Sunday, October 4, 2020

Death and Threat of Death Transforming Russian Political Struggle, Shevchuk Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 3 – Opposition leader Aleksey Navalny’s charge that Putin was behind his poisoning and Nizhny Novgorod journalist Irina Slavina’s call for Russians to blame the country for her suicide represent the crossing of a Rubicon in Russia, the point at which political struggles become ones involving life and death, Mikhail Shevchuk says.

The New Prospect commentator says that the entrance of death and the threat of death into politics means that politics has become about faith and that compromise has become impossible (

And that is disturbing because “dying against the tsar shakes the system no less than living for the tsar,” Shevchuk continues, adding that “unfortunately, if things have reached this level, it means that war apparently will be conducted until the victorious end” by one side or the other with each prepared to take ever more radical steps toward that end.

The Navalny case and especially the Kremlin’s response to his charge that Putin was behind his poisoning is especially instructive. Denying an individual’s right to emotions as Putin’s spokesman has is an attempt to “dehumanize” him, and seeking to claim the status of victim back from the individual who really was opens the way to more horrors.

Especially worrisome is Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s suggestion that if Navalny wants to blame someone, he should blame Kadyrov because the head of the North Caucasus republic really would be glad to see Navalny put out of the way, a bombastic remark that calls attention to how many among the powers that be think but do not yet say.

Kadyrov’s remarks, at the very least, show that “in our legal state, there are certain persons who can kill anyone they want and order doctors not to cure the victims, and that nothing will happen to them when they do,” Shevchuk says. But such attitudes boost Navalny’s status because he can “fully compete with Putin on the populist field of faith, emotions, and morality.”

“Faith in politics, the New prospect commentator says, “is in principle more important and stronger than logic” when death enters the picture and people no longer are concerned with evidence as such.

Slavina’s self-immolation adds to this because what she did was not simply a protest “against Putin but against the idea of Putin and of the state system which Putin inspired and created.”  Such an act is “impossible without faith that one is fighting with pure evil,” the commentator says.

And thus, it resembles the actions of the Tibetan monks who set fire to themselves to protest against Chinese occupation and Russian Old Believers who killed themselves in the 17th century in defense of their faith against what they believed was the evil of the state.

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