Staunton, August 22 – Yesterday, five of Russia’s most senior human rights campaigners issued an appeal to the country’s intelligentsia to do everything its members could to counter what they called “the anti-immigrant hysteria” now sweeping the Russian Federation and infecting “the broad popular masses.
But according to a report in another Moscow paper today, there is little indication that the Russian intelligentsia has responded, yet another indication of the demise of a group whose members for more than 200 years served as Russia’s moral conscience and thus as a critical counterweight to the authoritarian regimes in that country.
Lyudmila Alekseyeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Svetlana Gannushkina of Civil Support, Lidiya Grafova of the Resttlers Forum, Sergey Kovalev of the Sakharov Center and Arseniy Roginsky of Memorial published an appeal to the intelligentsia in the pages of “Novaya gazeta” (novayagazeta.ru/politics/59601.html).
Arguing that the anti-immigrant hysteria threatens to drag Russia into a whirlpool of “hatred, the only way out of which would be civil war,” the five called on members of the Russian intelligentsia to speak out against what they described as “the cynical exploitation” of xenophobia by the Kremlin for electoral and other purposes.
“In the eyes of the entire world,” they wrote, Russia “is being transformed into a slave-holding state,” one in which the powers that be hold its victims responsible. “Don’t you feel, respected science and culture figures how a certain brown smell is filling the skies over our country?” Aren’t you worried about this?
But at least so far, few of the members of the Russian intelligentsia appear to be, according to Anatoly Stepovoy in an article in “Novyye izvestiya.” He said he had tried to contact some of its members to see if they shared the sense of despair that the human rights activists feel (newizv.ru/politics/2013-08-22/187653-molchanie-altyn.html).
He made “more than 30 telephone calls.” About a third of “our creative intelligentsia,” Stepovoy said, “is now on vacation far from Russia and couldn’t be reached. Another part refused to give a direct answer” to his questions. And there were some “who simply didn’t want to speak about this on an open telephone line.”
That pattern is discouraging but perhaps not as surprising as it might have been only a few years ago because as Tatyana Volkova, a lawyer who works on human rights issues, observes, in an essay on the “Vestnik Civitas” portal, the Russian intelligentsia is disappearing (vestnikcivitas.ru/pbls/3060).
“The intelligentsia as a phenomenon survived the collapse of the Russian empire despite a colossal number of lost lives and shattered fates, but,” Volkova argues, “it is not surviving the collapse of the Soviet empire.” Indeed, she says, it may already have failed to survive that cataclysm.
There are many reasons for that, the Russian lawyer suggests, but one that is extremely important is the lack of Western support. Soviet dissidents received at least some, albeit “insufficient” backing from that quarter. But now the situation has changed and not to the benefit of those who were members of the intelligentsia.
Russian dissidents need Western support now “even more” than in the past, she argues, but now there are many fewer in the West who will say as they at least said 25 years ago to the dwindling band of dissidents and intelligents in the Russian Federation “For your freedom and ours!”
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