Staunton, February 9 – Ten prominent Soviet-era dissidents – Lev Timofeyev, Aleksandr Prodrabinek, Aleksandr Skobov, Aleksey Smirnov, Elena Sannikova, Ilya Burmistrovich, Kirill Podrabinek, Nikolay Ivlyushkin, Pavel Protsenko, and Yury Rybakov – have denounced what they see as the Kremlin’s moves to a new era of political terror.
In presenting their declaration in Novaya gazeta, one of them, Aleksandr Podrabinek, says that this “return to state political terror is especially clearly seen by those who earlier passed along this road, from open letters and peaceful protests to the gloom of jails, special hospitals and the hopelessness of frozen Urals camp zones” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/02/09/89134-my-proshedshie-cherez-lagerya).
“We,” the signatories say, “express our solidarity with the present-day political prisoners and express our sympathy and support to them. Being citizens of the Russian Federation with all the rights thereof, we demand from the political leadership of the country an end to the use of force against participants in peaceful protests and the liberation of all detained and unjustly condemned.”
At the same time, Podrabinek points out that appeals by the victims and their supporters did not achieve quickly what their Soviet-era authors expected and thus suggests that something similar is likely to occur again, even though the compilation and dispatch of such letters was and is a key part in mobilizing and unifying the opposition.
That is because, he continues, such appeals are all about dispelling the sense that the victims of regime persecution are an insignificant minority who must live in fear for their lives. Over time, ever more Russians recognized in the past and will recognize again that they are the majority and that the regime is the insignificant minority.
Those who signed these appeals in the Soviet era, the former dissident says, “understood perfectly well that even by their brave action, they would not break the back of the totalitarian regime. But each of their signatures provided evidence that the communist powers did not enjoy the unanimous support of the people.”
“And when in the early 1990s, the punitive resources [of that regime] ran out and the threat of repressions disappeared, the communist regime and then Soviet power as a whole collapsed in a single hour, and no one regrated this besides those party functionaries and soviet workers who were left without jobs.”
According to Podrabinek, “today, the genre of collective appeals has returned to social life” because regrettably “we see the restoration of Soviet totalitarian arrangements” despite the efforts of the Kremlin to hide this reality. And that is reflected in “a sad reality of Russian life, the appearance of new political prisoners.”
For those who may have forgotten the world the Soviet dissidents operated in and just how many aspects of it are being restored so quickly by Vladimir Putin, Moscow journalist Andrey Kolesnikov provides a useful survey of that past that underscores Podrabinek’s insistence on contemporary parallels (carnegie.ru/commentary/83840).