Putin Completes Russia's March into Its Past

The Huffington Post had a brutal story about the murder of Russia's political opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, this morning. One of the allegations, among many, circling around his death is that it is connected to the Kremlin. A different point of view, one that Putin apparently embraces, is that the murder was done to provoke a crisis that would bring about a change in Russia's political leadership. If the reports are true that Russian authorities searched Nemtsov's apartment, questioned his neighbors, and confiscated his hard drive shortly after the murder it's going to be tough to sell the idea that the killing (four bullets in the back) wasn't at some level orchestrated by the Kremlin. After all, is it really customary to seize the property of the victim in a murder investigation?

Russia's historic reputation for official, institutionalized paranoia, both internal and external, is well-documented. The brutal repression of the Russian people during the time of the Tsars found its modern analog in the actions of the Soviet dictators and oligarchs. The current FSB (not much more than the KGB with a new name) is the heir to this long history. The machinery of the state has been reorganized since the fall of the Soviet Union, but its basic forms and cultural instincts appear to have survived.

To recap current events in that part of the world, we have external expansion and irredentism in Crimea and Ukraine followed by internal suppression of dissent carried to a terrifying extreme. If I'd read the headlines in a newspaper rather than on the internet I would have had to run to my calendar to make sure I hadn't somehow traveled into a past Russia just can't seem to shake.