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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nostalgia For the Fist: Dangerous

Nostalgia for the iron fist? This is how Izvestia describes the fact that a majority of Muscovites favor the continuation of state-of-emergency measures in the city even though the curfew has now been lifted.


Indeed, according to an opinion poll published in the generally pro-Yeltsin newspaper, 75 percent of the city's inhabitants want the special regime to continue; only 16 percent oppose this and the rest don't know. Izvestia says that big factories throughout the city - from the ZiL autoworks and the Rekord electronics plant to the Red Front candy factory - are appealing to President Boris Yeltsin and Mayor Yury Luzhkov to keep the measures in force.


The Soviet overtones of this sort of report are obvious: The workers are demanding something, therefore it must be right. and it does not look like Izvestia was writing tongue-in-cheek when it said, in a headline, that the majority of Muscovites are "for democracy, in state-of-emergency conditions".


Is this a herald of the South Korean - or worse, the Chinese - variant? Does it mean that Moscow, and Russia, are in for yet another round of authoritarian rule? Are we back on the road to the police state? Most Russians who live in Moscow are not asking themselves these questions. They are asking: "When will the authorities restore order? When will they clear the mafia out of town? When will they halt the crime wave? When will I be able to go to the theater again without being afraid to go home alone at night? "


Many are applauding the fact that the dark-skinned "southerners" are being swept out of Moscow under Luzhkov's tightened residency rules. Even people who recognize the inherent racism of this attitude justify it by equating Caucasians with the mafia.


The dangers of this position are all too apparent. Many times throughout this country's dark past, Russians have sought out scapegoats when things were not going well. At the moment, the fashion is to blame the lack of order, the crime in the streets, the general breakdown of the economy, on "those southerners" and "the mafia". But what will happen when Luzhkov's city "cleanup" campaign is complete? Who will be next?


Russia has a long history of xenophobia. It also has a long and terrible past of repression against its own people. The longing for order amidst the confusion that the end of ever-so-orderly communism has wrought is understandable; the longing for an iron fist much less so.


How short people's memories are: For when the iron fist strikes in this country, decades of tears follow.