Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Greatest Miracle in Russia is the One Putin Fears Most

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 1 – After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US, the New York Times featured a drawing of a single blade of grass breaking through a brick. Anyone who has ever had a driveway or a sidewalk knows the significance of this: the strength of the concrete always looks overwhelming, but the grass always finds a way to break through.

            Something similar can be said of Russia. Despite all the repressive power of the state and its repeated destruction of its best people, good people committed to freedom miraculously continue to emerge. They aren’t numerous, at least not yet, but they provide a surety that they and not those who seek to pave them over will ultimately determine the future.

            That is the greatest hope of those in Russia and elsewhere who believe that Russians like all other nations have both the right and the capacity for becoming democratic and free.  It is at the same time the greatest fear of dictators like Vladimir Putin whose power and even survival depends on targeting again and again those committed to such values.

            On the portal for the new year, commentator Svetlana Naumova notes that she has spent much of the past year tracing “the progressive mental and moral degradation” of Russian society and Putin’s “unbelievable successes in turning the population into a herd” (

                And she indicates that she has no doubts that Putin truly does enjoy the support of the 86 percent his propagandists regularly claim.  But what is interesting and for the future of Russia important is that despite everything, there is the other 14 percent, those who don’t approve of him or his regime and who are denounced as “national traitors” as a result.

            “By what miracle,” Naumova continues, have such people continued to exist and what may be more important emerge?  The answer is “unknown” but the fact that they do exist provides the basis for hope even though the numbers of such people remain small and most other Russians view them as the regime would like.

            She cites with approval the views of Yury Nesterenko before he fled to the US that only a tiny number of Russians today are willing even to consider the argument that “Russia and Russians are not identical,” that the regime is not operating for the benefit of the population and never will (

            That has led the small number who do understand that to grasp at straws, at the few who turn up at meetings or at regime crisis that might lead to change, and failing that, at the possibility of continuing to live in emigration. But, Nesterenko writes, any hopes in the near term appear misplaced.

            “Even if tomorrow Medvedev were to hang Putin and then shoot himself or both were blown up by terrorists … things nonetheless would not improve. This snake would throw off its skin” but not change its form. Therefore there is no reason to think that things are changing or will change soon.

            As a result, Nesterenko says, “the more wise people leave Russia, the ore quickly this evil empire will disappear and disappear once and for all.”  The criminal state will collapse because the herd it has made the population into “will not be able to support its existence.”

            Naumova says she has “her doubts” on this last point. First of all, she says, Nesterenko might be right if the West were to recognize that Putin’s Russia is a cancerous tumor; but increasingly its leaders are prepared for business reasons or their own convenience to connive with it to continue to exist.

            Moreover, emigration will help Russia only if those who depart continue to fight for the implementation of what they believe in Russia. If they don’t – and unfortunately, many do not – then their departure abroad will only be “a plus for Putin” who will be only too glad to see them leave and thus stop causing him trouble.

            What then should the 14 percent be doing? There is no chance of a revolt now, “even ‘the minority or the minority’ isn’t ready for this,” Naumova says.  She says she understands this on the basis of Russian behavior in areas of the USSR occupied by the Germans. People didn’t revolt, but “they weren’t slaves. They hated and waited for a suitable moment to begin resistance.”

            The fate of Russian dissidents today, she continues, “is much more difficult than that of the residents of the territories seized [by the Nazis because] they have to oppose not only the occupiers but also the hurrah patriotic and zombified nerds. But nevertheless,” Naumova insists, “it is no less important to struggle with evil” even when “there is no hope of victory.”

            In the current situation, she argues, “it is important not to be silent but to give an assessment of the crimes of the regime and also of the negative processes which are taking place in the country and in society. Such texts are a kind of mirror” and they can attract the attention and understanding of others.

            Doctors have “a mantra,” she continues. “’If you can’t cure an illness, it means one must learn to live with it.’ To learn to live with evil does not mean to come to terms with it.”  There are many ways to show that one hasn’t done that, and she lists six ideas.

            First, one must “boycott the actions of the illegitimate regime,” including elections and demonstrations. Second, one must “boycott the Kremlin media.” Third,  one must “change the tone of conversation with the powers that be,” stop requesting things and start making real demands, even if they won’t be granted, at least at first.

            And fourth, one must ‘”unite and form horizontal cooperation.”  The Putinists are afraid of this and afraid of its capacity to organize mass demonstrations against them. That fear must be recognized and then exploited, Naumova says.

            At the risk of sounding naïve and overly optimistic, Naumova concludes by saying that she “as before believes that Russia will be free, even if this happens not veryquickly and possibly at the price of disintegration and the loss of territory and that the Putin regime, which rules society with the help of fear and force is doomed.”

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