One of the differences in the outgoing year in the political sphere was a noticeable increase in the number of various kinds of foreign agents and undesirable organizations included in the registers of the Ministry of Justice. President Putin was even asked a question at the final press conference: what happened in Russia over the past year, that a swift and merciless sweep of the information and political field began?
At the same time, the main part of the relevant laws was not even adopted last year, but the current agents and organizations, whose activities were recognized as undesirable, did not activate and reorient their activities, which were not approved by the Ministry of Justice, this year. So what’s the deal?
Experts’ opinions on this matter differ in details, but they are unanimous in one thing: this is the reaction of the authorities to changes in the political situation that have taken place or are expected this year. Here is how Alexey Makarkin, vice president of the Center for Political Technologies Foundation, explained one of the features of the outgoing year:
– It can be linked to other political decisions. There were not only foreign agents, but also, for example, a ban on participation in elections for those involved in the activities of extremist movements. In our legislation, the concept of “involved” has appeared, which is understood as an extremely wide range of grounds. This was used during the elections so that people who expressed their sympathy for the recognized extremist organization FBK did not participate in them. Formally, there was no such ban even in Soviet times.
And the law enforcement practice is tightening, for example, regarding the so-called “Dadin’s article”, according to which one can receive criminal punishment for several administrative violations under the law on rallies. That is, the situation with foreign agents and undesirable organizations fits into the general trend. I think that it is connected with the fact that the Russian authorities perceive the activities of such organizations or the opposition as the activities of agents.
Moreover, as a continuation of external pressure on Russia. In principle, this position is consistent with the one held by the Soviet government in relation to the dissident movement. Now we have a new version of the “cold war” with the West, and, accordingly, there is a tightening of policy within the country.
I think that this aggravation and tightening is now associated with two factors. One – last year’s events in Belarus. In Russia, this is attributed to the mistakes of Alexander Lukashenko, and the mistakes include the fact that he too allowed the intelligentsia to express themselves, to work with non-profit organizations, etc. But the West used such leniency and stepped up its intervention and support for the opposition.
The second point, apart from Belarus, is the results of the presidential elections in the United States. Our attitude towards Trump was rather calm, there was an idea that his hands were tied, but he himself would like to come to an agreement with Russia. And there was an idea that in the second term, Trump would have more opportunities to influence his own administration.
And therefore, the attitude towards the internal opposition was less harsh, although it is perceived as a continuation of the external factor. But Biden won, whose administration, according to ideas, will be much more seriously involved in Russian affairs. And soon after this, these tightening laws and the emergence of new agents, undesirable organizations, etc. begin.
That is, the main thing here is the idea of the Russian authorities and the Russian power corporation that this is a purely external factor, dating back to the Soviet era. But there is a curious paradox here. In Soviet times, then analysts proceeded from the assumption that the main dissidents were Western agents – both Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov. And now we have already erected a monument to Solzhenitsyn and a decision is being made to erect a monument to Sakharov. And in history textbooks they are presented as positive characters.
Yevgeny Minchenko, president of the communication holding Minchenko Consulting, answering a question from MK, also pointed out a direct connection between the fact that those entered in the registers of the Ministry of Justice are perceived as a kind of “fifth column” and the measures taken against them.
At the same time, however, he pointed out the authorities’ desire to protect the federal elections from external influence as the direct reason for the active replenishment of the lists of unfriendly participants in the political process in the outgoing year. To a clarifying question whether this means that in the next year or two, in the absence of federal elections, the authorities will refrain from widespread use of tough measures, the expert replied negatively: the main decisions in this area have already been taken, and they are unlikely to change.