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Analysis & Opinion
02.07.10 June 31
Comment by Alexander Arkhangelsky

Special to RIA Novosti

The Crushing of Protests on Triumfalnaya Square Is an Act By Authorities With No Instinct for Self-Preservation

There are people for whom any kind of authorities are hostile while any kind of opposition is acceptable, no matter who that opposition is made up of. Eduard Limonov? Fine, let it be Limonov. Is he against the Kremlin? Hooray. All of his “nationalist-communoid” slogans and his Trotskyist essence are forgivable. His sins have been absolved in advance because he is fighting for the truth, for a revolution, for progress and for everything good.

There are people for whom the authorities are sacred. They are entirely acceptable in themselves. Certainly they have separate, sometimes significant shortcomings. But to say “look, honey, either you start changing or you’re out the door” is like death to them. Yes, many of them understand that a lack of significant change can lead not only to stagnation, but also to ruin; that you can’t build anything on all-encompassing mistrust just as you can’t build anything on sand. But still, loyalty is more important than common sense, and if we’ll have to pay for it, we’ll do that tomorrow, and today everything will remain as is.

Those who see nothing sacred in the authorities but who don’t want to go along with Limonov are currently deep in thought. On the one hand, everyone will have to pay for the joys of stagnation. There is no such thing as a free lunch – every day, the angle of the slope is becoming steeper. Today it is at 35 percent, tomorrow – 45, and someday it will reach 90. Just like it was in Mikhail Gorbachev’s era; instead of a slow descent we’ll end up jumping off a cliff. On the other hand, nobody wants to play along with the national Bolsheviks, with revolutionary youth and “experienced fighters” who are ready at any moment to run for cover.

Being deeply in thought is the natural state for the intelligentsia, but Anton Chekhov’s themes and political life don’t go together. No matter how hard you try to hide from the truth, you can only be idle on one side of the barricade. And you either criticize the authorities from within the system they created or you warn them of the threat of revolution, swaying back and forth with the crowd. This is not very pleasant to admit, but an honest self-assessment is a precondition for inner freedom - which one values all the more the less outer freedom one has.

That is, until recently the only place where one was able to be an apostate was on the territory controlled by the authorities – not amicable ones, but with a rare exception not totalitarian. Because there was still a chance that they would come to their senses, that their instinct for self-preservation would kick in and that slow changes would start – not because they are wanted, but because there is no other way. But recent events make one doubt this. For now it is just doubt, but no one knows what will happen tomorrow.

In a verbal brawl with a rock star, the prime minister acknowledged that the dissenters have a right to march if the latter don’t get in the way of the ill and those going to the dacha. A few days later, a real massacre takes place on Triumfalnaya Square. Fierce, demonstrative. The human rights ombudsman publically states that he has made a report to the president and demands that the police apologize for all to hear. There have been no apologies, and nobody knows how the report is moving through the system.

Another example. The president’s quite reasonable and more than careful suggestions to slightly soften the judicial system don’t get implemented, so the Supreme Court is forced to explain the party’s and the government’s new policy to ordinary judges. Please don’t put people in pre-trial detention for economic crimes if you really don’t need to. We plead for this and we even changed the law. But they keep on putting people in prison. Then the Supreme Court guiltily turns to face the general public and kindly asks: please wait here a little bit, this is not sabotage, the comrades just don’t really get it, fewer people will be imprisoned by winter, we promise. Well, keep promising. Promises are made to be broken.

And so on down the list. Just recently the cops stopped confessing on the Internet. Just recently the wave of social discontent, which showed that regarding the cops and traffic police everyone agrees with everyone, regardless of political stance, has subsided. Now the horrific Primorye story is unfolding. Voluntary bandits now fight against the police, who themselves now look more like a squad of partisans who do not report to the government. Certainly, the “Robin Hoods” should be in prison, and it would be silly to try to exonerate them. But the police don’t conduct an investigation, but rather a “special operation,” and start using military jargon. The cops’ castigators are now called “militants,” while a report on the death of a suspect (!) is accompanied by a “rebel group representative” note. And nobody has been dismissed after this; nobody has been criticized or repudiated. Guys, if this isn’t lawlessness, then what is?

It’s a strange kind of lawlessness. Wherever very dangerous things that require intervention happen, we can’t send the doctor. And where it would suffice to send a normal, calm psychologist to the scene to talk to the people, we send angry OMON. A battle unfolds, an exaggerated authority shows through. As if the feeling of authoritative impotence can be compensated for by a surplus of military power. While the inability to deal with serious threats is covered up by a smokescreen of imaginary triumph, on the longsuffering Triumfalnaya Square.

But this can’t go on. We can only deal with the country’s real problems (while it is still possible) together, by creating an atmosphere of trust and thus taking the sense out of the outcasts’ revolts. Let the dissenters march peacefully once or twice, without violence, and Limonov’s pathos will go stale. What remains will be an ordinary, normal, useful manifestation of civil rights. Otherwise we will wind up with a dangerous concentrate. And we will be forced to speak of the harm in revolutions from within the indignant elements. Just like now we talk of the harm in authoritarian stagnation from within the system that doesn’t want to save itself. And what’s most upsetting, there is ever less glasnost in the country, and there is still no audibility.
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