Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Ignorance Is Strength: In Russia, it’s “1984”

Posted by sanityinjection on May 19, 2009

When future historians try to put a date on the demise of the post-Soviet era of freedom in Russia, they may well choose May 19, 2009.

The event hardly comes unanticipated. Virtually since its beginning in the peaceful revolution of 1991, Russia (whose leaders now sneer at peaceful revolutions in other ex-Soviet states) has moved in the direction of authoritarian government and restrictions on basic freedoms such as freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. While retaining the forms of democracy, the Kremlin has learned how to use its control of the media and the intelligence services to ensure that its candidates win the important races.

Up until now, one could at least argue that Russians were better off than they were under communism because they at least have freedom of speech and of the press. But that’s about to change.

The Kremlin announced today that it is forming a new 28-member commission whose mission is to combat “the falsification of historical facts and events aimed to disparage the international prestige of the Russian Federation.” Now let’s read between the lines. The commission won’t have any power outside Russia, so the bit about protecting the country’s international prestige is a lame fiction. The real goal is to make sure that the Russian people only know the history that the Kremlin wants them to know.

In case the meaning of this isn’t crystal clear, note that the commission will be headed by the President’s chief of staff and will include various Kremlin officials including members of the foreign and domestic intelligence agencies. You might well ask why the services of Russia’s spy bureaus are needed to fight battles over how Russian history is portrayed. Let me spell it out for you: since Russian history includes everything up to the present moment, any Russian anywhere in the world can now expect to be held accountable for any statement made about his or her country. In fact, the intelligence services can easily fabricate evidence that any opponents of the Kremlin have distorted Russian history. Together with a new law being drafted to make any criticism of Soviet actions during WWII (such as the Katyn massacre) a crime punishable by up to three years in prison, you can pretty much write the obituary of the free exchange of ideas in Russia and give it today’s date.

The outrage is not lost on Russia’s beleaguered liberals, who expressly compared these moves to George Orwell’s “1984” (Reminder: This book is required reading at Sanity Injection!). Orwell’s nightmare totalitarian dystopia had as one of its mottos, “Ignorance Is Strength”. And indeed, Russian leaders seem to believe that keeping their people in ignorance of truth will keep their government strong.

Russian-American comedian Yakov Smirnoff enjoyed a brief period of acclaim in the 1980s for his jokes about Soviet repression. In this case, he might say something like, “In America student can write report on history of government. In Soviet Union, government writes report on student and student is history!”

It would be funny, if it weren’t so deadly serious. The Soviet Union, for all intents and purposes, is back, minus the collective socialism and the red flags. The model of governance for today’s Russian leaders isn’t Washington or London but Beijing.


5 Responses to “Ignorance Is Strength: In Russia, it’s “1984””

  1. Jason said

    It is interesting you wrote on this. It seems that most people forget about Russia’s slow and steady march towards authoritarian rule. I’m fully included. When I come across stuff like this, I say to myself “oh yeah, Russia is Putin’s gang. I wonder how far he will push it”. Then I don’t consider much after that. There is a reason for that I think. Russia by all accounts is a democracy, therefore, we assume people run it and vote on their officials. However, It is all a facade used to mask the real power operating in Russia. They’ve used democracy to establish a one rule collective government. And it is through government and power circles in Moscow that they will slowly take it all away — all under the name of democracy or protecting democracy.

    You are right, this will be deadly serious. The further Russia moves in that direction, I believe the further she will move away from the U.S. and our interests.

    Would you scold me that I have never in my life read “1984”. I’ve meant to. I’ve even wrote it down but have never read it. Now, I have to before the summer is out.

    great post.

  2. sanityinjection said

    Jason – It’s never too late. From what I know of you, once you’ve read it “1984” will be one of your favorites, too.

  3. sanityinjection said

    Gorby agrees with me:

  4. sanityinjection said

    The latest – a research paper by a Russian military colonel posted on the Defense Ministry website blames Poland for starting World War II:

    The paper argues that Poland should have acceded to Hitler’s demands (termed “reasonable requests”) to cede to Germany links between East Prussia and Germany proper. Ironically, the remnant of the isolated German enclave of East Prussia is now the isolated Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. If I were Poland or Lithuania I would find this an ominous argument.

    As the article notes, the colonel should have the right to publish his opinions. But if they are being presented with the imprimatur of the government, that’s another matter. History, after all, is what the Party – I mean, the Putin – says it is.

  5. independent world political news…

    […]Ignorance Is Strength: In Russia, it’s “1984″ « Sanity Injection[…]…

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