WAKING UP TO THE 1930’s IN RUSSIA

The Putin government has ended the activities of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Russia. Commenting on the decision, Senator John McCain called it an insult to the United States. I’m not sure to what extent Putin meant it to be an insult (“a finger in the eye of the Obama administration”, as the Senator qualified it), but the Russian president’s move is further tightening control over the “dissenting minds’ inside Russia – over those who are looking towards the West for financial assistance or scholarships for studies or training. Dictators don’t like their subjects to be independent of them. State borders in the former Soviet Union were “dead bolted” not so much to prevent foreigners from coming in, as for its own people not to run way – in search of freedom or of “greener pastures”, as the case might be. There was a joke in those days: “What would you do if the borders got opened?” – “I’d climb a tree.” – “?!” – “Not to be trampled underfoot.”

Moscow’s decision comes after President Vladimir Putin in July signed into law a bill that compelled NGOs which were funded from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” Notably, in the time of my childhood the word “agent” meant not a “representative body”, but a “foreign spy”, and was often interchangeable with the word combination an “imperialist agent.”  A teacher at my school could tell lazy students that by being disposed to idleness they were “bringing grist to the imperialist mill.” The dictator-speak is surging back again!

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