Staunton, May 1 – Aleksandr Bastrykin, the head of the Russian Investigations Committee, has become the latest senior Putin official to talk about the need to restore an ideology in Russia; but what he and the others want is not so much that but the elimination of any protection for human rights and thus untrammeled police power, Aleksandr Cherkasov says.
This needs to be clearly understood, the former head of the now-liquidated council of the Memorial Human Rights organization says, because at present all too many people are distracted from focusing on the real goals of Bastrykin et al. by talk about what a new ideology might look like (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/04/30/na-etoi-pochve-rastet-ne-ideologiia-a-kuvalda).
According to Cherkasov, Bastrykin doesn’t care about ideology: he cares only about doing away with any constitutional protection of human rights. He like others in the security forces believes that if human rights and freedoms are abolished, then police work will become easier and easier.”
What the head of the Investigations Committee is talking about then is “not about ideology but about a police state,” the Memorial leader continues.
Having no program for the future, Cherkasov says, Bastrykhin and his like turn to the past either to the Brezhnev era when they were young or to Stalin’s period of rule; and they thus “try to reproduce their understanding of these pasts and to present it as a blueprint for the future” of Russia.
It was certainly true that there was an official ideology then, but it wasn’t the ideology that drove the regime to act as it did. Instead, it was its police power and the lack of anything to counter that power, especially in the case of mass prophylactic work which had nothing to do with law and everything with control.
“Nearly half a million” Soviet citizens passed through that system, “each of whom was if you like a potential center for the crystallization of civil society;” and because that happened, this “preventive” tactic had the effect of eliminating almost all who might have been able to form a new democratic elite in the 1990s.
Instead, Cherkasov says, “their place in society and politics was taken by former Komsomol activists and junior Chekists.” That development had nothing to do with ideology of its absence. And as a result, the Soviet system of “repressive control has now largely been restored in Russia” – and done without any need for a state ideology at all.
Today, “there are hundreds of criminal cases under the anti-war paragraphs of the law and about 20,000 administrative protocols,” and that pattern in and of itself recalls the Brezhnev era. But what really matters is that this recrudescence of the past did not require an ideology; it required only people who pursued their own interests without any regard for others.
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