NEWSLINK: Prospect of show trial stirs some Russians’ memories of Stalinism; Some Russian activists are drawing parallels between a potential ‘mega-trial’ for leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov and Stalin’s show trials in the 1930s. But the comparison remains controversial.

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(Prospect of show trial stirs some Russians’ memories of Stalinism; Some Russian activists are drawing parallels between a potential ‘mega-trial’ for leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov and Stalin’s show trials in the 1930s. But the comparison remains controversial. – Christian Science Monitor – By Fred Weir – October 30, 2012 –

The Christian Science Monitor reports on concerns by some onlookers that a prosecution of Russian opposition figure and protest organizer Sergei Udaltsov is politically motivated and will be a “show trial” in the Soviet mold:

Many Russian activists say they fear a big political show trial is being prepared by the Kremlin’s powerful Investigative Committee, and some are calling it a creeping revival of Stalin-era methods of repression. The aim, they say, will be to intimidate all Russians who think about taking to the streets to protest against President Vladimir Putin.

“We are definitely fearful that authorities are preparing a mega-trial,” perhaps based on the alleged riot that took place during a mostly peaceful street protest on May 6, the day before Mr. Putin’s inauguration for a third term, says Yevgeny Ikhlov, information officer with For Human Rights, a grassroots Moscow-based coalition.

“I know it sounds mad. Nobody will believe in this big conspiracy [that the Kremlin is alleging], and the authorities’ credibility will suffer, but we see all the signs that it’s being worked up,” he says.

The prosecution was preceded by a propaganda video on state-controlled NTV alleging that the opposition was scheming to bring about violent revolution, with connections to the government of Georgia and Russian oligarchs who previously fled to London.

The charge against Udaltsov is indeed conspiracy to create mass disorder, and one his co-defendants, Leonid Razvozzhayev, has since claimed he was kidnapped on foreign soil and brought back to Russia to be tortured into a coerced confession:

Mr. Udaltsov was charged last Friday with conspiracy to conduct “mass disorders,” which carries a potential 10-year prison sentence. Also charged were his associates, Konstantin Lebedev and Leonid Razvozzhayev ­ who alleges he was kidnapped in Ukraine last week by Russian secret services, illegally transported to a Russian prison, and forced to “confess” under torture.

The Russian official narrative about Mr. Razvozzhayev has unraveled in recent days. According to Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin, he voluntarily gave himself up and penned a 10-page confession about his role in the vast anti-Kremlin conspiracy.

But, under pressure from international governments and groups like Amnesty International, Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, posted a terse statement on its official website last Friday insisting that it had nothing to do with the case, and that Razvozzhayev had been abducted by “the security forces of another country” and transferred “in a hurried manner” to Russia.

When finally given access to his lawyer and members of the Public Monitoring Commission, an officially sanctioned prison watchdog, Razvozzhayev repudiated his confession and said he had been coerced into making it with threats against his family and physical pressures such as sleep and food deprivation.

One added twist has come up regarding the legal action against a punk rock band that staged a protest inside a Russian Orthodox cathedral.  Some commentators are concerned that a heavy-handedness by Russian President Vladimir Putin is emerging recalling aspects of Stalinism, and they cite the action against the punk rock band as an example.  Yet the Russian Orthodox Church itself was persecuted under Stalin, at times brutally.  The question is raised whether, ironically, the heightened sensitivity to being persecuted, as the result of the Bolsheviks, might have made the church more amenable to condoning at least some aspects of the legal action against the punk rock band, feeling itself being persecuted yet again by new elements.  Yet the action against the punk rock band, in turn, would be cited as another example of Putin heavy-handedness bringing back shades of Stalin.

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