Saturday, October 07, 2006

From Russia Without Love

Add one more absolutely horrifying news story to a country that seems to be spiraling rather quickly into insanity. Let's go over this month's highlights:

Mid September: Less than a year after a journalist for Forbes was murdered while exposing the immense fortunes and corrupt practices of the Russian oligarchy, the deputy central bank chief Andrei Kozlov -- also committed to exposing corruption, in this case, money laundering, was shot to death as part of a contract killing.

Late September: After several Russian spies were arrested in Georgia -- and not long thereafter released -- Russia turns all Mel Gibson-on-a-late-Saturday-night on us. So, why not just impose some economic sanctions and call it a day? Because if you're Russia, that doesn't go quite far enough to punish the Georgian superpower, whose hands are forever mettling in Russia's business (think Stalin). No, the only way to teach the Georgian government not to mess with Russia is by deporting Georgian citizens working in Russia. But even this rather remarkable move -- can you image the United States repatriating the immigrants of a given country because of their government's actions? -- seems a bit too soft for Putin. Thus, we now learn that if you have a Georgian-sounding name in a Russian school, you will be suspect to inspection to determine if you are an illegal Georgian migrant. Has the Georgian replaced the Jew as the new basis for totalitarian politics?

If we place these two developments together, we have rather conclusive evidence for what has long been feared: that Russia is truly becoming the most anti-communist state in the history of the world. Oligarchic, dictatorial, and jingoistic. My freshman year I wrote a research paper on Russian nationalism, and still recall some horrifying websites I visited. Because Russian nationalism is a newly emerging phenomenon, there remains a great deal of uncertainty as to just how dangerous it can become. A recent article in the New York Times -- now accessible only through Times Select -- had this to say about recent surges in ethnic violence in russia:

'They need to leave,' said Denis Doronin, 19, who said he took part in the protests that led to the violence. 'They arrive from another country and they act like kings.'

Russia has experienced a surge in racist violence in recent years, from isolated acts of assault and murder to last month's bombing of a Moscow market, which killed 12 people, most of them from Central Asia; three university students have been charged.

But the events in Kondopoga have exposed a strain of ethnic strife that extends beyond the acts of neo-Nazis and skinheads, infecting society as a whole 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union discredited the enforced harmony of Russia's many nationalities.

'What happened was a shift from class struggle to ethnic struggle,' said Viktor A. Shnirelman, an anthropologist with the Russian Academy of Sciences who is writing a book on racism in Russia. 'And it is very dangerous.'

Ethnic tensions across Russia have been fueled by the latent racism common among many Russians, who freely use the pejorative 'blacks' when describing people from the Caucasus, even in casual conversation. It also reflects a growing political opposition to migrant workers not unlike those movements in Europe and the United States and the indifferent or at times hostile responses from elected officials when violence erupts.

Considering how crucial Russia's role will be in managing such current and future issues as Iranian and North Korean WMDs, these recent developments just aren't reassuring.


Blogger Scantron said...

It really is a shame to see that the end of communism has brought not greater freedom but a continuation of corruption, sometimes even worse. The murders you describe at the beginning of the post remind me of something I read at Craig Murray's blog (Murray was the UK's ambassador to Uzbekistan a few years ago). Here's the link:

Two Uzbek citizens (young, healthy people, mind you) have mysteriously died of "natural causes" in the US while trying to convince other immigrants not to heed calls to return to their country. Smells of foul play.

Anna Politkovskaya, the murdered journalist you link to, was especially important in documenting the war crimes of one Sergei Lapin, whom Amnesty International profiles here:

What's really lamentable is that some people hone in on the awful murder of Theo Van Gogh as "symbolic" of the greater threat we face while ignoring the courage of people like Politkovskaya, who confront the immense power and corruption of tyrannical states, some of which are our "friends." Thanks for bringing this story to light.

1:20 AM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Come to think of it, why do they hate each other? Why do Russians kill Georgians? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.

I got that one from Trent Lott.

1:30 AM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

I thought you were in Spain.

4:35 AM  
Blogger E.T. said...

I think some Russians hate Georgians because disproportionately many Georgians are criminals and Georgian mafia is very powerful and expremely cruel. Also there is another reason:
"Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russians have been infuriated by the way Georgia has swallowed billions of dollars in Russian gas subsidies and remittances from Georgian workers in Russia, yet allies itself with a West that has provided only a fraction of this help. The way Georgian leaders paint Russia—accusing it of past repression and human-rights abuses, among other things—angers many Russians, especially considering that the greatest tyrant in their own history, Joseph Stalin, came from Georgia."
It is an excerpt from a Newsweek article.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

Russia is quickly becoming one of those places that I prefer not to think about on a daily basis. What the hell can be done with that country? It's so fucking big.
Still, I object to the argument that there has been no increase in freedom in Russia since the end of Soviet Union. The story of this murdered journalist is making headlines across the world precisely because it's a rare occurence.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Russia is better off. I meant many of the satellite states of the Bloc, like the 'Stans. Thus I link to the Uzbekistan article. There seems to be a universal problem, though, of former CP members clinging tenaciously to their posts, to the detriment of political freedom.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

If I were one of those people who buys books like "Bushisms: Part Three", I might also observe the following: at least the Russians care enough to try to conceal torture.

4:04 PM  

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