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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Remembering Sakharov and Coup Plotter's Birthday

Three years ago, Russia's most respected and beloved dissident, Andrei Sakharov, died. On Monday, the Congress of People's Deputies interrupted its intrigues for a moment to remember him.


If there was a father of parliamentarian democracy in Russia, it was Saharov, who organized radicals and dissidents into a vocal anti-Communist faction within the former Soviet parliament.


As much as the present Congress has turned Russians away from their televisions in despair if not disgust, Sakharov's group in the former Soviet parliament electrified them by offering the freshness and sheer novelty of open debate.


"If Sakharov were here he would remind us of one thing -- respect for the opinions of our opponents", one deputy told the Congress.


The Fatherland faction celebrated a rather more controversial anniversary on their noticeboard outside the main Congress hall. Valentin Varennikov, former commander of the Soviet Army and one of the coup plotters now awaiting trial in prison, turns 69 on Tuesday.


In honor of Varennikov, Fatherland's poster declaimed in bold letters: "Hero of the Soviet Union; Holder of the State Laureate; Defender of the Fatherland at age 17; Stalingrad; Berlin; Carried the banner of victory in Moscow; Afghanistan; Chernobyl; Silent Sailor's Prison. Deputies -- Behorrified at last for a colleague".


A curiosity: The voting system in Russia's parliament does not depend on attendance. On Monday, Bella Kurkova, a well known St. Petersburg journalist and deputy, used four ballot cards on one vote and two on another. It was nothing unusual.


Sometimes deputies can be seen voting in absentia for as many as 10 colleagues -- presumably from a similar faction.


The Citizen's Society faction has a new display on its noticeboard, too, erected since the parliament voted for compromise with Boris Yeltsin.


"Deputies! Your cowardice brings tears to the Russian people", reads the slogan. Next to it are portraits of the accused -- deputies of every political stripe. Above are photographs of what hardline deputies consider to be Russia's new values: high prices, beggars and pornography.


Whatever one may think of the Congres's extreme conservative factions, their noticeboards are infinitely more arresting than those of the centrists and democrats -- who seem less enamored of propaganda.