The current selection for a book club I’m in is Putin’s Russia, by Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who exposed corruption and lawlessness in her country’s government. Soon after this book was published, she was murdered. Her tragic end only fuels speculation and supports the basis of work.
The picture Politkovskaya paints of Russian society is both disturbing and heart wrenching. Even while exposing horrific behavior by her countrymen, her love for her people and her homeland were quite evident to me. Many of the accounts made deep impressions, but one comment in particular has stayed with me—Politkovskaya says:
“Like cancer, bad history tends to recur, and there is only one radical treatment: invasive therapy to destroy the deadly cells. We have not done this. We dragged ourselves out of the Soviet Union and into the New Russia still infected with our Soviet disease.”
The descriptive way she has diagnosed the problem Russia faces is poetic and rich. She sees the recent changes as merely a cosmetic face-lift—it is a new era under a new name, but it’s the same old country underneath, with the same aged bones and creaky structure. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The treatment Politkovskaya suggested for setting Russia aright is not only radical, it would be a mighty and complex undertaking. In such a treatment, who would be chosen rightly discern which cells are the ones causing the decay? A radical sweep of “deadly cells” would require the violent removal—in a disruptive sense, at the very least—of the current leadership, all of whom Politkovskaya has marked as “cancerous.” The current leadership would view that disruption as equally corrupt and diseased. The treatment she suggests would not be pain-free.
And that leaves us with the question as to which system, which worldview, is correct or best. Is there a way to objectively weigh out the purity of one ruling system over another? There is no perfect system, to be sure. But there are systems that promote freedom and good more so than others; should we then support (via political and international policy means) the installation of those better systems in countries with commonplace atrocities (such as those occurring in Russia, as outlined in this book)?
There are no neat answers. It’s easier to discuss the installation of freedom across the world in theory—for in theory, yes, every person should have freedom and security. And I believe that we who enjoy such living should work to establish that for others. But due to opposition and conflicting viewpoints, actual implementation of freedom and security would likely result in some initial messes that are contrary to the goal of the new system. For freedom to emerge, suppression must be suppressed—the “freedom” to suppress will be removed if there is to be freedom for all. So does the end justify the means? Would greater justice and freedom and security be worth the effort and conflict required to get there?
I don’t have any reasoned response to the difficulties the people of Russia—or people of any other suppressed country, for that matter—must endure. What can I say? What can I know of suppression and fear and intimidation as I sit in freedom in the United States? I cannot speak from experience; I cannot empathize. But I can let my heart break for injustice. Putin’s Russia has served to do just that. And where my heart breaks for the tragedies others face, there God can move me to be His love in action. Oh that I would do the small things I am able to reach out in compassion to those enduring injustice.
> For more insight into Russia’s situation today, see this article from Time.