Staunton, March 9 -- The Duma has approved on second reading a bill that will require all those engaged in enlightenment activity, including online, to get licenses from the government, a measure its backers say will prevent the West from exploiting such activities against Russia but that its critics point out will be selectively enforced to chill public life.
The bill (https://sozd.duma.gov.ru/bill/1057895-7) was introduced last November by a deputies who argued that “the lack of regulation of such enlightenment activities in Russia creates the conditions for the uncontrolled realization by anti-Russian forces under the pretext of enlightenment work of a broad set of propaganda measures” (bbc.com/russian/news-56338301).
Some 600 Russian intellectuals and 17 educational institutions protested that the measure violates not only the Constitution but also long-standing Russian traditions of intellectuals seeking to bring information and ideas to a broader public audience (docs.google.com/document/d/1g1jywnO8bpLngs6fqjp-TRtfiFbXzCDUQ3gaqdI-WfA/edit and colta.ru/news/26406-rossiyskie-prosvetiteli-vystupili-protiv-zakona-o-prosvetitelskoy-deyatelnosti).
Moscow commentator Igor Yakovenko says that the measure has “completely clear goal: the liquidation of enlightenment activity except for that which the government approves,” a goal at odds with freedom but completely consistent with the approach of Vladimir Putin and his regime (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=6048D279B06A4).
Indeed, it is so consistent with what the Kremlin leader is about that the only surprise is that it wasn’t introduced “much earlier,” the commentator continues. “The free dissemination of scientific knowledge is incompatible with the spirit of Putinism” and its “total war against progress” including efforts to “cleanse the Internet.”
It is especially vile because it effects so many Russians, “the tens of thousands” who are involved in such projects and will now have to decide whether to continue and thus put themselves at risk, stop what they are doing, or even as some already have to leave the country altogether.
Any such attempt to license all these things is “harmful, completely senseless and just as unrealizable,” Yakovenko argues. What it will do, however, is to allow the powers that be to selectively apply it against those they especially don’t like, yet another way in which the Putin regime is moving toward some of the worst aspects of totalitarianism.