Svetlana Bakhmina’s Right to Mercy

Thanks to everyone who signed the petition to free Svetlana Bakhmina yesterday – it appears that the number of signatures is rapidly approaching 80,000. It would be great to 100,000, so please forward this one around. Today the columnist Alexander Arkhangelsky at RIA Novosti (!) argues that the release of Bakhmina would be the state’s first step in reconciling with Russian society:

A state that takes hostages is like a guerilla group of mujahideen—it stops being a regular power meant to enforce some general rules. Becoming irregular for the sake of expanding its domain, it becomes outwardly stronger, but weakens on the inside, like an occupying army weakens as it spreads out over the territory it controls and becomes demoralized in drinking bouts, chicken hunts and tomcatting escapades. The command displays increased self-importance, puts on parades and sends out orders, all the while trembling in fear from not knowing how to handle this damned victory.

This is what we all observed particularly vividly in the fall of last year. Having all of the political institutions and the media under control along with the power to use force, the hysterical ruling elite terrorized everyone with imaginary threats just to hang on. Curiously enough, today, when the security margins have sunk, the layer of protective fat is getting ever thinner and there are few good decisions left to be made, there is a new opportunity to correct (at least partially) the blunders of the last seven years, and to strengthen the state. Not using the “Basmanny” court or the “power vertical.” But by using mercy.Svetlana Bakhmina has appealed to the young president for a pardon. This appeal is supported by various forces, from the Internet community to the Public Chamber. It presently doesn’t matter whether this mother of two, pregnant with a third, has suddenly realized her guilt, or if she perceives herself as a victim of the political-economic battle of stern men. What matters is that the authorities got the chance to take the first reconciliatory step, away from vengeful cruelty that has poisoned our political life ever since October 25, 2003, toward a softer disposition, without which the informal social contract is inconceivable. In turn, without this contract there won’t be a way out of the crisis except according to the above-mentioned scenario, through the “fascization” of the regime or through a revolution fraught with incredible risk.The young master will be pressured now, the way he was pressured on that fateful day when the decision whether to recognize the separatists legally or to just “force Georgia to peace” was being made. It’s easy to imagine the reasoning: if you say “a,” you will have to say “b” as well; as soon as you let Bakhmina go, they’ll demand that you release Vasily Alexanyan, too, and after Alexanyan – all the others, all the way to Khodorkovsky. And every time they’ll become ever more insolent. Remember Mikhail Gorbachev – you can’t give in, because you’ll be weak, weak, weak.