Staunton, March 14 – One of the most horrific features of Stalin’s Great Terror at the end of the 1930s was the dissemination of quotas to regional officials to identify, arrest, and punish a specific number of Soviet citizens as “enemies of the people,” an action that radically increased the spread of Stalin’s repressions across the country.
Now, there is evidence that the regime of Vladimir Putin -- whether it is in its last days or not -- has sent similar lists to regional FSB offices, something that could open the way to uncontrolled repression and that at the same time could become a major reason that the force structures, who remember what happened to themselves under Stalin, may seek Putin’s ouster.
The possibility that such lists have been disseminated is suggested by Kseniya Kirillova, a Novry region-2 commentator, in an article today about the travails of Yury Kuznetsov, a Ekaterinburg blogger who has been in hot water in recent months for his posts in support of Ukraine (nr2.com.ua/blogs/Ksenija_Kirillova/V-Rossiyu-vernulis-raznaryadki-na-vragov-naroda-92162.html).
Kuznetsov was called into the FSB and the Investigative Committee for his posts, but “at the end of January,” a decision appears to have been made not to bring charges against him. But “now,” Kirillova says, Kuznetsov has new reasons to fear that the criminal investigation against him is “all the same beginning.”
He told Novy Region-2 that the Sverdlovsk oblast office of the FSB had spoken with two of his colleagues at work, one of whom apparently stated that Kuznetsov had called for “killing Muscovites.” In fact, the activist had called for “killing in oneself imperial ambitions in order to become a normal Russian man.” The security police also questioned his wife.
Kuznetsov’s friends and supporters say that they have learned from leaks out of the FSB office that “a directive was sent already in January ‘from above’ not to put forward” any cases “on ‘Ukrainian’ affairs’” that might not lead directly to guilty verdicts, an order that may be causing the security police to be more careful.
But such suggestions, Kirillova says, have led some among this same group of people to draw another and even more disturbing conclusion: The FSB may have been given “’lists’ in which are indicated the number of ‘enemies of the people’ which must be identified in each specific region,” a clear echo of “the best traditions of the era of the ‘Great Terror.’”
Kirillova suggests that there is indirect confirmation for this in Putin’s own recent reference to a “15 percent” increase in the number of “extremist crimes,” an indication that he is thinking in statistical terms about such activities and insisting that his subordinates in the security agencies do the same.
Further, she points out, if the FSB in each region is required to come up with a specific number of “enemies of the people,” that would go a long way to explaining why its officers would be calling on the population to denounce others, for selfish or unselfish and “patriotic” reasons, and thus providing the basis for new cases.
Regional media have been playing up the patriotic angle, Kirillova notes, pointing to the case of a concerned citizen ready and able to denounce someone she didn’t know, much as happened in Stalin’s times, and who thus has helped the FSB now bring charges against that individual as a member of “’the fifth column.’”
That history and others like it, the commentator says, are “indicative in all respects.” There is the “vigilant citizen” concerned only about the good of her country, that she is prepared to denounce someone she has no direct knowledge of on the basis of the denunciations of others, and what is “the main thing,” the security police act on such suspect “evidence.”
If this continues, then in the near future, Kirillova concludes, “the epidemic of denunciations will only grow, while the occasions for the manifestation of ‘popular vigilance’ will become ever more insignificant,” leading “either to full-scale repressions” or “the paralysis of the work of the force structures as such,” condemned as they will be to investigate everything.