently told me how his offices had just been raided and files taken away – his Christian ecumenical work had come under suspicion, through contacts with foreign organisations and charities. Many other important NGOs have been closed down – human rights organisations in particular have been targeted, as have any liberal media outlets. How many journalists from Novaya gazeta have been killed in recent years? I think it is five. People may have heard of the heroic Anna Politkovskaya and read her journals, but I saw a figure of a total of 17 journalists and cameramen who have been killed – plus hundreds of disappearances – in Russia since 2000. Last year in June, you may recall, General Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, personally threatened to kill Sergei Sokolov, the deputy editor of Novaya gazeta, because of his critical coverage of his agency.

Mysterious deaths and disappearances, or kidnappings, have not just been confined to writers, human rights workers and journalists. We know of the big businessman and others falling out with President Putin and with those who control the levers of power in the Kremlin – from Mikhail Khodorkovsky to Sergei Magnitsky (murdered in prison in 2009) we have seen the cost of crossing a thin ‘red’ line. The unsolved (or untried) murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 was perhaps the most public revelation of the work of the Russian secret services (FSB) – even if he may have been a double or triple agent. Politically, it is said that one of the most dangerous jobs in Russia is that of being a mayor – Russakaya planeta recently reported that more than 100 mayors have been dismissed from their jobs or charged with crimes and imprisoned in the last five years – all of them had run and won against United Russia candidates. The popular mayor of Yaroslavl’, Yevgeny Urlashov, a human rights activist and lawyer, was warned and then arrested just over a week ago on trumped-up charges just after he had organised a protest of several thousand people against United Russia.

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2013, Russia

Karelia and Kamchatka

Karelia and Kamchatka

Xenia Dennen


Since the turn of the century I have been involved in the research behind what at Keston Institute we call the Encyclopaedia on Religious Life in Russia Today, which in seven volumes covers all Christian denominations and religions in all the administrative divisions of the Russian Federation. We are now working on a second edition which will be more analytical, focusing on the most important religious groups which are significant players in today’s Russia.

This year my field trips have included one to Petrozavodsk in Karelia, north of St Petersburg at the western end of Russia, and most recently one to the very opposite end of Russia, Kamchatka, which is even further east than Vladivostok. The Karelian Republic, covering 172,400 sq km, has a population more than twice the size of Kamchatka’s and Kamchatka is 1½ times larger than Karelia. Both areas were the focus of virulent antireligious activity during the communist period, so that few churches were left standing in Karelia and none whatsoever in Kamchatka.

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Report on a Conference on the European External Action Service (EEAS), Europe House, London, 22-23 Nov 2012

Report on a Conference on the European External Action Service (EEAS), Europe House, London, 22-23 November 2012

Richard Seebohm

This event was set up by David Spence, now a Research Fellow at LSE and formerly in a range of relevant posts in the European Commission. It was sponsored by LSE and the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust. Of the 132 listed participants, many in mid-career, some 100 were present at times, though only about 40 for some keynote items.

There were three main themes: what the EEAS was supposed to be, what is going on now, and what ought to happen next.

The Lisbon Treaty, signed in December 2007, created the EEAS, but its coming into force was in question until November 2009 and so making it happen on 1 December 2010 was a bit of a scramble. For those whose noses are not on this grindstone, a vivid feel for the EEAS is given by a (video) talk by David O’Sullivan, its Chief Operating Officer, on 14 January 2011: if you listen to this you will hardly need to read more of my note.

The EEAS is headed by Cathy Ashton (Baroness on leave of absence) who is High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy and also Vice President of the European Commission. She was nominated for this post by Gordon Brown while Prime Minister. As such she chairs the EU Foreign Affairs Council. She has a strong CV, though it happens not to include an appointment endorsed by citizen voters; no one at the conference hinted that she was personally not up to the HR job. At the same time its impossibility was obvious, being so widely spread that she could not chair or attend all relevant meetings. She was said to have had a good relationship with Hilary Clinton. There was speculation about the 2014 reconfiguration of the EU leadership. The three key appointments – Council President, Commission President, High Representative – could have make or break outcomes.

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2013, European Union

Where do we think the EU might be going; and will Britain go there too?

Where do we think the EU might be going; and will Britain go there too?

(A talk given to ‘Faith in Europe’, 17 January 2013)

Sir Michael Franklin

For those like me who support the EU and British membership of it, the past few years have not been happy ones.

It is not only in the UK that public opinion has become much less enthusiastic about the EU and it institutions. The European Commission regularly takes the temperature of public opinion through a series of polls. The best known asks people whether or not they think the EU is a ‘good thing’. It shows that over the last five years average support has declined from 52% to 30%. It has happened in virtually every EU country. In France, for instance, 52% of those polled five years ago said membership of the EU was a good thing: last year that had dropped to 46%. In Germany the figures were 65% and 54%. In Spain the fall was even more dramatic: from 73% to 55%. (No surprise that the corresponding figures for the UK showed only 33% thinking that membership was a good thing 10 years ago, and only 26% last year – but more of that later). No doubt much of this dissatisfaction reflects the general feeling of economic gloom and the perceived failure of governments, both national and European to rise to the occasion. Nevertheless, it provides a difficult political backdrop against which governments have to deal with the problems the EU faces.

Of these, the biggest is clearly the formidable problems arising from the world wide banking and economic crises for the EU as a whole, but notably for the future, indeed the survival of the EU’s single currency, the eurozone. But first let me say something about another immediate problem for the EU: the fixing of the EU budget for the next few years.

In purely numerical terms the EU budget is not a big issue: the total EU budget, some £120 billion is only about 1% of Europe’s GDP, whereas total government expenditure in most EU countries amounts to around 40% of GDP. The UK’s net contribution to the budget is a mere £7.4 billion, scarcely more than 1% of government expenditure, about half what Germany pays and substantially less than France or Italy.

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