Soviet Dissent – 6

The remainder of Ludmila Alexeyeva’s discussion of the rights movement shows that 1977 was a kind of watershed for it. After the metro bombing the repression by the authorities became systematic and all-embracing: while the number of arrests and harsh sentences increased markedly, the exile of Andrei Sakharov to Gorky and the conditions of house arrest under which he was held there meant that the movement was deprived of one of its most cogent, moderate and internationally respected adherents. The demographics of the movement itself began to change: in place of the literary, philosophical, humanities-based background of many of the earlier pravozashchitniki, the context of the new generation was predominantly a scientific and technical one, and lacked the bohemian flair of the 60s intelligentsia. The author’s account ends in late 1982-early 1983. By then the post-Stalin Soviet state had entered what was probably its darkest period – the illusions of détente were giving way to a general deterioration of relations between the USSR and the United States, the U.S. plans to deploy Pershing missiles in Western Europe in response to the Soviet SS-20s met with aggressive hostility on the part of Moscow, and it was at this period that Ronald Reagan coined the phrase “the evil empire”.

In retrospect it is possible to see that the darkness was to some extent manufactured – a tactical maneuver by the Soviet government and its special services. After Andropov’s death in 1983 the blackout persisted for a year or so during the retrograde Brezhnev-like presidency of Chernenko, and then began to show the odd flicker of light as the cracks in the system became more apparent, even to a few observers in the West. But the dissident movement continued its underground action – for even in the first year of Gorbachev’s presidency a figure like the poet Irina Ratushinskaya was still being held in a Soviet labour camp, and was not released until 1986.

With the collapse of the USSR in 1989, the situation of the rights movement changed – but the precise nature of the change has yet to be defined. In a future post I will try to outline what I see as the differences between the protest movements of the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, and also the features that to some extent unite them.

Soviet Dissent – 1

Soviet Dissent – 2

Soviet Dissent – 3

Soviet Dissent – 4

Soviet Dissent – 5

Albats: US case “very plausible”

Via Washington Post:

Yevgenia Albats, editor of the independent New Times magazine, said talk of a conspiracy to poison bilateral relations was Russia’s version of an official denial. “What else are they going to say? They caught these guys red-handed,” she said. “You never acknowledge your own spies, because you don’t want to support the foreign justice system in bringing charges.”

Calling the case “very plausible,” she asked why the authorities would organize such an elaborate operation to collect what seems to have been basic information. For example, she noted that two of the suspects appeared to have been targeting university professors who easily could have been invited to conferences in Russia.

“It’s very strange. You pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to put these people through college, give them identities, to do what?” she said. “Why do governments spend this money on intelligence when journalists can do it better?”

More responses to murders of Markelov and Baburova

Excerpt from Caucasian Knot (Jan. 20):

A rally is now on in the Peoples’ Friendship Square in the capital of Chechnya in connection with the murder in Moscow of well-known advocate Stanislav Markelov.

Many people in Chechnya are shocked by Markelov’s murder. Representatives of political parties, public and human rights organizations, youth movements and higher school students have held a broad-scale protest action in Grozny.

The action was also attended by several dozens of women who held photos of their killed and missing friends and relatives in their hands.

One of participants of meeting, a woman named Zara, 48, who had lost her daughter and niece in the course of a “counterterrorist operation”, related the advocate’s murder with Budanov’s release.

Usam Baisaev, another participant of the rally and employee of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial“, was of a similar opinion, having stated that Budanov had not killed Markelov himself, “but it was done for him and for his sake.”

This opinion was also supported by Aslambek Apaev, another human rights activist and expert of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) for Northern Caucasus, who also took part in the action. “I’ve already said and now repeat: Stanislav’s murder is directly linked with Budanov. Yuri Budanov was released not in order to be put back to prison, while Stanislav’s execution is a warning to everybody who will further dare investigating the crimes accomplished by militaries in Chechnya and trying punish them,” said Mr Apaev. 

See also: Chechen responses to murders of Markelov and Baburova

Russia advancing into Georgia

Russia’s military leaders, apparently secure in their belief that no other country will come to the aid of Georgia, and that Russia therefore has a free hand to do as it wants there, have changed their strategy: while yesterday General Nogovitsyn announced that Russian forces would not move into Georgian territory beyond the so-called “security zone”, a Russian defence ministry spokesman later talked of “measures” being taken to prevent Georgian troops “regrouping” – among other things, this involved a movement of Russian forces 40 kilometres from the Abkhaz frontier to the Georgian town of Senaki.

AP now reports that

Russian forces moved into Senaki, 20 miles inland from the Black Sea, and seized police stations in Zugdidi, just outside the southern fringe of Abkhazia. Abkhazian allies took control of the nearby village of Kurga, according to witnesses and Georgian officials.

U.N. officials B. Lynn Pascoe and Edmond Mulet in New York, speaking at an emergency Security Council meeting asked for by Georgia, also confirmed that Russian troops have driven well beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia, U.N. diplomats said on condition of anonymity because it was a closed session. They said Russian airborne troops were not meeting any resistance while taking control of Georgia’s Senaki army base.

“A full military invasion of Georgia is going on,” Georgian Ambassador Irakli Alasania told reporters later. “Now I think Security Council has to act.”

France also circulated a draft resolution calling for the “cessation of hostilities, and the complete withdrawal of Russian and Georgian forces” to prior positions. The council is expected to take up the draft proposal Tuesday.

The Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, told CNN late Monday that Russian forces were cleansing Abkhazia of ethnic Georgians.