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Published:December 18th, 2008 10:38 EST
Russia: Dictatorship or Democracy? You Decide!

Russia: Dictatorship or Democracy? You Decide!

By Vincent Gonzalez


Under the leadership of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, people who fraternized with foreigners or criticized the Kremlin were "enemies of the people" and sent away. Now, there is new legislation out backed by the government of Vladimir Putin`s that human rights activists argue, could throw Russia back to the days of the Great Terror. 


Supporters of the government and Kremlin-allied lawmakers claim that the bill submitted to the Kremlin-friendly parliament last week will inevitably tighten up current law. Opponents warned that the loose wording of the legislation will give authorities sufficient leeway to prosecute those who cooperate with international rights groups.


Some of Russia`s most prominent right activists, including Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Civic Assistance director Svetlana Gannushkina, in a joint statement said the bill is "legislation in the spirit of Stalin and Hitler, " legislation that returns the Russian justice to the times of 1920-1950s." During the 1930s, the communist regime of Josef Stalin oversaw an extensive crackdown that came to be known as the Great Terror. Millions of people were accused of being "enemies of the people," convicted by ludicrous courts based on hearsay and anonymous allegations.

The legislation in question broadens the definition of state treason. It is the latest in a string of measures taken since Putin`s rise to the presidency in 2000. All of which have systematically rolled back Russia`s post-Soviet political freedoms.  As president, the widely popular Vladimir Putin oversaw a chain of measures that tightened the Kremlin`s control over Russia`s political realm and civil society.

Since becoming president in March, Medvedev has claimed that he is fighting corruption and ending "legal nihilism" in the courts, but has made no indications or efforts at all that  would ease any of Putin`s policies.