Thursday, August 9, 2018

Kremlin’s Latest Oxymoron – ‘a Little Thaw’ – Wins Backing of Russian Victims of Stockholm Syndrome

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 8 -- Afflicted by the Stockholm syndrome -- the tendency of captives to identify with their captors -- some formerly consistent Russian liberals are now prepared to welcome the Kremlin’s latest oxymoron, “a little thaw,” forgetting their earlier recognition that being a little thaw is like being a little pregnant.

            Last week, Znak’s Yekaterina Vinokurova reports, the Kremlin began talking about taking some steps toward “a partial liberalization” of some of its repressive measures as a means of recovering popular support it has lost because of the pension debacle (

            Her Kremlin sources told her that the Kremlin was considering a certain “softening” in the enforcement of laws about offensive speech and a certain limited move away from “a radical agenda” in other areas.  The regime’s basic line will remain unchanged, these sources says, but there will be “a small thaw.”

            Even the promise of such a small shift in direction has been welcomed by some Russian liberals, an indication of just how pressed they have been but also of their own retreat  from more consistent liberal positions of only a few years ago, according to two prominent commentators who decry this reaction.

            Pavel Pryanikov, the editor of the Tolkovatel portal, says that this development shows how far these people have been affected by “’the Stockholm syndrome’” that has made them willing to go along with the authorities (

                Indeed, he suggests, it shows how little encouragement those who feel themselves under attack from all sides apparently need in order to make dangerous concessions to the powers that be and thus how easy it is for the latter to gain the backing of those who should be its most consistent and uncompromising critics.

            Moscow commentator Yegor Sedov is even more appalled. “’Partial liberalization,’” he says, is a contradiction in terms just like being “a little bit pregnant.”  One either has liberalization or one doesn’t; partial steps are at the end of the day no liberalization at all if those in power control the process (

                What Russia needs is “not ‘a thaw’ but rather an eternal ‘summer,’” something the Kremlin is not going to be willing to allow unless it is compelled to make those kinds of concessions by its democratically-minded opponents.

            It is, of course, the case, that some will benefit from a partial “thaw,” but they must not allow that to blind them to what the Kremlin is doing, a warning that applies not only to Russian liberals but also to Western observers, many of whom are desperate to be able to point to some “progress” in the right direction by the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin.

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