Today is Russia’s commemoration day for victims of political repression. President Medvedev has paid homage to these victims on his video blog, Ria-Novosti reports:
“Millions of people [in the Soviet Union] have died as a result of terror and false accusations…But we are still hearing that these enormous sacrifices could be justified by certain ultimate interests of the state. I am convinced that neither the goals of the development of the country, nor its successes or ambitions should be achieved through human suffering and losses.”
“Nothing is more sacred than a human life. And repressions cannot be justified,” he said.
Although it may be encouraging to see the President defend the principle of human life against the machinations of the state, one cannot help but wonder if this is little more than lip service. It would be specious to suggest that the level of repression in today’s Russia is in any way comparable to the purges of darker Soviet times, but whilst the slayings of journalists and activists remain unsolved, and threats against journalists remain an everyday reality, it is hard not to feel that these words ring a little hollow.
Medvedev has done much of late to offer the appearance of anattachment to democracy, forward thinking, and freedom in Russia’s leadership, playing the good cop reformer to Putin’s bad copauthoritarian. Time Magazinereports today on disappointment at how few of Medvedev’s gesturestowards change have concrete results. (See his position on the contested election resultsfor a most recent example). Whilst a debate about reform is healthier than stony silence, it seems that the President doesn’t hold a wide enough berth to turn his rhetoricinto reality.