Sea of Denial: Putin's Russia and the Baltic States
Ball, John Donald, Contemporary Review
CROSSING the Finnish border on the Lev Tolstoy train from Moscow felt momentarily like release from prison. I crossed over on the morning of Russia's Presidential election, 26 March 2000. After experiencing several months of harassment and travel obstruction by the FSB (the successors to the KGB), those last moments of subjection to Russian power - when the border guard cautiously reviewed my exit visa and then finally released me from FSB control - were a distillation of every moment of confinement I had ever experienced in the Russian Federation. When I reached my destination in Tampere, Finland and phoned an English friend to notify her of my safe arrival, I jibed that I was breathing a strange, pure substance here (unlike the polluted atmosphere of Russian cities), 'I think it's called "air"'. 'No', she retorted, 'it's called freedom'.
Finnish air is indeed the purest I have ever found (outside of Colorado) and the scope of freedom from arbitrary police control is immeasurably greater than in Russia, where freedom from the police consists principally of avoidance. It was a gentle shock, inducing giddiness, to hear that the Tampere Police were beefing up their patrols on weekends to enforce a 'Zero Tolerance' policy - zero tolerance of underage drinking. Comparison of this with Zero Tolerance in Chechnya would be obscene - or more accurately, such a comparison illustrates the obscenity of Russia's police state.
Yet the remoteness of Finland from Putinist Russia is neither geographic nor strategic. The Baltic has never been a Russian lake, but neither is it insulated from Russian pollutants, such as the uncontrolled flow of …
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Publication information: Article title: Sea of Denial: Putin's Russia and the Baltic States. Contributors: Ball, John Donald - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 277. Issue: 1616 Publication date: September 2000. Page number: 152. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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