Sunday, January 2, 2022

Russians Now Fear Their Own Government More than They Fear a World War, Schulmann Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 11 – The recent coverage of torture in Russian penal institutions has had two important consequences as far as Russian public opinion is concerned. On the one hand, it has revealed significant support among the population for the use of torture; but on the other, it has shown that Russians now fear their own government more than they do a new world war.

            Because it seems incredible that large numbers of Russian support the use of torture, that has attracted more attention. But such support is hardly limited to Russia. In many countries, large minorities back the use of torture to secure information about terrorism or even to punish those found guilty of crimes.

            But the impact of the videos on torture in Russian prisons on Russian feelings about their government is likely far more significant as far as the future of that country is concerned. Moscow commentator Yekaterina Schulmann in words cited by Novyye izvestiya makes that clear (

            Over the last three years, she says, “fears of the government’s use of force have begun to rank” at the top of public opinion surveys. “The arbitrary actions of the powers in 2021 led 58 percent to say that they are constantly afraid” of their own state. As a result, “fear of a world war has been transformed into fear of its own powers.”

            Several years ago, Schulmann says, that pattern was true in the capitals; but now, she argues, it has spread throughout the country as a whole. Ilya Grashchenkov of the Center for the Development of Regional Policies agrees and provides an even more radical explanation for why this pattern is taking place.

            “Our law enforcement agencies are the fruit of violence,” he says. “There is little difference between a prisoner and his guard.” Not only can they find their positions quickly reversed but both know this to be the case. Consequently, the values of criminals spread to the guard and then to the country as a whole.

            That gives rise to ever more violence, Grashchenkov says, because “if someone was raped with a mop, it is quite likely that after that experience he will take it out on someone else who happens to be in a weaker position than himself,” at least for the moment.

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