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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Russian Hopes for Russian Independence, Some Day, Too

Writing in the Toledo Blade, Russian-American journalist Mike Sigov records his sadness and hope for Russia:

Democracy is in the public eye this week as we mark its birthday in this country - July 4, 1776, when the United States claimed independence from Britain. Millions suffering from oppression the world over will join us, celebrating the United States as the "land of the free and the home of the brave" and hoping either to be able one day to come here and begin their American Dream or to live to see democracy won in their home countries.

Some of them will come from Russia, a country whose leadership has reneged on promises of democratic reforms and has restored an autocracy, with effectively a one-party system, secret police supremacy, government-controlled media, persecution of dissidents, and an aggressive foreign policy. Those hopefuls belong to a minority group in Russia - 20 to 30 percent of the population - according to different official estimates.Russia's government-controlled media report that most people in Russia - 70 to 80 percent - support President Vladimir Putin and are happy with the autocracy or the "sovereign democracy," as the Kremlin calls it. Unfortunately, independent reports from Russia suggest that it may well be true.

The basic reasons why this sentiment prevails in Russia include a lingering nostalgia for the lost superpower status, poverty during the period that followed the crumbling of the Soviet Union, and the current windfall of petrodollars associated with the Putin presidency. Besides, there is Kremlin-fanned propaganda that uses the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the U.S. missile-defense initiative in Europe to dredge up a good, old image of a foreign foe to better cement the ranks of Putin supporters. Absent fresh assassinations of investigative journalists, ex-secret police whistleblowers, or incorrigibly honest bankers in Russia and vicinity, Kremlin watchers are mulling what reporters in Moscow call "the problem of 2008" - a constitutionally mandated departure of Mr. Putin from the presidency when his second consecutive term expires next spring.

There are several overreported scenarios that would enable Mr. Putin to bend the rules to stay in power, from changing the constitution through a referendum to anointing his faithful wife as his successor. Both would work without a hitch, given Mr. Putin's popularity and the servility of his electorate. Many pundits, however, assign enough value to Mr. Putin's repeated promises to step down to discuss the chances of two of his most probable successors - Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov, 54, or First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, 41 - or a possibility that some other Putin loyalist will pop up later as a "surprise candidate."

"People may call him an autocrat, but I would consider him a responsible autocrat," Dmitry Trenin, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center, reportedly told the Associated Press."He clearly wants out of the Kremlin, but he doesn't want the system to crumble the minute he leaves."First, I would not be so sure. Second, whoever is in charge in Russia come next summer, it will most definitely be a leader, or at least a figurehead, backed by Russia's present ruling class - the secret police, which permeates Russia's political and business elite.

Despite a stringentU.S. immigration policy, most of my Russian childhood friends and college buddies now reside in the United States, while others are in the European Union. Others are in Russia, some by choice and some by necessity. We stay in touch by phone and e-mail. This week we will be celebrating Independence Day. We'll watch fireworks and raise a glass to a wish we all share - that those of us still back in Russia also get to be part of a civil society some day

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is Hector,

Sombody better nodge this Russian awake. It was declared on 12 June 1990, finalized on 25 December 1991. Its been a U.S stooge ever since.