Putin Supporter Wants ‘Enemy of the People’ to Again Be a Criminal Charge

December 7, 2014
Billboard in Moscow with painting by Yuri Danich showing members of the opposition such as anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalany and the late dissident Valeriya Novodvorskaya, in May 2014. The sign says "Devils in Moscow." Photo by onlin812.ru

Staunton, December 6 – Moscow must restore the term “enemy of the people” as a criminal charge in order to defend Russia against the information war that has been unleashed against it by the West, according to Ilya Belous, a Yekaterinburg blogger and “patriotic” — that is, pro-Putin — activist.

Speaking to a session of the Sverdlovsk Region section of the All-Russian Peoples Front, Belous said that the term as a criminal charge should be levelled at those who organize and participate in lectures and meetings with Americans and Ukrainians because such sessions are little more than “propaganda of the Banderite movement.”

No one at the meeting of a group that Putin organized spoke out against this proposal to restore a Stalin-era term, but the leaders of the Sverdlovsk section of the Peoples Front said that the group did not plan to take up this idea now.

But even if they do not, proposals like that of Belous are chilling given the history of the term. Its origins are to be found in Roman law and its idea that an individual or group can be declared outside the law and thus deserving of destruction. But in Soviet times, it was applied in an extremely broad and loose way.

Lenin first used it immediately after the October Revolution when he declared the members of the Constitutional Democratic Party (the Kadets) “enemies of the people,” a term the founder of the Soviet state applied to ever more individuals and groups who opposed his rule during the Russian Civil War and later.

Under Stalin, it was applied liberally, and it was even enshrined in the 1936 Soviet Constitution where “enemies of the people” were defined as “persons attacking public socialist property.” But at the time of the Great Terror, the term was used to designate anyone Stalin and the intelligence agencies wanted to destroy.

Znak.com’s Igor Pushkaryev notes that “according to various data, in the 1930s to the 1950s, from 10 to 40 million people” suffered as a result of its application. Ironically, the last person up to now to have been declared an enemy of the people was Lavrenty Beriya, Stalin’s notorious secret police chief, who was arrested and executed as one in 1953.