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March 20, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8649

After Proposing Amendment To Reset Putin's Presidential Terms To Zero, First Female Astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, A Hero Of The Soviet Union, Becomes An Object Of Stormy Controversy

March 20, 2020
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8649

On February 10, 2020 the Russian State Duma held a second reading of the bill on amendments to the Russian Federation's. At the close of the discussion, the world's first female astronaut, Hero of the Soviet Union, and current Duma deputy Valentina Tereshkova, addressed the chamber: “I propose either to remove the restrictions on the presidential term, or to write in one of the articles of the bill the provision that after the updated Constitution enters into force, the incumbent president, like any other citizen, has the right to be elected to the post of head of state,” - Tereshkova said.[1]

Tereshkova subsequently explained the motivation for her proposal “Why build artificial structures, everything must be provided for honestly and openly” said Valentina Tereshkova. “We either need to remove the restrictions on the number of presidential terms in the Constitution, or (if the situation demands it, and most importantly, if people want it) to lay down in the law the option for the incumbent president to be re-elected already in accordance with the updated Constitution (...) I was asked [to make this proposal] not by political circles, but by ordinary people“.[2]

Although, it is uncertain whether Tereshkova, as she claimed was motivated by the clamor of "ordinary people" or whether she was acting at the behest of the higher-ups, the former object of veneration, who had streets named after her, was denounced by those strongly opposing the amendment that extended Putin's eligibility to serve as president theoretically to 2036. The amendment's opponents, using the social media, proposed sending her back permanently into orbit, demanded that places named in her honor be renamed and even compared her with movie villains. The attacks prompted pro-Putin officials, scholars, athletes and others to rally in her defense and denounce her critics and their motivations.

A sampling of the attacks on Tereshkova, and the counterattack by her defenders follows below:


Vladimir Putin congratulates Tereshkova on her birthday (Source: Tass.com)

The Backlash Against Tereshkova

Tereshkova Consistently Serves The Authorities

Tereshkova's critics reminded her that this was not the first time she had intervened in the service of an authoritarian regime. On the internet she was pilloried for effusively praising Leonid Brezhnev in 1977 the deep concern that he displayed towards working women in the 1977 constitution.


The heading reads: "Speech of the deputy V.V. Nikolaeva – Tereshkova"

The first paragraph reads: "Comrade deputies! On behalf of millions of women of our country, allow me to express my deep gratitude to the Communist Party, Central Committee[3], the Politburo[4] and personally to you, dear Leonid Ilyich [Brezhnev], for your constant care for the female workers of our country. Your care for Soviet women was expressed clearly in the draft new Constitution.”

Send Tereshkova Back To Space

The day that Tereshkova filed her amendment a petition appeared on the change.org website titled "Send Valentin Vladimirovna Tereshkova back to space!" Hundreds immediately signed it.

The author of the petition, Arietta Bolshakova, addressed it to the head of the state-owned corporation Roscosmos that heads the Russian space effort. She wrote:

"Civil society, in turn, recognizing the merits of Valentina Vladimirovna, asks to send Ms. Tereshkova back to space, preferably indefinitely and forever, without the possibility of returning to Earth, since she managed to be an astronaut better than being a deputy of a representative body expressing the opinion of the people - the only source of power in the Russian Federation.[5]


Tereshkova in her cosmonaut days (Source: Ria.ru)

Russian comedian Denis Chuzoy found signs of villainy in the appearance of State Duma deputy Valentina Tereshkova, who proposed to remove restrictions on presidential terms after the adoption of amendments to the Constitution. He shared his observation on Twitter.

The comedian pointed out that the deputy’s hairstyle is similar to the hairstyles of some unsavory characters in popular films. “If someone paid attention to this white strand, we would immediately grasp that Valentina Tereshkova is a villain.

In comments on his post, users saw a genuine similarity between the hairstyles of Tereshkova and several movie villains. Some thought Tereshkova resembled Cruella De Ville from the movie "101 Dalmatians", while others were reminded of the diabolical hairdresser Sweeny Todd performed by Johnny Depp: both these characters like Tereshkova had a gray strand of hair.[6]


(Source: Wikipedia commons) (Source: Duma.gov.ru)

Calls To Remove Tereshkova's Name From Streets Throughout Russia

Many petitions appeared calling for renaming streets that after Tereshkova's space flight were dedicated to her. Residents of Novosibirsk's Academic City, where the research centers of Siberia are concentrated wrote: "With great regret, we note that Valentina Tereshkova now personifies other values than in the era of Soviet cosmonautics." Hence, "the name of Valentina Tereshkova should not be immortalized in our city's map."[7]

The residents of Ulyanovsk justified a similar demand by claiming that Tereshkova "had played an active part in a show that people call a 'coup d'etat'".[8] On Change.org, a number of petitions were posted, including a demand to strip Tereshkova of the title honorary citizen - almost 18 thousand people have signed the petition to date. The female astronaut is an honorary vitizen of five Russian cities: Kaluga, Yaroslavl, Vladikavkaz, Alagir and Schelkovo. The authors of another petition called on the administration of each of these cities to deprive Tereshkova of this title.

Another petition was brought by a resident of Tver. He asked the city government and the authorities of the Tver region to rename Tereshkova Square to Cosmonautics Square. “In connection with the introduction of anti-popular proposals, in particular the constitutional coup, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova lost (reset to zero) the citizen's trust and respect citizens,” explained the petitioner. The residents of Lipetsk also requested the measure. In their opinion, the Tereshkova amendment “deprives Russian citizens of their hopes for improving their lives, for developing the economy, science, and social sphere of the Russian Federation.” Residents of Vladivostok did not want to have a street in the city named after Tereshkova.

Finally, a general petition appeared on the same site calling for renaming all streets named after Tereshkova Street in all cities throughout the country.

Tereshkova was sarcastically requested to employ her talents as whitewashing reality to the coronavirus: "Without a doubt, you need to have unprecedented strength in order to nullify the term of the presidency and conclusively turn the Constitution of the Russian Federation into rigid toilet paper… Tereshkova was requested “to reset the coronavirus and all the disease statistics figures [to zero].[9]

Writer Bykov: Do Not Take It Out On Tereshkova

Writer Dmitry Bykov writing on "the reset to zero" of previous presidential terms argued that anger and frustration should not be targeted at Tereshkova but at the people who used her. The maneuver epitomized the entire Putin era:

"…The last twenty years of Russian history, were so sadly reset to zero yesterday… indeed, [history] was completely reset to zero, because there is no result, there is no movement, these twenty years were sort of erased from life …

"And what a dishonor, what a disgrace that Duma session, at which they set up Valentina Tereshkova so horribly, appeared... They set up this woman so awfully. This was, in my opinion, absolutely inhumane, it was just abusive. And many are indignant at her. So be indignant at those who put her in this position …

"This was disgrace, almost a violent, inhumane action... And I have such a deep compassion for her that I just can’t even convey. And what will happen next? Naturally, there is a big temptation to say that our whole cause has been "reset to zero". The humanitarian mission in general of the entire intelligentsia [has been nullified], because it is unclear now for whom and for what to fight."[10]

Tereshkova Dismisses Her Critics

Tereshkova was unbowed by the criticism. She believed that her critics were unpatriotic.

"I don’t even want to talk about these people. People who don’t love the country, but do only nasty things."[11] Moreover the critics were a drop in the bucket when compared to the support she was receiving: "I get a huge mail and every letter begins: 'thanks for what you said about the preservation of Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin)', Tereshkova said on the Russia 1 channel.

Tereshkova explained that people remember in what shape Russia was in, when Putin took overand that Putin "literally collected it in particles."

Thanks to Putin "The country has become one, moreover, it (has acquired) enormous prestige, and it is reckoned with. He [Putin] has the most powerful authority and all this is targeted at having our country respected, and he [Putin] did it."[12]

The Regime Mobilizes In Tereshkova's Defense

Duma Speaker Volodin: Attacks On Tereshkova Are Attacks On Our Country

Obviously, the regime was not going to let Tereshkova face her detractors alone, because an attack on Tereshkova was an indirect attack on Putin. State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin sounded the charge and urged members of all Duma factions to defend Valentina Tereshkova from the unjustified criticism:

"These attacks that are coming at Tereshkova today, are attacks on our country. Because she made the proposal [to keep Putin in power] that will make our country stronger ...", - said Volodin.[13] Kommersant's columnist Dmitry Drize in a column titled "Good Old Interpretations Are Effective" claimed that Volodin's remarks presaged a brutal slapdown of the critics reminiscent of previous times: "Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin in his opening remarks before the plenary session administered a tough rebuke to foreign media, various destructive forces and their henchmen: 'hands off Valentina Tereshkova'… And then he uttered the essential part: 'Our advantage is not oil and gas, our advantage is Putin, and we must protect him.'…Further discussion is pointless. The world is in chaos, and only Putin can maintain stability in Russia. And those who do not understand this, who dare to be ironic, are henchmen of foreign countries, and in other words - enemies. [These are] good old interpretations, but effective ones."[14]

Critics Of Tereshkova Have Crossed The Bounds Of The Permissible

Experts appeared in the press to denounce the critics. The director of the Center for Political Analysis and Social Research, Pavel Danilin, attacked the critics from escalating a political disagreement with Tereshkova into a brutal ad hominem attack on her. In so doing they had revealed themselves as people who "have no idea about what is permissible."

According to Danilin, if a person allows himself to say such things about an elderly person who takes a different political position this means that he is basically uncultured and intolerant. This was the tenor of the opposition that "demonstrates absolute intolerance, intolerance of other people's opinions and the absence of all human feelings."

Higher School of Economics professor Oleg Matveychev noted that Valentina Tereshkova is a Hero of the Soviet Union and a person of world-renown. He denounced her critics as "absolutely worthless monkey-people" who were of no benefit to Russia.

The writer Zakhar Prilepin also questioned the critics' arrogance when their contribution "to Russian statehood and world culture, in the broadest sense of the word, is not comparable… to the contribution of Valentina Tereshkova." This only that "the last thing the country needs is for these people to come to power, because their intolerance goes beyond the limits of reason." Any effort to diminish Tereshkova's reputation would fail as she was a historical figure whose name was written "on the tablets of mankind". To get to be the first woman in space Tereshkova "passed the strictest selections, achieved the highest results as an effective and trained person, both intellectually, physically, mentally, and whatever."[15]

The president of the "RAPIR" regional analytical foundation Dmitry Travkin accused Tereshkova's critics of attempting to deny Tereshkova her right to an opinion. - For me, she is not only a hero, but also one of the people that I most deeply respect. Firstly, I know her personally, as an extremely decent person…. Secondly, I believe that in a society that considers itself democratic, every citizen has the right to his own opinion, especially if he is a deputy of the supreme legislative body of the state. Let me remind you of Voltaire’s famous saying: 'Your opinion is deeply alien and hostile to me, but I am ready to give my life for your right to express it…At the same time, no one is allowed to get personal, this is my personal conviction. Ideas need to be discussed, not fought with people. The idea was expressed, and it will be evaluated during the popular vote. And the transition personal attacks always betrays a weak position and lack of arguments. Such immoral methods of discussion do not arouse sympathy.[16]

Russian athletes joined the defense of Tereshkova and denounced her critics in blunt style.

Umar Kremlev, the general secretary of the Russian boxing federation wrote: "To those scum who consider themselves courageous and insult the hero of our country, the first female astronaut, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, raise your asses and come to our Boxing Federation of Russia. Here we are ready to talk with each of you according to the rules of boxing!"[17]

Dmitry Tarasov, a former star midfielder for Russia's national soccer team used his Instagram account to assail those criticizing Tereshkova. He urged them to watch their language and stop insulting the aged Tereshkova. They were fools as "Tereshkova will remain in history, and you, who insult her, after this, are merely excrement."[18]


Dmitry Tarasov (Source: Ria.ru)

Major General Sergey Lipovoy from the veterans organization Officers of Russia backed Tereshkova "On behalf of the Heroes of the Soviet Union, Heroes of Russia, generals, officers…, I want to say: we are with you, Valentina Vladimirovna! The entire nation is behind you, against a handful of people without faces, names and conscience, hiding behind shameful cartoons, dirty jokes and internet memes. "[19]

The Critics Are Trying To Corrupt The Youth And Are Foreign Hirelings

Chelyabinsk Today accused the critics of waging "an information war for the minds our youth. A concrete example is to put in a bad light a person who enjoys unquestioned authority in the eyes of youth and to encourage young people to desecrate and diminish the exploits of this person only because of some statement that supposedly contradicts some of their norms of truth."[20]

The conservative outlet Vz.ru shared this assessment and proclaimed in a headline that the people behind the attacks on Tereshkova had been revealed citing an obscure Telegram channel called anti-Propaganda.

"The media campaign that unfolded against Valentina Tereshkova was not spontaneous, it was deliberately provoked by pro-Western media and opposition dregs in the person of (Alexei) Navalny, (Mikhail) Khodorkovsky and the Gudkov clan." These miscreants were following a script prepared by the US Agency for Global Media. Most of the outlets reporting on the criticism of Tereshkova receive funding from abroad.[21]

 

[1] Kp.ru, March 10, 2020.

[2] Kp.ru, March 11, 2020.

[3] The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU)

[4] Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU

[5] Medialeaks.ru, March 12, 2020.

[6] Lenta.ru, March 12, 2020.

[7] Kommersant.ru, March 16, 2020.

[8] Znak.com, March 18, 2020.

[9] Rosbalt.ru, March 15, 2020.

[10] Echo.msk.ru, March 12. 2020.

[11] Tass.ru, March 12, 2020.

[12] Vz.ru, March 15, 2020.

[13] Tass.ru, March 13, 2020.

[14] Kommersant.ru, March 12, 2020.

[15] Aif.ru, March 14, 2020.

[16] Ulpravda.ru, March 14, 2020.

[17] Kavpolit.com, March 14, 2020.

[18] Lenta.ru, March 15, 2020.

[19] Pravda.ru, March 16, 2020.

[20] Cheltoday.ru, March 13, 2020.

[21] Vz.ru, March 17, 2020.

 

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