Russian Thinkers Comment On Amnesty Bill

December 18, 2013
Photo by Anzenberger/Fotodom

The liberal magazine has collected quotes on today’s amnesty bill from various thinkers across the political spectrum. Note that some of the differences in numbers and facts can be attributed to the fact that the full effects of the amnesty bill are not yet known. See our liveblog for updates and additional details. — Ed.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Constitution, about 30,000 people will be freed, including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina, some of the Bolotnaya Square [demonstration] defendants, and several environmentalists from the Arctic Sunrise [the Greenpeace ship, the crew of which was arrested after trespassing onto a Russian oil rig in August — Ed.]. The State Duma is preparing to accept the draft for the holiday presidential amnesty in the final reading. What was the point of the political trials of the last two years and what lessons can we draw from this selective presidential clemency? Snob spoke about the amnesty with politician analyst Gleb Pavlovsky, human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina, journalist Vladimir Solovyov and others.

Stanislav Belkovsky, political analyst:

A typical perestroika syndrome – alienation from the government becomes total, and no matter what the government does, bad or good, its actions will not be appreciated on the merits. Thus we perceive the amnesty as a concession before the Olympics and not a humanitarian gesture. We don’t intend to thank Vladimir Putin for what he has done? We intend to regard this skeptically. We intend to say that he has not done enough. I repeat, this is perestroika syndrome. No matter what steps the government takes, in the image sense, they all backfire on it.

Sergei Dorenko, radio host

The arrest of the Bolotnaya demonstrators, unquestionably, was useful to society since there have to be respect and inviolability of the police in any state. Any person who has raised his hand against a policeman should be punished, best of all by execution by firing squad; but by virtue of the fact that we live in the 21st century, then alas, it will not be by firing squad. Put yourself in the place of the police; you will put a hole through anybody who raises a hand against you, without discussion. That’s it! Ask the American police about this. For even a nasty look, an Irish policeman in New York will put you face down on the ground and do what he wants with you. In the entire history of their existence, the FBI in the USA killed more than 150 people during interrogations, and not a single officer of the FBI was punished for this. Why are you having a kindergarten here, hey, liberals?

Gleb Pavlovsky, political analyst

If these judicial persecutions enabled anything, then it is only the taking root of massive sadism in those who in principle consider it useful for the nation to have people in labor camps and [prison] zones. All the sadists and sociopaths of the Russian Federation were reinforced in their sentiments.

Yes, thanks to these judicial persecutions, people learned about Pussy Riot and Arctic Sunrise but they received information through channels guaranteed to be distorted. Our television not only distorts information – it creates images of witches, wizards, and demons which are then seemingly rooted in society. Of course that plunges us into the Middle Ages. Today’s society is significantly more ignorant than Soviet society or even Russia’s pre-revolutionary society.

Yes, people began to get more information. But it’s a question of dissemination of harmful memes which block independent thinking. This has economic consequences as well – people who are so brainwashed are not capable of thinking up anything except new nastiness.

Vladimir Solovyov, television host

The public doesn’t find all these stories interesting at all. The fate of Pussy Riot and the Bolotnaya prisoners worries the members of their families and their political supporters much more – this is an overwhelming minority of Russians. If it’s all obvious about the girls who danced in the church, then the term “Bolotnaya” covers a great number of people. Some of them perhaps got caught accidently. But after all, some of them consider it the norm to throw rocks at policemen. In the USA, you could get a bullet in the head for such actions. Our enthusiasm for the struggle should not undermine respect for law. And it is stupid in general to say that we are destroying the image of our country before the international community. Let’s first forget then about China, where they shoot at demonstrations.
These personages don’t concern me at all, it is much more interesting to me to see if the amnesty will affect General Shemyakin, a combat officer who wound up in prison due to slander. There are many thousands of those who deserve leniency, but the eternal attention of our citizens to the fate of individual hooligans to whom they try to ascribe political views, seems to be an error. It is already good that 25,000 people will be freed, but to consider that this amnesty was written for a few hysterical ladies to be released is an exaggeration. An amnesty is always a good thing because people return to their families, but it is very important that the pardoned person understand that this can only happen once in his life. Let him make the correct conclusions.

Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the Civic Action committee:

The amnesty is very narrow, it does not affect those whom we consider political prisoners, I am terribly disappointed. How can there be organizers of massive disorders [the Bolotnaya defendants], when there were no massive disorders?

The actions of the current government bring harm in the majority of cases. That relates not only to the amnesty but to an enormous number of decisions. All of these arrests are yet another indicator of the fact that we have nothing left but the executive branch. The Duma does not introduce any amendments, all the president’s proposals sail right through. This is not just a printer gone wild; it is shameful to say this.

We have received enormous damage in the foreign arena and enormous division inside the country. We are divided and the government is losing its way, and this enables it. The siccing of people at each other will not lead to anything good. It is enough to listen to the conversations in the tram to understand what hatred is hovering in society.

Dmitry Oreshkin, political analyst

The arrest of Pussy Riot and other such cases were useful from the regime’s perspective; they could intimidate people. Sociologists recorded a growth in political apathy and a reduction in Putin’s popularity, but even so there were less hopes that he could be replaced, removed or modernized. The situation is growing close to that of Belarus.

For the country, such processes, especially for its prestige, are a loss. For society, this is also a terrible minus; it has passed through an accelerated course of hatred during this time. We have learned to hate one another. We now hate homosexuals and marginal artists. Moscow begins to hate the provinces, the provinces in turn hate Moscow with a passionate hatred. Some sort of incomprehensible Russian Orthodox movements against Darwin have appeared. The priests propose the resignation of Tabakov. There is endless aggressive delirium. A frenzy is growing. The Kremlin uses this strategy of “divide and conquer” so that society will be easier to govern.

Maxim Shevchenko, journalist

The mixing of the Bolotnaya prisoners, Pussy Riot and the Greenpeace activists into one bunch – that’s a demagogic trick. Pussy Riot committed an action of hooliganism which, in my view, should not have ended in prison, but for which they should have been given huge fines and serious community service. These girls should have spent a month sweeping the street in orange jump suits from eight in the morning until ten at night. The action of the activists from the Arctic Sunrise ship were an invasion of Russian territory and an attempt to create a precedent which would enable a review of Russian sovereignty in the oil-rich Arctic shelf, in the context of the divvying up of Arctic wealth. And in the Bolotnaya case, it was not the people who really took part in the organization of mass disorders who were sentenced. Therefore, I don’t consider the Bolotnaya prisoners guilty, unlike Pussy Riot and the Greenpeace activists.

It is strange that the liberal press only notices these three cases. There are tens of thousands of people getting out of prison under the amnesty, but apparently they aren’t people, but just garbage for the liberal press. Against the backdrop of the top figures, all the rest are just statistics. It is surprising that everyone is interested only in Malvina, Buratino and Artemon, pumped up by our media gurus. I have not seen any such stories about the other people who have got out of prison, with their names, fates, offenses, and terms. The press teaches us to lives in Alexander Blok’s The Puppet Show:

That music straight from hell
The sad violin weeps
The demon grabs the tot as well,
And the cranberry juice seeps