Russia after the Subway Bombings

Paul Goble, writing in the Moscow Times:

When a terrorist incident occurs in Russia, a Moscow commentator says, it is unlikely to cost even those officials whose responsibilities included preventing it their jobs, but experience with earlier cases suggests that such incidents will likely cost the Russian people their freedoms without providing them with any additional security.

In a commentary in Wednesday’s Novaya Gazeta, Andrey Lipsky wrote that where governments see themselves as the servants of the people, a terrorist incident is likely to lead to “a rapid change of political power” — or at least the ouster of officials responsible for security — as well as to “serious measures for increasing the security of citizens. And often both together.”

But in a country like Russia, he continues, officials view terrorist acts as another reminder that they “are not in a position to fulfill their chief function — the defense of their fellow citizens” and consequently are convinced that at the very least they should exploit the situation to retain their “own control over the country.”

The experience of the last dozen years is both instructive and disturbing. After a series of explosions in 1999 killed more than 200 people, then-President Vladimir Putin not only launched his political career but used these terrorist actions as the occasion for severely restricting press freedom by means of “anti-terrorist” amendments to media laws.

Then, after the Nord-Ost tragedy in 2002, Putin moved to tighten control of the media even more closely. Again, in 2004, after the Moscow metro bombing, Putin launched the career of Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya. And finally, after the Beslan hostage tragedy, Putin transformed the political system in ways that did little to promote the population’s security but a great deal to protect his.

After that event, he eliminated the election of governors, suppressed single-mandate districts for the Duma and introduced other “anti-democratic changes in the electoral system as a whole.” Consequently, after each terrorist action, Russians ask themselves not what will be done to make them safer but what will be done to them in the name of doing so.

That is a question Russians are asking once again in the wake of Monday’s twin metro bombings, Lipsky says. And they are doing so with particular urgency because they know that “it is difficult to escape bad habits,” that the beginnings of the campaign will encourage populism and that the regime is disturbed by the increasing numbers of demonstrations and meetings.

Clear evidence that many Russians are worried about these things was offered by two other commentators Wednesday. In a posting on, Ivan Yartsev asks whether President Dmitry Medvedev will be “a guarantor [of the Russian Constitution, as his job description requires] or the terminator” of what democratic arrangements it provides.

Despite his frequent statements about the importance of law and a legal state, Medvedev since the terrorist attacks has sounded quite similar to Putin in his commitment to “find and destroy” all those responsible rather than to bring them to justice as the Constitution and Russian laws require.

In his remarks, Yartsev says, Medvedev appears to have forgotten his duties, and “as a result of populist competition between the members of the ruling tandem, the positions of Russia in the Caucasus may continue to be weakened as a result of the ‘illegal’ positions of the law enforcement organs” that the country’s political leaders are calling for.

Clearly, Yartsev concludes, the powers that be in Moscow do not understand that “extrajudicial reprisals over the leaders of the terrorists will permit their comrades in arms to create around the destroyed bandits the auto of martyrdom,” something that will lead to more, not fewer, terrorist attacks in Russia in the future.

And writing in Novaya Gazeta today, Yulia Latynina argues that “sick and health state organisms” react very differently to Salafite terrorism. The United States, she says, seeks to oppose the ideas of the Salafites, and “the American special services struggle against terrorism rather than rob Khodorkovsky” (

As a result, the outspoken Moscow commentator points out, “since September 11, there have not been any terrorist acts in the United States,” an enviable record compared to Russia’s, where not only have there been multiple terrorist incidents in the past but where more are likely in the future.

The basic reason, Latynina insists, is that the country’s siloviki do exactly the opposite. They would rather steal from businessmen than fight “such an unappetizing and dangerous opponent as terrorists.” And she suggests an analogy with the flu: “For a health organism, this is only a passing illness. For a state weakened by excess and corruption, the illness can be fatal.”


10 responses to “Russia after the Subway Bombings

  1. PARIS, April 2 (RIA Novosti)

    The European Court of Human Rights has fined Russia 72,000 euros (almost $98,000) over the disappearance of a man in its North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia, the court has said in a statement.

    Bashir Mutsolgov disappeared on December 18, 2003, after unknown gunmen wearing masks and camouflage gear detained him near his house in the town of Karabulak and took him away in a car. The court said a witness talked to a traffic police officer immediately after the incident. The officer stopped the car, but let the abductors go after the driver showed him a police identity card.

    The court said the Russian authorities had not provided it with the requested documents concerning the case. It also found that Russia had conducted no effective investigations into the disappearance.

    The court said the kidnappers were members of Russia’s security services, and ruled that the Russian authorities were guilty of Mutsolgov’s death.

    Russia has lost the majority of cases brought against it in the Strasbourg-based court. A large number of suits are related to abductions of people in the country’s volatile North Caucasus.

  2. @Again, in 2004, after the Moscow metro bombing, Putin launched the career of Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya.

    Not really, the career Kadyrov was launched in 2004 after a time bomb in Grozny killed Kadyrov.

  3. The Putin regime is absolutely not getting away with these taudry murders. Putin obviously has a low IQ.

    Authoritarian regimes can continue on for decades if they show some sophistication. Not this crowd of idiots.

  4. Latynina arguments are too optimistic. There is no flu. Because there was never any health. FSB was never designed to fight terrorists. FSB, KGB, NKVD, etc. is the terrorist organization itself. Its only purpose is terror and security of the government which it supports.

  5. Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have called for swift action to stop terrorists. On Friday, Medvedev broadened the targets to include their accomplices who help in any way.

    “In my opinion, we have to create such a model for terrorist crimes that anyone who helps them — no matter what he does, be it cook the soup or wash the clothes — has committed a crime,” Medvedev said.

    However, that is something Russian authorities have already been doing.

    Russian police and security forces have long been accused of seizing people suspected of aiding militants. Some people have been tortured, and many have disappeared. And rights activists trying to document the abuses have also been killed, kidnapped or threatened.

  6. Medvedev on Thursday copied the style of Russia’s powerful prime minister, Vladimir Putin, both in his dress — a black T-shirt under a black suit coat — and his rough language in ordering that much more be done to stop the attacks.

    “The measures to fight terrorism should be expanded, they should be more effective, more harsh, more cruel, if you please,” he told federal and local officials in a televised meeting.

    The terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus are believed to be motivated not only by radical Islam but in some cases by a desire for personal revenge against police and security forces, who have been accused of killings, kidnappings and torture. The heavy-handed tactics have served to swell the ranks of Islamic militants.

  7. Putin came to power in 1999 amid a wave of terrorist apartment bombings that killed hundreds in Moscow and other Russian cities. He famously remarked that Russian forces would «wipe out the bandits in the outhouse» and oversaw a brutal pacification program against Chechen rebels that seemed to end with the Kremlin declaring victory last year.

    «The whole myth of Putin is that he’s very tough, very effective, and that his policies did bring peace and stability to the North Caucasus,” says Mr. Petrov.

    Following the last large-scale terrorist strike — the 2004 hostage crisis at a Beslan school that resulted in more than 300 deaths — then-president Putin forced through draconian political changes that strengthened the security forces, concentrated more power in the Kremlin, and canceled regional elections.

    The current wave of terrorism might be similarly used to force through radical reforms of the Interior Ministry, which oversees Russia’s police forces, and also to end a recent internal debate about the need to liberalize the Kremlin-centered, authoritarian political system that Putin established.

    Also a comment from a retard:

    «The aim of the terrorists is to goad us into cracking down, changing our political system because we fear the threat from them,» says Mr. Mizin of the Institute of International Studies. «It would be very good if President Medvedev gave a strong statement that, despite the sorrow we feel and our determination to fight, that we will not sacrifice the democracy we’ve been building or our standards of civilized conduct in the cause of fighting terror.»

  8. I think Robert has it right. I can only add that people get the kind of government that they deserve. The Russians and Islam will not make progress towards a better life.

    • Actually it’s just direct quotes from the articles. It’s really not a secret how the “cruelty” (qoting the new “Blackshirt” Medvedev) keeps it going for nearly 2 decades now.

      8 years ago, the previous generation:

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