Although not getting as much attention as Russian support for the aggressive moves in Crimea by President Vladimir Putin, there are voices of dissent in Moscow — and it apparently comes with a price.
Lenta.ru is reporting that Andrei Zubov has lost his position at the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs after he posted a blistering March 1 online attack on Putin’s actions. (Lenta.ru is owned by a company founded and formerly owned by Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the Brooklyn Nets.) It said the news was confirmed by Zubov’s daughter, who posted it to her Facebook account.
Zubov is known in this country for a landmark two-volume history of Russia in the 20th century which he edited in 2009. The New York Times quoted one historian calling it “one of the most important books that came to us from Russia in the past 20 years.”
On Monday, Zubov was interviewed by Radio Free Europe, which posted the interview in English under the title “In Crimea, Putin has lost his mind.”
Zubov was asked about his essay, which compared Putin’s moves in Crimea to Hitler’s annexation of Austria — Hitler used a similar excuse of protecting German-speaking people as a pretext to move into Austria and the Sudetenland. Zubov also wondered if Turkey couldn’t use the same excuse to invade Crimea on behalf of the Tatars.
Zubov was asked what motivated him to write the column, which he said was posted almost immediately by the newspaper Vedomosti.
“I wanted to tell the truth and bring Russians to their senses. People have been going crazy on the Internet, pledging to forgive Putin everything if he succeeds in returning Crimea. Secondly, I wanted to show Ukrainians that not everybody in Russia shares Putin’s opinions, that there also is another Russia,” Zubov said.
He was asked what risks Russia faced because of Putin’s tactics: “We always make prognoses based on the assumption that the politician, even if selfish and cruel, is intelligent and rational. But what we are now witnessing is the behavior of a politician who has clearly lost his mind. These actions are absurd because of [the possibility of international] sanctions and of the sharp economic downturn, which is causing the collapse of the Russian financial market. If this continues, it will lead to an impoverishment of the population in a matter of months and huge social protests.”
Zubov indicated that he had received many messages of support and none disagreeing with him. But he was aware of the personal risks he was taking.
“Of course I’m afraid. When a soldier takes up arms, he is scared of being killed in the end. But there are times when you need to take up arms. I’m an old person — too old to go to battle with a rifle. My computer is my rifle.”
The day after that interview appeared online, Zubov learned that he’d lost his position.