Monday, August 19, 2019

‘Do What You Can’ to Stop Moscow’s Repressive Moves toward Dictatorship, Scholars Urge

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 16 – A group of scholars has launched a petition calling on all Russians to do what they can to stoop the rising tide of political repression in their country and to urge the Kremlin to rethink its approach which involves fabrication of criminal cases and other abuses before it is too late.

            The New Times today publishes the document in full ( Among its key passages are the following:

“Before our eyes the practice of fabricating political cases is returning to Russia, a trend which serves as the basis for repressions against dissidents, for beatings, for arrests, and for persecution. Any healthy-minded person need only read the text of Paragraph 212 of the Criminal Code to be convinced that there were no mass disorders or any intention to organize them in Moscow on July 27, August 3, or August 10.”

“Now with the help of fake cases about ‘mass disorders,’ the authorities are seeking to equate the legal right of people with a crime. In the future, they can equate as a call to mass disorders any post, any statement, any expression of disagreement or any attempt to defend your rights.”

The authorities are using other paragraphs of the criminal code in the same fashion, including 212.1 which sets punishments for repeated violation of the rules of holding meetings and 318 which makes a crime the application of force against representatives of the organs of power.

Such misuse of the law “against demonstrators looks especially amoral and cynical” because it was the authorities who used force against the protesters not the other way around. Similar “fabricated cases” have appeared beyond Moscow as well, “in Yekaterinburg and other cities.”

“We conclude that in recent months, the practice of political repressions has taken on a systematic character in Russia and is ever more broadly being used. Young people whose only crime consists in their sharp feeling of justice are becoming the chief victims of this repression. This is the path to dictatorship.”

“We call upon the Russian authorities to reflect and stop the escalation of force toward peaceful citizens and young people. Force inevitably calls forth a response which undermines the chance for a peaceful and positive future for our country. We all upon all people of good will, all who are not indifferent to the future of Russia and for whom civic freedom is dear to exert in any accessible form peaceful resistance to the growing wave of political repression.”

“We call upon all parents to join this campaign. Tomorrow the victims of repression could be your children … We call for the start of an all-Russian civic campaign against political repression.  Pickets, leaflets, graffiti, collective appeals, and daily actions in support of those in jail and against those who are behind such criminal cases or threaten them.”

“We call upon artists, scholars, lecturers, and journalists to begin their public appearances with short declarations about the impermissibility of political repressions and show solidarity with those who are today being subjected to them.”

“Do what you can. This must not be repeated in our country. STOP THE REPRESSIONS.”

            This denunciation of Kremlin policy and appeal for resistance to the dictatorship comes almost 80 years to the day that Fyodor Raskolnikov, a leading Bolshevik who resigned as Soviet ambassador to Bulgaria and issued a stinging denunciation of Stalin’s practices (

            Raskolnikov said “Stalin. You have declared me outside the law. By this action, you have equalized me in rights or more precisely lack therefore with all Soviet citizens who under your power live outside the law. For my part, I am responding in kind – I am returning to you my entry ticket in ‘the kingdom of socialism’ built by You and breaking with your regime.”

            That letter did not cause Stalin to change course. But it did take on a life of its own, first inspiring dissidents who wanted to see socialism with a human face in the 1960s and 1970s and then providing reassurance of the possibilities of resistance to those who concluded in the 1980s that no such possibilities existed.

            One can only hope that Russians will not have to wait that long for the dark night of Putinism to end. 

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