Staunton, October 4 – Boris Chernyshov, vice chairman of the Duma’s education committee, is proposing to create a new tax category, “the victims of perestroika,” because “many residents of the USSR suffered a humanitarian and geopolitical catastrophe as a result of radical changes in the country” (forum-msk.org/material/politic/15970651.html).
This populist proposal is unlikely to go anywhere or do anything besides attract attention to Chernyshov, but it is interesting and indicative nonetheless. On the one hand, it reflects the views of Vladimir Putin who has often talked about the end of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.
And on the other, it speaks volumes about a political system where a deputy could seriously propose giving benefits to victims of that period without talking about giving benefits to victims of other periods, be they those of the Stalin era or those of the Yeltsin and Putin eras since 1991.
Indeed, some commentators, including Svetlana Gomzikova of Svobodnaya pressa, are already suggesting that the Russian parliament should be thinking about extending benefits not just to “victims” of that period but to those citizens who have suffered during all of them (svpressa.ru/society/article/245330/).
To the extent that others begin to think along the same lines, a proposal designed to reinforce Putin’s views about the end of Soviet times may have the unintended consequence of opening or reopening discussions about other periods, a development the Kremlin may not welcome if it cannot control the participants.