Russia’s Freedoms Fading Fast

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The name has changed and the empire is smaller than it used to be, but there’s less and less these days to distinguish the Russian Federation from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Saturday’s brutal beating of crusading journalist Oleg Kashin appears to be the latest example of the resurgent Russian police state flexing its muscles to stamp out dissent; especially when it comes to journalists who refuse to follow the party line. A horrific video shows Kashin being repeatedly beaten by two men who appear to be wielding pipes or some other blunt instruments. Kashin, a journalist for Kommersant, a Russian political and business newspaper, suffered multiple injuries and is currently in an induced coma as doctors try to save his life. Most significantly, the journalist who has written so much to anger and embarrass the government had all of his fingers broken. As messages go, it does not get much clearer that. None of Kashin’s possessions were stolen by his assailants, which further validates suspicions of governmental orchestration.

The Russian authorities have naturally expressed their outrage over this vicious crime and have vowed to find and punish the perpetrators. In a just world, that kind of investigation would start at the top, with detectives questioning Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. Eight journalists have been killed in Russia this year alone, and only one of those murders resulted in an arrest. “Russia’s courts and the police do not have enough strength – or enough interest – to protect journalists,” said Mikhail Kotov, editor of the Russian Gazeta online newspaper. With parliamentary elections scheduled to occur within the next eighteen months, efforts to suppress freedom of the press in Russia will surely get worse. The Russian edition of Newsweek, which has provided a strong voice of opposition in the country, appears ready to close its doors along with other media outlets that don’t play by Putin’s rules.

The West’s Cold War dream of a liberated, democratic Russia – a vision that appeared to be tantalizingly close to reality when the USSR dissolved nineteen years ago – now seems as distant and as unachievable as ever. As President, Putin was the most popular leader of any nation in the world, with approval ratings among Russians topping out over eighty per cent at times. The economic downturn means the Medvedev isn’t quite as popular as his mentor, but there’s very little to suggest that the majority of the Russian populace would want to change the way the country is run. Putin is widely seen as having restored Russian pride, and he was fortunate to be at the helm when the nation’s experiments with capitalism began to bear economic fruit. He’s a hero among much of the populace, and that counts for a lot more than the fate of one courageous journalist who sought to tell the truth.

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  • SHmuelHaLevi

    I am rather poor on my history knowledge and would like to know what what Russia a democracy? HELP!

    • http://www.mysapce.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

      The Russia nation has been here for some 500 years but russia like all of the europeans has always been ruled by kings.
      The history of russia has always been a history of Blood from day one! this nation russia has great people but has always had evil kings you can call it Red rule or the rule of the king but the people have always been used as weapons for power you can say that is the history of all nation.

  • SHmuelHaLevi

    I meant when was, not what what. Sorry

    • Bear from Russia

      Russia never was truly democratic. First it was a monarchy then communist despotism, then anarchy of 90th then Putin's stabilization and now Medvedev's accurate steps for truly democracy. Telling the truth modern Russia is more democratic than ever, but it is not a fully democratic state of course. As well as modern USA by the way;)

  • Chezwick_Mac

    I spent my late teens to my early thirties studying Sovietology. When the old USSR was dissolved in '91, I remember thinking that the world had changed and had no more use for Sovietologists, and I redirected my energies elsewhere (to China and Islam).

    It appears I may have been premature in my decision.

    • suspicious

      You need to read "New Lies for Old" and "The Origins of the Fourth World War"…

  • Greg

    I think Putin and Rahm Emanuel are a lot alike… do whatever it takes.

  • Doug

    When you are involved in a godless, totalitarian cause like communism, statism, socialism, leftism, so called "progressivism", modern liberalism, the end always justifies the means, and if you don't succeed, it's because the people are too stupid to understand, you didn't "educate" them properly, they are not worthy, etc.

    • hijinx60

      iN ALL SERIOUSNESS, DIDN'T OBAMA USE JUST THAT LINE? I believe it was something to the effect that he hadn't explained his Obamacare quite well enough, etc. This also echos Pelosi's line of passing it to find out what is in it.

  • USMCSniper

    Anna Politkovskaya was Putin's most prominent critic, and at the time of her death was about to publish a powerful story about torture and abductions in Chechnya. At least 13 the number of journalists killed in contract-style killings attributed to Putin. "Putin defends the Soviet-era intelligence service to this day. In recent comments to a writers' group in Moscow, he even seemed to excuse its role in dictator Joseph Stalin's brutal purges, saying it would be "insincere" for him to assail the agency where he worked for so many years. Fiercely patriotic, Putin once said he could not read a book by a Soviet defector because "I don't read books by people who have betrayed the Motherland."

    It comes as little surprise that Alexander Litvinenko has thus been targeted for speaking out about Politkovskaya. Protesters around the world have denounced Putin as her murderer.

  • rtk_51

    Russia has come almost full circle, Czar Valdemar Putin (in all but name) has only to assume the name and make the position hereditary for the Russian Empire to once again become an Empire in name. This is what the left wants, to become the new Royals and Nobles in a neo Feudal society. They will probably change the names of the ranks of the Nobles but this is what they want.

  • Phineas

    "….But now that Communism is dead…." – Leftist apologist extraodrinaire,Gore Vidal, National Press Club, 11/1991

    We knew back then, that it was anything but.

  • Steven

    What happens when the Russian people don't like their president anymore? Can they elect their own?

    • Bear from Russia

      No, we can only hope that American Forces of Greater Good will liberate as from evil KGB Putin, who of course drinks blood of innocent journalists.

  • Kevin Stroup

    Slavs thrive on pain, or desperately seek it, for some reason. How else can you explain their history as a people?

  • Bear from Russia

    What a marvelous article! It includes everything: Evil Putin from KGB, Stalin, Ivan the Terrible, stupid Russians that always desire to be slaves and a poor democratic journalist slain by government.
    Let me tell you several true facts about this story:
    1). Actually Kashin never wrote or said anything against federal government. He wrote articles against the destruction of Himkinsky forest near Moscow. A good aim, but has nothing common with blaming Putin or Medvedev.
    2). He is not in coma.
    3). Medvedev suggested to increase punishment for crimes against journalists.
    4). This story is widely discussed in Russian Mass Media now.
    After Soviet despotism and anarchy of 90th the modern Russia have more democracy than ever. Of course it is not as democratic as Sweden, but I think it is not worse than… USA. I want to ask you people: don't you see anything common to Orwell when you read such articles? I hope this one will be translated to Russian and published to Inosmi.

    • Chezwick_Mac

      1) The Himinsky forest is being destroyed as part of a massive infrastructure plan. You don't think Putin – one of the richest men in the world due to his corrupt control of the Russian economy – has his fingers in the pie? How naive are you?

      2) If Kashin is NOT in a coma, why is every media outlet reporting he IS?

      3) There's nothing wrong with love of one's country unless it becomes an obstacle to any real objectivity. American democracy is imperfect, but or you to suggest that Russia's democracy is as functional…is myopic to say the least. In today's Russia, local and regional officials can be summarily dismissed by the federal government. You call this democratic? There are NO checks and balances!

  • Bear From Russia

    1). Not the Himinsky forest, but the Himkinsky forest. Himky is a town near Moscow. And yes you are right but only on one half. It was being destroyed as a part of massive infrastructure plan by companies controlled by former Moscow governer Luzkov and his wife Baturina. People of Himky protested against this destruction and this is one of the reasons why Medvedev fired Luzkov. Oleg Kashin is one og these people. After this happened Luzkov and his family were sennd in UK. And now he calls himself the democrat and blame federal government for despotism. Funny.
    Now about Putin. What makes you think he is corrupt? Do you have any evidence? Putin doesn't need money, if you believe that he does then you know nothing about Russian leaders traditions. We have few of really good leaders, it is true, but none of them, I say again, none of them ever cared about money. Putin cares about his role in history, not about simple wealth. Do you really believe that a man who played a positive role in Russian history (except several mistakes) and who is the FIRST leader in Russian history who voluntary gave power to another man by law though being on top of popularity cares about wealth and money?
    2) What media? Your media? Did they even see him? I guess not. Kashin was unconscious for several days, but now he can talk.
    3) Well… Let us compare.
    You have 2 parties, practically only they rule you Senat and only one of their members can become the president. Both these parties have the same wealthy sponsors. Othe parties have no chance. So it doesn't matter much who is in the White House. Of course Obama is looking better than that stupid Bush who was even speaking like a kid. But your president doesn't actually rule the policy. He has a lot of obligations before those moneybags who supported him. You, Americans have an illusion of choice, but not the true choice.
    We have 4 parties in out parliament (it is called Duma) Putin's party United Russia have a huge majority (it is bad if you ask me) On the second place is… communist party which is the only true opposite to government (surprising, isn't it?) And the two last minor parties are fake (in my opinion). The situation is rather bad, but I don't see much difference with yours.
    And the local and region officials are elected by local parliaments, which are elected by people. And our elections system is much better then yours – outdated for centuries. We have direct, common, private elections without rudiments such as electoral college.

    • Chezwick_Mac

      1) By some estimates, Putin is worth $40 billion. His actual net worth is anybody's guess.

      2) Governors and mayors in Russia can be dismissed summarily by the Federal government. This is fact.

      3) The idea that there is only an "illusion of choice" in American elections is itself so delusional it speaks volumes. The mid-terms that just transpired presented us with a clearer choice than we've had in years. One party represents big government at home and appeasement of our enemies abroad; the other represents smaller government and a strong national defense.

      4) The idea that elections are fair and free in Russia is similarly delusional. If you'd been alive in the 30s, you'd be insisting to anyone who would listen that Stalin was a benevolent ruler loved by one and all, that the 1936 Constitution was the most democratic in the world, and that Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin and others WERE INDEED part of a Left/Right/Trotskyite Bloc of conspirators who murdered Kirov and sold out to the imperialists.

      • http://www.mysapce.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

        Yes you are right thank you, but soon with this nation in money and political collapse we will be just like some third world country and do you really think our elections are fair? understand one fact the boys who are on the inside of this system like Soros have many puppets to do what he wants the people have no one. and yes the ideals of stalin are still alive and the KGB Plan has worked to take down the USA, We didn't kill the Red's the Red's kill us. see savage nation read all the books about the Red's and the plan to take us down, by massive population moves into this nation by open boared by all the monkeys things that has happened after world war two and above all other things ask question and pick aside. the ideals that you understood to be right have disappeared and the holocaust against Americans is about to start and the tools that will make it come to life will be our own government not the russia or china. The cultural ideals of evil are here and now not yesterday.

        • Chezwick_Mac

          FRED: "do you really think our elections are fair? understand one fact the boys who are on the inside of this system like Soros have many puppets to do what he wants the people have no one."

          RESPONSE: All of Soros' money and shenanigans couldn't change the outcome of this November's election…a vivid illustration of the functionality and integrity of America's democratic system.

      • Bear from Russia

        1) Do you have facts? How can you blame Putin according to "some estimates"? By some estimates US is rulled by a dark cabinet of Wall Street bankers who managed 11.09.2011. I saw it in one movie. But I don't write it everywhere according to "some estimates".
        2) Well yes, you are right. But they are elected by local parlaments.
        3) I know this stories: Democrats are more socialistic and liberal and Republic party is more conservative and less socialistic. My friend from California explained me your political system a couple of years ago. And I agree that there are some minor differences between these 2 parties in policy, but not very huge. Well, if you whish you can think that Putin is our Democratic party, and Medvedev is our Republic party ;)
        4) I never said that elections in Russia are fully fair. UR party is cheating greatly, everybody knows it. But it is an absolutely stupid thing to compare current times with 30s. Stalin was a popular leader (popular, but not belowed) becouse of total media control and mass propaganda. And he ruled by fear. I know history.
        Compare with current situation: people have free access to different sources of information including foreign sources. Internet is absolutely free and not moderated (most of US forums have premoderation, and they do not publish my coments, most of our forums are postmoderated) 3 main informational TV channels belong to the state, yes, but the 4 main informational TV channel (Ren TV) is opposite and blames government 24 hours a day. Newspapers and magazines belong to privates and have no direct commands from government. And there is no fear in society. Medvedev and Putin are really popular, not belowed but popular.
        I sometimes watch reports of you TV concerning Russia on youtube. FoxNews for example. Often I see is a rude propaganda in the worst Soviet traditions. For example in august 2008 Fox news showed Chinvally destroyed by Geargian artillery and told that it is Gory destroyed by Russian air forces.

      • Bear from Russia

        1) Do you have facts? How can you blame Putin according to "some estimates"? By some estimates US is rulled by a dark cabinet of Wall Street bankers who managed 11.09.2011. I saw it in one movie. But I don't write it everywhere according to "some estimates".
        2) Well yes, you are right. But they are elected by local parlaments.
        3) I know this stories: Democrats are more socialistic and liberal and Republic party is more conservative and less socialistic. My friend from California explained me your political system a couple of years ago. And I agree that there are some minor differences between these 2 parties in policy, but not very huge. Well, if you whish you can think that Putin is our Democratic party, and Medvedev is our Republic party ;)
        4) I never said that elections in Russia are fully fair. UR party is cheating greatly, everybody knows it. But it is an absolutely stupid thing to compare current times with 30s. Stalin was a popular leader (popular, but not belowed) becouse of total media control and mass propaganda. And he ruled by fear. I know history.
        Compare with current situation: people have free access to different sources of information including foreign sources. Internet is absolutely free and not moderated (most of US forums have premoderation, and they do not publish my coments, most of our forums are postmoderated) 3 main informational TV channels belong to the state, yes, but the 4 main informational TV channel (Ren TV) is opposite and blames government 24 hours a day. Newspapers and magazines belong to privates and have no direct commands from government. And there is no fear in society. Medvedev and Putin are really popular, not belowed but popular.
        I sometimes watch reports of you TV concerning Russia on youtube. FoxNews for example. Often I see is a rude propaganda in the worst Soviet traditions. For example in august 2008 Fox news showed Chinvally destroyed by Geargian artillery and told that it is Gory destroyed by Russian air forces.

  • http://www.mysapce.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    Well Yes! did you think that after the colllapse of the USSR It wouldn't happen? read Bear from Russia, I mean people its not like the USA which looks like we the people here will soon want to live in old mother Russia; We the people here are being made into good little third world people for the ideals of monkeys like obama and people are going along to get along so be happy someday soon china will own your useless butt.
    just look at obama and his little rats running the FORMER USA.

    ask do you know where your Soros is today? Read "Trickle up poverty" this book will show you the light but not the way out only you can do that.

  • Bear from Russia

    How nice… premodaration

  • Bear from Russia

    1) Do you have facts? How can you blame Putin according to "some estimates"? By some estimates US is rulled by a dark cabinet of Wall Street bankers who managed 11.09.2011. I saw it in one movie. But I don't write it everywhere according to "some estimates".
    2) Well yes, you are right. But they are elected by local parlaments.
    3) I know this stories: Democrats are more socialistic and liberal and Republic party is more conservative and less socialistic. My friend from California explained me your political system a couple of years ago. And I agree that there are some minor differences between these 2 parties in policy, but not very huge. Well, if you whish you can think that Putin is our Democratic party, and Medvedev is our Republic party ;)
    4) I never said that elections in Russia are fully fair. UR party is cheating greatly, everybody knows it. But it is an absolutely stupid thing to compare current times with 30s. Stalin was a popular leader (popular, but not belowed) becouse of total media control and mass propaganda. And he ruled by fear. I know history.
    Compare with current situation: people have free access to different sources of information including foreign sources. Internet is absolutely free and not moderated (most of US forums have premoderation, and they do not publish my coments, most of our forums are postmoderated) 3 main informational TV channels belong to the state, yes, but the 4 main informational TV channel (Ren TV) is opposite and blames government 24 hours a day. Newspapers and magazines belong to privates and have no direct commands from government. And there is no fear in society. Medvedev and Putin are really popular, not belowed but popular.
    I sometimes watch reports of you TV concerning Russia on youtube. FoxNews for example. Often I see is a rude propaganda in the worst Soviet traditions. For example in august 2008 Fox news showed Chinvally destroyed by Geargian artillery and told that it is Gory destroyed by Russian air forces.

  • Bear from Russia

    1) Do you have facts? How can you blame Putin according to "some estimates"? By some estimates US is rulled by a dark cabinet of Wall Street bankers who managed 11.09.2011. I saw it in one movie. But I don't write it everywhere according to "some estimates".
    2) Well yes, you are right. But they are elected by local parlaments.
    3) I know this stories: Democrats are more socialistic and liberal and Republic party is more conservative and less socialistic. My friend from California explained me your political system a couple of years ago. And I agree that there are some minor differences between these 2 parties in policy, but not very huge. Well, if you whish you can think that Putin is our Democratic party, and Medvedev is our Republic party ;)

  • Bear from Russia

    Chezwick_Mac, I wrote you a responce but for some reason it was sent to premoderation. Hope you will see it here. Or give e your adress I will write you there.

  • savva

    "None of Kashin’s possessions were stolen by his assailants, which further validates suspicions of governmental orchestration".

    Oh my… It's strange that author didn't go further and said some kind of: As we know there are 2 rulers of today Russia. Putin and Medvedev. And now we know that there were two crimes who beat Kashin. So…

  • Gil Solnin

    I think the misfortune is that people thought the fall of the USSR would result in another USA or at least a westernized democracy. That is counter to Russian history which has always shown a country suspicious of the world outside its borders and protective of their own interests. That inevitably leads to to a strong central leader. If it were not Putin it would have been someone else. AIt appears Putin is falling back on the old ways of the USSR and placing strong restrictions of freedoms that could destablize his grip on power. He is also seeking to re-establish Russia as an equal to the USA in world power and influence. However, Russia will entirely fall back on ths USSR model – they like their wealth too much.

    • Chezwick_Mac

      You're absolutely correct about Russia's historical traditions. On the other hand, Japan, South Korea and many other countries in the world have had nothing but authoritarian traditions…and yet have successfully transitioned to democracy. It CAN be done.

      Russia's slide into authoritarianism wasn't preordained. It was a confluence of conscious decisions and orchestrated events by Putin and the ruling nomenklatura..

      • Bear from Russia

        You should learn history. ALL REVOLUTIONS always end with reaction. Putin's soft reaction was necessary. The other question is that now it's usefulness expired and we need to build a true Democracy, like in Western Europe (but not in US)
        P.S. Go to Russia and tell people on the streets that in 90th they had Democracy and lived better than now. They will tear you apart:)

  • a;ex

    Russia almost NEVER developed anything on its own. In the USSR there was a huge department called "Comity for Science and Technology", a part of an alphabet sup of numerous clandestine organizations (such as KGB, GRU as an example) which only purpose was industrial espionage (see Rosenberg's case in 1940's-1950's).

    China and the rest of the "developing" nations are doing exactly the same thing today.

  • Bear From Russia

    Right. And who invented:
    Radio, Sputnik, Helicopter, first space rocket, TV, fusion bomb, kalashnikov, semiconductors and a lot of other things?
    Maybe americans? :)