Jessica Mason is a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and Federal Policy Analyst at the National Partnership for Women & Families and Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research and policy work address vulnerable social groups seeking greater legal protections and social recognition, particularly in relation to gender, sexuality, and national belonging in Russia and the United States. She’s the author of “Wake up, Russia! Political Activism and the Reanimation of Agency,” published in the October 2016 issue of Anthropology Today.
Front 242, “Until Death (Us do Part),” Front by Front, 1988.
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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.Post Views: 501
By Sean — 5 years ago
May 6 is the first anniversary of the Bolotnaya protests that erupted in violence. Twenty-eight people and possibly more await prosecution. Bolotnaya has also served as the impetus to link Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov to a wider conspiracy where he, Leonid Razvozzhaev (who confessed then retracted it claiming it was given under torture), and Konstantin Lebedev (who has confessed and is cooperating with the Investigative Committee) of planning a coup financed with Georgian (i.e. American) money. I discussed the significance of Bolotnaya on the Power Vertical podcast on Friday. There I stressed that what Bolotnaya represents is Putin adopting Stalin’s ominous maxim made in reference to the 1928 Shakhty Trial: “We have internal enemies. We have external enemies.”
While I caution against any comparison between Putin and Stalin, the existence of the internal/external enemy duumvirate is clearly apparent. In fact, Forbes.ru‘s Aleksandr Morozov put it at the center of his article, “Cold War-2013: What Grew Out of the 2012 Protests.” Morozov makes some interesting observations about the state of things a year after Bolotnaya.
As I alluded on the podcast, the internal/external enemy is the guiding principle of Putin and Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin’s effort to discredit the opposition. Interestingly, however, there are indications the circle of internal-external enemies might be expanding to include Medvedev’s circle.
This last point was the subject of a recent Novaya gazeta article that connected the criminal investigation against Aleksey Beltyukov, Senior Vice President of the Skolkovo Fund, and the payment of $750,000 to Just Russia Duma deputy and street oppositionist Ilya Ponomarev to Dmitry Medvedev (who is the face of Skolkovo) and Vladislav Surkov (who supervises Skolkovo). Essentially, paying Ponomarev an enormous amount of money for ten lectures and scientific research is an “indirect but quite transparent hint” that Medevdev and Surkov are funding the street opposition.
In a similar vein, Morozov notes an effort to connect Medvedev’s “liberalism” and “foreign agents.” This is a further indication that the tandem is dead (did anyone think it was still alive?) and that Medvedev is a “delinquent member of the family” without “the means to win forgiveness.” Hence, the campaign to discredit him and his circle. In one of the stranger facts, a Yandex search for “Dvorkovich is a British agent,” i.e. Arkady Dvorkovich, Medevdev’s right-hand man and silovik mandarin Igor Sechin’s arch-nemesis, unearths 120,000 links. Even weirder is that this claim is attributed to American freakazok-in-chief, Lyndon LaRouche. Yes, that is how kooky the smear campaign has gotten. The message however muddled is clear: Medvedev is not one of “us.”
The extension of the umbrella of Otherness goes further. Morozov explains there is an effort to dehumanize oppositionists of all stripes. “The enemy must lose human features and be turned into “nonhumans”, beasts, insects, ‘livestock,’ and ‘larva,’” he writes. This effort to dehumanize the enemy is harrowing for anyone who knows Soviet history. Things haven’t gotten to an Andrei Vyshinsky level of dehumanization, though. Vyshinsky was a maestro of bestial adjectives. During the show trials of the 1936-38, the Soviet state prosecutor cast the defendants as rabid dogs, venomous snakes, swine, among others, who “sold themselves to enemy intelligence services.” This is why the “foreign agent” label for Russian NGOs stirs so much controversy, ire, disgust, and foreboding.
Morozov, however, has a larger characterization of the state of things beyond of the friend-enemy distinction. True to his article’s title, Morozov sees the situation between the authorities and the opposition as a “cold civil war.” And, in his opinion, this only gives Putin the advantage.
It gives [Putin] the possibility to mobilize the “People’s Front,” a new form of political and electoral support. A year after the inauguration, the features of the new regime are clearly replacing the conception of rule through the “dominant party.” If Putin ruled in his first and second terms relying on the electoral and ideological pseudo-competition between United Russia and other parties respecting the norms of “illiberal democracy,” then there will now be another system.
In order for the People’s Front to work it’s necessary to permanently keep non-party “forms of the enemy” alive. The People’s Front isn’t facing off against local party structures, but against a global plutocracy with a fifth column inside the country.
Those who protested a year ago against electoral violations and spoke for institutional reforms think that political inclusion is better than exclusion. But it will be hard to adapt them if you consider them “enemies of the state” and not loyal citizens. But it’s necessary to look at reality in the eyes. There is a “front” and there are “the people.”
And if we accept Morozov’s diagnosis of the current conjecture, the internal-external enemy matrix will be around for a long time. In fact, it seems to be a basis of Putin’s domestic rule. If true, this places the opposition in a complicit position in Putin’s master plan. Yes, most want a seat at the table. They aren’t revolutionaries. But if that seat is continually denied, or the pressure keeps increasing, as it undoubtedly will, more and more of them will radicalize, giving Putin the perpetual flow of “enemies of the state” he requires.Post Views: 565
By Sean — 8 years ago
Two things hit me as I emerged from the Oktyabrskaya metro station on Saturday morning to check out the KPRF May Day march. First was that God himself must have been smiling down on the KPRFers. After several days of on and off rain, his holiness decided to part the clouds, let the sun shine through, and let Russian commies do their thing without the hindrance of rainfall. The second thing that hit me was that unlike most, or should I say every political rally I’ve been to, the Communists began marching on time. Who would have ever guessed Communists to be prompt. And they say Leninist discipline is dead. As soon