As reported in the Russian media, on 31 October 2012 the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s Federal Assembly, approved amendments to the law on treason that effectively makes virtually any interaction between Russian citizens and international agencies, such the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, a treasonable offence. A number of international organisations have already taken the hint and shut up shop. Naturally such developments are negative for investment, signalling as they do that independent thinking is tantamount to betrayal.
So now it will become even harder to criticise the powers that be. The Kremlin may believe that it has now found a way to silence all opposition to its policies and thereby pacify the population through continual propaganda on state TV channels. However, this will merely push the protest movement underground and brings back memories of the Soviet Union and double speak, with the people spouting the party line in public, but the truth back home in disputes and discussions in their kitchens.
And as everyone knows, the Soviet Union collapsed like a deck of cards, luckily without significant bloodshed. The next time round could prove more bloody, as protesters have seen how former Soviet citizens have exploited the system to the benefit of a few and the detriment of the majority.
So President Putin should think twice before signing such amendments to the law. Surely it is better to know what people think and thereby release the tension, rather than to seek to silence opposing voices and thereby legitimise protest in the people’s eyes?