On the front page of today’s New York Times is a chilling account of just how bad things have got in Russia under the rapidly coalescing dictatorship of Vladimir Putin.
The article begins:
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia — Shortly before parliamentary elections in December, foremen fanned out across the sprawling GAZ vehicle factory here, pulling aside assembly-line workers and giving them an order: vote for President Vladimir V. Putin’s party or else. They were instructed to phone in after they left their polling places. Names would be tallied, defiance punished.
The city’s children, too, were pressed into service. At schools, teachers gave them pamphlets promoting “Putin’s Plan” and told them to lobby their parents. Some were threatened with bad grades if they failed to attend “Children’s Referendums” at polling places, a ploy to ensure that their parents would show up and vote for the ruling party.
Around the same time, volunteers for an opposition party here, the Union of Right Forces, received hundreds of calls at all hours, warning them to stop working for their candidates. Otherwise, you will be hurt, the callers said, along with the rest of your family.
As we confront virulent Islamic fascism, the gathering economic power of autocratic China, and the lowering once again of an Iron Curtain in Russia, it should be apparent to all just how fragile, and how precious, is the Enlightenment heritage of Western liberal democracy.
Read the story here.