After the unexpected resignation this week of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazerbayev, his chosen replacement, Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, proposed renaming the capital city of Astana. The new name is — wait for it — “Nursultan.”
That inspired a joke that made the rounds on Russian social media: “I hope I don’t come home to Moscow and it’s been renamed ‘Vladimir City!’”
Another Facebook poster remarked, “I live in St. Petersburg, and I’m scared it’s now going to be called St. Putinburg.”
The jokes are funny, but the situation inside Russia is getting scary.
Since the collapse of oil prices in 2014 and the Western sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support of separatists battling Kiev in eastern Ukraine, ordinary Russians have seen their incomes dwindle as the ruble went south and inflation headed north. The crisis has been only slightly eased in recent years due to competent monetary policy from the Russian central bank.
Russians are used to enduring such hardships. Suffering is an art form in this part of the world, as long as the country’s rulers can make the case that the sacrifices are being made for the greater good of Mother Russia. When that narrative falls apart, however — watch out.
What is scaring the Russian population now is the return of repression and censorship. The occasional death of a journalist or opposition figure has long been the norm in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. In those cases, voters could always say that the victims simply pushed too hard and “brought it on themselves.” It wasn’t personal.
This time, however, it is.
Over the last several years, many laws have been passed which restrict personal freedom. Campaigns against “extremism” have been used to stifle speech the Kremlin doesn’t like. There are too many Russians in jail charged with posting something offensive on Facebook or other social media outlets.
The recent push to shut off the Russian internet from the rest of the world, reminiscent of the Chinese model of repression, has scared Russians. Some 15,000 people demonstrated in Moscow last week against these measures. The Kremlin is forcing internet and social media providers to host their content on Russian soil and are shutting down those who fail to comply. The campaign against the popular (Russian-developed) encrypted texting app Telegram has further unnerved ordinary citizens.
That was all bad enough, but the measures President Vladimir Putin signed last week, making it a crime for anyone or any entity to “disrespect” the government, seems to have pushed many over the edge. Russians have grown used to internet freedom; it will be difficult to put that genie back in the bottle.
“The internet is the last form of protest we have, now they are shutting it down,” said one post on Twitter from Moscow.
Multiple arrests of Americans have chilled the tourist climate, while scaring off foreign investors as well.
The most disturbing aspect of this recent wave of oppression is the excuse Russian leaders have used to justify it — “They are doing this in the West,” Mr. Putin and his allies note. “Why can’t we do it here?”
There’s no need to go into all the examples of censorship and repression that are going on in the United States and the West. The recent blocking of certain URLs in New Zealand to “protect the population” in the wake of the mass mosque shooting is a disgusting use of technology for corrupt totalitarian reasons.
Unfortunately, it is probably too late for internet freedom in Moscow. In order to deal with the creeping repression across Russia, Russians are just leaving for the West.
But as things deteriorate here, we have to ask: Where are we going to go?
Originally posted at The Washington Times
Why don’t we leave Russia alone. They are our white Christian brothers and sisters, bound in mutual imprecation after WWII. They are a bulwark against China and the rise of Islam.
I understand your point of view, but critically missing from you evaluation is the posture Russia takes toward the rest of the world.
I agree with your assessment Mojo. Russians are culturally and ethnically distinct from Americans, so we should not be expecting them to react like Americans might to a crisis. Russians are a hard and proud people, who see themselves as world players and when they are ignored or slighted they have a tendency to react, sometimes differently than how we would expect. If our country had lost the millions of civilians like the Russians did during WW Two, we might also have a different attitude toward the world at large. Not so different from Israel. From the ashes of war, a phoenix arose.
“The jokes are funny, but the situation inside Russia is getting scary” – well, in my late eighties I’d say that since 1917 it’s a rather traditional local news. Of course, the article’s words “In order to deal with the creeping repression across Russia, Russians are just leaving for the West” sound as a happy change from the USSR times, but, unfortunately, this “leaving for the West” doesn’t look these days as the sure “I Chose Freedom” 1944 chance of Victor Kravchenko, thanks to the omnipresent lefties’ rapidly growing insanity …
Maybe the Russians will use Google to help stifle freedom, as they are in China? And since Google seems intent on helping our enemies in any way possible, look for this to become more than a question.
It seems to be the rise of the despots, who are able to take over the country from within.
It seems to be going on in the US with a media trying to destroy opposition to their gravy train.
With Bridget Bardot going to trial for speaking against the slaughter of animals by 3rd world invaders, and the police going to peoples doors in Great Britain because they said something on Facebook that offended someone while knife crimes in London are becoming a cottage industry, believe me…The Russians have nothing to worry about.
As far as you implying Putin kills off journalists…After starting out as almost the janitor at the old KGB building in the USSR to become the leader of the Russian Federation, don’t you think he knows who would be blamed when one of them is killed on his birthday? I’m sure the ones doing the killings know.
The man had to be secretly taught about the Christian Faith by his mother, I doubt very much if one day the Russian People are ever in fear of Homosexuals forcing someone to bake a cake supporting their agenda, with the ruining of their businesses being the result of noncompliance.
The Russian People have much to be thankful for, and Putin is just one of many things.
It is not only Russians that are getting scared. Anyone who does not have a strong faith in jesus Christ, has every reason to be scared. The world is being shaken at every level and not by man; and what can be shaken will be shaken so that what cannot be shaken will remain.