Balazs Jarabik, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses on Ukraine and Eastern Europe. His most recent article is “What Did Minsk II Actually Achieve?”
Valerie Sperling, professor of Political Science at Clark University and author of Sex, Politics, and Putin: Political Legitimacy in Russia (Oxford, 2014).
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- By Sean — 3 weeks agoGuest: Elizabeth McGuire on “Communist Neverland: New Research on a Russian International Children’s Home, 1933-1991.”
- By Sean — 5 years ago
Putin is pardoning Mikahil Khodorkovsky.
“In regard to Khodorkovsky, I’ve already said that Mikhail Borisovich must submit the corresponding papers [for a pardon] in accordance with the law. He didn’t do this, but just recently, he wrote such a document to me with a request for a pardon. He’s been in prison for ten years and that is a serious term. He referenced humanitarian grounds. His mother is sick. And I think that a decision can be made and the decree on the pardon will be signed in the nearest time.”
The comments were made off stage just after Putin’s marathon presser. But he did hint at something in his comments on the unlikelihood of a third Yukos case during the conference. “As to ‘the third case,’ I do not want to go into details but honestly speaking I, as a person watching this from the outside, I do not see considerable prospects in this regard.”
Still, Joshua Yaffa tweeted it best:
This is how the Putin cult works: joke and banter for hours, then break hugest news of all in faux offhand way and make everyone scramble.
— Joshua Yaffa (@yaffaesque) December 19, 2013
Khodorkovsky’s people, however, say their client wrote no such pardon document to Putin.
“He never filed [an appeal for pardon], and we haven’t had any recent information about anyone appealing on his behalf. We don’t have this information, although we’ve received a number of pardon appeals on his behalf of other people over the years,” said Vadim Klyuvgant, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky to RIA Novosti.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, reiterated that Khodorkovsky wrote his boss. “Putin recently received a letter written by Khodorkovsky not long ago.”
This is big news regardless the source of Putin’s decision.
And coming on the heels of the amnesty for some of the Bolotnaya participants, the Greenpeace activists, and Pussy Riot, it points to 2014 beginning with a political thaw.
Just in time for Sochi.
More will certainly be revealed in the coming hours and days.
- By Sean — 11 years ago
Russia is not free. That’s the conclusion Freedom House has made in its new report “Freedom in the World 2008.” According to its scorecard, Russia received a “6” in Political Rights and a “5” in Civil Liberties. The scale puts “1” as the most free and “7” as “not free.” The main reason the report cites Russia’s continued unfree slide was the charges of vote rigging in Duma elections this fall. You wouldn’t know it from the scorecard. Compared to last year’s report, there has been no numerical change in Russia’s freedom, or should I say, lack thereof.
Granted, I don’t take these attempts to quantify such philosophically weighty concepts like “freedom” very seriously. There is just something comical about such studies. Is it the reports’ crass reductionism? Is it how assigning measurement to freedom seems to trivialize its meaning? Or is it because by using such broad categories all differences between nations are obliterated? I can’t help chuckle at how efforts to scientifically graph abstract concepts like “freedom” only further obscures their meaning. What is left is Russia, as a “not free” nation, is simply the same as other “not free” states like Sudan, Congo, Angola, Burma, and Pakistan. At any rate, such is our age where everything can be reduced to a scorecard. Simplicity and comfort, not to mention terror and horror, is found in numbers.
Unfortunately, others do take Freedom House’s so-called “Map of Freedom” seriously. Since its birth in 1973, the report has served as a empirical yardstick and rhetorical battering ram for assessing the rise and fall of that ever elusive buzzword, freedom.
What does “freedom” mean for Freedom House? According to its methological statement,
Freedom House does not maintain a culture-bound view of freedom. The methodology of the survey is grounded in basic standards of political rights and civil liberties, derived in large measure from relevant portions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These standards apply to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development. The survey operates from the assumption that freedom for all peoples is best achieved in liberal democratic societies.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Russia has never fared well in Freedom House’s tally. It was only in 1991 that the think tank gave the then ailing Soviet Union the mark of “partly free” for the first time. This honor was bestowed on the Communist state because the “Soviet parliament passed laws guaranteeing freedom of the press and of religion” (Christian Science Monitor, 1/3/1991). Russia has yet to get over the “partly free” threshold. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t come close. In 1997, Russia was listed as one of the countries that had made “significant advances” due to its “free and fair elections” for president in 1996 (Christian Science Monitor, 5/9/1997). Once again it just goes to show that being free is not so much how you elect as it is who you elect. Still, Yeltsin’s reelection wasn’t enough for Freedom House. It still considered Russia to be “democratizing.” With the war in Chechnya and organized crime serving as two often cited examples, Russia continued be “partly free.” By 1999, the Chechen War was dragging Russia further down the freedom meter as it was listed as the first of five “major setbacks for Freedom” that year. Nevertheless, many thought that freedom’s future in Russia looked bright. That is until Putin arrived.
Freedom House didn’t label Putin’s Russia “not free” immediately. It was only in 2005 that Russia was demoted back to the “not free” category. A good 13 year run at wading in “partly free” limbo came to an end. What happened? Freedom House then explained that Russia’s freedom decline was “due to the virtual elimination of influential political opposition parties within the country and the further concentration of executive power.” From there Russia’s decent into a “not free” hell has been gathering steam ever since.