Political repression

Why Putin Is Still In Power

In late 2011 the Russian scientist, writer and political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky gave an interview to the Institute of Modern Russia that was headed: Which Will Fall First – the Regime or Russia as a State? In the interview, Piontkovsky predicted the collapse of Vladimir Putin’s government, though refused to speculate on how long it would take – it might be a process lasting only a couple of weeks, or it might be a long-drawn-out decline spanning several years. Piontkovsky looked to the spread of people power – the kind of power that was then making itself felt throughout the Middle East in the shape of the Arab Spring. This power had the ability to overcome the rigid structures of the state:

How did it all start in North Africa? In Tunisia, a relatively prosperous country by African standards, a young man set himself on fire because he couldn’t find a job. Putin’s regime has ripened to its end. But the end will come later rather than sooner, because of the already mentioned satiated, lazy, and cowardly elite. Still, today’s macroeconomic indicators place serious time limitations. And with serious budget deficits, ruble devaluation, and double-digit inflation, social outbursts will spontaneously form in various regions. All this will push the elite to a greater sense of courage. Which will fall first – the regime or Russia as a state – will become crystal clear to everyone in about three or four years from now. 

In late 2012, Piontkovsky published an article called Why Putin Will Be Gone in 2013,  in which he predicted that Putinism would fall for the same reason that the Soviet Union fell in 1991. The USSR, he wrote, collapsed “not because of falling oil prices, not because of Gorbachev’s ‘betrayal’, and not because of Reagan’s SDI bluff which so terrified the old men in the Kremlin. When in the mid-1980s the communist myth that had created the system finally died in the hearts and minds of ordinary people as well as those of the Soviet nomenklatura, Soviet communism was strategically and psychologically doomed. As Andrei Amalrik had predicted with such genius a quarter of a century earlier.” [my tr.]

Likewise, the Putin Myth of the strong man, the “father of the nation”, protecting it from the Chechen terrorists who were supposedly blowing up peaceful citizens in their apartment blocks, had run out of steam – Russia’s techno-financial elite, Piontkovsky argued, had lost faith in this myth, and without the elite’s support the Putin system could not survive.

Of course, Putin is still there, so Piontkovsky’s prediction was incorrect – as numerous columnists and observers have not been slow to point out. In an article titled Putin or Russia, published at the very end of 2013, Piontkovsky conceded the point, but insisted that the article’s “conceptual carcass” – an outline for a theory of the death of authoritarian regimes and its practical application to contemporary Russia – was still fully backed up by the events that had taken place in Russia during the past year. As a retarding factor, he pointed to the attitude of intellectuals like Leonid Radzihovsky, who for years declared that “Putinism is shit – but it protects us from fascism”. This, Piontkovsky argues, is no different from the statement by the Silver Age Russian essayist and philosopher Mikhail Gerzhenzon, who in the aftermath of the 1905 revolution declared in the essay anthology Vekhi that  “so far from dreaming of union with the people we ought to fear the people and bless this government which, with its prisons and bayonets, still protects us from the people’s fury.”

Now Piontkovsky no longer sees hope that Russia might witness the rise of a popular democratic movement like Ukraine’s Euromaidan. Apathy reigns – and, if not yet formally in power, the fascists are very nearly there:

It was not the masses that brought Hitler to power in January 1933, but a deal he made with the elites. And now ask yourself: what do the fascists in Russia need to do in order to take power without winning free elections, but as a result of the internal  evolution of the Putin regime, of a deal made with it by – may one say it – the “elites”? Is their task easier or harder? In my opinion, much easier. In their case they don’t have to convince 50 million voters. It will be enough to convince three or four villains of the national leader’s inner circle. And they need no convincing.  [my tr.]

Taisia Osipova being “slowly killed”

 

RFE/RL has an article on Russian rights activist Taisia Osipova’s third birthday in prison:

Osipova, who has a 7-year-old daughter, was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison for the possession and attempted sale of heroin.

The ruling sparked an outcry and was denounced by critics as a setup aimed at putting pressure on her husband’s political activities.

She got a retrial in 2012 after then-President Dmitry Medvedev criticized the verdict as “too severe.”

But her sentence was trimmed by just two years, although prosecutors had recommended that she serve a total of four years.

Osipova has complained of being subjected to humiliation by officials at her prison near Tver, including being held in a crowded cell and routinely barred from meeting with her lawyer.

According to Fomchenkov, she is also being denied proper medical treatment for diabetes. She is also reported to be suffering from pancreatitis.

Her health, he says, is rapidly deteriorating.

“She is not receiving suitable treatment. As a person with diabetes, she should have appropriate living conditions and diet,” Fomchenkov says. “This is impossible in prison. There is no endocrinologist there. In three years of detention she has seen an endocrinologist only twice, although she should be under constant monitoring by a specialist. This is not happening. They are slowly killing her.”

 

See also in this blog: Taisia Osipova sentenced to 8 years

The New “Hooligans”

At Grani.ru, Lev Rubinstein considers the current wave of arrests, detentions and court hearings in Russia, all targeted at those who dissent from the Putin government’s harsh and repressive social policies. Whereas in Soviet times the principal accusation leveled at dissidents was that of being “spies”, the most common charge now is “hooliganism”. But unfortunately for the authorities the new “hooligans” don’t look, speak or behave like hooligans, especially when compared with their judicial tormentors:

Well, just go and attend one or two of these hearings. Just take a look at the faces of the accused and compare them with those of the judges, prosecutors, and  “victims of crime” who have suffered primarily from Mother Nature and from a lack of love in childhood.

What in the Soviet era was explained as a “class” difference, Rubinstein interprets in modern terms as an anthropological one:

Isn’t it because most of these new “hooligans” conduct themselves so honourably and bravely in the shameful courts and in the prisons, and because they are perfectly aware of their own value and of the value of those institutions.They are simply unable to talk to the goblins and gnomes in their language, that language called “cooperation with the investigation”. It’s an anthropological incompatibility.

….

No, what governs here is not only the “social imperative”. What rules here, as in a Greek tragedy, is not only fate, which has taken up residence in our great city behind red brick walls.

“Here, dear sir, is anthropology,” as some character from Dostoyevsky might say in this or another connection.

Taisia Osipova sentenced to 8 years

Via Ekho Moskvy:

Today the Zadneprovsky District Court of Smolensk sentenced Taisia ​​Osipova to 8 years in prison. Even though the prosecutor had only  requested 4! Even though the case simply teemed with procedural violations. Even though President Medvedev asked for the case to be reviewed, just as he had asked for a review of the laying of a roadway through the Khimki Forest, for example. Even though Taisia is a sick woman. And a mother.

But in court she did not lose heart, even smiled once. Said she would not give up. Would appeal the sentence.