This time it’s different, I promise

This Russian official is, technically speaking, the third in the line of presidential succession:

Vyacheslav Volodin, Putin’s former deputy chief of staff and current chairman of the state Duma, would support a law that protects the honor and dignity of the Russian president.

During a speech at a university in Tatarstan, Volodin said the laws were necessary and that other country’s had already implemented similar regulations.

“The entire international experience shows that these laws are not only necessary but they already exist everywhere,” he said.

Indeed: the “entire international experience” of assorted -stans shows just that. In the Meta-Stan of the speaker’s dreams, such laws might “exist everywhere” and even be necessary.

Coming from the man who once claimed that Russia would not exist without Putin, this public outpouring of barely legal devotion is not surprising. But both Volodin and I are old enough to remember what happened last time the parliament in Moscow outlawed insulting the president. Back to May 1990:

The Soviet Parliament has given its approval to an ambiguous law making it a crime to “insult” President Mikhail S. Gorbachev. The measure recalls the infamous Stalin-era penal code, with its stiff prison terms for anyone convicted of “slandering” the state…

Supporters of the plan to silence critics offer the standard justifications. Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, one of Gorbachev’s top military advisers, argues that insulting the president “weakens our society,” and so cannot go unpunished.

The Soviet Union would last for about 19 more months, until late December 1991. Marshal Akhromeyev killed himself after the failed coup in August 1991. Not that history repeats itself – it seldom does – but occasionally, improbably, it just might. Aren’t these people in high places superstitious?

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