Saturday, November 18, 2017

Putin’s Latest and Potentially Most Dangerous Innovation – Hybrid Laws

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 17 – Several Moscow commentators have called attention to a development for which they have not yet given a name but which might be called by analogy with Vladimir Putin’s modification of other phenomena “hybrid laws” – documents bearing the name of law but lacking one or more of the characteristics of genuine legislation.

            Ekaterina Schulmann of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service says that she has been disturbed by a trend in Russian legislation, one that after mixing and matching cases and punishments has moved on to a situation where crimes are not defined or punishments specified for their commission (

            On the one hand, that leads to absurdities; but on the other, it opens the way to the misuse of law for political ends and increasing repression.  “More bark than bite is the common device of halfbreed regimes,” she says, “but at a certain state, there is an evolution of barking and biting in the opposite direction.”

            Among the very worst examples of such legislation, various other commentators say, are draft bills on “undesirable activity and cooperation,” “interference from outside,” and the definitions of “Fatherland” and “patriotism”(, and

            Members of the Presidential Human Rights Council have condemned all of these laws for “vagueness;” and Yabloko leader Sergey Mitrokhin has pointed out that history teaches that the more vague the laws are, the more repressive they will be in their execution.  That is, he says, “the normal algorithm.” 

            And Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition politician and commentator, argues that the legislation as drafted opens the way for the preparation or at least application of a law “’about searches for enemies of the people’” much as happened in Stalin’s time. That is one of the meanings of such badly written laws, but there are others.

            Indeed, it appears that Tretyakov Art Museum curator Tatyana Levina is alluding to one of them when she suggests that “judging by the news, we have a high level of absurdity,” not “the stability” that the Russian authorities are always talking about as the highest good (

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