Staunton, Jan. 1 – Having moved to close Memorial, Yegor Yershoff says, the Kremlin in 2022 will likely move to close the Sakharov Center even as it continues its campaigns to whitewash Stalin’s GULAG and contain the impact of those who are complaining about Putin’s erection of a new GULAG in the 20th century.
Yershoff says that the past year featured two real moves in Kremlin policy: first, an increasing tendency to talk positively about Stalin’s GULAG as “a social lift” and “an attempt to create a new man,” and second, the closing of Memorial, the most important liberal project to keep Russian historical memory alive (harbin.lv/god-kogda-sgushchalas-tma).
According to the commentator for the Riga-based conservative Russian Harbin portal, both these trends are likely to continue into 2022 with more praise for Stalin’s system and condemnation of its critics and more closures of groups that seek to present the truth about his dictatorship.
He suggests that the Kremlin will try to shutter the Sakharov Center next. Solzhenitsyn’s House of the Russian Emigration will be closed only when his widow dies, and the Yeltsin Center, as much as the Kremlin hates its activities, is likely protected for the foreseeable future by the fact that Putin “personally” participated in its opening.
But while this has been going on, Yershoff says, “a black swan” appeared in Russia in this regard. Vladimir Osechkin of the Gulagu.net portal provided such clear evidence of torture in Putin’s prisons that Russian society was infuriated and the issue became dangerously toxic for the powers that be.
Moscow brought charges against some of the jailors accused of torture in order to limit public outrage, but at the same time, it expelled from the public advisory board of the Russian penal system all those who might ask inconvenient questions. The first action, it trumpeted through its controlled media; the second passed largely unremarked.
But the reaction of Russian society has been “important,” Yershoff says, and serves as a warning to the Kremlin that the people will be watching and increasingly angry if the powers that be continue to try to restore a Stalin-style system. That is positive, and it is something those who oppose the regime must welcome and support.
Russian conservatives, the commentator says, “who have been left with approximately the same possibilities” as Soviet dissidents and “the same understanding of the impossibility of change for the better in the near term,” must see in this last development a reason for continuing the struggle, however long the odds against them now appear.