Enemies or Fools

Lev Ponomarev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva. Source: Ej.ruEarlier this week, deputies from the United Russia party introduced a bill that would label non-governmental organizations that accept foreign funding as “foreign agents.” While the bill’s sponsors claim that the law is intended to inform the public of which organizations are purely Russian and which are financed from abroad, analysts and oppositionists are furious that it will effectively, as Mark Urnov put it, “allow people to discredit any organization that is not United Russia or that displeases the authorities.” The bill comes right on the heels of one that significantly increases fines for violating regulations on holding public protests, much to the chagrin of the recent wave of anti-government political activists.

Writing for Yezhednevny Zhurnal, journalist Anton Orekh delves into the blatantly illogical nature of the Kremlin’s newest project.

Enemies or Fools
By Anton Orekh
July 4, 2012
Yezhednevny Zhurnal

Now they’re in just as much of a hurry to pass a law concerning “foreign agents.” Just like they rushed to pass the new law on public protests, now they’re all in a flurry over this one. It will, of course, be passed. They’ll require us to take account more often, to take the label of “foreign agent.” They would love, of course, to add more labels as well. Like when during the war signs saying “provocateur” or “partisan” were stuck on people about to be hung, or six-pointed stars were sewn onto the shirts of Jews in the ghettos and camps. So that everyone knows that this non-profit organization employee is a “foreign agent.”

Naturally, they’re making references to the experiences of other countries. It’s characteristic of us to refer to other countries when we need to limit something or introduce insane fines or punishments. Never when there’s something positive to adopt. The creation of a system for the courts, or the parliament, or the army, or for science and education – there’s a great deal that’s good there. Nope, we’re just interested in the fines. Fines comparable to ones they have abroad – when we have incomparable salaries.

There’s only one way that our people interpret the phrase “foreign agent.” Spy! The agent of a foreign intelligence agency or something like that. Which is to say – an enemy. And in telling the public that your organization is a “foreign agent,” you, as the author of the law intended, are thus telling everyone that you are an enemy. An enemy of Russia.

A wave of awareness is now on the rise. People are saying, what’s the deal here, what is it you’re doing?! Because if this law is passed, even Putin’s favorite foundation Give Life and the less loved but universally known and “significant” Gorbachev Foundation would fall under the definition of “foreign agents.” And most importantly – the Russian Orthodox Church! It also fits the description of a “foreign agent!” A real horror, isn’t it?

Don’t you worry. The law will be passed all the same. But, just like all of our laws, it’s going to be interpreted loosely. It wasn’t written in order to interfere with our bureaucrat priests or Chulpan KhamatovŠ° or Mikhail Gorbachev. Their institutions will get off, at the very worst, with a write-up. But most likely the government will just close its eyes. There’s no saying who under what circumstances will fall subject to which laws. Laws are instituted not in order to regulate our lives (but in normal countries normal laws are needed for just this reason), but in order to repress those the government deems to be undesirable, to make their lives harder, to put obstacles in their way, and to shove sticks in their tires. This is all done so that, if the need arises, they can apply rules that don’t even actually exist in the law. And that’s why Pussy Riot is locked up right now, for something that they didn’t actually do.

The intent of the authors of the law on “foreign agents” is something I can understand. What I don’t understand is another thing. Why are they hiding the enemies of the people? Why are they limiting themselves to taking half-measures? They’re giving the status of “spy” and “enemy of the state” to a huge swath of different offices. These are spy agencies that are financed from abroad. They are financed with a single goal: to undermine our system, to break Russia apart – and when Russia does break apart, to dismember her, occupy her, take control of her natural resources, and…it’s scary even to imagine what they want to do to our people. Right? And if that’s not right, then why are foreign governments setting up sabotage organizations on our territory?

So what do we have here? An entire network of hostile, subversive organizations are at work in Russia, but the state, instead of defusing them, is only requiring them to increase their financial paperwork and write up twice as many certificates. What kind of way is this to deal with our enemies? Instead of catching and punishing them, we’re going to make them hang tags on themselves and send them off into the world to keep on crapping all over it?!

I’ve had questions like this for a while. Remember what a whirlwind rose up after a group of oppositionists visited the American embassy. And it turned out that a visit to the American embassy was an incident of treason. So why is this embassy still functioning in general? If the very act of going there constitutes treason? Why do we still have relations with a country whose embassy carries out no functions besides radically extremist ones?

Forgive me, but I just don’t see any other logic. If a trip to the American embassy is treason, then it means that America is our enemy. Why should we have the embassy of an enemy in Moscow? If anyone who gets money from abroad is officially – officially! – considered to be a foreign agent, which is to say an enemy, then why aren’t these people in the Kolyma Gulag, and why aren’t their organizations closed down?

I believe my logic to be beyond reproach, and the authors of these laws are either the accomplices of our enemies or they’re simply fools. Here, there’s simply no other option.

Translation by theotherrussia.org.