Tuesday, March 5, 2024 -
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Living in an age of oppression

The USSR may be dead, but Putin revives its Stalinism

The rules are simple: They lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe.
— Elena Gorokhova, Soviet dissident
A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir

The news of Russia’s colossal mistakes — and the price in dead Russian soldiers — have certainly reached the Russian people, all attempts by Putin’s regime to the contrary notwithstanding. The evidence? Putin’s massive reimposition of Stalin’s ratting.

Today, Russian citizens spy on Russian citizens and report on them for opposing Putin’s war in Ukraine. Students report on teachers. Neighbors report on neighbors. Workers report on other workers, or on their bosses, who oppose the war. So reports the Washington Post.

It’s Joseph Stalin all over again. The knock on the door. The “traitors” and “enemies.” The chilled conversations. The denunciations. The arrest of more than 19,000 people for their opposition to Putin’s war. The criminal cases. The administrative cases. The intimidation. The harassment. The lost jobs. The fear factor.

The death of society.

The cameras in the restaurants. The rewriting of history in the classrooms. The facial recognition systems in the subways. The walls with ears. The police in the schools.

But also something new: the long electronic arm of our age that stretches into the devices of Russians abroad and into non-Russian media abroad.

The classic Orwellian rewriting of truth as falsehood, as in the characterization of Russian defeats and of massive Russians casualties in Ukraine as falsehoods.

The recrudescence of the totalitarian’s language: “subversive elements,” “snitches,” “be quiet,” “purges,” “foreign agents.”

The self-destruction via the targeting of those who make society work: Russia’s doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, etc. And all this is besides the hundreds of thousands of Russia’s “best and brightest” who have already fled the country.

There is a distinction between authoritarianism and totalitarianism. An authoritarian regime controls all political power. A totalitarian regime also controls all thought. Under an authoritarian regime, one’s vote is meaningless. The outcome of every election is guaranteed. But one may think and read and talk as one likes, more or less. Under a totalitarian regime, as the old Soviet joke goes:

Don’t think. . . . But if you have to think . . . don’t talk. But if you have to talk . . . don’t write. But if you have to write . . . don’t publish. But if you have to publish . . . don’t be surprised.

Don’t be surprised when they knock on your door and arrest you for . . . thinking.

For being a human being.

To live in an age of totalitarian oppression affects not just the intended victims, in this case, the Russian populace. It affects every free person. Every radical diminution of human dignity affects us all. No man is an island, entire unto itself.

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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