Monday, December 26, 2016

Kremlin Works to Claw Back Total Control over What and Who Gets Attacked in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 26 – A new proposed law in the Russian Duma on “defending” works of art from vandalism is designed to ensure that the Kremlin and no one else, including most prominently the Moscow Patriarchate and its allies, gets to decide what is attacked and when, according to Boris Vishnevsky.

            In “Novaya gazeta,” the Moscow commentator says that the measure, which would impose heavy fines against those who engage in vandalism, provides a kind of cover for a Russian government move with far broader goals (

            Clearly there is a problem with attacks on artists and their works in Russia, the commentator says, especially those by Orthodox activists or Cossacks who are seldom if ever brought to justice for their actions, a situation which leads many to conclude that they are acting on behalf of the state which may even be encouraging such things.

            But the real reason for this action now, Vishnevsky argues, is that Vladimir Putin wants again to be the only one making decisions about who and what can be attacked in Russia, lest attacks by others get out of hand and against the interests of the Russian state or even against the state itself.

            That is clear from the explanations the authors have provided – they point out that such attacks violate the Russian constitution – but it is even clearer from the timing of their introduction of this bill.

            On December 2, Putin told the Presidential Council on Culture and the Presidential Council on the Russian Language that attacks on exhibits, shows, and works of art are “absolutely impermissible and must be punished with all the severity of the law.”  And now the Duma has come up with proposed legislation.

            In short, “the president says ‘it’s needed,’ and the Duma responds, ‘yes!’”  And translated from “the presidential to the Russian language,” this means that “only the state has the monopoly on banning spectacles and exhibits: it will prohibit what needs to be prohibited.” No one else in Russia should have that power.

            “Will this project help?” Vishnevsky asks. “Possibly but only a little.” Fines alone are unlikely to frighten “the pogromshchiki” now on the loose in Russia. And thus it is no surprise that the authors of the new bill are promising to revise the criminal code and introduce more severe penalties as well.

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