Friday, July 6, 2018

Deputies from Chuvashia Appear as Authors of Some of the Most Odious Repressive Laws

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 5 – Many citizens of the non-Russian republics are outraged that their representatives in the Russian Duma have not voted against the proposed law making national languages voluntary.  But voters in Chuvashia are even more upset: their deputies not only don’t represent them but appear to be behind some of the Putin era’s most repressive legislation.

            Among the measures Chuvash deputies have been behind as “authors” or “co-authors” are laws imposing heavier penalties on unauthorized meetings, declaring media outlets that criticize the authorities “foreign agents,” and even the law making national language voluntary while keeping Russian as a required subject.

            The reasons this is so have been explored by Darya Komarova, who writes for Radio Svoboda’s IdelReal portal, and provide insights about how the powers that be have bent the members of the state Duma to their will and thus against the expressed wishes of the deputies’ constituents (

            Two deputies from Chuvashia, a Christian Turkic republic in the Middle Volga, Alena Arshinova of United Russia and Oleg Nikolayev of Just Russia.  Arshinova was listed as co-author of the measure increasing punishments for unauthorized meetings and for involving children in them. 

            And both Arshinova and Nikolayev were listed as co-authors of the measure making the study of non-Russian languages entirely voluntary while maintaining the compulsory study of Russian.  Arshinova is from Moldova and has no ethnic ties with Chuvashia. Nikolayev on the other hand is a native of the republic.

            Dmitry Semyonov, deputy head of the Open Russia movement, says that most of these measures were drafted by officials in the government who then looked to Duma deputies to introduce them in their name offering as inducement political promotions or even financial rewards.

            The basis for the selection of the deputies is far from clear, he continues, but it seems obvious that the powers that be wanted representatives from a non-Russian republic to be behind the languages bill and thus decided to ask the two Chuvash deputies to be among those listed as co-sponsors.

            Party discipline is involved as well, Semyonov says, but the real cause is the lack of competitive elections.  Without it as is now the case in Russian elections, “the Duma consists of 450 obedient ‘servants’ of the powers that be” rather than representatives of the people who ostensibly elected them. 

            Political analyst Sergey Averin says that one must always keep in mind that “in the current political system of Russia, the State Duma is not a source of genuinely important initiatives and does not play a significant role in the formation of state policy and direction.” It exists primarily to “legitimize” decisions taken elsewhere.”

            Those in the executive get some deputy or other to put forward measures that have already been designed or even written out elsewhere Typically, he says, the powers that be turn to members of the United Russia power or to those “in the camps so to speak of the fake opposition as for example Just Russia.”

            “The discipline and conformist character of the actions of pro-government structures have been known for a long time,” Averin says. “Most of the time, led by their own personal reasons, deputies agree to take on themselves the role of ‘initiators.’” And unfortunately, those from some regions are more ready to do that than those from others.

            “Unfortunately,” he continues, “the political culture in the Chuvash Republic has not reached the level that its representatives initiate important and necessary proposals on their own.” Instead, they simply take orders from above but almost never follow guidance from below.

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