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Boris Nemtsov: How a Living Pawn Became a Dead King, Part I

A generation arose and took its place in the life of Russia, which did witness Boris Nemtsov as a political heavyweight. The governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, vice-premier, who was seen as an heir to Yeltsin, breathtaking ascension in his political career, and an ability to make country-wide policy—all this left Boris Nemtsov together with his youth. His last try to remain in major league politics was the Duma election of 2003 in which his party could not overcome the five percent barrier. For today's politically active generation, Nemtsov was more of a media than a political figure: a constant denizen of talk shows and an activist at public protests.

He had no more chances of returning as a political heavyweight than becoming younger by twenty years. He was a convenient anti-government activist, absolutely safe for the government. Nemtsov served as a living illustration of the presence of democracy in Russia: Here, look, an anti-Russian politician who is on Russian TV and curses out the head of state on camera. How much more democratic can it be? This status quo was convenient to both sides. After all, Nemtsov understood (whether he admitted this to himself is unimportant) that aside from this aged rebel image, the future does not hold anything else for him.

But everyone was wrong. Nemtsov was wrong and so was Putin and his apparatchiks.

A protesting pro-Ukraine march was planned for the beginning of this month. This march was cleared in advance with the government and doomed to be unsuccessful from the beginning. The route for the demonstration was granted on the outskirts of Moscow. Neither many participants, nor much attention from the mass media was expected. The latter was used to the fact that pro-Ukraine demonstrations attract some liberal public and you can tell the slogans in advance: "Return" Crimea to the Ukraine (against the will of its populace, as if serfdom still exists); free without investigation or trial Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko who is accused of complicity in the murder of two Russian journalists, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin. In addition, the demonstrators always unfairly accuse Russia of being part of the "communist" evil, which it supposedly inherited from the USSR. This was all seen and heard before and became rather boring.

But instead of this boring demonstration on the outskirts of the city, two powerful liberal-opposition demonstrations took place in the center of Moscow and a third one is expected. A march to the site of Boris Nemtsov's murder, the funeral of Boris Nemtsov. . . A murder steps away from the Kremlin, which attracted the attention of all the media. For a long time, there were no political murders in Moscow and if you take into account the past political status of the victim and the place of the murder, this was an unprecedented occurrence. There were mountains of flowers, a countless number of portraits, and the president of Russia was openly proclaimed to be a "murderer". One cannot imagine anything better than this in order for the international tensions around Russia not to quiet down.

On the other hand, information about the events in Donbass, the murder of civilians by banned munitions, information about the horrid mass burning alive of Russian activists on May in Odessa, is filling up the Internet step by step. In our day and age, the silence of newspapers and the obfuscation of governments is no longer so significant.

Now, the suffering people of the Donbass are forgotten again. The political rightness of Russia is again placed in doubt. All we hear and see is: Nemtsov, Nemtsov, and Nemtsov. According to the liberals, "terror" and "the times of Stalin and Beria" returned to Russia. But Putin's accusers do not realize that in Stalin's time, they would not survive for an hour after making such public statements.

It is clear to every reasonable person in Russia that like with the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a living Nemtsov was in all aspects better for Putin than a wickedly murdered one. It is unlikely that Putin even gave much thought to Nemtsov when he was alive.

But Nemtsov was murdered. Not altogether logically (but when can one talk about logic in Russian politics), the Russian liberal establishment instantly demanded to blame someone from the Russian Right, while at the same time using the slogan "Putin is a murderer". However, since the Russian rightwingers are really the only ones in Russia today who are actually being persecuted under Putin for their politics and the liberal lobby is quite strong, this became quite worrisome for Russian patriots.

Even more worrisome was the fact that the investigator appointed to the Nemstov murder investigation, Krasnov became known for investigating the murder Stanislav Markelov and Anastasiya Baburova in the beginning of 2009. The lawyer Markelov (posthumously made "Hero of Chechnya" by Ramzan Kadyrov) and his mistress, the journalist Baburova worked to discredit the Russian Right. Many still believe that "a bone was thrown to the liberals", doubting the professionalism of the investigation the result of which was the indictment of Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgeniya Khasis. Because of the notoriety of Krasnov, the loud liberal chorus calling for the heads of the Right was indeed scary. But the expectations of the liberals came to naught and one hopes that the investigation will take place without pressure from the top.

Elena Chudinova

Russian novelist Elena Chudinova is an outspoken critic of Islam and Muslim immigration.  Her article was translated by Chronicles contributor Eugene Girin.

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