How to ensure Kremlin remembers Boris Nemtsov


Last month, thousands of people held rallies and vigils in cities across Russia to mark the second anniversary of the murder of former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the country’s pro-democracy opposition, notes Russian activist Vladimir V. Kara-Murza.

The Russian government’s priority seems to be trying to erase Nemtsov’s memory. But it doesn’t have to in other countries, he writes for The Washington Post, noting proposed legislation that would designate the stretch of Wisconsin Avenue NW in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington as “Boris Nemtsov Plaza” and change the mission’s address to “1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza:”

Nemtsov did not become president. But for many people in my country, he became the symbol of a different Russia — more democratic, more hopeful, more European, one at peace with itself and with its neighbors…..There will come a day when Russia takes pride in having Boris Nemtsov’s name on its embassy letterhead. It will also be grateful to those who, in difficult times, did not allow it to forget.

A vice chairman of the Open Russia movement and chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, Kara-Murza says he plans to return to Russia to continue his protests against the government even though a suspected poisoning put him at death’s door.

“Of course, I will absolutely go back,” he told CBS Television’s 60 Minutes program (above).

Russia’s legal-rational establishment has yet to emerge. But the rise of Alexei Navalny demonstrates that when it does, it will inevitably be nationalist, says Anna Arutunyan, a Russian-American journalist and the author of The Putin Mystique.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), with its painstaking, legalistic approach to exposing corruption among Russian state officials operates under the assumption that there is nothing normal about people in power stealing money from the population they are mandated to rule. Most of all, the FBK team seek to bolster existing institutions and the supremacy of rules by operating according to Russian laws and legal norms, not abstract concepts imported from the west. Navalny’s film, and the millions of Russian citizens who watched it, suggests that that this assumption is infectious. 

“But this comes with a darker side of the same coin,” she writes for Open Democracy. “Navalny’s appeals to deep-seated and growing insecurities about immigration are a reflection of a malaise that can only emerge in a country that has always been an empire, but never a nation. As such, the growing affection for the prospect of a legal-rational, lawful Russia goes hand in hand with the belief that it should be for ‘Russians’ only. The question that remains is: how far will this nationalism go?”


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