Staunton, May 23 – As the lead character in the Ealing Studios’ classic film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” puts it, “sometimes the obituary columns brought good news, but sometimes the birth announcements brought bad” as he plotted to kill all those standing between him and the inheritance of a dukedom.
One often feels something similar in reading the news from Russia today. Sometimes, there is a mix of good and bad; sometimes, more rarely, there is only good news; and sometimes, more often, there is a flood of bad news. The last few days have been examples of the last. Below are ten especially “bad” pieces of news:
1. As the economy has deteriorated, there has been a sharp spike in the number of beggars in Moscow, something not seen since the 1990s and an indication that many people are not only suffering but being driven to extreme measures (narzur.ru/rastushhee-socialnoe-neblagopoluchie/).
2. In yet another indication that one of the worst features of the Soviet system is returning, a Kazan court has sent a Tatar activist to a psychiatric hospital, the latest example of punitive psychiatry being used now as it was in Brezhnev’s time to try to “cure” people of dissident views (idelreal.org/a/29958206.html).
3. Russian police are now testing compact facial recognition cameras to allow them to identify participants in demonstrations so that they can be arrested later when the news cameras disappear from the streets (meduza.io/en/news/2019/05/22/russian-police-reportedly-begin-testing-compact-face-recognition-cameras).
4. Officials had to threaten judges in Yekaterinburg with dismissal to get the courts to convict those taking part in protests there against the construction of a cathedral in the central park, an indication of just how much the Russian authorities are prepared to abuse the judicial system (mbk-news.appspot.com/news/pravozashh-2/).
5. A new poll shows that a majority of Russians do not think that family violence is a serious problem in their country despite numerous reports suggesting otherwise (novayagazeta.ru/news/2019/05/23/151910-bolshe-poloviny-rossiyan-ne-schitaet-aktualnoy-problemu-domashnego-nasiliya).
6. Russian judges have left in place a six-year jail sentence imposed on Danish Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Kristensen, part of the continuing round of repression against members of that denomination (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5CE67186C4CFD).
7. A court in Tatarstan has found a loophole that may allow it to ban basic Islamic religious texts. Because Muslims consider translations of the Koran an interpretation, Russian courts have the power to ban such translations despite Russian law and Kremlin commitments not to touch basic religious texts including the Koran (sova-center.ru/misuse/news/persecution/2019/05/d41042/).
8. Forty-Three Percent of Russians Still Oppose Equal Rights for LGBTs. Despite significant improvements over the last decade and particularly marked ones among young people, 56 percent of Russians say they have a negative attitude toward the gay community and 43 percent do not support its members from having equal rights (rbc.ru/politics/23/05/2019/5ce530039a7947172f79405d?from=from_main).
9. Most Russians Willing to Allow Employers to Violate the Law. In 2014, the Duma passed a law that required employers to allow their employees to deposit their pay in any bank that the workers specified. Most employers violate this law, but a majority of Russians say they don’t care (kommersant.ru/doc/3976871).
10. Persons Unknown Destroy Nemtsov Monument in Yaroslav. Vandals have destroyed a memorial plague in Yaroslavl on a house where murdered opposition politician Boris Nemtsov once lived. His supporters say that such people feel they can get away with such actions and all evidence suggests that is the case (https://76.ru/text/gorod/66098743/).