They say Kolyma [one of the GULAG places in north-east Russia] is the birthplace of our fear. But no, it is not Kolyma. And neither [the camps of] Magadan, nor Mordovia, nor Norilsk, nor Komi. And not even all 427 camps of the GULAG. Homeland of our fear is the Kremlin.
Today, some people reflect on Kolyma, the Great Terror and Stalinism as a distant past, they recall victims, talk about difficult times and “unpleasant excesses”. Other add: it was bad, but it was impossible the other way. And now, look, how much better it is, Putin’s power is not so terrible, there are no mass-scale reprisals. And why, then, repeat this again and again, because everything has already been said, and the actual political topics are different?
There has been just adopted a law on the isolation of the [Russian segment of the] Internet, introduced a criminal punishment for manifestation of “disrespect for the authorities”, in fact, abolished the freedom of speech and secrecy of communication. Criminal prosecutions on fictitious cases (like the New Greatness case [when young people were accused of planning a coup d’etat because they created an organisation for discussion of politics) do not stop, literally anyone can be charged with extremism or corruption – just as 80 years ago people were accused of espionage and anti-Soviet activity, sabotage and Trotskyism, they were tried for theft of “three spikelets “, branded “enemies of the people”.
There has never been an independent judiciary. An individual was absolutely defenseless before the Stalinist mechanism of power then, and today he remains in the same position before the same state machinery (which is also associated with crime). Just as there were hopeless lies and impudent greatpowerness with seizure of neighbours’ territories, now they are the same. Just as the economy was completely state-owned, so today, due to the merger of power and property, the mafia state controls almost all economic processes and flows in the country.
The forms of the Stalinist system changed often, but the essence remained the same: since there are a lot of people dissatisfied and humiliated in the country, and life is full of injustice, fear is returned. Those who have never even heard of Kolyma already feel it. It makes people unfree and submissive, deprives them of creativity and stops development. But it is the authorities that need fear: only fear guarantees their irremovability.
Without understanding the events of the past as a factor that determines today’s life, it is impossible to correct anything in it. And for correction, it is necessary to understand the following: the Bolshevik system, which led our people to the greatest tragedy in its history, did not disappear anywhere. This system – in an updated, hybrid, and yet somewhat relaxed form – is today’s reality. So it is not the Kolyma at all which is “the birthplace of our fear”, but the Kremlin. (See “The Great Terror and Modern Bolshevism”, August 2017.)