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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Anger at the Flash Point

You should be shot! " a worker at the Izvestia printing office threw at me. What had I done to deserve such harsh punishment?

Anyone who works at a newspaper knows what it is like to be on deadline. At the last minute I discovered an error in my article and corrected it. In my haste I did a sloppy job and the typesetter could not read what I had written. and then, in a rage, she sentenced me to be shot.

Of course she did not really want me to die. "Shoot him! " "Up against the wall! " "Hanging is too good for him! " -- these appalling expressions have become commonplace in the life of Russians, and their real sense is certainly not the literal one. But it is troubling that these sayings have become so common and are used so often.

We are going through a very dangerous period in Russia these days, and in an emotional, tense time, these death sentences could very well become a reality.

These thoughts came to me during the Congress of People's Deputies. I was talking to one of Ruslan Khasbulatov's close associates. Naturally we touched on the relations between the speaker and the president. My partner said bitterly: "I would like to hang him! " -- referring to President Boris Yeltsin. On the same day I was swapping impressions with someone from Yeltsin's team. "I would not hesitate to shoot that Chechen", he said calmly of Khasbulatov.

I was speaking to intelligent, civilized people. I noticed no particular cruelty in them, no urge to fight. They understand full well what a political struggle is, and no matter how sharp the conflict, it should never cross the line into armed battle. Nevertheless, they did not dismiss the notion of the physical removal of a political opponent.

If we look at the Russian people, if we talk to Russians, then we can say with certainty that we are dealing with well-meaning, open people. I do not think that we Russians are any different than any other nation in this regard. But at the same time Russians have a deep conviction that a person can justifiably be destroyed for a crime or even for a difference of opinion. This lack of tolerance, this rigidity is the harsh legacy of the Communist regime. We all know how often Lenin used the expressions: "Shoot the scoundrels! " "Hang the good-for-nothings! " etc. and people were hanged, and people were shot, both during the Civil War and afterwards, during the Stalin regime.

For many decades the Soviet people have had it drummed into their heads that they should hate people who think differently, they should have no tolerance for the rest of the world. Everyone knew the saying coined by the writer Maxim Gorky: "If an enemy refuses to give up, he must be destroyed". Millions of people were destroyed because they held a different opinion. and others were destroyed because the level of hatred had to be maintained, and because anyone could be declared an enemy.

This training left its mark. The urge to kill comes out from time to time, and today it is particularly evident. The dark, reactionary forces try to profit from this. Let us recall that those who carried out the putsch wanted to introduce a measure that allowed the execution, without trial, of criminals.

And there is no doubt that part of the population would have welcomed that measure. For example, after they showed a public execution from Kabul on television some people said that it would not be a bad idea to do the same thing in Russia. and Alexander Barkashov, chairman of the fascist organization Russian National Unity announced: "We are planning to introduce the death penalty for all types of crimes". The National Salvation Front is also promising harsh measures if it comes to power.

Russian society is now in ferment. There is competition between various political forces, and the political battle has taken on very cruel forms. Parliamentarianism is still in an embryonic stage of development, and, unfortunately, there are many who want to solve problems by destroying their opponents. This is very dangerous. If the delicate balance is upset in society people will try to prove their point with weapons, like in the Caucasus or Central Asia.

Nikolai Andreyev is a political observer for Izvestia.