EDITORIAL: Mr. Medvedev, his Carpet and his Broom

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Mr. Medvedev, his Carpet and his Broom

See Dima sweep.  Sweep, Dima, Sweep! Under the carpet! Sweep, sweep, sweep!

Streetwise Professor reports that last week Russian “president” Dima Medvedev announced a massive new slate of spending reductions forced upon his government by the national economic collapse.  Paul Goble reports that among these will be a brutal slashing of the budget for the 2010 census.

Let’s overlook the fact that the Putin regime is apparently still able to find plenty of funds for nuclear weapons and other ways of provoking and escalating the new cold war, sending all sorts of wealth to all sorts of places from Venezuela to Syria.  Let’s not focus on what these draconian cutbacks mean for the people of Russia.  Let’s instead watch Dima feverishly trying to sweep it all under the carpet.

Because, as SWP points out, no sooner had Medvedev acknowledged the need for massive cuts (SWP even praised Medvedev for his candor) than he was lashing out at Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin with ridiculous, propagandistic lies.  Medvedev accused Kudrin of saying that Russia would need 50 years to recover from its current economic plight, and said anyone who thinks so “should go work someplace else.”  Kudrin never said any such thing.  He merely said that the recovery would take a long time, and that the government would have to follow the correct economic policies no matter how long it required, even if it took 50 years.

That’s beside the point, though.  Because Medvedev’s effort to scapegoat Kudrin, to silence him, is fully consistent with Medvedev’s support for creating a “Ministry of Truth” that will decree Russian history to achieve political ends.  It’s fully consistent with a mentality resulting from being born and raised in the USSR, as Putin was, and with a man who collaborates with a proud KGB spy, as Medvedev does.

In other words, the only response Medvedev and his ilk can make to inconenient facts is to hide them, even if that means killing those who would speak them.  It’s the same response the USSR always had, and the resulting lack of reform is what destroyed the USSR, just as it is surely destroying Putin’s Russia.

The fact that Russia can’t even pay to conduct a proper census is telling, and Medvedev won’t talk about it.  Goble writes that the draconian 30% cutbacks “will mean officials and scholars will have significantly less data on a range of demographic questions.”  And he points out that, in fact, the Kremlin has no interest in accurate picture being painted of a country in crisis.  He notes:  “Among the questions which will be dropped will be those concerning the branch of economic activity in which the individual surveyed works. Many find it difficult to specify that, she continued, and consequently, her committee will do without this sampling, relying instead on other sources for this information. The 2010 census now appears likely to collect far less information about many sensitive issues – including the relative size of the populations of different regions on the basis of which funds are allocated and the even more sensitive issue of the size of Russia’s various national groups – than many had hoped.”

Russia is slipping into darkness.  The worse things get, the less information the Kremlin will release, and the more information that is released will consist of shameless lies and propaganda, just as in Soviet times.

Russia cannot survive this abuse of the truth any more than the USSR could.

2 responses to “EDITORIAL: Mr. Medvedev, his Carpet and his Broom

  1. Actually as long as the weapons are not in “fraternal aid” and are paid for, they only make money. Well, or rather steal money. You know who was the military chief of the Russian arms export until very recently? Pavel Grachev (vel Pavel Grachov vel Pavel Grozny vel Pashka Mercedes), the very symbol of the Russian miliary corruption.

  2. Another thing to sweep under the carpet:

    Why Russians Resent The Police

    By Irek Murtazin
    Senior Interior Ministry officials in Kazan have accused the republic’s media of launching a campaign to denigrate the police force. But media coverage is not why Tatarstan’s population regards the police with growing hostility; the problem lies within the police force itself.

    The main reason is that police leaders act increasingly as if they are above and beyond the law. In one conspicuous example from a year ago, a district police chief traveled to his home village, lined up a group of local residents, took out his revolver, and threatened to shoot them all on the spot — simply because they were employed by a local entrepreneur whose line of business the police chief disapproved of. As though that weren’t enough, the police chief, who is in theory duty-bound to protect the citizens of Tatarstan, returned later that evening with a number of his subordinates and beat up the villagers he had earlier threatened to kill.

    Tatarstan’s Interior Ministry saw nothing reprehensible in that behavior, and an investigation into the incident has been closed.

    A far more serious tragedy took place in Moscow in April. Police Major Yevsyukov first shot the driver of a taxi that had taken him to a local supermarket, then opened fire indiscriminately inside the store, killing two people and injuring six others. A poll conducted in the wake of that incident by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) found that 40 percent of Russians do not trust the police and one-third believe the police regularly resort to violence and/or themselves break the law.

    Outraged by the closure of the investigation into the case, Kazan human rights activists convened a press conference in mid-May at which they listed three factors that they argued contribute to police brutality: the fact that the police are not made to answer for such violations, and thus become convinced that they can get away, literally in some cases, with murder; rank; and authority.

    Symptom Of A Disease

    I cannot agree with that argument. Believing you are beyond punishment is merely a symptom of the disease; and rank and authority are the conditions that predispose you to catching it.

    The reasons for the emergence and spread of the phenomenon that I would term the Yevsyukov syndrome (“yevsyukovshchina”) are completely different. The most important is the huge discrepancy between the real and stated primary task of the Interior Ministry, a discrepancy rooted in the inequality before the law of various categories of citizens.

    The Interior Ministry ought in the broadest sense to be a “factory” that produces security. Not security for the state — there are other agencies (the army, the Federal Security Service, the Foreign Ministry) to do that — but security for the all the citizens of that state.

    But for our police, citizen safety is a peripheral concern.

    Has anyone ever heard of a police officer being fired because, say, burglaries increased by 10-15 percent or the percentage of crimes solved fell by the same amount? I personally cannot recall that happening. Of course, the police are expected both to solve crimes and to reduce the overall crime rate. And if the statistics are unsatisfactory, they are bawled out — but only bawled out. In extreme cases, bonuses can be withheld or awards delayed — but nothing more serious than that.

    The Establishment

    This is because the real primary task of the police in Russia is to protect the political establishment. And so the police channel vast human, technical, and financial resources into neutralizing those who are deemed to pose a threat to that establishment.

    Take elections at whatever level. Who is it that bars importunate election monitors from election commissions? Who physically evicts those monitors from polling stations? The police! Even though election law does not provide for the presence of police officers at polling stations.

    Who is it that, more often than not, physically disperses citizens who simply want to exercise their constitutional right to participate in public events? Again, the police.

    What is the primary task of the traffic police, and heaven help them if they don’t perform it efficiently? Correct! They exist in order to ensure that leading officials and VIPs can be chauffeured quickly and safely from point A to point B.

    As they protect the security of the political establishment, very many police officers start to think of themselves as part of that establishment. They reason that if they perform an important service for the system, they should be permitted to get away scot-free with behavior that may constitute a violation of the law.

    This is why police impunity is, unfortunately, not simply the sum of individual abuses of power by individual officers. There is no way to prevent a recurrence of the Yevsyukov tragedy unless and until the police force as a whole — from the interior minister himself down to rank-and-file officers patrolling the streets — acknowledges that its main task is to protect citizens rather than to ensure that the system continues to function smoothly.

    Irek Murtazin is an opposition politician who formerly served as press spokesman to Tatarstan’s President Mintimer Shaimiyev.


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