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Monday, July 16, 2007

Russia's Public Enemy #1

EDITORIAL

Destroying Russia's Enemies


It may come as a surprise to some to learn that we do not disagree with the proposition that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has the right to attack and destroy Russia's enemies wherever he finds them, including in their toilets. We enthusiastically support that notion, as would any true Russian patriot. We could hardly do otherwise, since that's exactly what we are doing right here on this blog.

We simply ask the question: If that is Putin's charge and mission, and it should be, doesn't he need to start by attacking and destroying himself? Isn't Putin himself the greatest single threat to Russia's future? Isn't he Russia's Public Enemy #1?

Putin, of course, will tell you he's not. But criminals rarely admit their crimes, so that means nothing. Putin's allies will tell you he's not, and they are many (he has 70%+ approval in public opinion polls). But throughout Russia's history, and nobody in her right mind can dispute this, the country has had dire problems telling the difference between its friends and its enemies. For instance, although (as we previously reported) Putin signed an official decree naming author Alexander Solzhenitsyn a hero of Russia on June 5th of this year, things were quite different for Solzhenitsyn earlier in his life. You can see Putin below, shaking the hand of the proud hero.


But Solzhenitsyn hasn't always been viewed as being a hero in Russia. Far from it; he's been designated most of his life as the worst kind of traitor by his homeland, and suffered the most severe punishment it could mete out. In February of 1945, while risking his life fighting for his country to save it from Nazi invaders, Solzhenitsyn was arrested by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and sentenced to eight years at hard labor in Siberia on account of a letter Solzhenitsyn had written to a friend criticizing Stalin's policies. That's his prison mugshot at the left. Released from prison in 1953, Solzhenitsyn was then sentenced to indefinite exile away from Russia's major cities and finally, in February 1974, after three decades of tortuous persecution in which he never wavered in his willingness to risk his life speaking the truth in the hopes of saving it from the collapse that ultimately did occur, he was deported from the country for writing the novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich documenting his experiences in Stalin's prison camps, the only book he was ever allowed to publish in the USSR and for which in 1974 he had won a Nobel Prize for literature that the Kremlin would not let him accept.

So while the Soviet Union existed, Russia identified Solzhenitsyn as its enemy -- just as Putin today identifies Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko as Russia's enemies (as well as a host of others, and just as some so identify this blog). Putin himself, in an official act, has admitted the the USSR was wrong about Solzhenitsyn, yet he won't acknowledge the possibility that future generations could decide he's wrong about Anna and Alexander -- and more importantly, that he's wrong about himself. That is the position of a neo-Soviet madman, exactly the kind of position that Solzhenitsyn wrote to his friend to complain about in Josef Stalin.

And how long will it be, we must ask, before people start getting arrested for writing letters about Putin like Solzhenitsyn wrote about Stalin? How long will it be, indeed, before Russia collapses just as the USSR did, and before some future Russian leader is posthumously designated Anna and Alexander as heroes for opposing Putin, saying that Russia's downfall might have been averted if they had been heeded?

In short, we have no doubt that, decades from now, historians will look back on Vladimir Putin in exactly the way they now view Josef Stalin. In fact, while Putin may turn out to have murdered fewer Russians, he may well be judged to have done more actual damage to Russia's future for the very reason that his policies seemed more reasonable and therefore became more widely and deeply accepted by the benighted Russian populace.

And we have no doubt that, in the hindsight of history, it will be opponents of Putin who will be viewed as Russia's true patriots of the early 21st Century, just as Solzhenitsyn has been rehabilitated from his prior criminal status.

The only question is: Will any Russians be left alive after Putin is through ruining the country to celebrate and remember Politkovskaya -- and if so, will there still be a place called Russia to remember her in (after all, there isn't a USSR).

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