If you thought Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was concerned last week as race riots swept the Russian capital of Moscow, think again. He was grinning from ear to ear.
Putin has two reasons to be delighted by race violence.
First, Putin himself is a virulent racist. He is surrounded by white men, and has never once spoken out in support of the notion that dark-skinned people are the equal of white Slavic Russians, not even as dozens fall victim to race murder each year. To the contrary, Putin’s rabidly nationalist rhetoric has clearly fanned the flames of race violence. There’s nothing strange in this; Russia is a racist country, as any dark-skinned person who has ever lived there can readily attest. Racism is popular; it wins votes.
Second, riots beget calls for more dictatorship. Valery Zorkin, chief justice of the Russian Constitutional Court, stated in the wake of the riots it was “no longer a dystopia” to believe that “the state will no longer be able to protect its citizens from mass violence.” This means only one thing: the state must become even more powerful if it is to crush these outbursts as was done in Soviet times.
In other words, race riots help Russians ignore people like Arkady Gontmakher.
In September 2007, the Seattle resident and American citizen was arrested in Moscow. The CEO of Global Fishing Inc., a leading worldwide purveyor of arctic crab, was accused of poaching millions of pounds of king crab from Russian waters, a charge that could draw a two-year prison term.
Under Russian law, prosecutors were not required to put Gontmakher on trial for eighteen months after his arrest, and they were not required to offer him reasonable bail while he awaited trial.
This meant that on the day he was arrested, Gontmakher was also, for all practical purposes, convicted and sentenced without trial to three-fourths of the maximum sentence allowable under the law, unless the prosecutor chose to show mercy.
Unsurprisingly, they didn’t.