January 5, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8461

Kommersant Observer Gurevich: Instead Of Inflicting New Prohibitions Each Week The Government Should Go Ahead And Ban Everything

January 5, 2020
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8461

Kommersant observer Mikhail Gurevich, writing at the close of 2019, takes stock of the spate of restrictive laws passed by the legislature and signed into law by Vladimir Putin. Particularly irksome was the prohibition on the sale of smartphones and computers without domestic software, a law opposed by Russian producers and retailers. Gurevich in a column titled " The government is no longer prepared to even fake democracy" makes a modest proposals: Instead of having Russia's leaders invent new prohibitions each week and then turn somersaults in justifying them, Russia should take the restrictive legal spirit to its ultimate absurd conclusion. The legislature should ban everything. This by reverse logic will force the country's leaders to come up with new things that they will allow the country's citizens. A translation of Gurevich's column follows below: [1]

Mikhail Gurevich (Source:

"In a Soviet anecdote an overly devoted mother calls her son yelling from the window 'Vasya come home!' The son screams in response: 'Have I already caught cold?' 'No– answers the parent – you are getting hungry'. The Russians' relation with their government increasingly recalls this old joke.

"It is much simpler to communicate with us as with small children – to nurture and mentor largely however with the aid of prohibitions. The fundamental principle of global jurisdiction in our local reading has been altered from 'everything that is not prohibited is permissible' into 'all is prohibited except for what is permitted.' But here as well there are some nuances. At the start of the year, everybody laughed at the unexpected receipt of the right to gather twigs. But only at the end of 2019 did the news appear that we somehow were gathering it wrongly. Already the bureaucrats were publishing new regulations, issuing clarification and threatening fines.

"The prohibitions are not the major novelty of the preceding year; simply over the past 365 days they have attained such previously unreachable heights that they have become mundane. The adaptation to this daily occurrence occurred on a strictly scientific basis at all its stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

"It became a curiosity, what would the next law limit, and what rationale would they use for it. Of course it was generally for the people's welfare but the details are interesting. The restrictions on smoking on the balconies became the pinnacle of course.

"More than anything else is what cannot be done on the internet. "And here the justifications actually defy the imagination – take the law on the sovereign internet alone! (that was passed in connection with the danger that Runet could be severed from the global web.)

"To write this and seriously discuss it without laughing, you must have the degree of courage and exalted status of a State Duma deputy.

"The only upsetting thing is that all these hilarious and unrealizable prohibitions, limitations, and regulations are most frequently accompanied by courts with subsequent fines and actual prison terms, while the charges with their murkiness take precedence over clarifications by [Duma] deputies.

"For that reason I wish on everybody's behalf, that in the coming year they will decisively and mercilessly prohibit us everything. For this is the only way to abort this trend. Even the State Duma is unnecessary. A brief two-word presidential decree will do: All is forbidden, signature. And already after a couple of minutes the first buds of our new life will germinate: A decree on permission to breathe, blink, sit and stand – and everything will suddenly change. The officials and deputies will be racing and searching to initiate more and more options. Each day they will permit us something else.

"Dream on you say. The main thing is that it is not forbidden. Happy New Year!


[1], December 30, 2019.

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