|Russian President Vladimir Putin When current Russian President Vladimir Putin took over the leadership of the Russian Republic in 2000, most didn't envisage that the cost of social stability would be the loss of Russia's fragile democracy.
Unfortunately, though, that has become the case. Over the last eight years or so, Putin has permitted the rise of a new Russian elite which can hardly be called 'post-communist,' except in its overindulgence of the Russian Orthodox Church. Its oil industry has been re-nationalised, and it is not uncommon to find former police, military and state-owned industrial leaders reaping the rewards of privatisation. Putin's "United Russia" has become the leading parliamentary party in the Duma, and unfortunately for LGBT Muscovites, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkhov is one of the leading members.
Luzkhov is a social conservative, and is responsible for harsh police retribution against those daring to defy his orders and participate in Pride marches, whether or not they are Russian citizens. As a matter of fact, Russian human rights and civil liberties are on the wane right across the board, propelled by Russia's ongoing Chechnyan War on its frontier, Chechnyan reprisals against civilian targets, and the interpenetration of Russia's indigenous mafia, business leaders and government bureaucrats. The media is under state control, and tends to broadcast the United Russia party line. Anti-Semitic and racist violence is common in the "new" Russia, and unsurprisingly, there was widespread criticism of the last Russian presidential and general election, held several weeks ago.
Why do Russians tolerate this state of affairs? Part of it is attributable to the long Soviet era and lack of independent nongovernmental social institutions, or civil society. The Russian Orthodox Church has reverted back to its Czarist privileges, and has never shared in the Western Enlightenment, and jealously safeguards those renewed historic advantages against encroachment from non-Orthodox Christians. And, for that matter, from post-Christian social movements, such as LGBT movement demands for anti-discrimination laws, let alone relationship and parenting equality.
Under Putin, Russia isn't likely to improve quickly, and what is worse, he may be trading on the fact that he has rebuilt the Russian armed forces and restored a degree of economic prosperity to entrench his United Russia party in power. Ironically, then, Russia of the present and near future looks much like it always did during both the Tsarist and Communist eras. That is, Moscow is governed by a tiny elite who skim off profits and privileges for themselves.
Worse still, too, apart from LGBT Russians, remaining independent journalists and opponents of the Chechnyan War, Putin and his entourage are doing it mostly ignored by the democratic west.
While 2007 marked liberation for LGBT Australians (and perhaps Poles, if their new centre-right Civic Forum government proves pluralistic enough), Russia is trapped in a mire of its own making.
Victoria Clark: Why Angels Fall: A Portrait of Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo: London: Macmillan: 2000.
Dimitri Vassilev: "The Essence of Putinism: Strengthening of the Privatised State" Centre for Strategic and Independent Studies: November 2000:
Julie Anderson: "The Chekist Takeover of the Russian State" International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence: 19:2: 237-238. Craig Young - 13th December 2007