Staunton, April 6 – Vladimir Putin has now signed into law, despite massive protests from Russia’s intellectual community, a new measure that will require all organizers of “enlightenment activities” including but not limited to state organs, organs of local self-administration, and individuals to get state approval before speaking in public.
Its backers, including the ruling United Russia Party and the Kremlin argue that this requirement will “protect Russian citizens and in the first instance pupils and students froim anti-Russian propaganda being disseminated as enlightenment activity” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=606C5581BB416).
The new law “prohibits using enlightenment activity for the spread of social, racial national or religious hostility, including by means of reporting to students unreliable information about historical, national, religious and cultural traditions of peoples and also for promoting opposition to the Russian Constitution.”
But “its main goal,” Russian blogger Anna K. says, “is to completely discourage critical thinking” and any opposition to Vladimir Putin. Its provisions will impose a straightjacket on school courses and prevent any serious discussion of anything the regime doesn’t want discussed, including the Russian past.
Because the law is so broad and applies to so many institutions and people, it will necessarily be applied selectively, something that will make the situation worse not better because the regime without clearly defining its ideas as at least the CPSU did will be able to single out for repression anyone crossing lines it has but has not made crystal clear.
The flight abroad of educated Russians from the repressive Putin regime has attracted a great deal of attention in Russia and other countries. But this law is even more pernicious than their departure, although it is likely to spark more emigration of Russia’s best and brightest as well.
That is because it imposes limits on thinking on those who remain, a group that is always certain to be larger. And the laws provisions mean the slow death of creative thought in the public space of Russia, something that can only have the most negative consequences for the future of that country.