FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 18 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The Anatomy of Russian Barbarism
(2) Putin wipes out Small Business
(3) Ryzhkov on Humiliating Russian Failure
(4) Gontmakher on the Latest KGB Special Op
(5) Annals of Russian Barbarism
NOTE: Kim Zigfeld’s latest installment of her Russia column on Pajamas Media is up and running. It exposes the terrifying moves by the Putin regime to supply weapons to Iran so that it can defend its nuclear weapons program from Israel. It’s already been linked to by the 2008 Weblog best midsized blog winner Israel Matzav.
NOTE: Our coverage of the Scott Anderson debacle has been linked-to by powerful German website KOPP Verlag and Kim’s own coverage at Pajamas has been linked to by the mighty Powerline.
The Anatomy of Russian Barbarism
We’ve never before adopted somebody else’s opinion as our own. We do so today. Everything that follows was written by the Committee to Protect Journalists. We do not simply agree, we adopt it as our own, and we condemn the cowardly Western leaders who have allowed this atrocity to pass virtually unnoticed, to say nothing of the craven mainstream Western journalists who are the colleagues of the oppressed heros of Russia. At least a few major sources have covered this statement, but many others have not and none have taken the steps they should have, years ago, to stand up for their victimized brothers and sisters behind the new iron curtain.
Only Iraq and Algeria outrank Russia on the list of most life-threatening countries for the press. Seventeen journalists have been murdered in Russia since 2000. In only one case have the killers been punished. This is a sorry record for a great and powerful nation that embarked on democratization after more than 70 years of brutal repression.
That is why the Committee to Protect Journalists is releasing an unprecedented report that calls on the international community to help reverse this slide toward lawlessness. Our mission is to protect journalists, and we are less and less able to do so in Russia. Though we continue to appeal to Russian authorities to bring to justice those who murdered our colleagues, we can no longer leave it at that. This report is more than an expression of our outrage. We propose concrete guidelines and present hard facts for restarting investigations into these unsolved murders.
Let us be perfectly plain. Any state that turns a blind eye—or worse—toward the assassination of reporters cannot call itself a democracy. When journalists are threatened, democracy itself is threatened. Along with the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and an autonomous civil society, free media is one of the essential pillars of a healthy society. Remove one, and the whole structure may collapse.
One of the editorials in our last issue focussed on Russia’s appalling failure to create an appropriate regulatory environment for small business, leaving it ranked #24 out of 27 nations in its region. The Moscow Times lays out the horrific consequences of this failure in practical terms:
Only 3,000 small businesses opened with state assistance in the first half of the year, far short of the number that the government had hoped would open under a federal program meant to rejuvenate the economy, a senior Economic Development Ministry official said Monday.
But Andrei Sharov, who heads the small and midsize businesses department at the ministry, refused to say that the federal program had failed.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
Russia’s leaders are nothing like the inflexible and single-minded Max Otto von Stirlitz, an almost James Bond-like character from the Soviet-era television miniseries “Seventeen Moments of Spring.” In fact, they are much more like Bill Murray’s tragicomic character in the movie “Groundhog Day.” Every morning they wake up in the same depressing room, drink the same vile coffee, walk out onto the same tiresome, dank street and absent-mindedly step into the same dirty puddle, filling their shoes with water. They go on to recite the same rehearsed and deeply abhorrent words to the television cameras, promising the Russian people an early and sunny spring. And the next gloomy morning, the whole thing starts all over again.
Paul Goble reports:
Since its creation five years ago, Russia’s Social Chamber has not achieved its ostensible goals of serving as place for the Russian public to speak to and watch over power, a Moscow analyst says. Instead, it appears to represent “the latest ‘special operation’” of Moscow’s security service state to “imitate public opinion.”
In a comment on Ekho Moskvy, Yevgeny Gontmakher, a senior scholar at the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Development, recalls the discussion that took place in the Russian capital when then President Vladimir Putin created the Social Chamber. “As always,” he suggested, “something very contemporary was wanted, namely the creation of an organ which would not allow to sleep peacefully either deputies or minister or, it is terrible to say, the President himself.” But each of the four ostensible premises of the organization has proved to be false.