On Sunday, 18 March 2018, Vladimir Putin ran for the Russian presidency for a fourth time and won easily in the first round, claiming 77% of votes cast (by 68% of the electorate), in a contest that was neither free nor fair.
Following the murder of Boris Nemtsov, early in 2015, his most prominent opponent was Alexei Navalny, who was not allowed to register as a presidential candidate and take part in the 2018 elections.
In a set of 15 theses, drawn up and published some years earlier, VLADIMIR BUKOVSKY argued that the popular campaign against corruption (Navalny famously denounced the United Russia as the party of “conmen and crooks”) did not address the main problem posed by the Putin regime. That had its roots in the issues not tackled in the early 1990s, after the demise of the USSR.
As a consequence, an unreconstructed KGB lieutenant-colonel, became President of Russia in 2000 and has led the country since the beginning of the 21st century.
The New York Times, 22 March 1987
Are Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s new policies the historical turning point we have been praying for, signaling the end of oppression and misery in the Soviet Union? Or are we witnessing only a short-lived ”thaw,” a tactical retreat before the next offensive, as Lenin put it in 1921?
True, a number of the most prominent human rights activists have now been released from prison labor camps and from exile. As welcome as this gesture is, however, we cannot fail to notice that such selective mercy is of the kind exactly calculated to make a maximum public impression with a minimum of genuine concessions.
If the Soviet Union is really undergoing a change of heart, why has it not simply declared a general amnesty for all prisoners of conscience instead of resolving certain highly visible cases one by one over the course of a year?
We have not, for instance, heard any clear condemnation of the criminal use of psychiatry — the most notorious of the Soviet methods of repression. Nor have we seen any progress with respect to emigration.
Commentary, 5 January 1982
“Peace will be preserved and strengthened
if the people take the cause of peace into their own hands
and defend it to the end”
Joseph Stalin, 1952
The “struggle for peace” has always been a cornerstone of Soviet foreign policy. Indeed, the Soviet Union itself rose out of the ashes of World War I under the banner of “Peace to the People! Power to the Soviets!” Probably from the very first, Bolshevik ideologists were aware of how powerful a weapon for them the universal craving for peace would be—how gullible and irrational people could be whenever they were offered the slightest temptation to believe that peace was at hand.
Only a year before the Bolsheviks raised their banner, the most terrible prospect for any Russian would have been to see an enemy burning down his villages and defiling his churches. Yet once blinded by the slogan, “A just peace without annexations or tribute,” he was to rush from the front lines, along with hundreds of thousands of his fellow soldiers, sweeping away the last remnants of the Russian national state. He did not want to know that his desertion had done no more than simply prolong the war for another year, not only condemning thousands more to death on the Western front, but ending in that very German occupation of the Ukraine and Russia he had so much dreaded just a year ago. For the moment the only thing that mattered was peace — right now, and at any price.
Foreword to Bloch and Reddaway, Russia’s political hospitals (1977)
The peculiar features of the Soviet political system, the Communist ideology, the uncertainties and difficulties of the science of psychiatry, the labyrinths of the human conscience – all these have weirdly woven themselves together to create a monstrous phenomenon, the use of medicine against man.
Paradoxical though this phenomenon seems, it is, apparently, symptomatic of our times, times in which the highest achievements of human thought, science, and technology have suddenly boomeranged against man, putting his very existence in doubt. The rapid development of technology threatens to break down our ecology, and the discovery and exploration of atomic energy have made possible the complete destruction of life.
When Pinel first removed the chains from the mentally ill and thereby freed them from punishment as criminals, who would have guessed that two centuries later prisoners would look with fear at Pinel’s successors, preferring chains to their “care”?