Staunton, July 7 –Moscow is again using the threat of military service to keep Russian sports figures in line, historian Sergey Bondarenko says. Those who do what the Kremlin wants can avoid service with impunity; those who don’t are regularly impressed into the army and forced to fight for this or that defense ministry team.
In two ways, the historian says, the situation is even worse now than it was in Soviet times, including under Stalin. On the one hand, the Kremlin now feels free to do this not openly and legal but by kidnaping sports figures who violate the rules as happened with Ivan Fedotov a week ago (holod.media/2022/07/07/fedotov_ussr/).
And on the other, the Kremlin decides their fate on its own. No other state agency or group of fans is prepared to speak out in their defense, a sharp contrast to Soviet times when powerful bodies like the security police or even sports fans defended their favorites against what the Kremlin wanted, sometimes forcing the center to back down.
Instead, while the media do report what is happening to the athletes who as in Fedotov’s case are being denied the opportunity to play abroad, neither any of the various portions of the Russian state with interests in their respective sports teams or the fans of these teams are backing their favorites.
What this shows, Bondarenko suggests, is that the centralization of power in Russia today is not only much tighter but also more mafia-like than it was even under Stalin and that few even of those many see as powerful are prepared to risk the consequences of speaking against its actions even if they oppose them.