Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Has Society Really Fallen So Low?

In a country that has become inured to cruelty, violence and murder, where every family has been touched in some way by tragedy, suffering or fear, it is no easy matter to find the capacity to shock.


But in one foul act, the killers of Vladislav Listyev have done just that. Russia is reeling from the impact of his death; a uniform reaction of horror has spread across the country.


In the past year, three members of the State Duma were killed, provoking outrage among their peers in parliament, but little more than shoulder-shrugging among the public at large. One of them was unlucky enough to chance on a band of thugs outside his front door, while the other two were known to have moved in the murkier parts of the business world.


Even the murder of Dmitry Kholodov, the Moskovsky Komsomolets journalist investigating corruption in the armed forces who was blown up by a boobytrap bomb last October, caused only a limited stir outside media circles. Deplorable as most people agreed his death had been, the general feeling was that he had known the dangers and had paid the price.


The difference with Listyev is that he was a household name, a face brought by television to every home. He was neither controversial nor particularly hard-hitting, just universally popular. Listyev was simply not the sort of person one could imagine anyone wanting dead.


But someone clearly did. This was no chance act of mindless violence, but a planned assassination, cold-bloodedly carried out on the specific orders of someone who had something to gain by his death.


To talk about one murder being worse than any other is inappropriate. All killings are to be deplored, however hard it is to shed a tear for the far-from-innocent victims of internecine mafia shootouts. There can be no pecking order for the right to live.


But what Listyev's death illustrates is the extent to which crime has permeated this society and the contempt with which its perpetrators regard any established order or notion of morality. His killers, whoever they are, have shown their total disregard for the people of this country and for the state itself.


That there are such people at large is disturbing enough, but even more alarming than that is that they clearly believe they can act with impunity. The structures of crime prevention and law enforcement have broken down completely; their agents are under-resourced, ill-equipped and thoroughly corrupted.


That such an act can be carried out without fear of retribution can only spur its perpetrators to further grotesque depravities. And in the meantime, nobody can afford to feel safe.