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'...And By That Time There Was No One Left To Speak Up'

Vasily Aleksanyan in the defendant's cage of a Moscow court in early Feburary
The famous words of the German Protestant theologian Martin Niemoller are perhaps the best-known example of the philosophy of "It's none of my business" and its inevitable consequences:

"In Germany, they came first for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist; and then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist; and then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew; and then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up."

On February 1, there was a demonstration in Moscow calling on the authorities to allow jailed former Yukos manager Vasily Aleksanyan, who is seriously ill, to receive treatment in a civilian hospital. About 200 people showed up. No one at the meeting discussed whether Aleksanyan is a thief or not, whether he is a good man or not. They simply declared that a state should not try a man who is physically incapable of appearing in court. Such a man might plead guilty merely to receive treatment or to get painkillers.

What was normal for a court in the 16th century is not acceptable in the 21st.

Out of the 11 million people living in the Russian capital, 200 showed up.

Later meetings have been even less impressive -- averaging about 20 to 40 people.

Of course, you can come up with thousands of arguments about why "average people" are indifferent or even hostile to Aleksanyan, but why aren't his fellow citizens concerned about themselves?

After all, if the state can treat a man whose case is being watched intensely by the press in such a way, then what might happen to you -- an average person -- if for some reason a mayor or a deputy or an ordinary beat cop decides he doesn't like you?

-- Yury Timofeyev

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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