Boris Nemtsov march, 3/1/2015
Boris Nemtsov “was afraid of becoming a victim of a revolution” whose results he feared could lead to an even more horrific situation in Russia but as a result, Moscow commentator Boris Sokolov argues, he “became a victim of the dictatorship because a revolution didn’t happen.”
Four years ago, Sokolov recalls, Nemtsov told an interviewer that “there are three possible scenarios of a revolution in Russia.” The most probable would be a nationalist one, involving pogroms of ethnic minorities. The next most probable would be a socialist or communist one, the result of declines in the standard of living and increase in corruption.
And “finally, in third place, in terms of probability,” the opposition leader who was murdered in the shadow of the Kremlin said, there could be “a liberal revolution, called from by the absence of freedom and democracy.” But regardless of the one that will occur, Nemtsov suggested, there will be bloodshed.
But regardless of which one occurs, the late opposition figure said, “Putin bears 100 percent responsibility” for the likelihood that a revolution will happen. As a result, Nemtsov continued, he personally is no supporter of revolutions because “there will be many victims,” adding “I could be one of them.”
Such views – Nemtsov wanted a revolutionary transformation of Russia without a revolution – simultaneously explains why he had so much support among many liberal Russians and non-Russians and why he was such a threat to the Kremlin leader. Indeed, Sokolov says, it helps to explain why Putin wanted him out of the way.
The pro-Kremlin media have been working overtime to come up with various suggested versions to “distract attention” from the fact that Putin and his regime are “the most likely” to have ordered this murder, the Moscow commentator says, noting that each new invention is “more absurd” than the one before it.
In fact, Sokolov says, there are only two “real versions of the murder.” The first is that “the murder of Boris Nemtsov was exactly the same kind of state crime as the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko and the order for it could be given only by the first person of the state” – that is by Putin.
And the second is that “the opposition leader was killed by some radical supporters of the ‘Anti-Maidan’” organization Putin and his regime itself set up to block public protests in Russia and thus to ensure Putin’s continued rule. But this is highly improbable because of where the murder was carried out, right under the Kremlin walls.
Thus everything we know points to Putin as the man responsible, Sokolov says. The Kremlin leader had two obvious reasons for wanting Nemtsov dead. On the one hand, “of all the politicians on the liberal wing of the non-systemic opposition, only [he] could gather mass demonstrations,” something Putin clearly fears.
And on the other, the Kremlin leader knew that Nemtsov was getting ready to publish a report proving that the Russian military is fighting in the Donbas, something that calls into question Putin’s line. “Either of these causes would have been sufficient” for Putin decide to have Nemtsov killed.
Both the skills of the Kremlin’s propaganda machine and the propensity of many journalists east and west to confuse balance with objectivity and to refuse to draw any conclusion about Putin’s involvement in the absence of “a smoking gun” likely means that no one will be able to prove this to everyone’s satisfaction. Putin is certainly counting on that.
But having killed Nemtsov, Putin has not killed his message, as the demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, throughout Russia and the world yesterday show. And if one can overlook the media debates about how many or how few people marched, it is worth noting what they were marching for.
As another commentator pointed out, Nemtsov’s ideas were truly revolutionary even if he did not want a revolution. What he did want was the elimination of the all-powerful presidency in Russia and the introduction of a government responsible to the parliament, an end to imperial unitarism and aggression and the rise of real federalism in its place, and an end to government control of the media.
Obviously, each person will take from Nemtsov’s statements what he or she wants. But two trends are already obvious. The first is that outside of ethnic Russian areas, democrats and nationalists have found a reason to march together just as they did in 1989-1991.
And the second is that the Russian people themselves care coming up with their own slogans on the basis of his legacy. The march in Moscow yesterday featured not the manufactured slogans of pro-Kremlin demonstrations but the expressions of the people themselves.
Among the most striking and resonant were the following:
- Nemtsov is Love; Putin is War.
- We Will Not Forget; we will not forgive.
- Russism kills [Note: “Russism” or “Ruscism” transliterated from the Russian word “рашизм” that combines the words “Russian” and “fascism”].
- Heroes do not die.
- I am Boris. I am Nemtsov.
- Fear for one’s children and grandchildren is stronger than the fear of one’s own death.
- Struggle [Note: Nemtsov’s first name “Boris” or “Борис” sounds similar to the Russian verb “Борись” meaning “struggle”).
- I am not afraid.