By: Rebecca Favret
This paper addresses new laws promulgated in Russia that restrict freedom of speech. Each implicitly reflects the Kremlin’s hostility toward political dissidence in the aftermath of serious protests following President Putin’s reelection and elections to the legislature. Disturbed by the outcry, which took place in cities across Russia but also infiltrated the Internet, the Russian legislature passed strict laws censoring Internet speech, prohibiting behavior and speech deemed “extremist,” and curbing the size and type of public gatherings. The new legislation is examined through the lens of some of the Kremlin’s most infamous and recent targets: namely, the Internet blacklist and the Pussy Riot scandal. It is critical to note that these instances are only a fraction of the free speech violations that are now legal in the Russian Federation. These incidents—and the potential for similar and more serious results under the new laws—are of grave importance. For many Western critics and Russian citizens, the laws confirm their worst fears about Putin’s autocratic leanings: that with the stifling of free speech will come a complete unraveling of Russian democracy. The effect is a grim future for the former Soviet Union eerily reminiscent of the past.