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The Morning Vertical, July 1, 2016


Vladimir Luzgin, a 37-year-old man from the Siberian city of Perm, was prosecuted, convicted, and fined 200,000 rubles ($3,100) for posting an article on social media containing the well-known historical fact that the Soviet Union in collaboration with Nazi Germany invaded and partitioned Poland in 1939.

On one hand, it's just another example of the Kremlin's determination to control discourse on social media. A report this week by the Moscow-based Sova Center (featured in The Morning Vertical on June 29) showed that both the number of convictions and the severity of the punishment for social-media posts the Kremlin doesn't like have increased exponentially over the past several years.

But Luzgin's prosecution is about more than the Kremlin's desire to control social media. It's about the regime's desire to control history. Putin and his cronies understand full well that as soon as Soviet citizens began to seek the truth in their own history during perestroika -- be it about the Stalin terror or the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact -- cracks in the regime's edifice began to appear. And they're determined not to let this happen again.

And as a result, telling the truth about history in Putin's Russia is becoming very dangerous.


Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that dozens of military officers in the Baltic region have been sacked.

U.S. officials say Washington is considering a plan to coordinate air strikes with Russia on Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State militants in Syria if Moscow uses its influence to get Syria's government to stop bombing moderate rebels.

A Turkish official has said three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers who attacked Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport this week were from Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, meanwhile, that he had no information that a Russian national was among the Istanbul airport bombers.

Russia's men's quadruple sculls crew has been banned from the Rio Olympics after one of its members failed a doping test in May, the world governing body FISA said.

Track-and-field's governing body has approved Russian whistle-blower Yulia Stepanova's bid to compete as a neutral athlete in the upcoming European championships and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Pavel Astakhov, the Kremlin’s top children’s rights official, has reportedly resigned one week after he triggered widespread outrage by asking a survivor of a mass drowning that killed 14 teenagers: “So, how was the swim?”

Vladimir Putin has vowed to respond to NATO's buildup in Eastern Europe without getting into a costly arms race.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov will recruit a new aide through an Apprentice-style reality television show, state channel Rossiya-1 announced on June 30.

Putin said the "traumatic effect" from Britain's vote to leave the European Union will be felt for a long time, although global market turbulence has subsided.


Class Warfare?

A recent poll by the independent Levada Center shows that class conflict in Russia is becoming sharper than ethnic or religious conflict. According to the poll, 76 percent say there are strong tensions between the rich and poor and 82 percent say that this could result in conflict. In contrast, 52 and 48 percent say ethnic and religious tensions, respectively, could spark conflict.

The poll results have attracted the attention of Russian media with Nezavisimaya Gazeta and the pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia weighing in with stories.

The Cult Of World War II

Historian Ksenia Polouektova-Krimer has a piece in Opendemocracy, Unearthing Russia’s War Dead, Over And Over Again, that looks at the cult of World War II in the Russian psyche and how the Kremlin exploits it.

"Seventy years after the war, many of Russia’s dead still lie scattered in fields and bogs across the eastern front. The Russian state has no problem instrumentalizing their memories to shut down discussion," Polouektova-Krimer writes.

The Russia Trap

Also in Opendemocracy, historian Tom Junes looks at the "trap of countering Russia" in the post-Soviet space.

"The ultimate trap, however, would be to persist in engaging a supposed Russian threat in the EU’s Eastern European periphery by continuing to support corrupt and authoritarian governments (and their oligarch backers), thereby stifling legitimate grassroots demands and democracy."

The Danger Of Telling The Truth

Vladimir Luzgin, a 37-year-old man from the Siberian city of Perm, was prosecuted, convicted, and fined 200,000 rubles (about $3,100) for posting an article on his VKontakte page claiming that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany colluded in invading and partitioning Poland in 1939.

We're Great Because You're Bad

Writing in, Vladislav Inozemtsev looks at the Kremlin's habit of boosting itself by denigrating others.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Morning Vertical will not appear for two weeks, as I will be traveling to the NATO summit in Warsaw and a postsummit conference in Tartu, Estonia. We will be back on schedule on July 18.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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