Dictatorship of the Law: The '90s All Over Again

To Our Readers

The Moscow Times welcomes letters to the editor. Letters for publication should be signed and bear the signatory's address and telephone number.
Letters to the editor should be sent by fax to (7-495) 232-6529, by e-mail to oped@imedia.ru, or by post. The Moscow Times reserves the right to edit letters.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

In response to "Corporate Raiders Use Cash, Friends," a front-page article by Francesca Mereu on Feb. 13.

Your article about raiders was good, but the focus is wrong. It paints a picture of a bunch of criminal raiders whose main line of business is stealing. While these people do exist, they account for only a small part of corporate raiding. Most raiding is opportunistic and is done on a one-time basis -- for example, when a raider covets a competitor's or neighbor's property and decides to take it. The raider gets what he wants by hijacking the legal system. Once the raid is complete, the raider usually goes back to a more or less normal life.

The problem is not a mafia of corporate raiders, it is that the criminal-justice system and the law enforcement agencies have become the new mafia, and there is no shortage of clients for their services. The fact that law enforcement and justice systems are for sale allows anyone to use the system as a weapon and become a raider.

It's like the '90s all over again. The main difference now is an expanded range of services, which are packaged nicely under the guise of legality.

Several years ago, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would become a "dictatorship of the law." It appears that this dictatorship has arrived. The government and private parties decide what they want, and they employ law enforcement agencies to get it.

Legal procedures and niceties are observed as much as possible, and this adds some modicum of legitimacy to raiders. Laws are cited, whether they are relevant or not, and predetermined verdicts, which make no legal sense at all, are read out by judges who no longer have any sense of shame or fear of reprisals.

The victim -- now referred to as the criminal -- is removed from the picture, and his property is taken. The law -- if we can call it that -- is now a weapon for the strong and not a shield for the weak. Law enforcement agencies have become the new mafia, and people now detest and live in fear of their own criminal justice system.

Make no mistake, corporate raiding is only a symptom of what may be Russia's greatest illness -- the total free-for-all that its criminal justice system is becoming. Until the law enforcement agencies and the justice system stop bowing down to power and money, the raiding will continue and the dictatorship of law shall remain a system that fosters criminality rather than fighting it.

Jamison Firestone
Firestone Duncan

Soviet Anti-Semitism

In response to "Putin's Jewish Anomaly Comes as a Surprise," a comment by Vladimir Shlapentokh on Feb. 6.


Vladimir Shlapentokh distorted some facts in his opinion piece. There is no evidence to support his claim that "anti-Semitism was introduced as official Soviet state ideology during Stalin's reign in the late 1930s. Jews were barred from high positions in virtually all spheres."

Sure, some were purged, but there is no evidence that Stalin's purges of the late '30s targeted Jews -- or any other nation -- specifically. Quite simply, many of those purged in the late '30s were "old Bolsheviks," many of whom were Jewish, a fact that even Winston Churchill observed. But Lazar Kaganovich, for example, whose Jewish origins are not open to question, was a close associate of Stalin and occupied several high positions in the Soviet government, including heading the ministries of railroads, heavy industry and oil. He also was an active participant of the Stalinist purges.

Although relations between Bolsheviks and Zionism were complicated, in the late '30s, they actually warmed up. In the official Soviet encyclopedia published in those times, there is a positive attitude toward Zionism. It said Jewish migration to Palestine had become a "progressive factor" because many of the immigrants were leftist workers who could be used against the pro-British Arab sheikhs.

The Soviet state turned against the Jews -- although never officially -- in the late '40s and most likely as a result of disappointment in Israel politics.

Yuri Khripin
Gaithersburg, Maryland

Welcome Back, Michele

I'm so glad Michele Berdy's Word's Worth column is back! I'm sorry about her father. As an American woman who has lived in Turkey for almost 40 years and who also works as a translator, I know exactly what she means about "the call." I had the same experience, first with my mother in 2002 and then, after she died, with my father.

My Russian is elementary, based on what I learned on my own using books and tapes for about two years in the late '90s.

I am an avid reader of the column and have been saving them all starting from 2005, when I first registered for The Moscow Times e-mail news summary.

Thank you for a wonderful column.

Ginger Taylor-Saclioglu
Istanbul, Turkey

Just wanted to say how much I enjoy Michele Berdy's Russian-language column.

I go to the online version daily, but especially on Fridays, for the express purpose of printing the column and filing it away for future reference. Imagine my delight upon finding it online on Friday after several months' absence.

I completed an associate degree in Russian a few years ago, and visit Russia almost every year. The column helps keep my language skills alive.

I am so sorry about the passing of Michele's father and want to express my sincere wishes for happy memories and a peaceful transition.

Shelly Brandon
Tulsa, Oklahoma