Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Window on Eurasia: ‘Worker Wreckers’ Return to Putin’s Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 11 – Not long ago, Vladimir Putin and his regime revived the Stalin-era term “national traitors” to describe any Russian who opposes the policies of the Kremlin as a way to isolate and perhaps ultimately punish them for this political crime. Now, he is resuscitating another Stalin-era category “worker wreckers.”

            Earlier this week, the Russian interior ministry brought charges against employees of the Khrunichev Cosmic Center for “intentionally damaging” engines for the Proton rocket, an action that prompted Moscow blogger to reflect about what the return of the concept of “wreckers” is all about (

            In an online post yesterday, Oleg Kozyrev said that he had to say “thank you” to the current powers that be for doing so because as a result he has “begun to understand the past better.”  He had always thought, he said, that “Stalinist cases against ‘wreckers’ were connected simply with the very nature of a repressive regime.”

            That regime needed a constant flow of new victims, and charges of “wrecking” were a way to guarantee that they would appear. But the way in which these charges are being used now has forced him “to rethink the past and see certain nuances in it” that he and many others had missed.

            Charges of sabotage and identification of “worker wreckers” now are clearly designed not simply to come up with victims but to provide an iron-clad defense of the leaders of any part of the economy or the government against charges of incompetence, malfeasance or other shortcomings.

            “Wrecking” as a  charge against workers allow such people to insist that “they have organized the work process well, developed science, [and] introduced technology;” in short, they have done everything right, only to have their contributions undercut by workers who “on one dark night” come in and destroy what they are supposed to be building.

            But such charges do more than that, Kozyrev says. They whitewash the entire regime by suggesting that any problems in any branch are not the work of the power vertical but rather are the result of the actions of ill-intentioned subordinates who must be rooted out and punished if Russia is to flourish.

            Once this process gets started and articles in the media suggest it is likely to take off (, the blogger continues, “we will find wreckers among doctors, among teachers, among pensioners, [and] among those lying in a coma,” and Russians will learn that their nefarious activities “explain all the failures in life in the economy.”

            If Russia were a normal country, the first people who should be arrested are those who are reviving this Stalin-era “criminal” category.  But Russia under Putin is far from that, and the dangers of reviving such terms from the past will hit others first and only much later boomerang on those promoting the idea of “wrecking” as their excuse.

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