Staunton, October 2 – Vladimir Putin has succeeded both by repression and manipulation in driving the best people in Russia into the position of passive observers of what is taking place in the country even as he has given the worst people, the most aggressive and backward, a green light to act as they like, according to Yuliy Rybakov of St. Petersburg’s Human Rights Council.
In an interview with Radio Svoboda, the former Soviet political prisoner says that “the country is plunging into stagnation, not just economic but also psychological and moral” because of “a curious paradox.” Ever more of those Russians who were prepared to defend their rights have become “indifferent to their own future and even to that of their own children.”
But at the same time, he says, the Kremlin has given “’a green light’” to those “seeking simple answers to complicated questions” and who are prepared to act, often in ways that involve criminality, to promote their views to the detriment of everyone else and Russia as a whole (svoboda.org/a/28023049.html).
Given that the next few years do not promise “anything good in economic terms,” that does not bode well because the extremists who have the Kremlin’s “’green light’” are likely to be the primary participants in the battle between the “zombified” population and “the empty refrigerator,” a battle that is likely to take place beginning in the spring.
In the 1990s, those Russians who wanted a freer society were far more active, but with the coming to power of Vladimir Putin, they have been pushed to the sidelines; and those who want repressive and backward-looking policies, be they against art or anything else, have come to the fore.
It is certainly the case, Rybakov continues, that this reflects not just the cleverness of “those who made society so easily manipulated but also those qualities of society itself which had become accustomed … to live as slaves” and when all that they could do was hope for the mercy of the little father tsar, the emperor, the generalissimus and ‘the father of all peoples.’”
But he adds that he does not agree with those who say that “this is part of the mentality of the Russian people.” Instead, he says, it is “a stereotype of behavior which can be overcome and sometime will be overcome.” When that will happen and if there is enough time before a disaster remains unknown.
In other comments, Rybakov says that he expects significant constitutional changes that will further degrade human rights in Russia but disputes those like Dmitry Travin of St. Petersburg’s European University who argue that Putin and his aides have a long-term plan about anything. (For Travin’s argument, see fontanka.ru/2016/09/28/108/).
“In my view,” the longtime rights campaigner says, “Professor Dmitry Travin exaggerates the intellectual capabilities of the Presidential Administration and in general of the president’s team. I do not think that they are capable of predicting their future for such a lengthy period.” They are focused on what to do next, not what they should do after that.