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TOPIC: totalitarianism

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Moscow Show Trials: Stalinism Or A Prelude To Civil War?

This week’s high-profile court cases, from the 25-year sentence of opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza to the prosecution of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovic, look like a shift to totalitarianism. But they may also be a sign of a nation set to implode.


It’s been a busy week at the Moscow City Court — and across town at the State Duma.

A federal judge Monday sentenced Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza to a stunning 25 years for treason. The following day, in the same courtroom, another judge rejected an appeal by The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested last month on espionage charges, and now faces up to 20 years in prison.

Also on Tuesday, Russia’s national legislature, the State Duma, passed an amendment that makes treason in Russia punishable by life in prison.

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Kremlin watchers have drawn the obvious connections between these judicial and legislative decisions — and aptly called them, “Stalinist,” as if there was any doubt left, Putin has clearly passed from authoritarianism to totalitarianism.

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Journalist Spy, Subversive 13-Year-Old: Law And Order In Totalitarian Russia

Even beyond the bloodshed of its war in Ukraine, lesser acts of aggression by the state are a clear expression of the intentions of Vladimir Putin's Russia.


They are "minor” incidents compared to the bloody frontline near Bakhmut, or the missiles raining down on Ukrainian cities. But these same incidents say a lot about what is going on in Russian society, behind the relatively normal facade that has been preserved for a year.

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Two arrests occurred Thursday, one of a Russian citizen whose story is one of aberrant cruelty; the other of an American journalist turned hostage in the proxy confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

Aleksei Moskalyov is a single father of a 13-year-old girl, Maria, a status which is in itself considered abnormal in Russian society. But above all, Maria was taken away from her father and placed in an orphanage for having drawn an anti-war picture at school. Her own teacher reported her to the authorities.

The father was sentenced to two years in prison for having criticized the Russian army. He fled, but was arrested in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, probably betrayed by the activation of his cell phone. He risks an even harsher sentence, and likely will not see his daughter again for years.

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Strange And Cruel As It Sounds, 2022 Was A Year Of Hope

Many lives have been lost, rights trampled and dreams crushed. But through the haze, the world took the right turn on many fronts this past year, from Ukraine to Iran to China. Trying to take stock amid the suffering.

The starting premise is a bit daring: to associate 2022 with good news seems naïve at best.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the death, rape and torture of thousands of people.

In China, the iron-fisted 69-year-old Communist leader Xi Jinping strengthened his control over the Chinese population and looks set to stay in power for life. Meanwhile, in Iran, clerics continue to brutally suppress women’s protests for equal rights; in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to invade Greece.

Of course, it’s hard to speak of a “triumph” of Western democracies, many of which are stuck in sluggish, inconclusive elections: a French executive that lacks a clear majority, Liz Truss in the UK and the probably transient Giorgia Meloni in Italy. And yet...

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Retaking Zaporizhzhia, Iranian Climber Explains, Healthy Sleep

👋 ¡Hola!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Russia reports an attempt by Ukraine to recapture the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power, Iran’s climber explains why she competed without a veil, and researchers conclude that yes, you do need that beauty sleep. Meanwhile, Marc Pfitzenmaier for German daily Die Welt takes the temperature on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, the “last bastion” between Russia and the entire Batlic region.


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Anna Akage

The Edge Of Totalitarianism, Why Putin Went Easy On Marina Ovsyannikova

When Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova interrupted Monday’s nightly news with an anti-war protest, most figured her stunning act of political courage would be brutally punished. But she’s received just a small fine and continues to move and speak freely in Moscow. Paradoxically, it may actually be the final tack in Vladimir Putin’s brutal, unpredictable propaganda machine.


It was a lone act of extreme political courage that brought the world back to the 1989 images of “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square.

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On the night of March 15, Marina Ovsyannikova, a veteran journalist on Russia's leading state TV newscast, burst into the studio holding up a sign that read "No war ... you are being lied to here."

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Manuel Cuesta Morúa*

San Isidro v. Stalinism: Cuba's Eternal Obsession With Artists

Cuba's dissident artists are challenging not just the communist state's repression, but also its claim to be the socio-cultural guide for the nation.


HAVANA — Joseph Stalin's famous response to Pope Pius XII's criticism of the Soviet regime was to brush aside the pontiff, asking: "How many divisions does he have?"

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Laure Mandeville

Solzhenitsyn's Widow: On Putin, Russian Soul And French Lit

PARIS — As we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the author of The Gulag Archipelago, his widow and intellectual accomplice, granted a rare and exclusive interview to Le Figaro. Natalia Solzhenitsyn evokes her husband's gigantic literary and historical work in identifying the causes of the Russian tragedy. She recalls that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, though he spent his life fighting against totalitarianism, was in favor of a strong government in Russia. This undoubtedly helps to explain Vladimir Putin's sympathy for him. Deploring the humiliation Russia suffered in the 1990s, Natalia Solzhenitsyn considers that "Crimea is Russian" but that the Kremlin should never have interfered with the Donbass. She also regrets the fact that President Emmanuel Macron recently snubbed the official Russian stand at the Paris Book Fair (though Russia was this year's guest-of-honor), and says that Russia needs help rather than condescension.

LE FIGARO: You shared your life with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, one of the most important figures of the 20th century, the man who destroyed Communism with his pen. What do you see as the most important aspect of this extraordinary life?

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João Pereira Coutinho

Why This Century's Autocrats Are More Likely To Succeed


SAO PAULO — One of the biggest lies in modern politics is the belief that freedom is a universally-shared passion. It isn't. Freedom implies a burden of responsibility not everyone is willing to bear. In this school of thought, I believe Thomas Hobbes was right: People fear violence, scarcity and death. The majority, therefore, wishes for security, not freedom.

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