Monday, July 25, 2022

Snitching has Been Encouraged by Russian State since 1649, Yakunin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 2 – Now that the Putin regime is encouraging Russians to turn in those around them who oppose what the Kremlin is doing, it has become a commonplace among commentators in both Russia and the West to say that this represents a recrudescence of Soviet and especially Stalin-era practices.

            But in fact, Vadim Yakunin, a member of the Academy of Military Sciences, points out, the tradition of encouraging people to turn in others has a much longer tradition, dating back to at least 1649 when the tsarist regime made it a capital offense not to report on those criticizing or planning attacks on Russia’s rulers (

            To be sure, he continues, “the Soviet era was a time of the flourishing” of such practices. Many denunciations were made out of fear, but other causes included the desire of those making them to get the apartments or the positions of those whom they turned in to the authorities. Now, motivations have changed.

            Instead of acting in secret – and in Soviet times, most denunciations were made anonymously – Russians today sign their names to denunciations posted on the Internet and take pride in what they are doing. Many are older people who remember the Soviet era but many others are simply people who believe that turning others in is patriotic.

Their reward now is thus more psychological than anything else, Yakunin says, at least so far. Whether that will continue to be the case or whether the Putin state  will encourage more snitching by offering material incentives as Stalin did remains to be seen, the latest Russian investigator of snitching says.

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