The Weight of Authoritarianism
A NOTE: Our Russia-Ukraine Resources are updated weekly - if you're accessing the page a week or more past the below date, pieces mentioned in this post may have been removed to make room for up-to-date resources.
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Updated Resources - September 13, 2023
Election Day in Kaliningrad September 9, 2018 (Westpress Kaliningrad archive, image # / Alexandr Podgorchuk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Kyiv Independent: Newsfeed
Novaya Gazeta Europe: Newsfeed
The Insider: Newsfeed
WHAT'S ON OUR MIND
Amidst news of Kim Jong Un’s impending visit to the Kremlin, the unveiling of a statue memorializing Soviet secret police founder in front of SVR headquarters, and Russia’s regional elections, ruminations on power, control, and dissent draw our attention to the authoritarian reality within - and beyond - Russia. We examine its intersection with Ukraine - both in the occupied regions and in the greater ideological struggle against Russian imperialism. Visit today’s resource page for perspectives on authoritarianism in the context of modern Russia and the Ukraine War.
The week begins with a piece in The Washington Post penned by Vladimir Kara-Murza, the Russian political activist, journalist, author, and filmmaker sentenced to 25 years in Russian prison. Kara-Murza offers historical perspective on his country’s struggle against authoritarianism and what he proscribes as the most successful path to a ‘free and modern state’. Meduza sheds light on the fate of another imprisoned Russian, mathematician and anarchist Azat Miftakhov, accused of ‘justifying terrorism’ for alleged comments avenging the death of a friend who died fighting for Ukraine. Meduza continues its coverage of state reprisals in a piece detailing how an essay examining the ‘myths of Kremlin propaganda’ by a scholar at Russia’s Academy of Sciences resulted in a smear campaign and his dismissal.
The societal impact of authoritarianism is examined in Meduza and Russia.Post. The former aggregates firsthand experiences of Russian parents seeking to shield their children from pro-war propaganda in schools. The latter interviews the director of non-profit organization Internet Protection Society, offering insight into the current state of Russia’s internet and state censorship.
Structural and social mechanisms foundational to authoritarianism are also probed in today’s update. Foreign Policy examines wartime Russians’ perceived acquiescence, proffering conformism as a survival strategy within a culture with a long tradition of repression. The Nation offers new perspectives in an interview with two socialists - one from Ukraine and one from Russia - who discuss Ukrainian resistance and the international left’s support. On the other side of the spectrum, Russia in Global Affairs, a foreign affairs journal founded by Russian foreign policy think tanks SVOP and RIAC, contrasts traditional values against Western modernity, between which Russia seeks to take its ‘traditional place’ as a ‘liberal-conservative center.' Novaya Gazeta deepens the view on authoritarianism reporting on Russia’s National Guard - deemed ‘Putin’s private army’ - and three members of Russia’s judiciary whose punitive sentences drive greater fear and suppression.
Finally we look beyond Russia, at the challenges to democracy on its periphery. Novaya Gazeta Europe reports on Lukashenko’s decree prohibiting Belarusians abroad from renewing their passports, engaging in real estate transactions, or obtaining certain documents without first returning to Belarus. In Ukraine, The Kyiv Independent’s weekly podcast discusses the outlook for democratic elections during wartime.
In the arts, a burning phoenix brings Ukraine’s plight to the forefront at Burning Man and Russian pop star Shaman’s concert acts as a microcosm of Russia’s wartime patriotism.
Find these stories and more in today’s resource update.
Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy stands in opposition to the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. We have many friends in both countries and we stand with the people of Ukraine and Russia. We deplore their suffering.
Track Two does not believe violent conflict or war are valid means to push political agendas. Today, threats to our existence from nuclear arms, climate catastrophes, diseases and cyberattacks are intensifying, and we do not believe any country should resort to violence. All people, of all nations, have a right to peace, meaningful work, shelter and food. Much collective work must be done to ensure our children and grandchildren can live full lives in a habitable world.
We believe there are humane and diplomatic avenues to coexistence that must be explored to mutual benefit. Let's arrive at these with deliberation so that we can continue work essential to preventing the end of life on this planet.
More than ever, it is incumbent upon all of us to be acutely aware of the disinformation campaigns orbiting the globe, and offer support to those who need it most. To that end, we've compiled a selection of resources from our team and network as we follow this crisis closely.