Monday, June 10, 2013

Window on Eurasia: ‘Who is Killing the Policemen of Novocherkassk?’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – The failure of the Russian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for a series of murders of policemen in the southern Russian city of Novocherkassk has spawned a series of theories, all of which appear plausible in the absence of intense media coverage and evidence presented in court, according to an “Osobaya bukhva” journalist.

            According to Vladimir Titov, some are inclined to blame “partisans,” others extremists of various kinds, still others bandits, and yet a fourth group people with other, unspecified grievances against the authorities as a whole (

            Titov’s article is important not only as a description of how rumors arise but also as an indication of the ways in which, in the absence of a freer flow of information, both the authorities and the population can and will choose whom to blame, regardless of what the facts of the case may eventually turn out to be.

            As he suggests, the list of possible perpetrators underscores that “there are so many unresolved contradictions” in the country, “not only between the authorities and the people but among various strata and groups of the population,” and that although “there is no civil war in Russia” now, the population is unintentionally being prepared to move in that direction.

            What is most striking about the recent killings of policemen in Novocherkassk, Titov argues, is “the absence of media attention to what is taking place.”  The press is “ignoring this theme.” Government propagandists are playing it down. Local analysts are “silent.” And not surprising, the police don’t want to talk about it either.

             Such a lack of information has sparked various and often wild rumors that more often appear to reflect the preconceptions of those spreading them than any facts on the ground, the “Osobaya bukhva” journalist says, leading to cynicism and the believe that people are killing the police only because they are representatives of those in power.

            These views in turn have led ever more people in Novocherkassk to conclude that they face a problem like the Primorsky partisans of 2010 or Islamist terrorists or something else, with the absence of media coverage and of official findings having exactly the opposite effect that the supporters of such silence hope for.

            If there is not more media attention and if the authorities do not bring those responsible to trial, then, Titov suggests, ever more Russians will conclude that there is a war against the authorities going on and it is a battle that at least at present, those authorities are not winning, a conclusion with potentially fateful consequences.

            On the one hand, it could radicalize ever more of the population which has its own grievances against those authorities. But on the other, it could lead to demands for an even more draconic crackdown in the name of the defense of “law and order,” something some authorities may want but that the Novocherkassk killings suggest they may not be able to carry out.

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