Some habits die hard. The practice of forcing Soviet dissidents into psychiatric hospitals seems to continue in Putin’s Russia. Marina Litvinovich of Garry Kasparov’s United Civil Front told the Associated Press that police have forced Larisa Arap in to psychiatric clinic.
Arap, 48, a member of Kasparov’s group in the northern port city of Murmansk, was bundled into an ambulance by police on July 5, her daughter Taisiya told The Associated Press. She had been visiting a doctor to secure documents attesting to her mental health, as Russian law requires in order to receive a new drivers license, the daughter said.
The activists say that move was “revenge for critical reporting.” Arap was later released when a doctor at the clinic realized that she was the author of an article critical of conditions at a local mental ward.
United Civil Front says that this is the first time police have subjected one of its members to forced hospitalization. But it isn’t the first time the practice has been used against political oppositionists. In May 2006, Kim Murphy of the LA Times did a story on the the continued use of “insanity” against political and social dissidents.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
I see that Kasparov held another rally in Moscow. Nothing extraordinary seemed to have happened. Kasparov addressed the crowd with his usual “we need a different Russia” message. The crowd of 2000 chanted their usual slogans–“Russia without Putin!” Yawn.
It also seems that the Russian police have learned something. According to the report in the LA Times, “Monday’s atmosphere was less tense as the demonstration got under way, with the square surrounded by troops without helmets or visible batons, instead of helmeted riot police.” And the dwindling attendance also seems to be taking a toll. Kasparov addressed it directly saying, “It is not important how many people decided to come today. We are concerned about our future, about the future of Russia.” Sorry Garry but given the nature of your “movement” numbers kinda are important. Since you aren’t part of the electoral process, the only way to measure your appeal is by how many people bother to attend your rallies.
It appears that the most exciting part of the day came not from the protesters, but from protesters of the protest. Reports the LA Times:
A white truck repeatedly drove by the square blaring maniacal laughter that sometimes drowned out those addressing the crowd. At one point, people on a nearby rooftop unfurled a banner labeling the demonstrators “paid prostitutes” — echoing authorities’ claims that opponents pay people to protest and that Kremlin critics have support from the West.
I smell Nashi. I imagine the white truck looking like an ice cream truck with a giant clown head on it. Something like the ice cream truck in Nice Dreams.
One things for sure. No worry about the speakers not being heard. Whatever the “maniacal laughter” downed out, I’m sure repeat attendees to Other Russia’s rallies had heard it all before anyway.
Since it is clear that Other Russia’s rallies increasingly lack purpose, I can’t help wonder how the LA Times can justify this opening paragraph:
Chess champion Garry Kasparov and allies in Russia’s most vocal opposition movement held their latest showdown today with President Vladimir Putin’s government, keeping up their frequent protests with a demonstration in central Moscow.
I boldfaced the hyperbole in question. Two questions. Does Other Russia really represent a movement? My leftist American friends talk about the “movement” too but I see hide nor hair of it. Let alone it moving anywhere except for maybe further irrelevancy. Yes, Other Russia is vocal, but there seems to be a much larger opposition in the form of the KPRF.
I’m struck by the use of phrase “latest showdown.” Isn’t calling yet another Other Russia rally the “latest showdown” imply that they actually matter in some real political sense? I don’t know, but it seems to me that the LA Times description has more to do with its own fantasies that Russian political realities.
By Sean — 8 years ago
Since everyone is afflicted with spymania at the moment, I wanted to make sure this little tidbit of news didn’t go unnoticed.
Executive Director of United Civil Front Olga Kurnosova reported to Interfax, a representative of the police have contacted her and said that all the copies would be returned today.
They found no extremism in them whatsoever.
Nah, really? I could have told them that without even reading the damn thing. So basically this whole scandal has boiled down to some zealous police minion giving Nemstov and Milov two week’s worth of free advertising. Good job boys.
Score: Team Solidarity 3 : Putin 0
By Sean — 11 years ago
Responses to the Dissenter’s March continues. The Nation’s Katrina Vanden Huevel calls for a fight to press freedom in Russia. This comes amid news that Russian authorities shut down the Samara branch of Novaya gazeta two weeks ago. The police charged Novaya editors with using pirated software. You gotta love it when copyright infringement becomes a weapon of political repression.
Jonas Bernstein gives a tacit “yes” to the question of whether Sunday’s “crackdown” represents a wider wave of repression. Closing down newspapers, arresting and harassing political opposition–specifically SPS, Other Russia and Yabloko–are all part of something larger. But those in a real pinch according to Bernstein might just be Russia’s regional governors. The regions have taken Putin’s mixed message that United Russia needs to show leadership at the same time “all kinds of crooks” have wormed their way into its ranks, have taken this as a hint to ratchet “up pressure on the opposition” and “to secure a strong turnout for United Russia in order to ensure their own futures.” This engenders the question of whether “repression” is more fueled by centripetal paranoia over their own local power base. Kinda of reminds me of when Stalin told his regional secretaries that there would be free and open elections in 1936, and in response they bombarded the vodzh’ with reports about kulaks and priests making a possible electoral coup.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t signals emanating from the center. Bernstein likens Putin’s linking of the “opposition” with the West as a possible sign of more repression to come.
Bernstein’s words come on the cusp of Putin launching more salvos against the West, specifically the United States. Today he announced that he has “information” that OSCE’s pullout was at the behest of the US State Department as a means to “delegitimize” the elections. “We will take this into account in our relations with that country,” Putin told the Russian press. The State Department has denied any such thing but I’m sure the Kremlin counted on that. The Russian state media got its sound bite, which was probably the point anyway.
Still, rhetoric against the Western bogeyman has been ratcheted up of late. But I suspect it’s all show for domestic consumption. If the airbrushed images that don websites like Za Putina are any indication, this election like so many others around the world is more about image rather than substance. If Putin looks strong, Russia is strong. The Tsar-President, if the effort from “below” to make him a “national leader” has any real substance, is one with the narod. One should remember that the possible real target of the Kremlin’s “pressure” is not so much the “opposition” but United Russia’s middle management. Populist appeals as a means to squeeze regional chieftains are an tried and true form of Russian rule. Basically, Putin is telling them, “I am everything, you are nothing. You need me more than I need you.” Whether this is true or not remains to be seen.
What is amazing about all this is that it seems that the Kremlin clans have circled the wagons. The talk about clan warfare that hit the press weeks ago has fallen silent. It seems that the siloviki and the business elite have made a tacit peace around their mutual interests of plunder, power, and prestige. The Russian centers of power are standing firm, while the regions scramble to secure their piece of the post-electoral pie. Smacking down “opposition” in the provinces make for good demonstrations of loyalty.
Where does all this leave Russia real opposition, the Communist Party? A few days ago the Guardian’s Luke Harding bravely stated that the KPRF might be Russia’s last “democratic option.” Gensek Zyuganov has been traveling the country speaking to Russia’s downtrodden about the real social-economic issues. “When Putin came to power there were seven oligarchs. Now there are 61,” he reminded a crowd in Moscow suburb Korolyov. He even displayed some political anekdoty to charm the crowd.
Zyuganov tells a Roman Abramovich joke. Roman arrives in heaven only to find his way blocked by St Paul. St Paul asks Abramovich: “Do you own Chelsea, five yachts and a 5km stretch of beach in the south of France?” Abramovich replies: “Yes.” St Paul replies: “I’m not sure you’re going to like it in here.”
The KPRF’s message: they are the only ones keeping Russia from slipping into a completely corrupt morass. One only hopes that they aren’t too late. Still despite what some may think, the KPRF can bank on this statement by the Levanda Center’s Leonid Sedov: “The others have been excluded from the parliamentary sphere. The Communists will be the only oppositional force. This means voters who want to retain opposition in any form have to vote for the Communists.” Oh, the historical irony.
You wouldn’t known the Communist were in contention if you rely on English media for your electoral news. Kasparov must roll off the English tongue better than Zyuganov. The Communist Party seems more often mentioned to paint United Russia as a CPSU redux, rather than a party running for election in their own right. The KPRF is currently polling way behind United Russia. VTsIOM gives them 6 percent to United Russia’s 55, and Levada honors them with 14 percent to UR’s 67. Whatever the hard numbers, United Russia holds a 49 to 53 point margin. However distance the KPRF may be numerically, maybe its time to face reality and see them as the only real potential political bulwark to United Russia’s dominance.