Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Russia - Is yesterday, tomorrow, today?

After my visit to St. Petersburg last week, two news stories caught my eye. The first was the kidnap and murder of the Russian human rights activist Natalia Estimirova. Though Mr Medvedev wrings his hands in public, and expresses his 'outrage', it is barely conceivable that this heinous act did not have some element of state collaboration.

Rather less deadly, but no less worrying, was a piece in last week's Guardian:

outlining the repressive and worryingly revisionist activities of the Russian state in attempting a rehabilitation of Stalin and Stalinism. Closing down websites and setting up FSB 'commissions' to look into historical matters are really not the way forward. Access to the archives - already severely limited for foreigners - will doubtless be cut still further. The Russian state, it seems, is intent on controlling history itself.

Human rights activists and freedom of speech are vitally necessary for the functioning of a modern democratic state. By seeking to curtail and eliminate both, Russia seems to be hell-bent on returning to the dark days of its own past. 20 years ago, the world revelled in the heady idealism of 1989 - in the liberation of Eastern Europe from the Soviet yoke. Suddenly, all that seems an awfully long time ago.

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