Staunton, March 28 — In a democracy, it is sometimes said, anything that isn’t prohibited is permitted; in an authoritarian country, anything that isn’t permitted is prohibited; but in a totalitarian country, anything that is permitted is compulsory. By that standard, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is moving rapidly from the second to the third category.
Fresh evidence for that comes from what may strike many as an unusual source: Dmitry Dyomushkin, a Russian nationalist who heads the “Russians” ethno-political movement, who says that now one can love the powers that be only in the manner that the powers themselves want.
The Kremlin is so obsessed with control, he told two Kavkazskaya Politika interviewers, that it is now persecuting with searches and arrests even those who support it but who are not under its total and complete control, actions which in his view undermine the interests of the state and of Russia as a whole.
At the present time, Dyomushkin says, “the Kremlin simply persecutes nationalists, and the force structures threaten them independent of the position of the nationalist on any particular question [such as Ukraine]. You can even glorify Putin, but this is no guarantee that you won’t be arrested or treated illegally. One must love Putin only with permission.”
The Russian nationalist activist was recently subjected to the eighth search of his residence and person by the security agencies, one that involved 12 officers and lasted seven hours. They found nothing because “what could be found after seven earlier searches had taken place?” It was simply a form of harassment, he says.
Dyomushkin says that he has filed a complaint about this with the authorities but that he doesn’t expect any reaction. He has done so, he suggests, only because he does not want the authorities to subsequently say that he has not done so. Instead, he believes his best defense is speaking about what is going on with the media.
Obviously, the authorities would like to recruit him or other Russian nationalists as a source, and the searches are one way to put pressure on them. But now officials are stepping up their efforts and have told him that if he remains recalcitrant, they will send him to prison or the camps for ten to 15 years. In the current environment, that is hardly surprising, he says.
Asked if these threats have made him think about emigrating, Dyomushkin says that he has no plans to do so: “this is my country, my motherland, and as an Orthodox Christian, it is appropriate to suffer for one’s convictions and ideas.” Moreover, he continues, he is confident he has done nothing wrong even if they imprison or kill him.
There is “only one means” of opposing what the powers that be are doing in this regard, he says: “to be open and public,” to give interviews, because “the more I tell the media what the FSB officers are demanding,” then for some time at least they will stay away, although they “don’t like publicity.”
What the Kremlin is after is total control. It is not selective as far as which independent Russian nationalists it attacks. Both those who support what Moscow is doing in Ukraine and those who oppose it and both those who have good relations with Ramzan Kadyrov and those who don’t have been subject to official harassment, Dyomushkin says.
Indeed, it appears, he concludes, that what the authorities are most worried about it any indication that “Russian nationalists are seeking to establish relations with diasporas and republics and thus be in a position to act independently.”