Staunton, September 28 – Each day brings fresh evidence that Russians both individually and collectively are taking matters into their own hands and using violence against those they disagree with, a trend that reflects the government’s loss of a monopoly on the use of force and has sparked “a hybrid civil war” within Russia, according to the editors of Gazeta.
Some groups threaten to use violence if a film is shown and others if it isn’t, elections in local councils are generating news like that from a military front, and this public violence is echoed at the personal level where clashes between individuals and within families is becoming ever more severe, the paper says (gazeta.ru/comments/2017/09/21_e_10900730.shtml).
“It appears,” the paper continues, “that the government has released the genie of force from the bottle and now doesn’t know how to put it back in --- or what would be still worse, doesn’t intend to do that, having concluded that it is easier to run the country at this point if it fails to do so.”
The government’s uncertainty about what to do was very much on public view this past week. First, the authorities detained Aleksandr Kalinin, the head of the Christian State – Holy Rus’ organization; then they let him go; and then they arrested him again, apparently because Moscow hasn’t sent a clear signal on how to deal with “’Orthodox fundamentalists.’”
Given that one of Kalinin’s followers has admitted organizing attacks on theaters showing Mathilda, the authorities’ course should be clear. “But to predict confidently what will happen with these ‘Orthodox activists’ under current Russian conditions, is difficult,” especially as passions around the film about the last tsar and the ballerina continue to run high.
And even if they cool, the paper’s editors say, there is another fight on the horizon,m, over the Franco-British satire, “The Death of Stalin.” One can be certain that Russian believers in the holiness of “’the leader of all peoples’” will feel themselves offended by its treatment of the dictator.
If they are, then soon “through Russian cities will march not only protesting columns of believers who have been offended but also columns of Stalinists who have been offended as well.” And they will be followed by those offended by the treatment of Ivan the Terrible or Kalashnikov or someone else.
Such a scene would have seemed “phantasmagoric” only yesterday, but now “it is a completely real pattern of the development of events,” with both “’patriotic’ and ‘Orthodox’ fundamentalists” on the march and ready to use violence against those whom they see in opposition to their views.
“’A hybrid war’ cannot remain only a foreign one,” the editors say. “It cannot go on exclusively in Ukraine or in Syria. Such a war inevitably breaks through the borders and seeps into the country.” All recent events since the murder of Boris Nemtsov show that “’a hybrid war’ is inside Russia,” dividing the country even as the Kremlin demands unqualified loyalty.
“Will the government be able to restrain and stop this ‘hybrid war,’ which it in large measure is responsible for starting?” the Gazeta editors asks. “That depends on when it sends the command ‘stop.’” But so far, it hasn’t done so; and at some point, even if it makes that demand, no one will pay it any heed.