Posted at 5:00 am
An anti-war teacher was reported to the police by her students. A couple arrested for discussing war casualties in a cafe. A woman denounced by a neighbor for posting a pacifist message on her balcony.
The Russians have begun to denounce their neighbors, colleagues and friends who oppose the invasion of Ukraine, creating a climate where any deviation from official Kremlin propaganda can have dire consequences.
“The denunciation is catastrophic as a behavior,” said Alexandre, a Russian citizen, public relations specialist and anti-war activist who left Moscow for Eastern Europe a few days ago. It’s supposed to scare people, scare them. This is something that has no place in a modern country. »
In early April, the Kremlin set up a hotline and website, and sent out bulk text messages to people in different parts of Russia urging them to speak out against “traitors.”
Last month Vladimir Putin called for a “self-cleansing” of Russian society in order to “clean it up”.
Symbol of this new wave of denunciations: Irina Gen, a 45-year-old English teacher from the city of Penza, southeast of Moscow. Last month mme Gen made anti-war remarks to two 12-year-old students who came to ask him why they could no longer take part in a planned sports competition in Europe.
“It will continue until Russia starts behaving in a civilized manner,” she told them during the call. Ukraine is a sovereign state. We have a totalitarian regime. Any contradiction is considered a crime of thought. »
Tapered by one of the students without his knowledge, the conversation was passed on to the authorities and cost Mr.me Gen. The teacher now faces a possible 10-year sentence under a new law that forbids criticizing the war in Ukraine.
Since then, the media and civil rights organizations in Russia have reported numerous more cases of denunciations, “black lists” of “anti-natives”, while war critics have seen the door of their apartment marked with the letter Z of the power to promote the invasion of Ukraine. Last week, Dmitry Muratov, Nobel Peace Prize winner and editor of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazetaa Kremlin critic whose publication is currently suspended was attacked on board a train by two men who spray-painted him red.
Paradoxically, these attacks and denunciations show that there are tensions and divisions within Russian society, notes Guillaume Sauvé, a Russia specialist at the University of Montreal’s Center for International Studies and Research.
“If so many people are denounced, it’s because there are Russians who say accusatory things. Apparently there is no consensus about the war in Ukraine. »
Mr Sauvé notes that it is difficult to know how many Russians are against the war in a country where even answering opinion polls is risky.
A minority opposes the war, which still represents millions of people.
Guillaume Sauvé, Russia Specialist at the University of Montreal’s Center for International Studies and Research
Immediately after the start of the Russian invasion, the Ministry of Education of Russia sent a speech to all Russian schools for all teachers to read to their students in order to teach them the “correct” interpretation of the war in Ukraine.
“Apparently there was a lot of resistance: teachers didn’t read it, or they did read it and the students, some of whom are almost adults, found it completely ridiculous. People are not stupid,” notes Mr. Sauvé.
From forced participation to non-participation
Many commentators have linked to the techniques of Joseph Stalin, the dictator who made information a system in the 1930s state was established. planned economy project.
However, the current situation is very different for Alexander, a Russian citizen who wants to hide his last name because he has to return to Russia in less than two months when his tourist visa expires in an Eastern European country.
The strength of Vladimir Putin’s regime is that it is built on the basis of popular non-participation, he says.
Putin encouraged apolitism and impotence among Russians. People are not interested in politics and accept the opinions imposed by the state. This is the basis of nutrition.
Alexander, Russian citizen and anti-war activist
Unlike during the Stalin era, when whole sections of Russian society were the target of repression and denunciations, the current wave is more targeted, he says. “Currently we are not talking about mass repression. The denunciations mainly hit the independent press, members of the opposition and activists. »
Luca Sollai, a doctoral student and associate professor at the Department of History and the Department of Literature and World Languages at the University of Montreal, says he is not surprised by the rise in denunciation cases in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.
“In a war situation, we see propaganda taking up more space, we see freedom of speech being restricted,” he said. This applies to democratic countries and even more to countries without democratic structures like Russia. »
This trend will continue as long as the country is at war. “Diplomatically we are at a dead end and therefore the conflict could go on for a long time. »
Inform: when Texas gets going
Russia is not the only country promoting whistleblowing. In Texas, a law banning all forms of abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, including cases of rape, includes a rather unusual measure: it allows state residents to sue anyone who assisted in an abortion. This can be clinics, doctors, nurses or even a taxi driver who allegedly drove a woman to have an abortion. Anti-abortion groups have set up hotlines and websites for the public to report people helping women get abortions. A citizen can demand up to $10,000 from the sued person. In her dissenting ruling on the law last year, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor condemned the system, writing that it was based on “bounty hunters”.
- Number of people arrested in Russia after protesting in the days following the invasion of Ukraine. The heavily suppressed demonstrations have now been halted.
SOURCE: OVD-Info, Russian Civil Rights Group