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July 30, 2007

The new brownshirts

Paramilitary groups, fanatically loyal to Vladimir Putin, are becoming more powerful in Russia.

Nashi's annual camp, 200 miles outside Moscow, is attended by 10,000 uniformed youngsters and involves two weeks of lectures and physical fitness.

Attendance is monitored via compulsory electronic badges and anyone who misses three events is expelled. So are drinkers; alcohol is banned. But sex is encouraged, and condoms are nowhere on sale.

Bizarrely, young women are encouraged to hand in thongs and other skimpy underwear - supposedly a cause of sterility - and given more wholesome and substantial undergarments.

Twenty-five couples marry at the start of the camp's first week and ten more at the start of the second. These mass weddings, the ultimate expression of devotion to the motherland, are legal and conducted by a civil official.

Attempting to raise Russia's dismally low birthrate even by eccentric-seeming means might be understandable. Certainly, the country's demographic outlook is dire. The hard-drinking, hardsmoking and disease-ridden population is set to plunge by a million a year in the next decade.

But the real aim of the youth camp - and the 100,000-strong movement behind it - is not to improve Russia's demographic profile, but to attack democracy.

Under Mr Putin, Russia is sliding into fascism, with state control of the economy, media, politics and society becoming increasingly heavy-handed. And Nashi, along with other similar youth movements, such as 'Young Guard', and 'Young Russia', is in the forefront of the charge.

Read the rest. The resemblance of these groups to the Nazi SA is frightening.

It never fails to amaze me. A violent and fanatical ideology is spreading through the Muslim world, killing thousands each year and breaking any opposition with murder and intimidation; Russia is quickly becoming a fascist state; China is already there and maintains its power through tight censorship and massive human rights abuses; genocide is occurring in Sudan -- yes, right at this very minute; and a tinpot dictator is dismantling a democracy in South America and using his country's wealth to export this tragedy to neighboring countries. Yet it seems to me that 90% of the outrage over the state of the world is directed at one man.

I truly believe that the intellectuals and media's mad obsession with this one man has given cover and comfort to these regimes. And one day we'll all pay the price for it.

July 29, 2007

Mob rule

Chess champ Garry Kasparov has been putting his life at risk by increasing his criticism of Putin's Russia. In today's Opinion Journal he declares it to be the ultimate gangster state:

Again and again we hear cries of: "Doesn't Putin know how bad this looks?" When another prominent Russian journalist is murdered, when a businessman not friendly to the Kremlin is jailed, when a foreign company is pushed out of its Russian investment, when pro-democracy marchers are beaten by police, when gas and oil supplies are used as weapons, or when Russian weapons and missile technology are sold to terrorist sponsor states like Iran and Syria, what needs to be asked is what sort of government would continue such behavior. This Kremlin regime operates within a value system entirely different from that of the Western nations struggling to understand what is happening behind the medieval red walls.

Mr. Putin's government is unique in history. This Kremlin is part oligarchy, with a small, tightly connected gang of wealthy rulers. It is partly a feudal system, broken down into semi-autonomous fiefdoms in which payments are collected from the serfs, who have no rights. Over this there is a democratic coat of paint, just thick enough to gain entry into the G-8 and keep the oligarchy's money safe in Western banks.

But if you really wish to understand the Putin regime in depth, I can recommend some reading. No Karl Marx or Adam Smith. Nothing by Montesquieu or Machiavelli, although the author you are looking for is of Italian descent. But skip Mussolini's "The Doctrine of Fascism," for now, and the entire political science section. Instead, go directly to the fiction department and take home everything you can find by Mario Puzo.

Read on...