Saturday, July 4, 2015

Kremlin Censorship Means Russians Increasingly Can’t Talk about Their Country’s Problems, ‘Vedomosti’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 4 – The increasingly tight censorship of the Russian media, the editors of “Vedomosti” say, “does not dictate so much what one can say as what one cannot” and that in turn sets in train self-censorship, which in the case of Russia means that domestic problems cannot be discussed and the country itself has become for Russians “a blind spot.”

            In an article in yesterday’s issue identified as “from the editors,” Maksim Trudolyubov and Nikolay Epple discuss the dangerous forms this is taking and how it is affecting Russians and thus Russia and its relations with others (

            They begin by noting that on February 13, the Russian government agency responsible for supervising the press published “a demand that the media report organizations listed in the ‘extremist’ list of the justice ministry exclusively ‘in a negative key,’ using the terms ‘radical,’ ‘extremist,’ and ‘nationalist.’”

            The next day, Trudolyubov and Epple continue, the press agency removed the term “’negative key’” although the order to note that these organizations had been “’prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation’” remained in force. They argue that “the initial formulation well describes the function of ‘undesirable’ themes in state media and the public space.”

            That is because censorship in its current Russian form works “like a theater spotlight,” highlighting problems usually abroad and thus putting in the shadows problems at home, the “Vedomosti” editors say.

            “It is possible to discuss marriages between people of the same gender, but only ‘in a negative key,’ lest you fall under the provisions of the law banning the propaganda of homosexuality.”  Psychologists say this lead to “an increase in pressure on homosexual young people and a growth in the number of suicides” among them.

            “But in the [Russian] media, this problem does not exist.” At the same time, however, “it is a rare talk show on federal channels which doesn’t feature talk about ‘gayeurope.’”

            Likewise, “it is possible to discuss the theme of federalization, but only as applied to Ukraine, Scotland or Catalonia. Meanwhile, a single reference about the march for the federalization of Siberia, among the demands of which there was nothing unconstitutional, turned out to be sufficient to block the sources” which reported it.

            And this ban is in effect “despite the fact that regionalist experts have said for a long time that a wise redistribution of power and money between the center and the regions is the only way out of the dead end into which the supercentralizaiton of administration and the distribution of funds has driven the country.”

            These are easy calls, but “there are other more complicated cases,” the writers say.  One can discuss as long as one condemns the recruitment of people for ISIS or for pro-Kyiv groups in Russia, but little or nothing is said about the recruitment of people or the collection of money for those volunteering to go fight for the pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine.
            Psychologists call this “projection, a defense mechanism in which one ascribes ones own problems to someone or something else,” Trudolyubov and Epple say.  They cite the conclusions of sociologist Boris Dubin that this mechanism allows Russians to displace their problems onto others while ignoring what is happening in their own country.
            What is striking and disturbing, the “Vedomosti” editors say, is that this all-too-human tendency has the force of law in present-day Russia.
            And this has the following consequence: “there is no domestic policy in Russia: to speak about oneself in Russia is not acceptable or is prohibited. On the other hand, there are problems in the US, ‘gayeurope,’ and of course in Ukraine. One can always talks about one’s dissatisfaction” with conditions – but only elsewhere and not in Russia itself.

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