This morning, Anton Troianovski reported in the New York Times that there's a "building paranoia and polarization in Russian society. Citizens are denouncing one another in an eerie echo of Stalin’s terror, spurred on by vicious official rhetoric from the state and enabled by far-reaching new laws that criminalize dissent." He used an example of a group of morons turning in their teacher for saying that Russia and Ukraine are separate countries. The teacher was arrested, fined and fired. It reminded me of Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984.
People, wrote Troianovski, are snitching on their "neighbors and even the diners at the next table. In a mall in western Moscow, it was the “no to war” text displayed in a computer repair store and reported by a passer-by that got the store’s owner, Marat Grachev, detained by the police. In St. Petersburg, a local news outlet documented the furor over suspected pro-Western sympathies at the public library; it erupted after a library official mistook the image of a Soviet scholar on a poster for that of Mark Twain." How tragic; it sounds just like Texas.
In the western region of Kaliningrad, the authorities sent residents text messages urging them to provide phone numbers and email addresses of “provocateurs” in connection with the “special operation” in Ukraine, Russian newspapers reported; they can do so conveniently through a specialized account in the Telegram messaging app. A nationalist political party launched a website urging Russians to report “pests” in the elite.
“I am absolutely sure that a cleansing will begin,” Dmitri Kuznetsov, the member of Parliament behind the website, said in an interview, predicting that the process would accelerate after the “active phase” of the war ended. He then clarified: “We don’t want anyone to be shot, and we don’t even want people to go to prison.”
But it is the history of mass execution and political imprisonment in the Soviet era, and the denunciation of fellow citizens encouraged by the state, that now looms over Russia’s deepening climate of repression. Mr. Putin set the tone in a speech on March 16, declaring that Russian society needed a “self-purification” in which people would “distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew into their mouths.”
In the Soviet logic, those who choose not to report their fellow citizens could be viewed as being suspect themselves.
“In these conditions, fear is settling into people again,” said Nikita Petrov, a leading scholar of the Soviet secret police. “And that fear dictates that you report.”
In March, Mr. Putin signed a law that punishes public statements contradicting the government line on what the Kremlin terms its “special military operation” in Ukraine with as much as 15 years in prison. It was a harsh but necessary measure, the Kremlin said, given the West’s “information war” against Russia.
Prosecutors have already used the law against more than 400 people, according to the OVD-Info rights group, including a man who held up a piece of paper with eight asterisks on it. “No to war” in Russian has eight letters.
...In the western city of Penza, another English teacher, Irina Gen, arrived in class one day and found a giant “Z” scrawled on the chalkboard. The Russian government has been promoting the letter as a symbol of support for the war, after it was seen painted as an identifying marker on Russian military vehicles in Ukraine.
Ms. Gen told her students it looked like half a swastika.
Later, an eighth grader asked her why Russia was being banned from sports competitions in Europe.
“I think that’s the right thing to do,” Ms. Gen responded. “Until Russia starts behaving in a civilized manner, this will continue forever.”
“But we don’t know all the details,” a girl said, referring to the war.
“That’s right, you don’t know anything at all,” Ms. Gen said.
A recording of that exchange appeared on a popular account on Telegram that often posts inside information about criminal cases. The Federal Security Service, a successor agency to the K.G.B., called her in and warned her that her words blaming Russia for the bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, last month were “100 percent a criminal case.”
She is now being investigated for causing “grave consequences” under last month’s censorship law, punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison.
Ms. Gen, 45, said she found little support among her students or from her school, and quit her job this month. When she talked in class about her opposition to the war, she said she felt “hatred” toward her radiating from some of her students.
“My point of view did not resonate in the hearts and minds of basically anyone,” she said in an interview.
The U.S. was very polarized when our country was doing to Vietnam (and Cambodia) just what Russia is doing to Ukraine-- including the crimes against humanity. In May, 1970, the right-wing governor of Ohio ordered the National Guard to massacre peaceful Kent State student protesters, although two of the murdered students weren't part of the demonstration, just observers. Governor Jim Rhodes (R) riled up the public against the students: "We've seen here at the city of Kent especially, probably the most vicious form of campus-oriented violence yet perpetrated by dissident groups... they make definite plans of burning, destroying, and throwing rocks at police and at the National Guard and the Highway Patrol. ...this is when we're going to use every part of the law enforcement agency of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. We are going to eradicate the problem. We're not going to treat the symptoms. ...and these people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize the community. They're worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. Now I want to say this. They are not going to take over [the] campus. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America." Rhodes was never tried as a war criminal or murderer-- he was reelected over and over instead-- nor were Nixon or Kissinger ever tried as war criminals. A few of the National Guard murderers were indicted but they claimed they killed the students in self defense and a right-wing judge dismissed the charges and said that the deaths did not merit trials of the shooters.
This (above) was more recent, although none of the students at UC Davis were murdered, just pepper sprayed. You can watch this video below but YouTube doesn't want to make it easy for you. I wonder why... Any ideas? Maybe it's the same reason the Democratic Party appears to prefer losing the midterms than appealing to the youth vote by addressing the legitimate concerns of millions of voters (and potential voters) under the age of 30. A little postscript: If you think that I'm in any way excusing Putin's war crimes by bringing up Kent State, you're reading me wrong and you should probably be spending your time over at Daily Kos instead of DWT. I'm just against authoritarians and fascists everywhere-- the ones in Moscow and the ones in Columbus. And, unlike Rhodes and Nixon, Kissinger, like Putin, is still alive.