South Asia and Beyond

Russia May Return To Era Of ‘Great Terror’?

 Russia May Return To Era Of ‘Great Terror’?

Is Russia on the brink of a new era, one that may resemble the Great Terror launched by dictator Josef Stalin in the 1930s that saw thousands perish in the Gulag? The brutal treatment meted out in public to the four Tajiks who killed more than 100 people near Moscow last week, and the general crackdown on dissent of any kind, has reinforced the apprehensions of human rights groups in Russia.

AP reports a warning delivered by Putin himself in the wake of the killings, that terrorism is a “double-edged weapon.”

And Putin lieutenant Dmitry Medvedev declared that if Ukrainian involvement is proven, Moscow should respond by deploying hit men to kill the country’s leaders “in Kyiv or any other convenient place.”

The attack dealt a heavy blow to Putin less than a week after the vote that extended his rule for another six-years. It marked a major failure by his security agencies that were given an advance warning by the U.S. that extremists were planning an imminent attack.

Critics of the Kremlin argue that security forces are so focused on conducting the harshest crackdown on dissent since Soviet times that they are distracted from tackling real threats.

Kremlin propagandists sought to cast their treatment of the Tajiks as a proper response to the massacre. Margarita Simonyan, head of state-funded broadcaster RT, dismissed criticism and said the law enforcement personnel involved shouldn’t face any punishment.

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“Imagine yourself in place of our guys who were chasing those ghouls who just mowed down many, many of our fellow citizens,” Simonyan said. “What were they supposed to do? Serve them some warm porridge and yogurt?”

Many observers saw the tacit endorsement of such brutality as an ominous sign of more to come.

“All that serves a double function -– a show of terror as a mechanism of intimidation and rallying hatred,” political analyst Kirill Rogov said in a commentary. “It normalizes hatred as a response, including to those who have questions and disagreements.”

The concert hall attack also brought demands from hawks and some senior lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty, which has been suspended since 1996 when Russia joined the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organization.

Despite those apparent doubts, many observers say the official tolerance of the harsh treatment of the suspects and calls for killing Russia’s enemies herald an even more ruthless era.

Surya Gangadharan

Thirty eight years in journalism, widely travelled, history buff with a preference for Old Monk Rum. Current interest/focus spans China, Technology and Trade. Recent reads: Steven Colls Directorate S and Alexander Frater's Chasing the Monsoon. Netflix/Prime video junkie. Loves animal videos on Facebook. Reluctant tweeter.