Thursday, September 21, 2017

Kremlin hasn’t Learned that Backing Both Sides in Domestic Conflicts Leads to Trouble, Vinokurova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 21 – The Russian authorities haven’t yet learned from something that happens to them again and again, Znak commentator Yekaterina Vinokurova says. “You cannot, with one hand, struggle against radical extremists and, with the other, use them for your very own goals.”

            Instead, they seem to think, she continues, that because one side is useful on one occasion and another on another, the authorities are best off if they get involved in the organization and promotion of both.  But that ignores the very real possibility that the situation can get out of control if others exploit the situation (

                Some not under the direct control of the state may engage in copycat actions and crimes, and it may even happen, Vinokurova says, that at a meeting the authorities have approved because they think they control the organizers, some young man “who has a pistol in his rucksack” may participate and act in more extreme ways than the powers want. 

            The Russian security agencies have been doing this for a long time as did their Soviet predecessors, but “in recent years, the authorities have placed their bets on radical-conservative groups because this was situationally needed for the struggle with the dominant liberal trend in the media and cultural space.”

            Obviously, the Znak commentator says, “radical believers will be very useful in punishing Pussy Riot … but the burning of movie theaters will continue” because even if the authorities can control the Christian State radicals, “other groups” not under the control of the state will get involved in doing the same thing.

            (Another recent case highlighted the same problem: the authorities couldn’t really do much to stop the Muslim demonstrations in Moscow, Grozny, and St. Petrersburg about the genocide of the Rohingja in Myanmar because they were too heavily involved with those who organized them. People were detained but very quickly released, Vinokurova points out.)

            According to the Znak commentator, “the ideal outcome from the specific case with the radical ‘believers’ and ‘Mathilda’ would be to insist that representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church play the role of a moderator.” Given everything the state does for the church, that doesn’t seem too much to ask.

            The authorities should ask the church to have all priests call on their parishioners to “stop organizing protests against the showing of the film ‘Mathilda.’ To save face, for example, they could simply ask their flocks not to go to this film … they could call the Tsar-Battlers a destructive sect,” and the state could sent Natalya Poklonskaya on a long trip.

            Perhaps, she could make “a lengthy international tour to establish inter-parliamentary cooperation in South America or with the penguins of Antarctica.”

            Unless the Kremlin learns that it can’t play both sides of the street, she suggests, it will continue to organize groups that may be useful to it in the short term but that very quickly will cease to be because some of their members or others with similar views believe they can act even more radically because the state has their back.

            Eventually, Vinokurova says, that will lead to disaster and not just as is so far the case to a continuing series of embarrassments.

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