Hunting Jackals During Duma Election Season

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I was very confused after listening to President Vladimir Putin's speech at the Luzhniki arena on Nov. 21, especially when he promised to fight those who "scrounge from foreign embassies like jackals."

But I am not alone. There are probably 100 commentators who are busy mulling over Putin's speech, trying to figure out what prompted him to use such aggressive language.

United Russia will easily receive a majority in the State Duma, and the Communists will likely take second place.

In a formal sense the Communists are considered the opposition, but in reality they have a lot in common with Putin's politics: They curse the West and the chaos of the 1990s, and they are faithful patriots and Orthodox Christians.

They also adore the KGB and Federal Security Service and fully subscribe to the superpower mentality and its corresponding illusion of grandeur. In this way, the Communists are considered to be a "friendly opposition" to the Kremlin.

The Communists' most pointed criticism, however, is that the Kremlin doesn't fight strong enough against the "depraved and corrupt influence of the West" -- a phrase that became a standard, hackneyed component of Soviet propaganda.

Returning, however, to all the talk about jackals. Who exactly are these jackals, who -- despite the cold Moscow weather -- are marauding and wreaking havoc throughout the city? Putin implied that they were politicians close to the Union of Right Forces or The Other Russia, which, according to polls, each have ratings of only about 1 percent.

So, if the opposition is so weak, why did Putin issue such terrifying warnings about jackals in the opposition who receive support from foreign embassies and who, after receiving training from foreign experts, might stage street provocations and organize another Orange Revolution? Why did Putin try to strike fear in the people's hearts, speaking about the opposition's revanchism and desire to "restore an oligarchic regime based on corruption and lies"?

There are several reasons why Putin bothers fighting against these extremely unpopular, powerless opposition parties. For one, there must always be a "bad guy," without which political life would be quite boring. Second, the Kremlin and United Russia need to rally their voters against the West. Third, Putin has a deeply personal and sincere dislike for leaders of the Union of Right Forces, such as Boris Nemtsov.

But all of these explanations don't answer the main question: How far will this battle against jackals be taken in a country that hates its liberals as much as it hates the West?



Leonid Radzikhovsky hosts a radio program on Ekho Moskvy.