Volume 61 Number 1 / January-February 2014 of Problems of Post-Communism is now available on the mesharpe.metapress.com web site.
This is a special issue focusing on various aspects of the Sochi Olympics. The introduction, by Richard Arnold and Andrew Foxall, is freely available to all readers.
The other articles are written by some of the foremost experts on Russian politics from Russia, the United States, and Europe and address in greater detail some of the issues outlined in the introduction. Sufian Zhemukhov and Robert W. Orttung examine how Russia has orchestrated its security preparations prior to the beginning of the Games. Their insightful article recalls the 1972 Olympics, in which Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage. They address security preparations at the federal level and the decision in 2010 to carve off the North Caucasus federal district from the Southern federal district. Realizing the impossibility of pacifying the entire region before the Olympics, Moscow assigned the most dangerous areas to the North Caucasus federal district and Krasnodar and Sochi to the Southern federal district. This move created its own set of problems, however, as nationalists in Stavropol krai tried to have their region redistricted out of the North Caucasus.
Bo Petersson explores how the Olympic Games provide Russia with an opportunity to “live out” its “great-power myth.” Positioning Sochi 2014 in the context of earlier Olympic Games, some of which were used for political purposes (for example, those in Munich in 1936), Petersson argues that President Putin has used the Olympics as a way to present himself as both the embodiment and the ideal guarantor of Russia’s great-power heritage. This presentation has become increasingly shaky since antigovernment protests began in Russia in the winter of 2011–2012. Precisely because of its location in the North Caucasus, Petersson argues, Sochi provides the perfect site for Russia to restore its “great-power”’ status.
Natalia Gronskaya and Andrey Makarychev approach the 2014 Sochi Games by analyzing reports in the Russian-language press, both print and electronic. Because almost all journalistic media in Russia are either state-owned or closely aligned with the Kremlin, Gronskaya and Makarychev argue that their analysis provides insights into official narratives of and attitudes toward the Games. Basing their analysis on the concept of “sovereign power,” the authors explore the multitude of (sometimes conflicting) meanings attached to sovereignty in the context of Sochi 2014. Ultimately, they find that the Kremlin has used the Games to portray Russia as “normalized,” meaning that they represent Russia’s return to great-power status. However, gross corruption and widespread mismanagement have somewhat undercut Russia’s avowed used of the Games to boost national patriotism.
In addition to the articles on the Olympics, the issue also includes an article by Stephen Wegren examining rural inequality in Russia. Wegren shows that rural inequality has increased significantly in the post-Soviet period, thereby mirroring trends in society at large. The article analyzes four dimensions of rural inequality. Urban-rural income differences are shown to have widened. Income inequality and stratification is documented between agricultural workers, across agricultural professions, and within agricultural professions. Underlying the increase in income inequality is a change in sources of income. The post-Soviet period has witnessed significant change in households’ mixed income strategy for upper income households, less so for lower income households. Finally, wealth inequality is examined. Upper income households have more present-day wealth and also have engaged in behavior that will most likely lead to greater wealth in the future.