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Putin Has Turned Constitution Upside Down And Thereby Threatens Russia’s Survival As A Country – OpEd

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Beginning with Magna Carta, constitutions were created to limit the ability of the powers to act without the approval of the people, Lev Shlosberg says. But Vladimir Putin has not merely gutted the provisions of the Russian Constitution but reversed its meaning. For him, Russia’s basic law has become a means of freeing the state and suppressing the people.

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In normal countries, the Yabloko Party leader says, “constitutions are in the first instance civic acts which give priority to the rights and freedoms of citizens over the rights of those in power.” They thus become the basis for resistance when the state overreaches and violates the rights of citizens (t.me/shlosberg/5992).

This reversal has enormous consequences, Shlosberg continues. It means that the government “completely loses its significance for the citizen, it ceases to be respected, and it ceases to be the citizens’ own.” Instead, the state is viewed as something separate which acts on its own against the citizens and only for its own interests.

And that means “the collapse of the entire government system because when the words of the Constitution become a lie … the powers are transformed into a band and the people into victims.” That is what Putin and his regime have done. Their quasi-feudal regime does not operate according to written rules but rather as “a criminal world” with its own understandings.

Under those conditions, other terms such as “force, fear, cruelty, deception, lies, hypocrisy, shamefulness and cynicism” acquire real meaning. “This is a kind of ‘constitution,’ but it is another reality in which there is no doubt in the meaning of what’s happening and what is worse no practical way to preserve the rights and freedoms of man and citizen.”

That in turn opens the way to something still worse, Shlosberg says. “If a readiness to actively speak in defense of their political rights does not become a vital necessity for a decisive part of Russian society, then, the country itself, following the Constitution, will cease to have significance and will simply disappear from the political map of the world.”

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Russia too will be gone “as a big word from which any meaning has been stolen.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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