“On the level,” as in, genuinely terrorist acts as opposed to provocations engineered by the Russian security forces, I assume you mean? Yeah, these seem pretty authentic. Goes to show how difficult/impossible it is to secure public transit, too.
You’d have to be pretty harsh to fake terrorist bombings that result in the death of 50 people at the height of rush hour. (Admittedly, Putin would be on the short list of leaders who are in fact that harsh.)
If you’re implying the Moscow subway riders and 911 office workers and the Tokyo sarin gas victims deserve what they got, I have to say that’s a shitty attitude. If you’re not, my bad, that’s what I inferred from your post.
This is not true. Possibly credible opposition figures who threaten to run for office have been known to have bad things happen to them, but Ivan Everyman is free to say and write what he wants. Russia has an unfiltered internet and it is widely used (Russians tend to use livejournal instead of blogger or wordpress, perhaps they are more emo).
Freedom of speech in Russia is attacked in more subtle ways, such as the government buying out every mass media outlet. There’s also the not insignificant fact that the current government actually matches the will of the people pretty closely. The non-government owned newspapers, such as Kommersant, are free to purchase - people just don’t buy them. (Novaya Gazeta, the paper that Anna Politskovskaya wrote for and who was murdered by Putin’s thugs or Chechen thugs, depending on who you believe, has a circulation of 40,000. Komosomolskaya Pravda, a tabloid which is owned by Gazprom through a shell company, has a circulation of 3 million.) The opposition party that most closely matches “Western democratic values”, Yabloko, doesn’t get enough votes to get a single parliamentary vote. Russian elections are free enough (and Yabloko is on the ballot) such that if there was an outcry for their view, they would get at least more than 5% of the vote. They don’t.
Cogent thoughts. You highlight a very real issue, too–our propensity to assume that, wherever we see non-democratic (or at least things that to us seem non-democratic, however defined) politics or policies, there must be some sort of manipulation or coercion, because, surely, “the people” would not want it that way if only they had the chance to speak out. Or whatever. But perhaps we have to accept that different folks do indeed view these issues differently, and it’s entirely possible (and I’d say, inevitable) that democracy world wide will not produce a bunch of mini-Denmarks or what not, but instead will produce as varied a bunch of policies and states as there are different and varied polities.
In short, when people get the governments they want, they aren’t all going to be the governments we might want.
While I think you analysis is fair, it’s worth pointing out that effectively press freedom in Russia is awful. Reporters Sans Frontierers ranks Russia as 155 out of 175 nations in terms of press freedom, below even the Sudan. Just because it’s not as bad as China (168th) doesn’t mean it’s not awful.
Russia does slightly better as a free democracy, ranking 107th, just above Pakistan.
Saying they have no freedom of speech is an exaggeration, but I guess I wouldn’t exactly call it free either.
The funny thing is that the Russian people as a whole are nonetheless more informed about world events than Americans in general – and they certainly know about Chechnya. It just happens that on the subject of Chechnya they’re (demographically speaking) solidly nationalistic and in general too invested to rationally consider why widows would be willing to blow themselves up for revenge.
This is pretty much par for the course for any country running an occupation though, including the US.