Staunton, June 27 – The reaction of many Russian opposition figures to the arrest of corrupt figures today eerily and ominously echoes the reaction of many ordinary Soviet citizens to the arrest and then execution of many corrupt officials in the late 1930s, according to Irina Pavlova, a US-based Russian historian.
And the fact that opposition leaders today welcome such arrests in much the same way that Soviet citizens approved analogous events in 1937-1938 not only strengthens the regime in power but opens the way to even more ugly manifestations of its power over society, she argues (ivpavlova.blogspot.com/2016/06/blog-post_26.html).
The historian says that she was shocked in a negative way by Gary Kasparov’s reaction to the arrest of Kirov governor Nikita Belykh for corruption. Kasparov called him “a gauleiter,” a view that other “representatives of progressive society share.” Some dispute this notion at the margins but “the main thing in this is the completely absence of solidarity.”
If one looks carefully at what is going on in Russia today, one sees that there is “a campaign of repression against local bureaucrats which in essence recalls the campaign of the Great Terror, as Yekaterina Schulmann pointed out yesterday on Ekho Moskvy (echo.msk.ru/blog/open_lib/1790440-echo/).
That is exactly what occurred in 1937-1938, Pavlova says. And she suggests that Russians today should reflect on the words of Soviet writer Aleksandr Gladkov in his notes about events at that time (nasledie-rus.ru/podshivka/10708.php) lest they fall into the same trap many Soviet citizens did then.
“Progressive [Russian] society is talking a lot about Nikita Belykh only because he came out of its milieu,” she points out. It has largely ignored what has happened to or what may happen to the leaders of other regions under Putin. And like its Soviet predecessors, such Russians today are reacting “as a rule with satisfaction” rather than fear and anger.
In the 1930s, ordinary people and members of the intelligentsia expressed “satisfaction” or even “joy” about what they described as “the only just sentence” by Stalin’s tribunals of regional and local officials whom many in the population had every reason to hate but who were less of a threat to them than Stalin himself.
In his diary, Gladkov wrote: “I am far from the high political circles and cannot judge about the political and moral level of such people as Pyatakov, Sokolnikov, Radek and the others … Let’s allow that they are scoundrels. This smacks of the settling of accounts. Doing that is a human characteristic but not there where this smells of blood.”
Pavlova points out that “repressions against elites and local bosses today is only the visible part” of what is going on. The persecution of “so-called extremists, especially in the provinces is an invisible campaign which in practice does not fall into the field of view of progressive society except for particular cases.”
Some will respond that “the Great Terror and today’s campaign are incomparable in scope.” But scope is not the only measure, she says. Rather one must focus on what is going on and what its consequences will be for the future of the country. And those are “obvious: the further strengthening of the powers that be and the consolidation of the people around [them].”