Information Warfare: Stalin's Shadow On Modern Russia

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June 19,2008: In a recent sign that Russian nostalgia for the Soviet Union is becoming reality, a taped talk show had one of the guests digitally erased. That guest had said some things that the unofficial, but very real, government censor did not approve of. However, if you looked closely, you could still see where the digital editor had missed a few partially concealed body parts. The state now controls all of the major media outlets, and efforts are being made to control what Russians can find on the Internet. All this is the work of a former KGB man, Vladimir Putin, and others like him.

In 2000, Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia with 52 percent of the vote. The communist candidate got 30 percent. Some 69 percent of eligible voters participated. Putin has been head of the FSR (formerly the Soviet era KGB, or secret police.) But Putin got elected on the promise that he would bring order and prosperity. This he did, by cracking down on crime, corruption and free speech. Most Russians liked Putin's performance, reelecting him in 2004. In 2008, the new president, a political ally, appointed Putin as the new Prime Minister (and, apparently keeping Putin in charge, as the constitution only allows two terms for the president.) For the moment, most Russians will tolerate a police state as long as crime keeps going down and the standard of living keeps increasing. Most of the latter is the result of rapidly rising oil prices. Russia is a major oil exporter. Such an "elected police state" can last for a while, at least as long as the rulers have enough goodies to keep the majority from slipping into a rebellious state-of-mind. A powerful tool for this is control of the media. But with the growing importance of the Internet, it remains to be seen how much media control will be enough to keep the true democrats at bay.

 


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