Staunton, Oct. 30 – Vladimir Putin and his regime are suppressing independent views not by Stalinist means but by those employed under Brezhnev, according to Aleksandr Cherkasov, the head of the Memorial human rights center. Were the current Kremlin ruler seeking to go back to 1937 rather than 1973, massive protests would be far more likely.
According to Cherkasov, the number of political prisoners in Russia today as registered by Memorial is 502. That is far closer to the figures of Brezhnev’s time than to those of Stalin’s. Were it otherwise, the regime would either have to become far more repressive or it would face popular risings (idelreal.org/a/32105498.html).
The reason the Putin system is effective in repressing popular feelings is exactly the same as the reason the Brezhnev one was: the number imprisoned was small but the number who were warned through what has been called “prophylactic” measures short of prison is 100 times greater, something that sends a signal to society that the regime is serious and can get tougher.
In Brezhnev’s times, in fact, fewer than a hundred Soviet citizens were sent to prison, Cherkasov continues, but far more were warned and thus intimidated. “We have returned not to 1937 but to 1973; and in 1973, there were no Maidans in Moscow or in Kyiv, Vilnius, or Tbilisi … The system of control now has returned to the classical Brezhnev times.”
As many are now inclined to forget, he points out, “all the mass social movements” which led to the transformation and then demise of the USSR began only after 1987 when Gorbachev ended this Brezhnevite practice of repression which had kept the situation under control for almost 30 years.
Putin clearly believes and with some justif
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