On 28 December 2021 Russia’s Supreme Court, in an action redolent of Stalinism, ordered the closure of ‘Мемориал‘ (Memorial) – the country’s last and most prestigious symbol of civil society. Founded by the late Andrei Sacharov in 1987, during the period of Gorbachev’s ‘glasnost’ (openness), this organization had taken on the courageous and daunting task of researching and publicising the cruelties and killings of millions of Soviet citizens by their leader Joseph Stalin.
Investigating Stalin’s crimes and rehabilitating some of his victims has been a tremendous task and achievement. It demonstrated to Russia and the world that there are sincere Russian people who believe in an open and just society. They believe, in order to become a better society, it has to face its past, even if it is cruel and painful. Without truth and honesty, a society cannot develop freely.
To be sure, this court’s ruling was nothing but a farce. In today’s Russia there are no more independent courts to follow legal procedures. Judges just have to obey one single authority: the leader in the Kremlin. Otherwise they immediately lose their privileged position or face even more disastrous consequences. I am very sorry to state that my previous article in West England Bylines on “Stal-Put-in” has been proven right by this outrageous act. Russia, after 21 years of Putinism, has returned in full circle to the Soviet Union’s Stalinism.
Killing Memorial while threatening neighbour Ukraine with military invasion, are just two sides of one coin. Putin, having called the Soviet Union’s demise a “tragedy”, sees his mission to restore what has been “lost”. Regaining territory or making neighbours completely dependent on Russia’s wishes is the external side of this ambition. Abolishing any independent media and societal groups is the internal dimension of Putin’s Soviet-revisionist ambition. This is totalitarianism in action!
There is no military option to stop this man. Threatened by Putin, NATO will not risk a major war and therefore will not accept Ukraine as a member and will not promise to defend its integrity. The question remains what to do, how to respond to Putin’s aggression.
Shutting down the Nord Stream II pipeline will not be enough. The Western societies should take the unprecedented step of cutting all major financial links with the Kremlin. Putin and his cronies should no longer have access to the billions of Dollars, Pounds and Euros they have deposited in off-shore banks outside Russia. There is enough evidence of how the Soviet and post-Soviet secret services have managed to bunker money abroad.
Western governments should just listen to their secret services and act decisively.