Pavel Chikov: "The authorities tend to convict not for actual behaviour, but rather for intentions"

posted 17 Jun 2016, 11:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jun 2016, 13:26 ]
8 June 2016

By Pavel Chikov

Source: Facebook

Here are some thoughts drawn from a recent private conversation. Criticism is welcome.

Maria Baronova quite rightly observed somewhere – you can find it on a Telegram channel – that the authorities tend to convict not for actual behaviour, but rather for intentions.

The Bolotnaya Square demonstrators wanted regime change and to stop Putin’s inauguration, or at least to spoil it. And they were sentenced for that, with evidence being manufactured and stretched to bring charges of violence.

The Sentsov group wanted to return Crimea to Ukraine. And they were sentenced for terrorism, which was ‘discovered’ in their setting a door alight and a plan to blow up a statue of Lenin.

Pussy Riot wanted to discredit the patriarch and the Russian Orthodox Church in the eyes of the public before Putin’s election because Kirill had called upon people to vote for him.

But what Pavlensky wanted – I honestly think that’s harder to say. Perhaps all he wanted was to carry out a ‘political performance’. Nothing more, nothing less. And he had no concrete aim such as Crimea, The Church, Putin.

Rather, his target, as Oleg Kashin has written, was very abstract – Russian society’s deep fear of the security forces (the oprichnina, the early morning firing squad, the secret chancellery, the Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, MGB, KGB, FSB).

He aimed no direct hits at individuals.

All Pavel’s acts only involve himself. In each act there’s an element of self-sacrifice, i.e., the aggression is directed exclusively against himself, he is the sole centre of attention.

Of course one can’t draw long-term conclusions on the basis of a single conviction.

But there’s a limit to the system’s arbitrariness, no matter how much the system wanted to persuade society otherwise.

For example, extreme violence is rare, and not characteristic of the general picture. Nemtsov, Politkovskaya, Estemirova – their cases involve Chechnya, and that’s something different.

Kashin – that was also over the top, but he has written a lot about that. Also, the system does not usually attack a family.

Oleg Navalny is probably an exception here. But Aleksei so often refers to individuals (whether that is justified or not, is another question, I would say yes), that the regime made an exception in his case. They react extremely sensitively to any personal attacks, it violates their own underworld rules of behaviour.

Sentsov and co are also an exception because, as far as we know, they are bargaining chips in an on-going diplomatic game and unlikely to serve their full sentences in Russia.

Pichugin is an exception. But in this case Putin was fighting for the crown and he needed a victim to make an example of in the severest possible way.

However, I agree that in fact there are too many exceptions.

And the probability of becoming one is also gradually becoming pretty likely.

But life is complicated and there are no simple answers.

If we recognize that the authorities are not devising a strategy but rather reacting to circumstances as they unfold, than the logic of an endless list of exceptions seems to make sense.

Translated by Mary McAuley