n.10 June 2006

Putin and the Russian ruling class admit to having underestimated the problem. A series of violent racist incidents, including attacks on southern Russians, are taking place everywhere in the country, especially St Petersburg. The reasons are the usual ones – poverty, unemployment and ignorance, but the scale of the violence is escalating. Once again, it is in the sprawling, decaying suburbs of the big cities that it takes shape.

After a political change, it is necessary to wait for at least five or six years to see changes in the economy, says the scientific director of the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, who outlines the evolution of competitiveness and production-and-sales specialisation in countries that, having survived recent upheavals, are now knocking insistently on the EU’s doors.

The U.N. has accorded the former Soviet republic in Central Asia a status that no other country in the world has been given. Turkmenistan, a key European energy supplier, is, however, a State that systematically violates human rights and is raising its young people to follow a cult of extreme nationalism. Press censorship, the leader’s cult of personality and an essentially Soviet approach to managing the economy worsen a scenario that is worrying in any case.