Prokhorov in the Woodshed
Last week saw the Right Cause party of oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov go down in flames. It used to be the case that the Kremlin liquidated politicians (like former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov and former first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov) because they were too anti-Kremlin. But those days are over. Now, it’s going after all political figures who are not pro-Kremlin enough! It is the natural progression as Russia returns to a neo-Soviet state.
Two huge myths about Russia were exploded this week, first that the existence of Prokhorokov’s party showed Russia had some sense of democratic civility and second that the June airliner crash in Petrozavodsk was due to the age of the plane and its Russian make.
Now, the entire world can clearly see that Prokhorokov’s party was a total sham and, as we report elsewhere in today’s issue, that the plane crashed because of the classic Russian reason, the crew was drunk.
But will the world learn anything from the destruction of these myths? Will it stop wondering whether there is any real opposition in Russia, and what kind of government Russia has? Will it see that the government of Russia is corrupt and incompetent, and that it sustains itself by crushing real opposition and creating straw-man, Potemkin opposition just as was the case in Soviet times?
Will it see that all of this is predictable, when a country is ruled by a proud KGB spy?
From the beginning, Prokhorov openly proclaimed himself a supporter of Vladimir Putin. Told to make it seem like he was an opponent, Prokhorov did so, in order to make the Putin regime seem more legitimate. But when he foolishly did so in his own way, without first getting the written approval of the Kremlin for his every word, Prokhorov was simply liquidated, just like Mikhail Khodorkovsky before him.
But Khodorkovsky expressed real opposition to Putin, while Prokhorov was merely a sham. These days, however, the Kremlin cannot even tolerate sham opposition that is not sufficiently servile, and it obviously went wrong in choosing Prokhorov in this regard. One might think the Kremlin would be at least a little embarrassed by this error, but instead it seems pleased, as the government was in Soviet times, to show its power, its ability to crush and destroy.
Perhaps the most pathetic result of this decision is that now some in Russia are talking about the pathetic Grigori Yavlinsky and his Yabloko party being asked to step into Prokhorokov’s shoes as the designated shame party of liberalism. One would not have thought Yavlinsky could sink any lower into the mire of despotism after his craven failure to lead Yabloko in open challenge to the Kremlin when it was blithely excluded from the Duma, but in Russia there is no nadir which cannot be worsened, it seems.