Monday, September 27, 2021

Russia Moving from Authoritarianism to Totalitarianism, Podrabinek Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 24 – Anyone who visited Russia for the first time in 20 years would immediately notice that the Kremlin has reduced the space of freedom in the country to what it was at the end of the 1980s, Aleksandr Podrabinek, a Soviet and then Russian dissident, observes.

            But many who live in Russia have a hard time seeing these changes because they have been gradual and Russians are inclined “to live by illusions” such as what appear to be elections and a market economy, a parliament and courts, “the illusions of democracy in an authoritarian state” (

            As long as the powers that be were prepared to run things as authoritarians, such illusions could exist. But now the men in the Kremlin have decided to restore totalitarianism. And no one in Russia can be under any illusions about what is going on, if they know anything about the history of the country, Podrabinek says.

            “Judge for yourselves,” he says. “What direct threat to the regime can come from religious organizations? None. In Russia all the main and largest confessions have always cooperated with any regime, traditionally giving to Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” But a totalitarian state has a different agenda.

            That is shown by its repression against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group whose numbers are small, who aren’t interested in politics and who don’t represent any threat to an authoritarian regime. “But for totalitarianism, they are enemies because a totalitarian power must control everything.”

            “What threat for an authoritarian regime does the LGBT community pose? Absolutely none.” It is a matter of indifference who has sex with whom and how. “But in a totalitarian ideological state, this island of independence and absence of control is impermissible.” Hitler and Stalin both put homosexuals in camps and prisons.

            And “what threat for an authoritarian regime represents quality education? None. Even if children become well educated people, the difference between being educated and engaging in political protest is large. But for a totalitarian state, educated people, especially in the humanities represent a terrible threat.”

            “They easily escape from under total control and are capable of creating communities attractive for others,” Podrabinek continues. “Therefore, the present-day Russian powers continuously imposes its ideological training and patriotic education” on the schools, taking time away from real subjects.

            According to the analyst, “the symptoms of totalitarianism are encountered in Russia ever more frequently.” More and more things are banned, and more and more absurdities are insisted upon. People are afraid and they back away from doing anything that might get them in trouble, actions that only hasten the transition from authoritarianism to totalitarianism.

            “Fear of those in power is spreading throughout the country, not of the law, which no one appears to care about but of the threat of arbitrary action by the state,” Podrabinek says. “State terror is another sure sign of totalitarianism. And it is our tomorrow if no force emerges to stop it.”

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