A Beating on My Beat
By OLEG KASHIN
ON the night of Nov. 6, I was attacked by two young men armed with steel rods. The assault occurred a few feet from the entrance to my house, which is just a 10-minute walk from the Kremlin.
A month later, I am still in the hospital. One of my fingers has been amputated, one of my legs and both halves of my jaw have been broken, and I have several cranial wounds. According to my doctors, I won’t be able to go back to my job as a reporter and columnist at Kommersant, an independent newspaper, until spring.
A few hours after the attack, President Dmitri Medvedev went on Twitter to declare his outrage, and he instructed
Three theories quickly emerged about who was behind the attack — which was, I believe, an assassination attempt. The first holds that it was the municipal authorities of Khimki, a town between
The second theory is that it was Andrei Turchak, the governor of the
And the third theory is that the perpetrators came from Nashi, a youth movement I have criticized. The group’s appearance on the public scene has accompanied a new level, and acceptance, of violence in Russian politics; members are called “Nashists” by their opponents, as a pun on “fascists,” for good reason.
Nashi is closely tied to the Kremlin, which founded the group five years ago in response to fears that
What strikes me about the theories is that, in each case, the ultimate perpetrator is the state. And for some reason that seems acceptable to most Russians
I don’t mean to compare myself to Anna Politkovskaya or Paul Klebnikov, journalists who were killed probably because of their investigative work. But in a way the attack against me is more disturbing. Unlike most of the reporters who have been attacked in
What I have done, though, is criticize Nashi. Indeed, all this year I have called attention to the violence that accompanies the group’s every public activity. Even at their legally sanctioned events the members trample — and this is no exaggeration; they literally stomp with their feet — portraits of
I also believe they were the organizers of anonymous acts aimed at the opposition
But even when there is strong evidence of official Nashi involvement, members have gone unpunished. In the summer of 2005 a group of hooligans with baseball bats invaded an opposition meeting and savagely beat the participants. The police detained the attackers, and a list of their names, including some “Nashists,” appeared in the papers. But all of the detainees were immediately released, and the case has never gone to court.
Nobody knows for certain whether there is a direct link between the flourishing of Nashi and the increased violence against critics of the state. But it seems indubitable that the atmosphere of hatred and aggression, artificially fomented by the Kremlin, has become the dominant fact in Russian politics, the “reset” in relations with the
A man with a steel rod is standing behind the smiling politicians who speak of democracy. That man is the real defender of the Kremlin and its order. I got to feel that man with my own head.
Oleg Kashin is a reporter for the Russian newspaper Kommersant. This article was translated from the Russian by Steven Seymour.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs