Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Russia is returning to its totalitarian past

By Alexey Kovalev

01 Aug 2023 · 6 min read

informed Summary

  1. Russia is moving from authoritarian control to full-on totalitarian repression, with increasing persecution of dissenting opinions, writes Alexey Kovalev in FP. This includes the arrest of individuals for social media posts and private conversations that criticize the government or its actions.

A month after Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s aborted mutiny, Russia is well along the path from ordinary authoritarian control to full-on totalitarian repression. As in old Soviet times, Moscow is awash with rumors of purges among the top military brass. Elsewhere, the machine of state repression is churning at an accelerating rate as the Russian authorities cast an ever-wider net for purported enemies within.

With many of the most vocal anti-war activists already dead, imprisoned, or exiled, the security services are now targeting even mild whiffs of dissent. Last week, they arrested the Marxist academic Boris Kagarlitsky and charged him with “promoting extremism.” His supposed crime: In a Telegram post written after Ukraine’s first attack on the Kerch Strait bridge connecting Russia to occupied Crimea in October 2022, Kagarlitsky called the strike “understandable” from a purely militaristic standpoint. Even a neutral, objective assessment is now a crime.

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