Yesterday, Russian journalist Leonid Ragozin wrote here about Putin’s renewed crackdown on the media: What began just days before the Olympics with a Kremlin attack on Dozhd, the last independent television station in Russia, has now extended to Lenta.ru, arguably the best news site in Russia. On Wednesday, the site’s editor-in-chief was fired and replaced with a Kremlin loyalist, and the whole staff quit in protest. Yesterday, the Kremlin went full-China on the Internet, the holy of holies of the Russian opposition. Using some flimsy legal pretexts, it banned access to various oppositional news sites, to the website of Moscow’s biggest radio station, and to the blog of Alexey Navalny, who is currently under house arrest. Last week, the owner of Dozhd announced that, due to the clampdown, the channel is going to close in a couple months.
But that’s not all. In fact, terrifyingly, it’s not nearly all. Yesterday, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the pseudo-nationalist pseudo-parliamentarian, proposed banning the letter Ы (usually transliterated as “y” into English, as in NavalnY or, say, blinY) from the Russian alphabet because it was too “Asiatic.” The day before that, Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways, the biggest company in the country, proposed spending “trillions of rubles” on a “Trans-Eurasian Development Belt” that would take certain non-Western, non-Anglo-Saxon values into account. Yakunin added that the West had foisted onto Russia a form of economics—in which, judging by the number of Russian billionaires, it’s been quite successful—that was all growth for the sake of growth, and which annihilated Russia’s intrinsic spirituality. (It’s also a strange statement for a man whose children live in the very heart of the Anglo-Saxon West: London.) And that’s all happening with the backdrop of thousands of mysterious men, armed with state-of-the-art weaponry and dressed in uniforms that look very Russian but that Putin insisted they had “bought in a store.”
Westerners rightly know Russia as a font of absurdity, but lately, it’s been hard to keep up: I’ve been trying to write this post for a solid week now, and have been constantly derailed by the increasingly bizarre and worrying developments coming from the Trans-Eurasian Development Belt.
I'm struggling to take heart in the knowledge that although America DOES seem to be electing an increasing number of crackpots to public office, at least none of them has proposed banning a LETTER of the ALPHABET ... (yet) ... although illiteracy could be a factor.