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30.08.2007 | Halya Coynash

No more looking for enemies of the people

   

For those familiar with the darker pages of Soviet history, recent developments in Russia are especially disturbing.  In a year which for many of us is of poignant significance as the seventieth anniversary of the unleashing of the Great Terror, the grotesque echoes from that time cause real pain.

Two days before what should have been Anna Politkovskaya’s 49th birthday, the Russian Prosecutor General announced arrests and suggested, without providing any substantiation, a foreign link in the journalist’s murder.  Sycophantic to the last (the main requirement for government officials), he was to some extent simply repeating what Putin said after Politkovskaya’s murder, and what has increasingly become the general line in Russian policy.  Look for the foreign link, the conspiracy and the enemies of the Russian people. The latter are, by the way, seen as represented by Vladimir Putin, and therefore any attempts to “discredit” (in free countries this translates as criticizing) the latter are effectively aimed against the nation. 

In 1937 our grandfathers were accused of links with Trotskyite groups, conspiring to overthrow the Soviet regime and join Ukraine to Poland, or to Germany, or to the capitalist fiends wherever, and whoever they might be.  In short, they were enemies of the people, as represented by Stalin and the Party.

Once Trotsky from his exile was the universal villain; now it is Boris Berezovsky who serves the same purpose. Besides wishing the latter no harm, and therefore hoping our analogy goes only so far, there are doubtless also other differences. Two closely-linked similarities, however, are striking. In the 1930s and since Putin came to power, we see a population fed lies and disinformation from the mass media. Partly as a result of this, the popular antagonism for the Kremlin’s “bogey men” is strong, making arrant nonsense less likely to be analyzed in any critical fashion.

Among those who wanted people to analyze and to know the truth was Anna Politkovskaya.  She was not the first journalist, nor tragically the last, in Putin’s Russia to be murdered.

Her colleagues at Novaya Gazeta have confidence in the investigators and believe that those detained this week may be implicated in the hired killing.  That is where their points of agreement with the Prosecutor General end. 

Upbeat noises were, nonetheless, made not only in Russia, but from within the international community, over “progress” in uncovering this heinous crime. 

I would suggest any such optimism is seriously undermined by the Prosecutor General’s offensively primitive and unsubstantiated “conclusions”.  There must be no question of any “uncovering” of this crime which does not clearly identify those who ordered the killing and provide evidence which would stand up to scrutiny in any country’s courts.

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