Saturday, September 10, 2016

Kremlin’s Use of Foreign Agents Law Undermines Russia’s Future, Gudkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 10 – Moscow’s classification of any institution that gets money from abroad as “a foreign agent” is not only absurd in today’s world but will have serious negative consequences for Russia over the next several generations, according to Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center the authorities have just charged with being a foreign agent.

            In his response to the decision of the Russian authorities to label his polling agency a foreign agent and with a two day delay because the authorities appear to have disordered the Levada Center’s website, Gudkov is responding with his own analysis of what the step the authorities have taken means (

            The accusations of the authorities against the Levada Center are not simply a reflection of the unhealthy dreams of “social marginals of the paranoia of retired Chekists.” Behind their outrageous nature “stand the completely cold and cynical interests of the authorities, of property and of ideological control.”

            And those interests are being directed against the interests of Russia ever more broadly and dangerously, Gudkov continues. In 2013 and 2014, the Levada Center had to refuse foreign grants for sociological research but could, under Russian law, still “participate in join work with foreign organizations.”  Now, such opportunities are foreclosed.

            As a result of the actions of the authorities, any money coming for abroad even for goods supplied on a commercial basis is “criminal” if the authorities want to make it so.  And as the authorities clearly hope and as others fear, this practice has “real consequences” for Russia today, Gudkov says.

            “The justice ministry and other agencies” by such actions have sharply limited and in the future may end “scientific connections of Russian scholars with international academic live, thus ending the means by which Rusisa acquires international experience, methods, methodologies, conceptions, and informal norms and rules of scholarly life.”

            “One mustn’t think,” the pollster says, “that repressions of this type threaten only sociology.”  After the authorities have finished with that field, they will “move on to history, economics, genetics, physics and others fields of intellectual endeavor just as was the case in Stalinist times.”

            “The Levada Center is included in the register of foreign agents as number 141; tomorrow there will be hundreds or even thousands of such organizations which are agents of alien influence,” Gudkov says, warning that “the consequences of this attack … will be felt over the course of the next two to three generations.”

            For Russia, “which for decades was cut off from the development of contemporary social science and which thus was left in the position of an intellectual province, this will mean the further maintenance of archaic scholarship and degradation.”  And that development will have consequences far beyond the universities and institutes.

            It will transform Russia “into a reservation of a poor and aggressive population fed by its illusions of national superiority and exclusiveness,” one with a sad future in which the leaders and the people do not want to know “anything about themselves.”

            “The policy of discrediting and destroying all the best that is in the civil society of Russia does not simply shame the country but what is much more important leads to the destruction of the sources of its development, to stagnation, and to inevitable moral, intellectual and social degradation, apathy, and decomposition of the state and society.”

            Gudkov ends with the following declaration: “We are proud of the possibility of work with foreign partners. This is no occasion for discrediting us as agents. On the contrary, it is evidence of the high professionalism and quality of our research, the objectivity and reliability of the information produce we produce and the depths of interpretation of empirical data.”

            All these things, he points out, “distinguish the work of Levada Center specialists from other institutions [in Russia] which conduct public opinion surveys.”

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