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Kremlin’s Censorship Of Shenderovich Interview Backfiring – OpEd

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The decision of the Russian authorities to take down an interview Russian commentator Viktor Shenderovich gave on Ekho Moskvy on Thursday is already backfiring on the Kremlin, attracting ever more attention to his words than he or his supporters could ever have hoped for.

At a time when officials appear ready to block Andrey Illarionov’s blog (rusjev.net/2015/12/23/rossiya-potrebovala-ot-kanadyi-zablokirovat-sayt-rassledovaniy-rossiyskih-prestupleniy/) and when some Duma deputies have introduced a measure to ban samizdat (echo.msk.ru/programs/razvorot/1373948-echo/ https://slon.ru/posts/61809), it is clear that the Kremlin doesn’t understand the Streisand effect in the age of the Internet.

(In pre-Internet times, many authors in the US hoped to be “banned in Boston” because such actions only helped to boost their sales. Now, in the Internet era, those who seek to ban coverage about themselves, as Barbra Streisand tried to, achieve something even more counterproductive: they attract attention of vastly greater numbers to the situation.)

But the Shenderovich case may provide the Putin regime with an object lesson because it is obvious that the Kremlin took this action because of Shenderovich’s criticism of Putin himself (openrussia.org/post/view/11565/) and because it is obvious that taking down the interview in one place won’t block the spread of the text.

A transcript of the full 4500-word interview is available, among other places, at kashin.guru/2015/12/25/shenderovich_v_ban/. Among Shenderovich’s key arguments are the following:

  • “There is already no law” in Russia “and hasn’t been for a long time. “What there is is corruption. One can call it by various names: from the Latin, corruption; from the Spanish, junta. There are people who work to keep themselves in power.” When such people are in power as was the case in Nazi Germany, they have to be removed for law to return.
  • Vladimir Putin’s tutors were people from the criminal world, and consequently, it is not surprising that their good student has worked out as he has. One of them is dead, but one is in prison; and because “Putin will not always be in power,” the latter must fear for his life now because there is much he could say about the current Kremlin ruler’s modus operandi.
  • “Russia has been ruled by various kinds of people. There have been some who were simply mad; there were others who were maniacs. Political maniacs, eastern tyrants, the nomenklatura. There were even half-dead ones like Chernenko. But for the first time, it appears, it is being ruled by a specific representatives of an organized criminal band.” That means “we live in an absolutely unique time because there was nothing like this before” and because this man has his finger on the nuclear button.
  • “The state is splitting apart; it is already doing so,” but not because of the opposition but because of what the regime has done under the cover and in the name of law but in fact for other reasons. And also because many who should be opposing the regime have been bought off or intimidated and thus taken steps that allow Putin to “simulate democracy and political life” and thus “legitimate” his regime.
  • “Does it not seem strange to you that [Chechnya head Ramzan] Kadyrov has received from Russia about ten times more than Dudayev and Maskhadov asked for? They asked only for the independence of Ichkeria. But Kadyrov has received the complete independence of Ichkeria … and the complete right to do what he wants inside it, plus billions from the Russian budget and the right to kill on Moscow streets. Isn’t that too much?” And note, Shenderovich says: Moscow killed Dudayev and Maskhadov and now it has Kadyrov.
  • Russian officials are increasingly living in a poetic world of their own, he continues. “Economic Development Minister [Aleksey] Ulukayev considers that Russia can give a symmetrical response to the broadening of US sanctions against Russia.” This is truly “poetic.” Ulyukayev “writes poems and he speaks in [Shenderovich’s] opinion as a poet. To answer symmetrically, of coursed would mean to refuse America loans, to undermine the dollar, and to push the American economy into stagnation, leading to lines in New York for people to exchange dollars for rubles.” A truly “poetic” vision.

Paul Goble

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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