So, there's been a lot of outrage about Russia's recent "homosexual propaganda" laws, but I think I have it figured out. Putin is not the problem. The Russian Orthodox Church is not the problem. The social backwardness of chunks of the Russian population is not the problem. They are all parts of the problem, but criticizing Putin, the church, or the people of Russia is beside the point. The thing is, these laws are just another nebulous, open-ended, selectively-enforceable instrument of dissent-stifling where the charges brought and the verdict reached and the sentence handed down has no relationship to whatever the accused did or did not do, except insofar as they were critical of the security/military/energy/crime clique.
Dissenting journalists go to jail for "divulging state secrets", "state secrets" they read in open-source Russian publications. Mikhail Khodorkovsky has Yukos stolen from him and winds up in prison for "tax evasion", when he was probably the most (only?) conscientious corporate taxpayer in post-Soviet Russian history.
I would hope from my past posting history that it's obvious that A: I truly love Russia and Russian stuff, so this is not coming from a place of ignorant xenophobia, and B: I don't believe that the United States is above criticism or that terrible things in other countries allow us to overlook or ignore our own faults. But it's pretty fascinating. In fact, post-Soviet Russia is way more complex and mind-blowing than the USSR. Or Czarist Russia, for that matter. The "Siloviki"..."The Family"..."The St. Petersburg Lawyers and Economists"..."The Power Vertical"...Chubais, Sobchak, Berezovsky, Luzhkov. And I thought they were scary and opaque and compelling in 1985!
I don't know who I'm lecturing or am mad at, since I doubt anyone on the board is a homophobic American evangelical flying to and from Russia to "consult" with Russian officials about family issues. Although if they were, I'd caution them about unintended consequences, as it might someday be them or one of their Russian contacts looking down the barrel of a Makarov in the basement of the Lubianka. That's a figure of speech since it's well-known the organs of state security always shoot you in the back of the neck when you least expect it.