A New Low in Russian Barbarism
We here at La Russophobe spend a good deal of time gaping slack-jawed in horror at the latest example of Russian barbarism. But now and then, even we are surprised by the depths to which this misbegotten mire of a country can sink. For instance, the New York Times reports:
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once his country’s richest man, has resided in “gulag lite,” as he calls the Russian penal system under Vladimir Putin, for six years. Since the spring, on most working days he is roused at 6:45 in the morning, surrounded by guards and packed into an armored van for the drive to court. For two hours each way, the man who once supplied 2 percent of the world’s oil crouches in a steel cage measuring 47 by 31 by 20 inches. Convicted of tax evasion and fraud in 2005, Khodorkovsky now faces a fresh set of charges that add up to the supposed theft of $30 billion. In the dark of the van, Khodorkovsky tries to prepare for his trial, replaying in his mind his night reading, the daily stack of documents from his lawyers. But Russia’s most famous prisoner worries too about what would happen if a car slammed into the van. (Collisions are routine in Moscow’s clotted avenues.) “Your chances of making it out alive,” he wrote me one day this summer, “at any speed, are next to none.”
It is far beyond our powers of comprehension how a country could allow a situation like this to persist and yet call itself “civilized.” In our view, it cannot do so. This is barbarism, pure and simple. It is torture, it is subhuman, it is unworthy of nation with pretensions to greatness. It shows that Russia is governed by petty, mean-spirited and indeed demonic children, not men, certainly not mature human beings.
We condemn it, and we condemn those — the vast majority of the Russian population — who condone it actively or passively. We implore the people of Russia to slow down step back from the black chasm of neo-Soviet despair and failure toward which they are hurtling at breakneck speed.