Staunton, May 26 – As it has done so often, the Russian government is increasing repression outside the capital and thus outside the field of view of Western journalists and diplomats at a rapid pace, something it may be able to do even more effectively if Moscow media outlets follow the advice of some not to cover the plight of the victims of such actions.
The past few days have produced two reports about this pattern: one about the increasing repression in Karelia in recent months and the second about a new round of repression against Circassians in the North Caucasus.
With regard to Karelia, Boris Vishnevsky, a Yabloko deputy in St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly, says that the authorities in that republic have launched criminal cases, searches and arrests in the wake of the success opposition groups have had in winning elections and calling attention to illegal actions by the head of the republic.
Five Yabloko leaders in Karelia have had criminal charges brought against them, even though there is no evidence supporting these cases. What there is, Vishnevsky says, is a political movement in the republic which seeks the ouster of the republic head. It has been holding meetings to make that demand – the most recent took place on May 20 – and has collected more than 7,000 signatures on a petition to that effect.
What adds a certain piquancy to the situation, Vishnevsky continues, is that Governor Khudilaynen appears to have been guilty while occupying an earlier job of exactly the things he is charging his opponents. He denies all wrongdoing, of course, but he gets angry whenever anyone raises the issue.
“It is difficult to say what will happen next in Karelia,” he says. “A great deal depends on how much coverage these events get.” Unfortunately, he says, because these cases do not involve high profile opposition figures and are taking place “beyond the borders of the two capitals, the situation has attracted little attention from the federal media with rare exceptions.”
A similar problem exists in the North Caucasus. There, officials have detained a Circassian activist whose only crime was that he wanted to meet other Circassians and mark the 151st anniversary of the genocide of the Circassians by tsarist forces on May 21and searched the house of those he hoped to meet with.
That kind of illegal and heavy-handed authoritarianism when directed at relatively low-ranking people outside of Moscow rarely gets much attention, and it will get less if Russian and western journalists follow the advice of those like Valery Tishkov, the outgoing director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology.
In response to a question from Nazaccent.ru about the Circassian situation, Academician Tishkov “advised the media not to inflate the theme of the Circassian genocide but to treat other more immediate issues.”