Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Other Russia

Russian opposition figures and NGOs have been gathering at the "Other Russia" conference being held in Moscow ahead of Saturday's G8 summit, which is also being attended by representatives of some Western governments, including those of the United States and Britain. RFE/RL has a roundup of the day's events, including an address by veteran rights activist Ludmila Alekseyeva, who heads the Moscow Helsinki group. RFE/RL has also posted a link to a 90-minute radio discussion broadcast last October from Washington, D.C., in which Lyudmila Alekseyeva and Tanya Lokshina of the DEMOS Centre for Information and Research talk about the human rights situation in Russia, and give some prognoses about future developments there in the approach to the 2007-2008 elections, which seem to be a political marker beyond which those currently in power in the Kremlin are unable or unwilling to look:
According to Alekseyeva, who is a regular contributor to RFE/RL's Russian Service, the time in office of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin is considered a "golden age" for Russian NGOs -- even though this is "not [because] Yeltsin was a strong democrat," but rather because "society was left to its own devices and we managed to build civil society" while the "power elites" struggled among themselves and ignored the lower strata. Alekseyeva said Russia has emerged from its economic crises under President Vladimir Putin, but there is "no division of power in Russia under the model of executive vertical controls," where regional governors, a "puppet parliament," and a judiciary "stripped" of independence are under the Kremlin's control. Nonetheless, according to Alekseyeva, Russia is "not returning to Soviet times," because "today the attacks are selective" and "there is now a civil society" to resist the pressure.

Alekseyeva expressed concern that "Western democratic states don't react to attacks on human rights." She said that "in Soviet times, we few dissidents felt enormous Western support." She called that support "our shield," which she said is now missing. The supporters of civil society feel "now abandoned by Western allies," Alekseyeva said.
In the broadcast, Alekseyeva also says that she has serious misgivings about the fate of democracy in Russia - she believes that the country is heading towards a nationalistic, authoritarian and fascist future. She does not look forward to a revolution in Russia, for she fears that it would not be an orange, but a brown one. There are references to a leak from the FSB about a "nightmare scenario" that is scheduled to make its appearance during 2007.

The recorded discussion also contains many points of interest in connection with developments in Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, and what appears to be the deliberate fanning of Islamist extremism in Russia's south.
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