Sunday, December 7, 2014

Window on Eurasia: ‘Absurd’ Duma Proposals Designed to Keep Russian Opposition and Society Divided, Svyatenkov Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, December 7 – The various absurd and scandalous proposals Duma members regularly offer to the public serve the Kremlin’s purposes of keeping the opposition and the population divided and thus unable to unite against the authorities and thus are encouraged rather than discouraged by them, according to Pavel Svyatenkov.


            Such provocations and their use is nothing new, the analyst at the Moscow Foundation for Historical Perspective says, pointing to the Dreyfus case which split French society for a generation. But what Russia is dealing with now is “a multitude of small ‘Dreyfus cases’” that has much the same purpose (


            Svyatenkov’s argument is one of those offered by Yaroslav Belousov in his survey of expert opinion about what he describes as the “ever more absurd” proposals that Duma deputies are offering to the public, proposals that seem to have no obvious purpose and little or no chance of being adopted.


            Among such proposals, he says, are calls to rename the FSB the KGB, ban foreign words in advertisements, ban energy-saving light bulbs, repaint the Kremlin white, call Russian oblasts guberniyas, impose a tax on flights to foreign countries, and change the picture on the 100 ruble note.


            Real legislative proposals which pass and become law in almost every case come from government offices rather than from Duma members or even Duma fractions, but most Russians are not in a position to clearly distinguish one from the other and thus the absurd or even surreal ideas that circulate are taken more seriously than might be the case in other countries.


            Vyacheslav Tetyokin, a Duma deputy, says that one of the reasons that his colleagues make these proposals, coming up with ideas that raise questions about their sanity, is the desire to attract attention in the media and thus win support. Even when their notions are absurd, some commentator can be counted on to say that there is some “rational” core to them.


            But what most Russians do not understand is that these proposals do not even go as far as draft bills, Tetyokin says. Instead, they are simply an idea that has come into the head of an individual deputy or has been thought up by his fraction which includes “’smart guys’ who specialize in thinking up [such] initiatives.”


            The parliamentarian gives as an example Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s LDPR whose deputies “approximately once a week” offer one or another idea which attracts media attention but then goes nowhere. Its deputies get media attention, and the public is left even more confused than it was before.

            But one deputy who has offered a proposal others consider absurd defends his actions. Roman Khudyakov, who called for changing the picture on the 100 ruble note, said he got the idea from his constituents. While visiting voters, he encountered two school children one of whom was telling the other that the picture on the money showed Apollo’s penis.


            Khudyakov said he was “shocked” by this exchange, that he considered it “abnormal” for young people in schools to be talking about such things, and that he is convinced that there ought to be a law to prevent that from happening by changing what’s on the money of the Russian Federation.




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