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Monday, November 13, 2006

Albats on Politkovskaya

Looks eerily famliar, doesn't it?

Yesterday, LR ran a special magazine edition of Sunday Photos in which we identified the Russian patriots who may be next on the Kremlin's hit list (just like Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn on the one hand, Stalin and Putin on the other, before them, Russia always kills its patriots and elevates its traitors to power). Yevgenia Albats was among them.

Now, below, a reader (we are flattered to report that he refers to himself as a "fan") offers his exclusive translation of a
Russian article from the Russian newspaper Yezhednevniy Zhurnal by hero reporter Albats about slain hero reporter and Russian patriot Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered one month ago this last Tuesday. The fact that brilliant work like this can get into print in Russia must give us all reason to hope that something better is possible for Russia. How long that hope will last is anyone's guess. But one thing is for sure: This post says with absolute clarity that there are plenty of people who will not forget Politkovskaya, who will use her memory as motivation to continue her work. {TN means a note of clarifiation from the translator}


by Yevgeniya Albats
Yezhedneviy Zhurnal
October 11, 2006

Historical analogies are dangerous things. But the announcement President V.V. Putin made in Germany on the day of Anna Politovskaya’s burial and in reference to her compels one to recall the murder of Sergei Kirov in Leningrad in 1934. Or more exactly, the consequences that his murder held for the politics of the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Historical analogies are not only dangerous, but also inexact.

If one takes them literally.

If, for example, one were to expect full-scale ethnic or racial cleansing inevitably precedes the march of storm troopers, as was the case in Germany at the end of the 1920s. Or think that a party, devoted to an ideology, like the ideology of National Socialism, must first gain a majority in parliament, as happened in Germany in 1929. And only then, yes, we’d be at the edge. Or to think, that in order to classify Russia as a “New Third Reich” there would have to be a charismatic leader like Adolf Hitler. And in general, whereas in Germany in the twenties there was a cult of military and government service, based on rational-legalistic principles, didn’t Russia, which did away with its military cult after the Decembrist uprising in 1925, also do away with the rational organization of the bureaucracy as early as the 16th century, and didn’t all subsequent efforts to rationalize it fail as a result?

Historical analogies are useful only in one way, but in this way they are very useful: They allow us to discern policy trends, and to predict the consequences of various instruments being used by those who would carry out these policies. What mechanisms might be set in motion, for example, by the emotional and, frankly, not very wise rhetoric of the President? What instructions can be gleaned and how will his remarks be interpreted by the self-serving leaders of the lower- and much-lower ranks – such as the way they gleaned from Putin’s remarks on “defending the core population” a nod to hunt down the businesses belonging to people from the Caucasus. Today – the businesses of Georgians, tomorrow – the half-Georgians, the day after – the one-fourth-Georgians, and then – the fifth- and tenth-part Georgians, and everyone else not of the core. Or will Putin declare that those of “the last quartile” should not be touched? And if he does declare that, what motivation and impetus will there be for his people to obey, when hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars are flowing directly into their hands: compared with these sums, the wages and benefits of those with shoulder-straps and less than a full deck of cards is just chump change – for gas and cigarettes.

The murder of Anna Politkovskaya – if we take it as a direct historical parallel – is, of course, in no way similar to the murder of Sergei Kirov: she was a journalist in the opposition press and a passionate defender of the downtrodden and oppressed; he was a high-ranking government official and worshiper of the female members of the Leningrad ballet. And really, the words of Stalin and Putin about these quite dissimilar tragedies – if we set them side-by-side – are not very similar. It never occurred to Stalin, for one thing, to call Kirov a politician whose work was aimed against the current government. Putin, on the other hand, called Anna’s work exactly that: “This journalist was a fierce critic of the acting authorities.”

But there is one point on which they do coincide – and it is a point that it is important, with far-reaching consequences: both the “Leader of the Peoples” (Stalin – TN) and the “Guarantor of the Constitution” (Putin – TN) (both titles, doubtless, require quotation marks) pointed out for investigators where – in what circles – they should look for the murderer(s).

What followed the Stalinist clarifications -- what instruments of policy were launched, what mechanisms were set in motion, who became the victims and who the beneficiaries, which careers were ruined and which made, what blood flowed for the country at the end of these clarifications -- about all this, dozens of books have been written.

What instruments and mechanisms will be launched and set in motion now, after Putin’s public clarifications, and what will be the consequences – about all this, all of us should be thinking.

For starters, the President instructed the sleuths that they should not bother looking for the murderer in the circle of the young prime minister of Chechnya, who was still showing such great promise:

QUESTION (from a correspondent of the journal “Zyuddoiche Tsaitung”): “… is it possible that the man you are relying on in Chechnya, Razman Kadyrov, is behind the murder (of Anna Politkovskaya – auth)? Do you consider this even generally possible?”

PUTIN: No, it is not possible. And now I’ll tell you why. Because her publications did not damage his political activities and did not interfere with the development of his political career… there exists (in the leadership of the Chechen Republic – auth) a complex combination of various political forces, a complex combination in parliament, and in the administrative structures, but they did not have a motive, in my view, to organize this murder.”

“There was no motive” – thus, three days after the murder, the President indicated to the investigative agencies that looking for the murderer in Chechnya and among its leadership was pointless. He would not recommend it, and would not advise it. Is it worth recalling here that V.V. Putin is a graduate of the Law Department of Leningrad State University? That the legend of “Putin – The Lawyer” was so lavishly uncorked (like the legend of “Putin – The Intelligence Officer”) by Kremlin political operatives and the Kremlin press pool that serves them, so that when Putin arrived at the Kremlin everyone, especially in the West, would understand that a real government guy – at last! – had arrived in power, immersed in the principles of Rights and The Law, and for whom these principles, if not overriding political values, were at least acknowledged and understood. But we after all knew that Soviet law faculties first and foremost served to prepare soviet government servants (as a teacher of the future president used to tell journalists back in 1999-2000), and work experience “in the dissident section” in the KGB did not exactly facilitate reminiscing on the theme of “Roman Law”.

Where else, according to the President’s clarification, could there be no motive for killing Anna Politkovskaya (and, therefore, in what corners would be pointless to look)?

ANSWER (from the same interview): “I cannot imagine that any official would arrive at the idea of organizing such a vicious crime.” In other words, within the Russian authorities and government institutions generally there are no and can be no murderers.

The conclusion? Already drawn by the President (and, therefore, the orders received): “I think – and one of our newspapers today rightly set this forth – that the murder of Politkovskaya caused more damage to the acting authorities in general and the Chechen government in particular than her articles ever did.”

What exactly was “set forth” by “one of our newspapers”– really, the entire mass of government propaganda? They set it forth as follows. This theory actually first appeared on the Internet, on the blog “Pavlovskiy’s pups” (щенков Павловского) and so forth, literally two hours after the news of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder broke, and subsequently made its way around the television stations and newspapers. What they “set forth” was that, since Politkovskaya’s articles did not have any influence or significance (the fact that Politkovskaya’s articles had given rise to a number of criminal cases and convictions, the “setters-forth” evidently did not know or want to know), and since the murder led to a lot of noise that was personally uncomfortable for V.V. Putin and the “acting authorities”, therefore one should search for those who ordered the killing exactly among the opposition to those presently in the Kremlin. The names of two political émigrés – B. Berezovskiy and L. Nevzlina – were noted early on. One cannot exclude the possibility that the President may have taken it upon himself to clarify the direction of the investigation with regard to what other names should be investigated, and God forbid, their circles, specifically those who have supported them or sympathized with them in the past.

Doesn’t it all remind us of something? Yes, it reminds us. Of the murder of Sergei Mironovich Kirov in 1934, and the mass arrests of those who saw Kirov as a leader capable of heading up the Party instead of Stalin, and then – among the Party nomenklatura that was close to him, the intelligentsia, and so forth, and so on.

It’s not important that Kirov and Politkovskaya worked for different “paymasters”. In the end, the murder of Kirov was nothing more than a pretext.

What is important is the political instruments and mechanisms that the government brings into action when it feels threatened. V.V. Putin has launched the instruments, and the mechanisms will be set in motion. The only question is, on what scale will be the consequences.


17 ugly raccoons said...

Yes, it reminds us. Of the murder of Sergei Mironovich Kirov in 1934, and the mass arrests of those who saw Kirov as a leader capable of heading up the Party instead of Stalin, and then – among the Party nomenklatura that was close to him, the intelligentsia, and so forth, and so on.

Yeah, yeah, that old BS about Stalin killed Kirov, one of most beloved BS from old communist dissenters (any intelligent Westerner should know that most of old dissenters are children of repressed reds). Truth is Kirov was Stalin's cronie, not independent leader, so Stalin was genuinely upset by his killing. Perpetrators (to say precisely, instigators), imho, were named correctly - Trotskyites or some generation of 'Party opposition', and these bastards were much worse than good old Joe, heh. Good thing he viped them out, but very bad thing so many innocents got along with criminals and traitors.

La Russophobe said...

"so many innocents got along with criminals and traitors" -- how many innocent people would be "acceptable" to you?

do you somehow thing russia has now solved the problem of scooping up innocent people along with the guilty? only a powerful political organization could prevent that, and russia has destroyed them all.

17 ugly raccoons said...

how many innocent people would be "acceptable" to you?

It is a meaningless question. But... let's say for starters I'll be happy with numbers from Stalin's times - 8% verdicts 'not guilty' by notorious article 58-10, 15% verdicts 'not guilty' by non-political crimes. Courts of Great Democrat Yeltsin usualy had less than 1% 'not guilty' verdicts.

But you knew that, right?

do you somehow thing russia has now solved the problem of scooping up innocent people along with the guilty?

Do you think any country has solved this problem?

only a powerful political organization could prevent that,

No one political organization could prevent that.

and russia has destroyed them all.

Good, whatever reasons power had, because they are\were useless grant-suckers.

La Russophobe said...

I wonder how meaningless the question would be when it was you standing accused of a crime you did not commit.

What's really meaningless is to believe you can quote data about Stalin's trials with reliability. Stalin as rather famously dishonest.

17 ugly raccoons said...

What's really meaningless is to believe you can quote data about Stalin's trials with reliability.

If you not knew, some Westerners call Soviet system 'bureucratic'. If anything, it means scrupulous accounting of any matter boss may ask. Number of sentences is one of such question, isn't it? So data peacefully slept in archives all that time and were declassified after SU collapsed. You can't imagine how idiotic looked all dissenters who jumped and screamed about 'tens of millions in GULag'. But they endured and now they just ignoring matter of numbers and evading discussions on this theme. I think Westerners wouldn't take such info lightly - who want to lose preferred horror story?

I wonder how meaningless the question would be when it was you standing accused of a crime you did not commit.

Ah, argumentum ad hominem. Come on, I know you can do better than that.