Magazine article Russian Life

Unanimous Russia: Crimea Marks Open Season on Enemies

Magazine article Russian Life

Unanimous Russia: Crimea Marks Open Season on Enemies

Article excerpt

FOLLOWING ON THE heels of Russia's lightning-annexation of Crimea (in what some on the peninsula are calling a "Russian Spring"), a new domestic policy has emerged. In lockstep with the opinions voiced by President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin seems to be on the hunt for "traitors," "fifth columnists," and any other "hostile elements" that dare to disrupt the smooth, neo-Soviet consolidation of Russian society.

Two days before Putin addressed the nation, a referendum in Crimea delivered a 96 percent result in favor of the peninsula breaking loose from Ukraine to become Russia's new federal subject. Despite the fact that the vote violates Ukraine's constitution (which requires a nationwide vote on secession), annexation seems all but a done deal.

Meanwhile, failure to toe the party line on Crimean annexation or other state policies is rapidly becoming as risky as dissent in the Soviet era. New legislation is being considered which would punish media that publish material deemed "anti-Russian," treating such journalism as tantamount to crimes against the state. And some lawmakers have petitioned to evict fellow Duma members who dared vote against ratification of Crimea's annexation.

Only one member, Ilya Ponomaryov, voted against the measure, while three others abstained--Dmitry Gudkov, Valery Zubov, and Sergei Petrov.

"They have positioned themselves against society as a whole," pronounced Alexander Degtyarev, head of the committee on ethics. Degtyarev said he cannot understand why a lawmaker would put himself in "a boat with different sails." He stopped short, however, of supporting a move to strip the four members of their mandates.

Former Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov once famously said that the Duma was "no place for discussion," a candid recognition of a reality that has reigned for several years. It may only be a matter of time before parliamentary dissent is completely banned.

In fact, within days of the Crimean annexation, the future began to reveal itself ...

Andrei Zubov, a respected professor at MGIMO, Moscow's prestigious institute of international relations, wrote an opinion piece for Vedomosti that drew parallels between Russia's annexation of Crimea and Hitler's 1938 German-Austrian Anschluss. …

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