I don’t usually write about the latest adventures of that certain subset of the Russian “liberal” “opposition” – that motley crew of grifters, schizos, and washed out has beens who meet 2-3 times a year at their “Free Russia Forum” in Lithuania. Quite a far cry from their spiritual predecessors more than a century ago, who met up in the coffee salons of London and Zurich, they are now relegated to some Baltic backwater (how the mighty are fallen!). There, they lament that 98% of Russian vatnik swine have no time for them, before proceeding to demand Russians withdraw from the Crimea, pay reparations to half the world, and carry out “lustrations” against the servants and apologists of the Putler regime.
Seriously, if anyone needs a reminder as to why these people have zero political capital in Russia, you could do worse than reading my article on their “powerful takes” at the inaugural forum in March 2016: “Living Not By Lies in Lithuania.”
So I haven’t been doing much in the way of covering this zoo since then. They are irrelevant, the novelty entertainment factor wears off quickly, and I believe in animal rights. Moreover, I don’t even think whoever finances them has that much pull. They generate hardly any coverage even in the West. Though I allow that the US may rely on their “Putin List” whenever they next need to brainstorm Russian individuals to sanction (at least it would be marginally better than using the Forbes 400). Why, then, am I writing about them now?
Because – get this – they have now put OLEG KASHIN on that “Putin List“.
You can read more about Kashin in my November 2018 article Oleg Kashin in the Albats Archipelago. Briefly, he is a liberal journalist who tends to dislike Putin and Putinists (they return the favor), currently lives in London, and agrees with liberals on approximately 75% of things (e.g. gay rights). He once got international attention for getting seriously beaten up in connection with his professional work. The one major issue that he disagrees on with the standard liberal position is over Crimea. While he supported Russia’s annexation of the peninsula, he does consider it to be an occupation, nor does he support Russia’s involvement in the Donbass. So it is certainly very strange to call him a “nightingale” of the regime – a “manager and collaborator of disinformation troops” – which is the subheading of the journalists/propagandists section of their Putin List.
Even so, this is perhaps not too surprising.
First, although Kashin is ultimately a liberal, he does not loathe Russia like most of the rest of them, and has on occasion argued that the other nations of the Soviet Union might share some culpability for Communist-era crimes. He is also on friendly terms with some Russian nationalists, such as Sputnik & Pogrom’s Egor Prosvirnin, for whom he did some reporting in Crimea in 2014, and who now occasionally appears on his YouTube streams (e.g. this one, where I am also present). This is a no-no amongst the ethnological “coalition of the fringes” that dominate the Russian “liberal” “opposition.”
Second, he has made an enemy of Evgenia Albats, a one-woman SPLC and gatekeeper of Russian “liberal” journalism, who accused him of Nazism for his statement that “it is foolish to deny that some (nations) have more contributions, others less, and some even Ukrainians.” Though the actual reason she mounted that campaign to blacklist him from journalism probably had more to do with him having asked inconvenient questions about how she had manages to acquire $400,000 in financing for her newspaper, which had negligible visitorship rates.
Third, there is the banal fact that many of these people are maximalist extremists – they are the ideological, and quite often biological, descendants of the Bolsheviks of yore. From their European exile, the Bolsheviks smeared the Russian Empire as a “prison of peoples” – a descriptor they promptly turned into reality on seizing power. One wonders whether the current vituperations of these people against Putler’s “bloody regime” would be likewise revealed as projection should some fluke bring them to power.
Now the official given reason for Kashin’s blacklisting was apparently his statement that Ukrainian activist Oleg Sentsov, imprisoned on terrorism charges in the Crimea, was a terrorist. In reality, far from echoeing the Russian government’s position, Kashin said the exact opposite.
Из эфира Эха –
«М.КУРНИКОВ―Олег, а давайте мы от философских категорий перейдем к вопросам. Олег Сенцов — террорист?
О.КАШИН― Нет, конечно.»
— Алексей Венедиктов (@aavst) December 15, 2018
Moreover, labeling Kashin as a Putinist was such a stupendous step that at least three of the Forum’s participants – Ilya Ponomarev, Alexey Obukhov, and Marat Guelman – felt the need to wash their hands off the decision. According to Guelman, this initiative was spearheaded by Mark Feygin (disgraced Pussy Riot lawyer who later destroyed his own family by dating a lesbian activist) and Andrey Sidelnikov (the late Berezovsky’s helper in London). Obukhov points the finger at Leonid Nevzlin (Khodorkovsky’s #2 in YUKOS, who fled to Israel after he was charged with having ordered hits on the oil company’s political rivals), who accused Kashin of taking money and misleading people who considered him to be an “independent journalist”, while Sidelnikov is said to claimed that Kashin “is not a journalist, but a propagandist.” In the comments to Guelman’s post, Kashin also suggests that Nevzlin was settling accounts with him.
Now I don’t claim any deep knowledge of the minutiae of the petty grudges these people have against each other. Nor, to be frank, am I particular fired up by this topic (though perhaps some of my readers will be interested in mining those posts for interesting “nuggets” in the comments and let us know about them).
Even so, it’s worth noting how the parallels with the Bolsheviks just keep on piling up. They were also infamous for their culture of denunciations driven by personal conflicts on the basis of minor theological disputes, which saw former comrades sidelined and ultimately “unpersoned.” Fortunately – not just for Russians, but for many of the Forum’s participants personally – they don’t have that kind of totalitarian power, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.
EDIT: Here are the additions to the Putin List as of the latest Forum(including Kashin): https://www.spisok-putina.org/novosti-o-figurantah/2019-06-10/dopolneniya-v-spisok-putina/baseeditor1/
I notice that Chalenko – whom I recently wrote about – is also on it. Congratulations.