There once seemed to be no hope for Russia, formerly the core of a group of oppressed countries called the Soviet Union.
In the post-Stalin decades, opposing the totalitarian regime often meant a one-way ticket to Siberia. Dissidents weren’t cut down en masse the way they were in the early years of the Soviet Union. But protesting the government was a very lonely and costly enterprise.
These days, it’s less lonely. In recent months, tens of thousands of Russians have filled the streets of Moscow to protest the electorally suspect return to power of Vladimir Putin, constitutionally debarred from the presidency after two terms in office. But Russians knew that Putin’s successor, Dmitry Medvedev, was just a placeholder until Putin could regain the presidency in name as well as fact. Russia’s presidential term limits are thus more sham than surety of rotation in office.
Opposing the regime can still be costly. Fees for attending an illegal anti-Putin demonstration (they’re all illegal) have been jacked up by a docile parliament. Stand out from the crowd in your political resistance and you may end up incarcerated.
Three members of the radical Russian punk group/political performance artists Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years in prison for what is being called “hooliganism.” That’s the crime of making a music video entitled “Holy Mother, Chase Putin Away!” It seemed worth a try. Fake term limits hadn’t done the job.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.