News / Europe

Putin: Order, Discipline Not a Sign of Stalinism

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a live broadcast nationwide phone-in in Moscow, Apr. 25, 2013.
Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a live broadcast nationwide phone-in in Moscow, Apr. 25, 2013.
Reuters
President Vladimir Putin rejected comparisons with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin on Thursday in his annual televised question-and-answer session with citizens, denying political persecution but saying Russia needed order and discipline.
    
A liberal journalist referred to a host of legal sanctions applied to Putin's opponents since he was re-elected president to ask him whether there were elements of Stalinism in his exercise of power.
    
But on a day when the first Russian civic group was fined under a new law intended to limit foreign influence, an opposition activist was jailed over an anti-government protest and another was being tried for fraud, Putin dismissed the idea.
    
“I don't see any elements of Stalinism here,” he said. “Stalinism is linked to the cult of personality, massive legal violations, repressions and labor camps. There is nothing like that in Russia and I hope there never will be again. But this does not mean that we should not have order and discipline.”

Putin, a former KGB officer who has mixed praise of some of Stalin's achievements with criticism of his harsh methods, denied using the courts to persecute opponents - a hallmark of Stalin's three decades in power until his death in 1953.
    
“Nobody is putting anyone behind bars for their political views,” Putin said.
    
Fraud charges
    
Russian opposition leader and anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Moscow, Apr. 15, 2013.Russian opposition leader and anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Moscow, Apr. 15, 2013.
x
Russian opposition leader and anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Moscow, Apr. 15, 2013.
Russian opposition leader and anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Moscow, Apr. 15, 2013.
Protest leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, arguably Putin's most formidable political opponent in the absence of any effective parliamentary opposition, says his trial on charges of defrauding a timber firm has been trumped up to silence him.
    
Avoiding using Navalny's name, but clearly referring to him, Putin said: “People who fight corruption must be pure as crystal themselves, otherwise it [their campaigning] all looks like self-promotion and political advertising.”
    
Navalny's supporters have compared his trial to that of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was jailed in 2005 on fraud and tax evasion charges after falling out with Putin and remains in prison.
    
Putin's remarks in a confident live appearance that lasted nearly five hours indicated he has no plans to ease the pressure on opponents and activists that has helped stifle what were the biggest opposition protests since he came to power in 2000.
    
The human rights campaign groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this week said Putin's new term had seen a witch-hunt against dissenters and the toughest crackdown on civil society since the Soviet era.
    
Protesters on trial
   
Detained opposition activist Konstantin Lebedev (R, front) is escorted out of a building of the Russian Investigative Committee in Moscow, Oct. 17, 2012.Detained opposition activist Konstantin Lebedev (R, front) is escorted out of a building of the Russian Investigative Committee in Moscow, Oct. 17, 2012.
x
Detained opposition activist Konstantin Lebedev (R, front) is escorted out of a building of the Russian Investigative Committee in Moscow, Oct. 17, 2012.
Detained opposition activist Konstantin Lebedev (R, front) is escorted out of a building of the Russian Investigative Committee in Moscow, Oct. 17, 2012.
A Moscow court on Thursday convicted opposition activist Konstantin Lebedev of organizing mass disorder at a protest on May 6 last year, the eve of Putin's inauguration, and sentenced him to two-and-a-half years in prison.
    
He was given lenient treatment because he implicated others, which lawyers fear could bode ill for prominent opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov and more than 20 others who have also been formally accused or charged in connection with the May 6 protest. One other person has been convicted.
    
Also on Thursday, a Moscow court handed a 300,000 rouble ($9,500) fine to Golos, a vote-monitoring group that documented fraud allegations in the presidential election and a 2011 parliamentary election, for declining to register as a “foreign agent” under a new law aimed at NGOs with foreign funding.
    
For many Russians, that designation clearly evokes the Stalin era. Golos said the foreign payment in question had been a human rights prize, which it had promptly returned in full.
    
Putin dismissed criticism of the law, saying: “Let them say where they got money, how much, and how they have spent it.”
    
He also referred disparagingly to Pussy Riot, the female band, some of whose members were jailed for singing a raucous anti-Putin song near the altar of Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral.
    
“These girls from Pussy Riot and guys who desecrate the graves of our soldiers must be equal before the law,” he said.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs