Tag Archives: vladimir kara-murza

Remembering the Last Iron Curtain as the New One Descends

Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on his blog Spotlight on Russia, remembers the end of the old Iron Curtain as the new one descends across the continent:

Just the same, no simpler
Are the tests of our times:
Can you come to the square?
Dare you come to the square?
Can you come to the square?
Dare you come to the square?
When that hour strikes?

— Alexander Galich, St. Petersburg Romance (1968)

On August 19, 1991, Muscovites awakened to the sound of tanks. In a fitting conclusion to the decades of Soviet tyranny, the tanks that once rolled on the streets of Budapest, Prague, and Vilnius, came to the heart of Russia. By mid-morning, Moscow was occupied by troops. Television channels were broadcasting Swan Lake, interrupted only by pale-faced news anchors who read out decrees by self-proclaimed “acting president” Gennady Yanayev declaring a state of emergency, suspending most constitutional rights, shutting down newspapers and radio stations, and announcing the formation of a new governing body—the “State Committee on the State of Emergency” (known by its Russian acronym, GKChP), composed of the top Communist leadership, including the vice president, the prime minister, the minister of defense, and the chairman of the KGB. Their objective: to save the rapidly crumbling Soviet dictatorship

If history was any indicator, the coup was bound to succeed.

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Neo-Sovietizing Boris Nemtsov

Top Russia blogger Vladimir Kara-Murza reports:

For Yuri Andropov, who headed the KGB from the 1960s to the 1980s, suppressing political dissent was a top priority. “Every such act represents a danger,” he told his colleagues in 1979, “The struggle against them must be decisive, uncompromising, and merciless.” The regime tried different approaches. Dissidents were convicted to long sentences for “anti-Soviet agitation”—an offense under Article 70 of the penal code—and sent away to prisons and labor camps alongside real criminals. Often, they were labelled “insane,” committed to special psychiatric prisons and subjected to torturous “treatment.” Both of these practices—criminal convictions and “punitive psychiatry”—met with worldwide condemnation and ultimately proved too costly for the Kremlin’s international image.

Then Andropov had an idea.

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The Day Russia turned out the lights

The brilliant Vladimir Kara-Murza reports:

If one were to name a particular date when Russia’s nascent democracy succumbed to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime, April 14, 2001 would be a fairly good contender. Ten years ago the Russian government, using the state-owned energy giant Gazprom as its proxy, seized control of NTV—the country’s largest and most popular independent television channel. There were, of course, other significant dates: June 22, 2003 (the government-ordered shutdown of TVS, Russia’s last independent television channel), October 25, 2003 (the arrest of oil tycoon and opposition supporter Mikhail Khodorkovsky), December 7, 2003 (the expulsion of pro-democracy parties from Parliament in heavily manipulated elections), December 12, 2004 (the abolition of direct gubernatorial elections—ironically, signed into law by Mr. Putin on Constitution Day). But it was the takeover of NTV that was, in many ways, the point of no return.

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Putin Lies about Yeltsin

Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on World Affairs Journal:

This week Russia marked the 80th anniversary of the birth of Boris Yeltsin, the country’s first democratically elected leader. The occasion was accorded official status. President Dmitri Medvedev, unveiling a ten-meter marble statue of his predecessor in Yekaterinburg, declared that “Russia should be grateful to President Yeltsin” and praised his “strength of character.” In Moscow, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised the audience at a stately remembrance evening in Bolshoi Theatre to “continue along Yeltsin’s path, to transform Russia into a strong and free country where human rights are fully protected.” Exhibitions dedicated to the former president opened in Moscow, Kazan, and Yekaterinburg. Tatarstan is hosting the 2011 Yeltsin Cup international junior tennis tournament. This year will see the unveiling of the Yeltsin Presidential Center and Library, built with a 3 billion ruble (US $102 million) grant from the federal budget.

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DomoDEADovo Exposes Putin’s Incompetence

Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on World Affairs Journal:

Another year, another terrorist attack in Russia. On January 24, a suspected suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in the arrivals zone at Domodedovo, Moscow’s busiest airport. Thirty-five people were killed and more than a hundred were injured. As Vladimir Putin prepares for this year’s parliamentary “elections” and a possible return to the Kremlin in 2012, his “pacification” of the North Caucasus has once again been proven a failure. Not that more proof was needed after last year’s attack on Lubyanka metro station – literally under the nose of the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service.

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Putin hates the Russian People — and it’s Mutual!

Vladimir Kara-Murza, blogging on World Affairs:

After eleven years in power, Russia’s regime has finally found the culprit for the country’s problems: its people. Speaking at a news conference titled “What hampers the modernization of Russia,” presidential adviser Igor Yurgens—hailed by the Kremlin’s Western apologistsas the leading “liberal” in the Russian government—declared that the main obstacle to President Dmitri Medvedev’s “modernization” plans are the “archaic” Russian people characterized by “degradation, lumpenization, and even debilization.” Russians are “not citizens, but some kind of a tribe,” the presidential adviser asserted.

One wonders how many hours a government official in a democratic country would remain in his job after making such remarks.

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