Drifting towards authoritarianism, or not

Remember the news stories and op-eds a month ago saying that Vladimir Putin was about to ‘recreate the KGB’ by merging Russia’s various intelligence and security agencies into one super-agency, to be called the Ministry of State Security, MGB? The story originally appeared in Kommersant, and then spread far and wide. ‘If true’, wrote Mark Galeotti, ‘it suggests Putin is seriously worried about his future. … Besides this fits a wider picture of a drift toward authoritarianism’. The creation of the new agency, added Galeotti, ‘would allow even more intensive and aggressive espionage overseas. … That should send alarm bells ringing across the West.’

RFE/RL’s Brian Whitmore agreed: ‘I think the low turnout in the election, the supermajority that United Russia secured, and the specter of a revival of the KGB are related,’ he wrote, ‘Vladimir Putin appears to be moving away from electoral authoritarianism and toward plain old authoritarianism.’

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph sought to scare readers by noting that the title MGB was the same as that used by the Soviet security services under Stalin (at least part of the time). According to the Telegraph, ‘Kremlin critics were horrified by the possible rebirth of an organisation synonymous in Russia with political oppression. “It’s time to get out [of the country],” wrote Elshad Babaev, a Twitter user. “Anyone who can should take the opportunity”.’

Since then, the much touted new super-agency has mysteriously failed to materialize. On Monday, Komsomolskaia Pravda published an interview with Putin’s former chief of staff Sergey Ivanov, in which Ivanov was asked whether it was true that he was going to head this agency. Ivanov replied:

This is one hundred percent fake! No Ministry of State Security has been considered or will be considered. I can confidently say that. It’s a classic example of somebody thinking up a fake, throwing it out, and then people commenting on it for a long time. It’s the production of news in the absence of real news.

Where does that leave the ‘drift toward authoritarianism’, I wonder?

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10 thoughts on “Drifting towards authoritarianism, or not”

  1. ” ‘If true’, wrote Mark Galeotti, ‘it suggests Putin is seriously worried about his future…”

    “RFE/RL’s Brian Whitmore agreed: ‘I think the low turnout in the election, the supermajority that United Russia secured, and the specter of a revival of the KGB are related,’ he wrote, ‘Vladimir Putin appears to be moving away from electoral authoritarianism and toward plain old authoritarianism.’”

    Downfall of the regime is imminent!

    “Падение режима неизбежно. Это понимает любой честный и порядочный человек, гей, демократический журналист и евроукр. Понимает сенатор Джон Маккейн, брайтонская интеллигенция, экологи Гринпис, правозащитное крыло ИГИЛа Аль-Каида, а также борцы с режимом Врачи без границ. Понимает это и сам диктатор Влад Путин, поэтому всеми силами оттягивает свой конец различными ухищрениями и провокациями КГБ. В то время как вертолет на крыше Лубянки уже потихоньку раскручивает лопасти, загруженный золотом ПЖиВ и заправленный бензином до самой Северной Кореи. Под едкие аплодисменты завсегдатаев кафе Жан-Жак, попивающих смузи с насваем, и иронично наблюдающих как Путин вместе с российской экономикой уходит на дно.”

    – (c) Lev Nathanovich Scharansky.

    Although, former vice-premier Ivanov in his interview demonstrates that he, despite being despicable member of the ruthless Chekist caste of executioners and satraps of the Bloody Regime (and Regime in This Country is always bloody!), he still has a potential to evolve into handshakable person:

    “- Вы принимали участие в открытии доски Маннергейма в Петербурге, которую на днях все-таки убрали со здания Военной академии и перевезли в музей Первой мировой войны в Царском Селе. Вы не считаете, что появление этой доски в Петербурге было ошибкой? Люди этого не поняли…

    – Согласен, наверное, надо было заранее объяснить людям элементарные вещи, связанные со знанием истории. У нас народ, к сожалению, часто историю либо не знает, либо, даже когда узнает какие-то отдельные факты, не хочет их признавать в упор. Против установления памятного знака Маннергейму протестовала очень узкая, маргинальная часть населения, представленная такой незарегистрированной партией, как «Другая Россия». Обливали доску краской, занимались вандализмом. Главная фальсификация в том (даже некоторые СМИ ее допускали), что доску установили финскому маршалу Маннергейму. Вранье полное! Это памятник русскому генерал-лейтенанту Маннергейму. Нельзя отрицать, что Маннергейм очень много сделал для Российской империи. Он Георгиевский кавалер. А все Георгиевские кавалеры у нас увековечены на досках в Георгиевском зале Кремля. Конечно, Маннергейм фигура противоречивая. Но это пример того, как жизнь людей, и не только простых, была кардинально изменена, исковеркана октябрем 17-го года.”

    See, people?! It was a plaque to the St. George’s cavalier – not to Nazi’s ally! Surely, this fact changes everything for 900 000 dead of the Leningrad, to those who survived the blokade, their families and descendants! Hey, I have some suggestions for the entire Global Community!

    a) The USA must totally have a plaque commemorating their great hero of the Revolution and War for the Independance Benedict Arnold opened by top governmental officials with honour guard in attendance.

    b) All forward thinking Christian denominations in the West (you know them – the ones with female clergy, same-sex marriages and atheist ministers) must honour deeds and actions of apostle Judas… who is completely different person from Juds, who sold Jesus Christ for “a pretty good wages for one little little kiss”.

    So-called “Russian liberals” and their western handlers and supporters must support such notions most loudly and wholeheartedly!

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  2. Actually, there is a monument to Benedict Arnold, although it doesn’t mention his name: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boot_Monument

    There are also, of course, loads of monuments to Confederate generals.

    There’s a statue to George Washington in Trafalgar Square, London. (Can’t get a picture of this to appear for some reason.)

    etc, etc.

    So, monuments to traitors/rebels are actually quite common.

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    1. “Actually, there is a monument to Benedict Arnold, although it *doesn’t mention his name*”

      Exactly. Besides:

      “The memorial was donated by John Watts de Peyster, a former Major General for the New York State Militia during the American Civil War who wrote several military histories about the Battle of Saratoga.”

      So, not a person akin to Medinsky or Ivanov.

      “There are also, of course, loads of monuments to Confederate generals.”

      That’s another matter entirely more to do with the peculiar brand of “reconciliaton” chosen by the USA, than by any precedent in history. Even the existing pro-Dixie momorials, statues and sentiments are sources of constant contoversy in the US. I guess no one needs reminding about the recent ban of the Confederate flag on federal buildings.

      “There’s a statue to George Washington in Trafalgar Square, London”

      Replica. Presented to the people of Great Britain and Ireland by the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1921. Anoter one is in Versailles Palace in France. Nothing like what we had this summer.

      Which former British capital city did he help to starve btw?

      “So, monuments to traitors/rebels are actually quite common.”

      Maybe even true. But context is everything. E.g. – the “Judas Medal” awarded to hetman Mazepa by Peter the Great in 1709:

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    2. By the eagerness of your defense, professor, I take it that you are generally in favor of the Mannerheim’s plaque.

      Or am I wrong and you are against it?

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      1. “If you haven’t seen it, this debate on Russian TV is interesting”

        Seen it. Collective Gozmans of Russia, as usual, are ashamed of being Russkiye and suggest that we should better “pay and repent” (c). Trying to pass these people as something viable, as a sign that “there are opposing sides in Russian society” ignores several obvious facts

        – there is the side of majority, and there is a size of collective Gozmans.

        – One side recieves nothing but applauses from our “Western partners”. Hint: that’s not the side of majority.

        Personally, I approve of the monument of Ivan Vasilievich (fourth of his name), the first czar (emperor) of All Russia. I also think that what have happened to the Mannerheim plaque was the clear demonsration that Russia has not just “populace” and “electorate”, but narod – The People – and civil society, albeit not in the form that would make happy our Western partners. Happy or not doesn’t matter to me – the fact remains. People who did that were not “marginals”, neither were they hatchlings from Soros and NED’s funds – so, I think, it’s time to stop lamenting the phantom “lack” of the civil society in Russia.

        And to provide yet another example of lively discussion of Russia’s history and the place of such people as baron Mannerheim:

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    3. “So, monuments to traitors/rebels are actually quite common.”

      Traitors/rebels but not the people who killed children by ethnicity. There are monuments to the rebels in Russia – Yulaev, Shamil etc.. But Mannerheim – is another case. The analog Mannerheim plaque would Enver Pasha monument in Armenia.

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  3. ‘Electoral authoritarianism’ – isn’t this just a way to describe the presidential system of government? Especially where presidents are popular?

    I know Franklin D. Roosevelt was routinely accused of being a dictator. He was elected 4 times in a row (vs only 2 + 1 for Mr Putin, so far), and probably would’ve been re-elected again in 1948, if he lived… And yet he’s still one of the most popular presidents… What gives?..

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