Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Pandemic Undermining Putinist ‘Code of Silence’ – and Six Other Coronavirus Stories from Russia Today

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 21 – One of the foundations of Vladimir Putin’s hold over officials is the code of silence – what the mafia calls omertà – he demands. If they dissent from the Kremlin leader and go public with it – the power vertical he has spent so much time building will at a minimum begin to come apart. Now, there is evidence that is beginning to happen.

            At the very moment Vladimir Putin was issuing the order for the spring draft to go ahead, the governor of Pskov was detailing the reasons everyone understands why that would be a disaster and spread by pandemic throughout the military and even more broadly, Aleksandr Golts writes (

                By so doing, Governor Mikhail Vedernikov “violated the code of the Putin bureaucrats,” because “one of the foundations of the present system of power is the Russian version of omertà, the mafia law about silence,” the independent military analyst says.  And Putin has enforced this by punishing those who expose mistakes more than he ever does those who commit crimes.

            “Putin’s omertà has led Russian society to the most profound moral decline. And now, individual bureaucrats are suddenly refusing to take part in the universal lie,” Golts continues, adding that he “doesn’t think that officials have suddenly in the spring found their consciences awaken. But the thing is that the virus isn’t Putin and you can’t deceive it.”

            Meanwhile, there were six other coronavirus stories worthy of note:

1.      Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin says that the Putin regime is so opposed to giving money to the population as opposed to itself that this attitude has clouded its ability to see what Russia’s interests in fact are (

2.      Unlike most populations confined because of the pandemic, Russians are not going to have a baby boom nine months from now. They are too pessimistic about the future even to use this opportunity to reverse the decline in the Russian population, experts say (

3.      The editors of Nezavimaya gazeta argue in a lead article that as a result of their experiences during the pandemic, Russia’s middle class is going to demand a new deal with the state, demands that will be at the center of the country’s political life in the coming years (

4.      To justify his unpopular decision not to open barber shops, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has very publicly shaved his head so he need not go to one anytime soon (

5.      Russians are expressing increasing concern that rising unemployment among immigrant workers from Central Asia and the Caucasus may lead to a rise in crime, despite official statistics showing that is unlikely to be the case (,, and

6.      Russians in self-isolation are saving themselves with humor, much of it black and a large share as one might expect recycled from various difficult periods in the past. Yevgeny Tsots assembles a small collection (

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