My sister was fired for being Jewish. The good news is that it happened in Russia, not in America. The bad news is that it happened not many years in the past. It happened several months ago. My sister had a long and successful career within the top managerial ranks of companies involved in chocolate distribution in Russia. Over a year ago she finally found herself the job that she really wanted. The trouble came when under pressure “from above” the company was forced to accept a new security chief. The man turned out to be an old KGB hack. After a couple of months in office, he requested all company employees to submit copies of their birth certificates.
The only informative piece of information old Soviet birth certificates contain besides parents’ names and the date of birth is parents’ ethnicity. In her case it says “Jewish” (and yes, in Russia Jews are an ethnic group.) After several days of the event most Jews including my sister were asked to leave the company.
I wish that it were just an isolated incident. It isn’t. Today, Russia is rapidly returning to the old days of the Soviet Union. After Putin’s election, he brought along with him people who he could understand and trust the most. He assembled his top government bureaucracy from the ranks of the former KGB operatives.
I lived in Russia for most of my life. Here are certain observations about these KGB officers. These people are and always were of a very peculiar sort. Unlike the top party officials of the old Soviet times, gentlemen working for the KGB never particularly cared for ideology. What they did care for and do care for now is the greatness of russia and order as its necessary precursor. They were ready to serve corrupt, communist fat cats like Breznev and other late Soviet leaders, whom I think they secretly despised, because they saw it as the best way to maintain order. Now that they came to power, they do not want the trappings of the old regime. All they need is the system that maintains order.
So what’s the big deal? We all want order, right? Unfortunately, order is always in the eyes of the beholder. These gentlemen see free media as a source of disorder and even treason. They consider every political actor or institution capable of independent action as a potential weak spot for Russia’s great power. They see ethnic minorities, especially Jews and people from the Caucuses, as a potential fifth column. Now that they’ve come to power every potentially subversive element, ranging from rich oil companies to private citizens like my sister, is being removed or marginalized.
It is sad to say that their project is largely finished. They successfully established the kind of state they wanted. Russia no longer has any independent media. Businesses with independent agenda are in the process of being shut down. Even opinion research groups are currently hunted down. Sure, Russia still has such things as relatively free and competitive elections. Unfortunately, such symbols of democracy are a gimmick. All five major parties are either in full support of or are simply afraid to challenge Putin’s entourage. Today, Russia is no longer a democracy. Nor it is a “guided democracy,” as some of our professors like to put it. There is only one name for the current Russian regime: authoritarian junta.
Boris Volodarsky is a junior in Trumbull College.