Friday, November 19, 2004

Autocracy and the culture

You can't talk about the Ukraine without talking also about Russia. Some articles in the past in the US have argued that Russia is moving back to its Soviet past. If they had said "autocratic past" I might agree. Autocracy there and to some extent here is a part of the culture. This article makes the point:

For all the questions... about how post-Soviet Russia is evolving - about threats to property rights, the independence of the judiciary, the rights of an accused person and the centralization of power - the cases have a ring familiar in Russian history.

Political analysts say that President Vladimir V. Putin, who is believed to be behind the prosecution of Mr. Khodorkovsky [the billionaire head of Yukos who ran afoul of the Kremlin and is currently being prosecuted for tax crimes], has placed himself firmly in line with his imperial and Soviet predecessors, using a pliable judiciary to bring his opponents to heel.

One result has been this long-running update on the Moscow show trial - one more Russian regime's demonstration, through procedures that look like law, of the power of the state and the will of its leader.

"In Russia we have some sort of genetic memory," said Leonid Dobrokhotov, an adviser to Russia's Communist Party and a critic of Mr. Putin. "Even when they are not understanding why, political figures are always repeating what was done before."

This is right. And this is true in Ukraine to a lesser extent to be sure but true nonetheless.

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