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The Morning Vertical, November 2, 2016


On yesterday's Daily Vertical, I argued that next year's centennial of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution presents a dilemma for Vladimir Putin's regime -- which loves the Soviet Union, but hates revolutions. But at the same time, the anniversary -- which the history-obsessed Kremlin cannot ignore -- also presents an opportunity. Recent data points suggest the Kremlin is laying the groundwork to hijack and redefine the 1917 narrative. The first hint of this came back in January, when Putin publicly critiqued Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin. More recently, the Security Council stepped up efforts to prevent "falsification" of the history of 1917.

Putin's open fondness for White Russians -- most notably the nationalist philosopher Ivan Ilyin -- the sworn enemies of Lenin's Bolsheviks, gives a hint at where the Kremlin may be going with this. The Kremlin has been busy over the years repatriating the remains of White Russian emigres like Ilyin and General Anton Denikin. And there are rumors, still unconfirmed, that the descendants of White emigres could be invited to attend next year's anniversary.

This suggests that the Kremlin may be seeking to use the centenary to take the "revolution" out of 1917 and turn it into a reconciliation of red and white -- and a celebration of the Great Leader, Putin.


Microsoft has warned of a vulnerability in its popular Windows software that is being exploited by a Russian hacking group suspected of attacking U.S. political institutions this year.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign manager has called on the FBI to disclose what it learned in an inquiry into ties between Russia and Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Russia will never give up the disputed Kurile Islands to Japan and no talks are under way for a possible handover, the head of Russia's upper chamber of parliament said.

Igor Dodon, the pro-Moscow candidate who came in first place in the first round of Moldova's presidential election, says he will seek to maintain good relations with both Brussels and Moscow if elected.

Vladimir Putin has called on lawmakers to immediately develop federal legislation defining the "Russian nation."

And Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has declined to elaborate on what Putin had in mind.

Russia's official government newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, has apologized to Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovic for a false report it published about Slovenia's position on the status of Crimea, the Ukrainian region that was seized and illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

Ildar Dadin, a jailed Russian opposition activist, has accused a prison warden of overseeing the systematic torture of inmates and of threatening to kill him, allegations made in a desperate letter to his wife that he asked her to publish to save his life.

The number of Ukrainians who support their country becoming a member of NATO has increased while their feelings toward Russia are "cold," according to a new opinion poll.

Ukrainian lawmakers have rejected a bill that would have at least doubled their own salaries amid media reports about wealth and incomes of government officials and members of parliament.


Putin's War On Western Democracies

In a piece in The Daily Beast, Christopher Dickey and Erin Zalesky unpack Putin’s campaign to subvert Western democracies.

"If one is to understand the Russian game in the West, it’s important to understand the way Putin tells his people they’ve been gamed by the West, feeding their fury and resentments," Dickey and Zalesky write.

And in Foreign Affairs, David Cadier of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies zeroes in on how Russia is trying to influence France's 2017 presidential election.

"The pro-Russian stances of France’s fringe parties do not really come as a surprise: populists in the United States and Europe, from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to British politician Nigel Farage or Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, have voiced their admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin," Cadier writes.

"The evolution of France's main conservative party, the Republicans, which is currently leading the presidential race, is more puzzling, however. Some of its key leaders, including former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who in the late 2000s were seen as Atlanticists, now appear more sympathetic to Moscow’s positions than they were before."

Putin's Russian Nation

In his column for, prominent opposition journalist Oleg Kashin gives his take on Putin's call for a law defining the "Russian nation."

"A nation created by a law, of course, will never come into being," Kashin writes. "Instead, it will be a political organization, albeit one including 100 percent of the population."

And The Other Russian Nation

In an interview with the Spektr news agency, Anton Shekhovtsov, a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Studies in Vienna and a fellow at the London-based Legatum Institute, argued for the establishment of an "alternative Russian world" that "shares European values."

The History Of Russia (According To The Kremlin)

Meduza has a humorous piece outlining the history of Russia by stringing together the statements of top Kremlin officials.

Pipeline Politics

Agnia Grigas, author of the forthcoming book The New Politics Of Natural Gas, has a commentary in Reuters arguing that "Putin is losing his grip on Russia's pipeline politics."

"The transformation of the world’s natural gas markets is weakening Moscow’s economic toolkit. And that will make Putin's pipeline politics -- his use of natural resources for foreign policy purposes -- obsolete," Grigas writes.

Ukrainian Journalism And Its Discontents

Matthew Luxmoore has a lengthy piece in Foreign Affairs looking at Hromadske Television as an example of the difficulties in changing journalism in Ukraine post-Maidan landscape.

"Hromadske is now under growing pressure from the public and the government to choose between its loyalty to the nation and its journalistic ideals," Luxmoore writes.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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