Staunton, April 27 – Yet another mark of Vladimir Putin’s move from authoritarianism to totalitarianism, Aleksandr Skobov says, is that he is now seeking to crush those “niches of free thought” which had existed in Russia up to now and are of the kind that “authoritarian regimes typically allow” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=6087FD01C1A26).
The Kremlin leader in recent months has been moving against journalists and bloggers whose activities he had earlier left largely alone. Indeed, one can say, the Moscow commentator continues, that Putin is now targeting “not only activists of opposition organizations such as Open Russia or Navalny’s staff but also representatives of the cultural elite.”
These include “well-known scholars, instructors and writers” who are typically associated less with political actions than academic seminars. “Often their civic activity is limited to more or less episodic expressions of support in ‘the information space.’ Until now, [the regime] tried specially not to touch them.” Now that has changed.
And as a result, the risks for members of these groups have gone up as well. If earlier the expression of opposition views could hurt them professionally, now it could not only cost them their jobs but land them behind bars. The Kremlin assumes that in Russia now, those who can’t be intimidated in this way are not more numerous than was the case in Soviet times.
With each passing month, the Putin regime is more unwilling to accept any “form of legal opposition, even of the legal kind. Indeed, “the ideal of the Putin ruling class is Continental China, which combines a market economy and the opportunity of personal enrichment with a purely totalitarian political regime of the Soviet time.”
It is precisely in this direction that Putin is taking Russia to a place that is best described as fascism, Skobov suggests. In such a system, no islands of freedom are to be tolerated; and Putin is doing what he can to make sure they won’t be able to exist.