We take it for granted sometimes that we enjoy freedom of speech, a strong democracy, a vibrant election system that enjoys the benefits of a free media and that any citizen can freely run for office.
I believe that we were all hoping that Russia would grow into this type of robust democracy just as some some of its former Eastern European (vassal) states have. Unfortunately, as we are learning, the shift to democracy and a free market did not go smoothly and Vladimir Putin has taken advantage over the past several years by solidifying his power, imprisoning opponents, playing dirty tricks with opposition parties and politicians, and doing everything in his power to turn Russia into a dictatorship that pretends to be a democracy.
Garry Kasparov, who was the world’s chess champion for many years and who is Jewish, could be living anywhere in the world and enjoying the fame and fortune he earned. Instead, bravely, he returned to Moscow and entered politics with the express purpose of defending the existence of Russian democracy. He has met numerous challenges, apparently state instigated, along the way. He has had demonstrations cancelled, has been shoved around by policemen, had speeches disrupted and crowds dispersed, and received subtle threats from authorities.
Undaunted, Kasparov has continued to run for office and has done his best to generate some publicity. His cause has been helped by the occasional media report in Western countries, but it has been a difficult uphill struggle. I would guess that it may even be a dangerous struggle if only because opponents of Putin’s regime have been jailed, beaten or possibly even killed.
Kasparov has just been released from a five day jail sentence where he was not permitted to speak to a lawyer. He was arrested for taking part in an opposition march at a time when Russian elections are pending. He predicts that if this type of governmental hubris continues, Russia will fall into chaos. I think he’s being optimistic and in truth very little will happen.
He is a brave man with his heart in the right place, not to mention a strong sense of justice and fairness. We wish him well.
It has to be noted as well that Russia has just backed out of an arms treaty with other European nations, because of its opposition to the placement of American arms systems on that continent.