October 25, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6649

Yabloko Leader Grigory Yavlinsky: Government-Managed Military Hysteria Creates A Docile Population That Is Even More Passive Than Soviet Times

October 25, 2016
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 6649

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the liberal pro-Western Yabloko party and its leader Grigory Yavlinsky were medium sized players in the Russian political system. With onset of the "managed democracy" under Putin and the prosecution of its major financial benefactors, Vladimir Gusinksy and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the party vanished from the Duma in the 2003 elections.

In this op-ed on Yabloko's website[1] Yavlinksy, a former vice chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers under Mikhail Gorbachev,  explains the failure of Russian liberalism to achieve even an also-ran status in the recent Duma elections despite Russia's economic crisis. When Russian society is constantly bombarded by war-scare propaganda it contents itself with merely being alive. As opposed to late Soviet times, when Russian society reacted with healthy cynicism to such propaganda, in today's Russia the threat of imminent war is taken at nearly face value.

MEMRI reposts Yavlinsky's article, which has been lightly edited for clarity but conforms to the original Russian text.

(Grigory Yavlinsky, Source:

'Russian Society Has Been Steadily Taught To Get Accustomed To The Idea... Of A New War'

"The Russian society has been steadily taught to get accustomed to the idea of proximity and inevitability of a new war. Preparation for the war has been boosted at all levels in the past days. In the context of current Russian foreign and domestic policy and the developments taking place since 2012 [and Putin's return to the post of president], the likelihood of a major war is not very high, but for the first time in half a century the threat of a war is perceived as real. Thus, a quite alien [for Russia] war in Syria, for example, may turn into a direct military clash between Russia and the United States. Russia is deliberately moving towards this conflict. 

'It Is Necessary To Frighten Everyone'

"Objectively, no direct external military threat to Russia has existed for many decades. There are, or course, potential threats, as in other countries, and therefore, the powder should be kept dry, - obviously, Russia needs modern and efficient armed forces. However, this has nothing to do with the unleashed propaganda and psychological preparation of the country's population for war.

"The military hysteria has subjective reasons behind it. The Russian government aims to compel the European countries to divide the world once again into zones of influence and recognize an authoritarian semi-criminal corporative system with an unchanging government as an equal partner. Additionally, the Kremlin does not hide its desire to limit the sovereignty of the former Soviet republics. No one in the world is willing to accept this. Therefore, Russia threatens [the world] with a war.

"Putting it quite simply, Vladimir Putin's view of the present world order is approximately as follows:

"- Honesty in politics is just what he and [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov are saying;

"- Ukrainians who think differently than the Kremlin are fascists. International treaties and laws are merely scraps of paper, and not all of them, but only those that Russia likes at the moment, should be fulfilled;

"- Donbass means a 'people's war of liberation', rather than a bloody operation arranged by Moscow to pressure the Ukrainian government;

"- Someone like [Kremlin advisor Sergey] Glazyev or like [former Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovych should be the boss in Kiev instead of 'Poroshenko's junta';

"- Europeans should significantly reduce the degree of involvement in their allied relations with the United States, and conduct 'independent' policies, i.e., the policies that will appeal to Russia;

"- The post-Soviet area should be the zone of Russian interests forever, and only what Russia wants may take place there;

"- Americans should immediately understand that Russia is a center of power, like they are, because it also has nuclear weapons. Therefore, everything should be discussed with Russia on an equal basis;

"- As the world does not understand this, Russia is ready to fight, and it is going to scare everyone with war, Russia's own population above all, so that the 'dastardly' foreigners would realize that it is not a joke. The state of emergency is very beneficial.

'In Order To Maintain The Tension In The Society, The Russian Authorities Have To... Feed The Public Imagination... With A War'

"In order to maintain the tension in the society, the Russian authorities have to continuously feed the public imagination associations with a war. Here, for example, is the strange news item in the federal mass media on the formation of grain reserves in St. Petersburg, or the news about re-subordinating the governors, the police, the Emergency Situations Ministry, the Federal Security Service and even the National Guard to the Ministry of Defense in the event of war, or the stories about how the authorities enthusiastically carry out nation-wide civil defense exercises, check underground bomb shelters in Moscow, happily reporting [to the public] that the shelters will be able to accommodate all (!) the population of the metropolis.

"[The WWII German siege of] Leningrad [in the World War II and huger there], bread rations, bomb shelters, 'all for the army, all for the victory' in case of war... It is clear how such word combinations influence people's minds. Every family at once recollects that terrible war [when every Soviet family lost its members in the war]. Now a future war becomes close and even virtually tangible. All this is fertilized by a Sunday television propaganda 'sermon': an odious anchor directly links civil defense exercises with the prospect of a war with the United States.

"They are telling people: it won't be better. However, no one is going to change anything. It cannot be done now: we live in difficult times and war is about to erupt at any moment. Therefore, be grateful that we are living at least for now. After all, in summer before the [September parliamentary] elections they taught people to get used to the idea that there was no money. And in the elections they got the result, about which Vladimir Putin noted that it was surprising that people lived worse but nonetheless voted for the [ruling] United Russia party.

"Now, people are taught to get used to the fact that the country may transfer to military emergency any time. This is, apparently, a new tactics of work with population keeping in mind the presidential elections [of 2018] - [they prefer to] present people with a fait accompli rather than buy their loyalty (as they do not have means for it): that is how it is, indeed, there is no other way for the situation to improve, get adjusted to it. We are not going to change anything!

"In Soviet schools and universities students were taught in the civil defense classes how to behave in the event of a nuclear war, and a black humor joke about it was popular then. The textbook instructions [stated] that "at the outbreak of a nuclear explosion one must quickly lie down on the ground feet towards the explosion, face down and eyes closed", students usually supplemented this with a recommendation to 'cover oneself with a white sheet, and crawl slowly to the cemetery...' The reply to the question 'why slowly' was 'to avoid creating crowds and jams'.

"However, in the late Soviet period, this joke provoked only smiles. I, for example, never met a person during those years, who believed that such skills might come in handy someday. No one wanted a war and no one believed that it could take place. The society aspired to an absolutely different future, very different from the archaic style of civil defense study rooms.

"Now, many people believe in it. They think about a war and speak about it seriously. The algorithm of actions in case of an 'explosion' is restored thirty years later and is firmly imposed on the society by the state and is perceived not as something archaic but as a post-modern, surrealist, but entirely possible prospect. Now in a society pursuing 'the non-existent way', an old anecdote about 'crawling to the cemetery' ceases to be a cheerful joke "




[1], October 17, 2016.

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