Popular repression – Russian style – The Moscow Times
With the arrest of lawyer Ivan Pavlov – who represents the Meduza news portal and journalist Ivan Safronov, among others – the Russian authorities have opened a new chapter in their repressive practices. In fact, they dusted off long forgotten sections of the Criminal Code and used them against citizens in new and increasingly creative ways.
The leaders crippled the entire political organization of opposition leader Alexey Navalny in one fell swoop simply by calling it “extremist” under the Criminal Code. This move was so easy and efficient that the Kremlin leaders are probably wondering why they didn’t do it sooner.
When, in the 1960s, the Soviet vertical power faced an increase in acts of civil resistance not covered by Article 70 of the Penal Code – concerning “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” which included “the weakening or the weakening of the Soviet authorities ”- they also had to be creative in broadening the scope of their criminal repression. This led to the introduction of Articles 190-1 and 190-3 which made it possible to punish the growing number of public protests and the spread of “deliberate fabrications which discredit the Soviet state and the social system”, even if they did not did not have the objective of “undermining” the system.
Taking a page from the same manual, the current Russian authorities are “breathing new life” into half-dead articles of the Criminal Code, adapting them to criminalize virtually all “unwanted” actions of not only the opposition but also activists. civilians and journalists. and now lawyers.
By the way, lawyers for dissidents in Soviet times were also worried about being arrested. Famous lawyer Sofya Kallistratova often dressed warmly when visiting her incarcerated clients, just in case she was also detained. More often than not, however, authorities have threatened anyone defending dissidents with expulsion from the legal profession. It happened to Boris Zolotukhin, who had to wait for perestroika to regain his status as a lawyer. Today’s siloviki, on the other hand, go straight to the punch, arresting anyone who tries to help a regime critic.
First, the authorities persecuted the activists. Then they attacked journalists. And now they’ve trained their gaze on lawyers. Don’t ask who rings the bell – it rings for all Russians, and for the most absurd reasons. As the Stalinists liked to say, “An article (of the Penal Code) can be found for every person and every occasion.” The authorities today have even found a way to crack down on the student newspaper DOXA.
Authorities have also refined their law against “foreign agents”, now using it primarily as a media suppression tool, with the Russian portal Meduza and Radio Liberty being only their latest victims.
One can only guess how the authorities will apply the law restricting educational activities and what the consequences will be. Their carpet bombing of anything aimed at enlightenment will have the intended effect: the brutishness of a nation whose loyalty they are buying up with government aid that is more like donations. Their selective enforcement of the anti-education law leads to the destruction of highly respected and useful projects aimed at improving the intellectual and spiritual health of the country – projects that the authorities were unable to crush using the Foreign Agents Law.
Where does that leave us?
First, the authorities have broadened the legal framework for suppressing dissent and civilian activism.
Second, they selectively revive “dormant” articles of the Penal Code in order to prosecute the most active and noisy citizens.
Third, they are expanding the network of professions they persecute, now including journalists and lawyers.
Fourth, the authorities crack down on the spread of free thought by labeling independent media as foreign agents and banning their educational activities.
Fifth: As in Soviet times, the crackdown is carried out with the help of willing villains: university rectors who agree to fire reprehensible professors or expel outspoken students, and employers who will fire them. employees participating in anti-government rallies.
Sixth: The crackdown is clearly aimed at intimidating others into silence, especially those who are dissatisfied with the government but cannot find the moral courage to openly protest or fear losing their jobs as a result.
Seventh: The government’s massive propaganda campaign has produced the desired result. According to surveys by the Levada Center regarding attitudes towards new laws on foreign agents and educational activities, as well as opposition leader Alexei Navalny and protests, 40-50% of Russians firmly believe that the legislation repression protects citizens from harmful foreign influence and that Navalny and the protesters who support him are in the pay of the West.
This combination of repression and propaganda – where the repression itself is intimidating propaganda – is very effective. However, it irreversibly divides the country into “pure” and “unclean” and intensifies the struggle between civil society and the state. In modern society – which has the Internet and ad hoc structures that appear regularly – it is impossible to crush all resistance simply by destroying the “nest” of opposition. Civil society is not centralized and has no hierarchy. The resistance will therefore continue, even if the authorities at least partially force it underground.
The opinions expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of the Moscow Times.