Police in St. Petersburg have seized 100,000 copies of a book critical of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The book, “Putin. The Results. 10 Years On “was readied for distribution to participants in the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum. The book was written by opposition journalists Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov. The London Telegraph, quoted Olga Kurnosova of the opposition United Civic Front as saying that the legal grounds of the seizure “are not very clear”.
Although multiple political parties exist in Russia, as well as free enterprise, it was former members of the Communist Party who enjoyed the greatest advantage in post communist Russia. Vladimir Putin is both a former Communist Party member as well as a one time member of the KGB. People with such backgrounds have networking resources available to them that are not available to those who were dissidents during the communist years.
While there is no gulag in post communist Russia, it is easy enough to use laws regarding slander and white collar crime to tie up opposition figures in criminal and civil court. Then there are those mysterious “accidents” that have claimed the lives of journalists whose work has proven inconvenient. IFEX, the International Freedom of Expression exchange reports that 313 Russian journalists have been killed since 1993 and notes as follows.
“The IFJ review, done in collaboration with the Russian Union of Journalists, the Glasnost Defence Foundation and the Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations, shows that of the journalists killed in Russia since 1993, up to 124 have died as a direct result of their work.”
It appears that murder of opposition figures has not been eliminated but merely privatized.
It is one thing to remove a dictator or to dismantle a totalitarian state. It is another matter to change the mindset behind it. The most splendidly conceived laws can be perverted in their application and misused. Russia has a long way to go in internalizing a democratic world view. Until this happens, life in Russia will be difficult indeed for its citizens. By confiscating 100,000 copies of an opposition book, “Putin. The Results. 10 Years On”, the Russian government has made a point that the book never could have made. For this, I suppose, we should thank them.