Saturday, August 25, 2018

Random Nature of Political Repression in Russia Now Grew Out of Earlier Economic Repressions, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 25 – Vladimir Pastukhov and Anton Orekh have suggested the increasingly random quality of political repression in Russia as an indication his regime is moving toward state terror  ( and

            But Kseniya Kirillova, a US-based Russian journalist, says that “the element of unpredictability in the use of force and the randomness of the choice of victims arose in the new Russia many years before the beginning of full-scale repressions,” although before 2014, this pattern was rarely true in the political sphere (

            Instead, this trend occurred first and foremost in economic areas where individual officials often took action without reference to any rules or decisions from above, something that gave these actions an unpredictable and random quality that few could make sense of, the journalist continues.

            However, among dissidents before 2014, Kirillova says, “there existed certain unwritten rules which to a certain extent made it possible to calculate risks. Now, however, the sphere of unpredictable reprisals has shifted from the area of economic lawlessness into that of political persecution.”

            But she argues that “the growth of uncertainty about tomorrow and the unpredictability of the application of force by itself are not preconditions for the establishment in a country of an atmosphere of terror and for the formation of ‘the Stockholm syndrome’ among he population.”  Those things can happen in other countries as well. More than that is needed.

            And those factors exist. Unlike in developed democracies, Kirillova says, “for many in Russia, the reaction to uncertainty becomes a search for special links with the state because only in this do people see a defense from arbitrariness. Other defense mechanisms, besides special displays of loyalty, simply don’t exist.”

            Those mechanisms had been undermined long “before the beginning of the wave of repressions and ‘extremist’ cases;” and as a result, “for years, ‘the Stockholm syndrome’ had been formed: an atmosphere of total arbitrariness, in which the supposed ‘executioner’ is at the same time conceived as ‘a savior’ – that is, as the only force capable of stopping arbitrariness.”

            It is true, she says, that “before 2014, displays of loyalty mostly lay in the area of open political activity – joining United Russia and other pro-Putin movements or in bribes and kickbacks. Now though, when public displays guarantee nothing and property can be taken from even those who have ‘correctly’ shared it,” many are writing denunciations instead.

            That shift, Kirillova says, not only destroys whatever horizontal ties there are in Russian society but ensures that repressions will be carried out in many cases without any clear direction from above, a pattern that grew out of earlier economic arbitrariness and thus makes this move toward unpredictability even more rapid.   

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