Every Holocaust movie reaches its first wrenching moment ten or fifteen minutes after the theater lights dim, when the Jewish heroes see the terrible signs that the Nazis mean business -- smashing a Jewish-owned store, burning Jewish books, ordering Jews into ghettoes -- and they say to each other, "But... it can't happen here!" Even though we've seen it a hundred times in a hundred Holocaust movies, it never fails to incite the viewer into a fit of conflicting emotions: pathos, rage, and a desperate desire to scream, "Run, you fools! It can happen!" The lesson of these movies, the lesson nearly every modern human being has been taught, is that it can happen "here" -- if by "here" you mean any country except the one you're living in.
The frightening truth is that we here in Russia are actually living through "it" as "it" is happening. And you can kind of see why the Jews were so slow to react. The vise of fascism isn't applied abruptly the way it is in real-time when we watch movies and documentaries. Rather, the laws and violence are applied slowly, quietly, with just a little increase in the pressure every few months. Each time the screws are tightened, a few people squeal. But within a few weeks, when most people realize that nothing day-to-day really changed much, the clamor dies down and the new, slightly-more-fascistic-norm-than-before suddenly feels, well, normal. You stop noticing it until the next incremental increase, when you hear the same squeals, get used to it, go on with your life, and so on. It's like deep sea diving -- if you were to drop too deep too quickly, you'd die from the pain. But slowly submerging, you get used to the pressure to the point that it feels no different from the pressure on the surface.
The effect of this creeping fascism is that you only remember the most recent vise-tightening, but you forget the aggregate. Today many of us may bitch about Putin canceling the gubernatorial elections, but in a few weeks, when we realize that it doesn't affect our salary, our client base, our relationship with our girlfriend or our ability to renew our visas, we'll forget about it and assume the whole fuss was overblown... until Putin's next big move.
But for those of you who do not want to forget -- and for those of us who have poisoned so many brain cells that we forgot our own middle names -- we have put together a list of some of the most egregiously fascistic moves by the Putin regime since his rise to power. We are calling this list "Shvidler's List" in honor of Sibneft president Evgeny Shvidler, who, in a reversal of roles totally unlike Oscar Schindler, helped Putin implement one of his most crucial fascist designs. No, not the jailing of Yukos oligarchs Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, and not even the destruction and appropriation of Yukos assets for the state and the personal enrichment of Kremlin insiders. No, we chose Shvidler for the simple reason that his name is a homonym of "Schindler." But you knew that already, didn't you.
1. Canceled Svobodno Slovo, last controversial TV show, in summer 2004
2. "Russia has only two friends -- its army and its navy." -- Rodina fraction leader and Kremlin tool Dmitry Rogozin, speaking on Vladimir Pozner's television talk show, September 26, 2004
3. State-controlled Gazprom's takeover of opposition NTV in April 2001
4. Kremlin-ordered firing of NTV director Boris Jordan following coverage of Dubrovka crisis in 2002
5. Kremlin stripped opposition TV6 of its license in 2002
6. Burning-of-Reichstag-ische apartment building explosions in September, 1999
7. FSB's sloppy cover-up of its own attempt to blow up apartment building in Ryazan, September, 1999
8. Stalin-era Olympics uniforms
9. Bringing back Soviet anthem
10. Renaming Volgograd "Stalingrad" on Kremlin war memorial
11. Alarming rise in skinhead attacks, including recent murders of a 9-year-old Tadjik girl and a student from Guinea-Bissau and arson at People's Friendship University last year in which 37 died.
12. Number of skinheads said to have soared to more than 50,000 in Russia, according to the Moscow Human Rights Bureau
13. Alarming links between skinhead groups and Kremlin operatives and law enforcement agencies detailed in Novaya Gazeta
14. Increasing number of Russian girls dye their hair blond since Putin took power
15. Like many Fascists, Putin is short
16. Military journalist Grigory Pasko jailed for four years for taking notes at a meeting of military officials which he supposedly planned to pass to Japanese media for whom he worked; other jailed "spies" include scientists Valentin Danilov (accused of selling sub secrets) and Igor Sutyagin (accused of selling satellite secrets) sentenced to long terms in labor camps
17. Reporter in Chelyabinsk, German Galkin, given first-ever jail term for libel after accusing regional government of misspending funds
18. Government officials drive only German cars -- Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz
19. U.S. Peace Corps accused of "gathering information on Russian officials," thrown out of Russia
20. Firing of Izvestia editor Raf Shakirov following coverage of Beslan crisis; Andrei Grigoriyev, editor of Kompaniya, is about to get fired for also criticizing Putin's handling of Beslan
21. Moscow Times pipe-puffing columnist Alexei Pankin recently supported Shakirov's firing, and supported the grotesquely-censored state-TV coverage of Beslan, because "the only people with an interest in having complete coverage of crimes like this on TV are the degenerates who send terrorists into schools to kill children."
22. Canceling gubernatorial elections
23. Canceling single-mandate Duma seats
24. Jailing eXile columnist Edward Limonov
25. Creation of Putinjugen bully youth group "Moving Together"
26. Criminal "obscenity" case opened against writer Vladimir Sorokin and Bayan Shiryanov
27. State attack and impending renationalization of Yukos
28. "Exiling" as a state punishment, including exiling Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, and former Senator Lev Nevzlin to name a few
29. Political assassinations back, including murders of opposition Duma members Sergei Yushenkov and Vladimir Golovyov
30. Poisoning murder of opposition politician and journalist Yuri Schekochikhin
31. Poisoning of opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya
32. FSB-orchestrated kidnapping of Radio Liberty reporter Andrei Babitsky in 2000
33. According to US State Department's Human Rights 2004 report on Russia, "A number of journalists were beaten, killed, or reported missing for reasons that may have been associated with their journalistic activities."
34. The same report also noted, "[Russia's] human rights record worsened... There were credible reports that law enforcement personnel frequently engaged in torture, violence, and other brutal or humiliating treatment and often did so with impunity."
35. Massive election fraud in presidential and parliamentary elections
36. Second Chechen War
37. Stripping power from the Federation Council so that it is now directly controlled by the Kremlin
38. Wholesale de-fanging and super-majority takeover of the Duma by pro-Kremlin party
39. Raising age of consent from 14 to 16
40. Moving to ban drinking beer in public
41. Rise of hysterical nationalism and persecution mania in the official media; the Olympic coverage constantly complained of American-backed plots to humiliate Russia
42. Naming FSB goon and Putin loyalist Igor Sechin to head state-run Rosneft, which is now merging with Gazprom and set to take over Yukos assets
43. Appointing Kremlin gray cardinal Vladislav Surkin to the board of Transneft
44. Appointing FSB goon and Putin loyalist Viktor Ivanov to the board of Aeroflot
45. Revoking welfare to state's needy while broadcasting propaganda on state-run television with choreographed interviews of happy pensioners praising the "monetarization" of their pensions
46. Meanwhile Duma moving to pass another Kremlin-backed law which gives the state's 2.5 million bureaucrats greater benefits now denied to the needy, including free access to the top medical clinics, free public transportation, free apartments and dachas, etc.
47. Attack on Yukos went from defensive move to prevent Khodorkovsky from taking power to outright theft and money grab by new siloviki
48. According to Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a leading sociologist from the Russian Academy of Sciences, up to 77% of today's political elite comes from the security services, a massive increase over the Yeltsin era
49. New state-approved news always devoted to showing Putin meeting with some scared official at his desk
50. Governors obsequiously praising Kremlin plan to cancel their elections, with Bryansk governor Yuri Lodkin, a former Communist opponent of Putin, calling the plan "fantastic"
51. Face control... even at Che, a shitty Mexican restaurant
52. Recently re-established a Russian base on the North Pole, which Putin says is "vital to Russia's political, military and scientific interests"
53. Arming breakaway regions in Georgia
54. "Catching" two Chechens "responsible" for murdering Paul Khlebnikov
55. Lied about Beslan, including absurdly low hostage figure, and lied about supposed Arab and African terrorists found among dead
56. Lied about the Kursk tragedy...
57. ...and when Berezovsky-controlled ORT criticized Putin for lying about the Kursk, Berezovsky was called "bacteria" and "scum" by Kremlin gray cardinal Vladislav Surkov
58. Revival of patriotic war movies
59. Huge numbers of TV shows glorifying police and soldiers
60. Former rebel radio shock-jock Alexander Gordon now heads a cheesy pro-mainstream TV talk show called "Stress"
61. Putin speaks German
62. German Gref
63. This past April, on the eve of Hitler's birthday anniversary, Russian police and paramilitary prevented an anti-fascist "youth flash mob" from laying flowers and black swastikas at the tomb of the unknown soldier
64. Putin doesn't get drunk
65. Banning sale of liquor near metros and schools
66. Muckraking reporter Oleg Lurye razor-slashed in his face, sued into silence
67. Had Kremlin-friendly Jew, Leonid Nevzlin, appointed head of Russian Jewish Council after pushing Gusinsky to resign in 2001; Nevzlin later forced into exile
68. State-controlled Gazprom set to steal Kovytka gas fields from TNK-BP
69. Recent NTV "investigative report" claimed that Yukos funded and organized Chechen terrorism
70. Selling arms to genocidal Sudan government in spite of UN ban
71. Creating seven Kremlin-appointed plenipotentiary representatives to oversee centralizing control over regions
72. Wal-Mart planning to start operations in Russia...
73. ...and so is Starbuck's
74. New labor code makes it virtually impossible to legally strike
75. Thanks to labor code, management now sets up "yellow unions" to destroy genuine unions
76. State attack on NGOs means they now have to register with the state, meaning many won't be able to legally operate
77. American labor activist Irene Stevenson, who headed AFL-CIO-backed NGO Solidarity denied entry into Russia in 2003
78. Massive increase in military and intelligence services funding
79. Putin dedicated plaque to former KGB head Yuri Andropov
80. Harder, and more expensive, to get laid
81. Creation of new anti-narcotics paramilitary force
82. Brutal paramilitary drug raids on top clubs during weekends
83. Recent criminalization of possession of a cactus plant because it might yield peyote
84. Imovane no longer available over-the-counter
85. Tramal no longer available at the Marino apteka
86. Rise to power of the Kremlin-created nationalist Rodina party
87. Putin set up "International Human Rights Center" and instructed his regional envoys and local officials to "assist and cooperate with rights groups"
88. Hit pop single "Takogo Kak Putin" about girls wanting boyfriends like Putin
89. Ubiquitous portraits of Putin in official offices, buildings
90. Firing of Lev Parfyonov from NTV after airing an interview with widow of assassinated Chechen rebel leader
91. The Independent Exile
92. Launch of Russian Cola by Happyland
93. During second presidential election campaign in 2004, no serious challengers allowed to run, Putin never bothered campaigning
94. Supports George Bush's re-election
95. Bavarius restaurant so popular they've opened a second
96. All liberal parties squeezed out of power in Putin's second term
97. New grotesque emphasis on "feetnyes" including sudden appearance of numerous sports and fitness superstores which are usually empty of customers.
98. Group "Leningrad" banned from performing in Moscow because their lyrics are too crude
99. Neo-Stalinist-style skyscraper in the Sokol region claims to be the tallest residential building in all of Europe
100. Moving Together organized a public book-banning ceremony when they amassed at the Bolshoi Theater in 2002 and threw Vladimir Sorokin's books into a toilet in order to persuade the theater not to commission an opera libretto from him
101. Because Masha Gessen said so
Accompaining Graphic. Click to view in full size.