A Witchhunt in Omsk

Paul Goble reports:

In his classic novel of the purges, “The Case of Comrade Tulayev,” Victor Serge describes the way in which officials picked up on hints from their Stalinist superiors, often went further than even the latter intended, and because the system could not stop, set a new and more frightening standard of behavior for all.

Something similar appears to be taking place at Omsk State University. There, according to the “Otkryty Omsk” portal, administrators, working together with local militia officials, have compiled “an extremists’ list” on which figure not only those who have taken part in public protests but also those who have complained about the food.

A week ago, one student said, the university rector and two representatives from the local interior ministry administration read out a list of 12 students, with whom the head of this higher educational institution said “it was not desirable to have any contact with” because “they are dangerous, connected with extremism, and should be expelled.”

Most of the names on this list, the portal continued, were “students who had taken part in public protest actions against the arbitrariness of the militia toward demonstrators.” But some, it continue, were simply students who had complained to their fellows about the quality of food in the university cafes. In addition to reading out the names, administrators have sought to put pressure on the students in other ways, including lectures on extremism that the students have had to attend and the calling in of their friends and relatives for “conversations” with the militia. And perhaps most ominously, some of those on the list have been threatened physically by skinheads.

The Russian national extremist thugs appear to have been mobilized by officers of the local militia, “Otkryty Omsk” continued, who distributed “false handouts” in which “the young Yabloko members were called fascists and xenophobes.” They took that action after an October 23rd demonstration in that Siberian city which called for the ouster of the local militia chief. During that protest, there were “massive violations of the law by militiamen and officers of the special services,” the portal continued, but “the procuracy refused to investigate the incident. Instead, it opened cases against those who took part with made up charges of “the destruction of the state flag” and “dissemination of extremist materials.”

It appears that it was those charges that inspired the Omsk State University rector to launch this “witch hunt” among the students, a campaign that is unlikely to attract the attention of rights activists and journalists in distant Moscow and thus will probably continue and quite possibly inspire other officials elsewhere in Russia.

One response to “A Witchhunt in Omsk

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