17 July 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
Rabies, as is known, is incurable. If the disease is not prevented, death is inevitable. It is the same with the ‘rabid printer’ – the State Duma. If it is not stopped in time, it will rage until it destroys all rational life. Or until somebody cuts off its power.
On 14 July President Putin, the organizer-in-chief of this legislative madness, at once signed into force 124 new laws. Probably, this convulsive wave of lawmaking was designed to hide a number of severely repressive laws among a mass of insignificant innovations. Among the former is a law allowing the Prosecutor General and their deputies to shut down Russian media outlets and revoke their broadcasting licenses if the information they disseminate is deemed to be illegal.
No more court procedures, explanations, or stupid red tape: just shut them down, and that’s all. By the same law, as if making a mockery of law, prosecutors are empowered to ban in Russia media outlets whose country of origin has for some reason or other banned Russian publications or channels. That is how Putin’s maxim ‘Whoever offends us won’t live three days’ is being put into practice.
The war against Ukraine, which at first seemed so easy and entertaining to the Kremlin, has proved to be difficult and unsuccessful. The depletion of resources is making itself felt and requires emergency measures. The law amending the Labour Code allows the government to establish special labour relations at particular production facilities. In practice, this could mean employment legislation would be abolished at factories working producing goods for the war.
Vacations, the eight-hour workday, weekends – forget it. The motherland is in danger!
Another law adopted on 14 July makes possible the temporary reactivation of mobilization capacities and facilities and the use of the material assets of the state reserve. In other words, the economy is gradually shifting over to a war-time footing, since the Kremlin will definitely not be able to win in civilian mode.
However, war alone is not enough to satisfy the president. Here, as they say, there may be a war going on, but repression has to take place on schedule. That is why on 14 July Putin signed a law that strengthens criminal responsibility for disloyalty to the dictatorship. There seems to be nothing this law does not contain!
This includes participation in an armed conflict or military actions on the territory of another state for purposes contrary to the interests of the Russian Federation; treason in the form of defecting to the enemy; cooperation on a confidential basis with foreigners; oversight of the activities of persons under foreign influence; espionage; public calls to harm the security of the Russian Federation; departure from the country of those who have state secrets; the propaganda of banned symbols; and being a mercenary. In short, a full set of instruments for repression to fit any eventuality.
It’s interesting that most of these tools of intimidation and retribution already exist in the criminal law. Some elements have been made a little stronger, but in principle there is nothing new. Why, then, is it being done? All the more since the courts have been dealing out repressive measures perfectly well without any laws, mentioning them merely for the sake of formality but not with regard to their real purpose. No one prevents judges from giving seven years in prison for making pacifist statements at a meeting or eight years in prison for reading the Bible with others of the same faith at home.
Meanwhile, there is an answer: it is terror. The authorities intimidate society by reminding it once again of the dire consequences of free-thinking. People are told to sit down and shut up, not stick their necks out and not spoil the atmosphere of supposed unanimity and overwhelming support for the regime with their critical remarks. Beyond Russia’s borders, a false impression has already been created that there is a complete unanimity between Putin and the Russian people. The laws of 14 July are intended to strengthen this effect and cement it firmly in the minds of consumers of Kremlin propaganda.
At the same time, the government is trying to show that it is also concerned about other aspects of the life of society. That is why so many laws have been adopted: cry or laugh as you want. There are many laws on pensions and social insurance, on children and young people, on the regulation of customs and investments, on taxes and advertising and so on and so forth.
In the best traditions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which at its plenums adopted endless decisions about the production of animal fodder, or on the procurement of flax or poultry meat, or something else intended to appeal very much to the people, in the same way the current legislator, imitating socialist planning, has certainly not lost face here.
The law regulating private gardening and horticulture allows citizens (at last!) to keep poultry and rabbits on their plots. In other words, without President Putin’s permission, chickens and rabbits were still illegal on garden plots, but now they have acquired legal status!
But all records of totalitarian madness and the petty passion to control every slightest thing happening throughout the wide territory of the Russian Federation were broken by the law on animal by-products. We are talking about manure, slurry and similar substances. The law meticulously prescribes who can do what with manure, as well as who can be its rightful owner. One of the articles of this ‘manure law’ even talks of the ‘unified state policy on animal waste.’
I think the State Duma has found a gold mine in terms of lawmaking and will now intensively develop the topic of sewage. And this is natural: in terms of the metaphor, ‘birds of a feather.’
14 July is an ambiguous date. On this day in 1789 rebellious Parisians sacked the Bastille, the symbol of absolutism, marking the beginning of the struggle for liberty and equality. And on 14 July 1471 Moscow’s troops, supported by the Tatar cavalry of Khan Daniyar, crushed the stronghold of Russian freedom – the Novgorod Republic – in the Battle of Shelon, thereby putting an end to the independence of Great Novgorod. Vladimir Putin clearly adheres to domestic traditions.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove