With the Putin regime preparing to showcase itself against the backdrop of the Winter Olympics, a week of solidarity has begun for the political opponents of Putin now languishing in prison. Ilya Budraitskis says the Russian left needs the help of its comrades in Western Europe, the USA and worldwide as never before.
A year and a half has passed since the beginning of the political case that has become synonymous with the police arbitrariness of citizen rightlessness of contemporary Russia. Dozens of people have been or may soon be imprisoned in a country that is now preparing to showcase its prosperity and power against the decorations of the Winter Olympics.
The tragic story of the so-called Bolotnoe case perfectly maps onto the criminal story of Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term. It was precisely on May 6th, 2012, on the eve of his inauguration that tens of thousands went out to demonstrate in the centre of Moscow only to become victims of a grand provocation on part of the police. Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested, with dozens beaten up. Putin, who held on to power with the help of a massive electoral fraud, had clearly taken a course towards inflicting the movement a decisive blow.
Within a few weeks, in May 2012, arrests began. As a result, 15 people were imprisoned and 3 more are under house arrest. Even more activists had to escape the country to avoid detention.
And while the right hand of Putin’s regime has continued the repressive campaign against the opposition, its left hand has organized a wave of aggressive xenophobia and political reaction. When, for example, in October 2013, a racist pogrom took place against a largely immigrant-operated fruit-and-vegetable market in a Moscow suburb called Biriuliovo, the authorities reacted by conducting a police raid on “illegals” on an unprecedented scale. Acting upon direct instructions from the Kremlin, journalists from the main media channels poisoned mass consciousness with stories of “ethnic crime” or “propaganda of homosexuality,” which threatened our “traditional values.” The state and its media forcibly created before our eyes a conservative “silent majority” ready to close ranks in the struggle against foreign and domestic enemies.
The astonishing cynicism of Putin’s “right turn” organically corresponds to the continued flow of Russian capital to offshore zones and West European countries. Not only the economic elites but also top state bureaucrats no longer connect their future with Russia and purchase instead castles from English lords and kilometres worth of Florida’s shore. Xenophobia is the cheap product for consumption of the poor while the elites prepare their retreats in the face of the deepening stagnation of the Russian economy.
In this situation, we—representatives of the Russian left—need the help of our comrades from Western Europe, the USA and worldwide as never before. It is precisely you who can inflict painful and effective blows to the self-confidence of Russia’s elite, especially when they have to face the questions that they can easily brush off at home. Recently we have seen some brilliant examples of such actions: on November 20th, French activists interrupted the lecture held by Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee and chief architect of the Bolotnoe case. A few days later, in Germany, the appearance of Elena Mizulina—the main lobbyist of the “struggle against gay propaganda”—was met with massive protests.
A month ago, upon the initiative of leftist deputies from the Swedish Riksdag, a parliamentary resolution was passed, calling upon the Russian state to free its political prisoners.
All of these are important elements of the struggle, which must be multiplied. On January 19th, 2014, a day when Moscow will host a demonstration against the racism and xenophobia of the authorities, we call upon our comrades to conduct actions in solidarity with Russian political prisoners.
We call for pickets in front of Russian Federation’s foreign consulates as well as in front of institutions of your own governments, calling for resolutions condemning political repressions.
Please, send your reports on solidarity action and any other information or questions on this email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ilya Budraitskis is a historian, cultural and political activist. Since 2009, he has been a Ph.D. student at the Institute for World History, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow. Since 2011, he has been an activist and spokesperson for the Russian Socialist Movement.