Russia’s New Iron Curtain
Polls appear to illustrate a rise in nationalism in Russia. While only 26 percent of respondents in 1991 said Russia should be for Russians, 54 percent said the same in the recent poll. The two polls also saw a 10 percentage point rise to 47 percent of respondents who said it is natural for Russia to have an empire. Fifty-eight percent of Russians in the new poll agreed that it is a great misfortune that the Soviet Union no longer exists.
— The Moscow Times, November 3, 2009
Last week we carried a report from the New York Times that documented the Putin administration’s efforts to choke off the flow of information from Russian research institutions to the West. No thinking person could fail to appreciate the disturbing echoes of this pathetic country’s Soviet past, especial when remembering that the nation is ruled by a proud KGB spy.
How long , we cannot help but wonder, will it be before the Putin government slaps the same sort of draconian Iron-Curtain controls on Russian citizens that is is now imposing on information? Not long, we think.
Poll results show that Russians want their country to be an aggressive, dominating empire, enslaving other free peoples. They regret that the USSR no longer terrorizes the globe, and the are shameless racists, believing only white, Slavic, Orthodox people should be allowed to dwell in Russia. Naturally, therefore, they support the vicious crackdown on diversity and the flow of information being carried out by Vladimir Putin.
Yet, not all Russians feel this way, just as in Soviet times, and those are Russia’s best and brightest. Paul Goble reports that it is not only information and freedom that Russia is hemorrhaging, it is people. Just as was the case in Soviet times, the pretense and lies put forth by the Putin regime cannot hide Russia’s pandemic destitution and squalor, from which any reasonable person would flee with haste.
The Russian Academy of Sciences, long the intellectual center of the country, has been rapidly losing researchers to institutions abroad and to commercial structures in Russia itself that are in a position to pay far higher salaries than the academy and that do not involve some of the restrictions the government is now imposing. Earlier this month, a group of Russian scholars who went abroad to pursue their careers wrote to the Russian leadership (Russian language link) decrying what they described as “the impoverished position of fundamental science” in Russia. Now, 407 scholars at the institutions of the Russian Academy have added their voices to this lament. If anything, those working in Russia are even gloomier about the future of basic science in that country than are those abroad. They warn that if the government does not increase funding over the next five to seven years, the best young people will work in the Academy and Russia “will have to forget about plans for the construction of an innovation-based economy.”
Just as in Soviet times, the Russian government cannot trust its own citizens to acquire knowledge and freedom, because it knows they would then conclude their government is venal and would have the power to change it. Therefore, just as in Soviet times, the Russian government crushes freedom of thought and destroys the nation’s ability to innovate.
Such a society cannot, of course, long endure.