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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Annals of the Neo-Soviet Blog Crackdown in Russia

Inquirer.net reports that the Kremlin's malignant forces have descended once again upon the blogosphere:

A Russian blogger could face two years in prison for insulting police in his online diary on the popular website livejournal.com, local prosecutors said Monday. Prosecutors in the northern Russian city of Syktyvkar have charged blogger Savva Terentyev [LR: pictured, he's just 21 years old] with hate speech crimes carrying penalties ranging from a 100,000-ruble ($4,000) [LR: That's more than half a year's pay at the average wage] fine to two years in prison, the Komi regional prosecutor's office said in a statement. A February 2007 post by Terentyev included "a direct call aimed at inciting hatred or hostility, as well as harming the dignity of... a particular social group: policemen," the prosecutor said. The offending message has been deleted from the site, though local news agency BNKomi quoted the original entry as likening police officers to thugs and suggesting that they should be burnt. Terentyev's blog, which focuses mostly on his music listening habits, contained hundreds of messages of support and outrage over the case from other livejournal.com users. Anton Nosik, director of livejournal.com's chief administrator in Russia, told daily Kommersant the case was "absurd." "The ignorance of local judges often plays a role in the outcome of cases connected to the internet," Nosik said. "I hope that with many journalists present, the judge will look at the essence of the case and not simply hand down a guilty verdict."

Kudos to Nosik for speaking out, but we would have hoped for better. Some people thought Stalin and Hitler were "absurd" when they first got going, too. Maybe Nosik could have chosen a better word? What's more, his blog is noticeably quiet on this topic. All bloggers in the world, regardless of their subject matter, should rise in showing solidarity with Terentyev. Because any one of us could be next.

By the way, it appears that the above report isn't actually the totally correct story. Terentyev's statement did not even appear as a post on his own blog, which is non-political and artistic, but rather as a mere comment on the blog of another person, a local journalist named Boris Suranov, who wrote about a police raid on a local opposition newspaper called
Iskra (link in Russian) in Syktyvkar, Komi Republic, where both reside (about 100 miles north of Nizhny Novgorod). The Russian original of Terentyev's comment is shown in full below and can be seen here (and has been re-posted by various Russian bloggers, for instance here) having been stripped from the blog where it appeared by government order (in fact, apparently the entire post itself has been removed).

The comment in full (click the image to see full size):

Verbatim translation of Terentyev's comment on Suranov's blog by LR's original translator:

"I hate son-of-a-bitch cops"

I don't agree with the thesis that "policemen have retained the mindset of being a repressive cudgel in the hands of those in power." First, that it's the cops who have retained it. Secondly, it's not that it has been retained, but more simply that it has not been purged. It is garbage - and in Africa it is garbage - who become cops. The people who become cops are herd animals, rabble - the stupidest, most ignorant representatives of the living world. It would be great if in the in the center of every city in Russia, on the main square (in Syktyvkar, right in the center of Stefanovskaya Square, where the Christmas tree stands - so that everyone could see it) there stood an oven, like in Auschwitz, where ceremonially, every year - or better, twice a day (at noon and midnight, for example) - they incinerated a bad cop. The people would burn him. That would be a first step in cleansing society of cop-rabble trash.

The post below Terentyev's is from Suvorov himself, and states: "It could be a sort of carnival." Just to show that Suvorov is not somehow an obsessed anti-establishment fanatic, note his avatar: It's a picture of a well-known anti-Kremlin dissident -- we don't name her out of respect -- doctored with frog-like bugeyes; it's animated, and shows her tongue popping out to grab a fly that has alighted between her eyes.


Note from the translator: In case any of our readers want an electronic
version of the original, rather than just the image that Kommersant printed which is shown above, it was reproduced on a Live Journal page - although with a couple of minor spelling errors.

The Live Journal blogger who dared to print this text in a manner where it can be searched out and found on an engine is a truly brave individual. Here is the Russian text referred to above:

Не согласен с тезисом "у милиционеров остался менталитет властьимущих". во-первых у ментов. Во-вторых - не остался а просто неискорением. Мусор - и в африке мусор. Кто идет в менты - быдло, гопота, самые тупые необразованные представители живо(отн)ого мира. Было б хоршое, если бы в центре каждого города россии, в сывтывкаре - прям в центре стефановской - где елка стоит - чтоб всем видно было) , стояла печь, как в освенциме, где церемонимально, ежедневно, а лучше - дважды в сутки (в полдень и в полночь, например), сжигали бы по неверному менту. Народ чтобы сжигал. Это был бы первый шаг к очищению общества от ментовско-гопотской грязи.

Even if you don't believe in the principle of free speech as a value in and of itself, and even if you choose to believe the speaker was expressing a literal desire rather than a philosophical point of confrontation, before judging this speaker you should remember what it is like to live under the repression of the Russian police. You can't possibly understand it fully, though, unless you actually have lived under it. They do not labor under any of the protections of civil liberties that exist in America (for instance, they can try a suspect over and over for the same offense, whilst in America a person can only be tried once), are fundamentally corrupt (in part because they are shamelessly underpaid) and routinely harass, beat, torture, arrest and imprison innocent citizens, including many foreigners and including dissidents who are doing nothing more than offering an alternative to the party in power. The horror of being confronted by them when you only earn $3 per hour is difficult to put into words, and Mr. Terentyev has made a stab at doing so. Anyone who knows anything about Russia knows that there are plenty of Russian policemen who deserve prosecution far more than Mr. Terentyev. Anyone who has lived in Russia knows what Mr. Terentyev is talking about.

Remember, too, that there was a time when Russia would have treated Dostoevsky this way -- and did so (Pushkin too, for that matter).
Maybe they, too, could have expressed themselves "differently" or "better" so as not to offend the regime. But who among us is to say what words are "acceptable"? Are we willing to live in a world where others control the information we can access? That's the USSR, and it's not a world that can sustain itself for long.

Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times, explains in detail the horror of Russian "law enforcement" (should she too be arrested? would she be lucky in that event, given the fate of Anna Politkovskaya?):

During a traffic jam in downtown St. Petersburg, a police car raced along the wrong side of the road. Pyotr Grigorovsky, who was driving his car in his own lane in the opposite direction, swerved his car to avoid the oncoming police vehicle, struck a pole and died. The police officer never even stopped. Hundreds of witnesses took note of the officer's license plate number. St. Petersburg drivers later demonstrated their condolences by placing black flags on their cars.

What is the probability that President Vladimir Putin will demand a full report of the investigation and that the police officer responsible for Grigorovsky's death will be punished? Zero. The police department has already responded by saying that the vehicle in question never left the station's garage that day. Moreover, the police said they would later settle scores with the "black flag" demonstrators.

Another story: A Moscow driver and immigrant from Tajikistan, Ashur Inoyatov, picked up a drunk FSB officer who had just left a casino. When Inoyatov asked the officer where he wanted to go, the officer for some reason took offense, pulled out his gun and started shooting. He emptied his entire clip but was so intoxicated that he ended up only wounding Inoyatov.

What is the likelihood that Putin will demand a full investigation of this incident, and more importantly, that Muscovites will stage demonstrations in support of the unfortunate Tajik? Zero. On the contrary, Inoyatov was deported.

What has happened in Russia lately? A St. Petersburg police officer caused the wrongful death of an innocent driver and left the scene of the crime; an innocent Tajik was deported for having the bad luck of being the victim of a crime committed by an FSB officer; a Moscow court seized 100 percent of Russneft's shares after owner Mikhail Gutseriyev publicly stated that the government had been pressuring him; and Russia sent military forces into Ingushetia.

And what have we seen on the news? We have seen that Russian strategic bombers flew over NATO bases, that those nasty Georgians have again slandered us by claiming that a Russian jet fired a rocket on their territory, and that the persecution of Russians in the police state of France has reached such a scale that a 12-year-old Russian boy was forced to leap from his sixth-floor apartment.

Now let's perform a different experiment. How would it sound if we were to switch the Russian and French news reports around?

"A French police officer caused a fatal accident on the Champs Elysees and then fled the scene. After local drivers staged a protest, police arrested the organizers of the demonstration."

Is this possible? Of course not.

"In the republic of Bashkortostan a police squad attempted to enter the home of a family of Tajik nationals to check their residency registration. The father escaped through a window; his son attempted a similar escape but was seriously injured when he fell. Local residents waged a demonstration against police brutality. President Putin demanded a full investigation of the incident."

Possible? No way. Terrible? Yes.



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