The murky world of the Russian elites is perhaps a little nastier than the political and commercial world that we in the UK are used to. Internicine squabbles tend to result in unexplained disappearences, unexplained deaths and a mangling of the rule of law.
This is nothing new. A little over a century ago, people took to the streets of St Petersburg to protest about living conditions, but they had no agenda for toppling Tsar Nicholas ll. Indeed their petition to him was remarkably restrained:
We are beggars, we are oppressed and overburdened with work, we are insulted, we are not looked on as human beings but as slaves. The moment has come for us when death would be better than the prolongation of our intolerable sufferings
This demonstration of people power has resonance on this hour.
The revolution of 1905 was put down, but not in any way like the myth depicted in the film Battleship Potemkin, by Sergei Eisenstein. It took another decade for the bloody revolution to pave the way from monarchy to republic, but the Duma, the present Russian Parliament, was first formed in 1906, no doubt as a concession to the masses.
It is at this point that history can cast light on the current political and social climate in Russia. It is at this point that the philososphy of revolutionary rhetoric becomes concrete and unequivocal:
I am writing these lines on the evening of November 6th. (1917)The situation is critical in the extreme. It is absolutely clear that to delay the insurrection now will be inevitably fatal. I exhort my comrades with all my heart and strength to realize that everything now hangs by a thread, that we are being confronted by problems that cannot be solved by conferences and congresses (even Congresses of Soviets) but exclusively by the people, the masses, by the struggle of the armed masses.
- Vladimir LeninThe word is overthrow and Lenin was in no doubt about the scope of this overthrow. It was, curiously enough, our own King George V who played a key role in the fate of Nicholas and his family. After their arrest, Nicholas asked David Lloyd George to provide a place of exile in England but King George intervened and pursuaded Lloyd George to refuse asylum. Tsar Nicholas and his family were moved by the Bolsheviks to a remote Siberian city and shot.
The mood music of the next 100 years in Russia had been set. Opposition was crushed without mercy. Dissidents vanished or were declared insane and imprisoned. The trappings of civil moderation have been corrupted to follow the wishes of the bandits who currently hold the balance of power. It is happening now, in Russia, still one of the most powerful states in the world.