Vladimir Putin made all the right noises yesterday when he spoke at the opening of the Wall of Sorrow, a new monument to victims of Stalinist repression.
He said Russia's "horrific past must not be stricken from the national memory, nor justified in any way."
He said we "must remember the tragedy" of Stalin-era repressions "and their causes."
And he said that this memory serves "as a powerful warning to prevent their repetition."
But while the words may have been good, the reality, of course, is something else entirely.
Because while Putin said Stalinist repressions should never be justified, he did justify Stalin back in June, when he warned against an "excessive demonization" of the Soviet autocrat.
And while Putin warned against a repetition of Stalin-era repressions, his prosecutors were busy using so-called antiextremism laws to create a whole new generation of political prisoners -- many of whom just liked or shared content on social media that the Kremlin found objectionable.
Putin's comments came amid a wave of assaults by pro-Kremlin vigilante groups against opposition figures.
They came as independent journalists are fleeing the country fearing for their safety.
And they came amid reports that homosexuals are being tortured and killed in Chechnya.
Political opponents are not being rounded up after a midnight knock on the door, and shot in the basement of Lubyanka.
But whistle-blowers like Sergei Magnitsky can die under mysterious circumstances in prison; defectors like Aleksandr Litvinenko can be assassinated with a radioactive isotope in downtown London.
And, as Boris Nemtsov's assassination taught us, opposition leaders can be shot dead on the street, in view of the Kremlin, and the true masterminds of the de facto execution can walk away scot-free.
So Putinism may be a far cry from the mass repression that was Stalinism, but is also far from repression-free.
I guess you can just call it hybrid repression.
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