Putin has surpassed Khrushchev and Brezhnev in terms of the scale of repressions – over the past six years alone, he has persecuted at least 116 thousand people

February, 22, 2024

Today’s study by Proekt is dedicated to Alexei Navalny, a friend of ours who was murdered by Vladimir Putin. His death brings up once again the question of why there are no mass protests in Russia against the crimes of the current regime. One answer to this question lies in the scale of repressions that the authorities are waging. As part of our major study, we examined both criminal and administrative cases that reached the courts in 2018-2023, i.e. during Putin’s entire fourth term. It turned out that by even the most conservative estimate, at least 116 thousand people were subjected to some form of persecution over that period.

5,613 people were prosecuted under the main articles that human rights activists consider repressive (extremism, justification of terrorism, dissemination of knowingly false information, discreditation of the army). If we also count those who refused to fight in Ukraine, as well as those accused of state treason, espionage, etc., we get a figure of 11,442 repressed.

Both of these figures are higher than those of the post-Stalin USSR, when people were tried under Articles 70 (“Anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”) and 190 (“Dissemination of knowingly false fabrications that defame the Soviet state and social system”) of the Soviet Criminal Code. For instance, between 1956 and 1961 (we reviewed a six-year period in this case as well), 4,883 people were convicted under those articles. And in all the following years up to the Perestroika period (from 1962 to 1985) another 3,234 people were convicted.

However, in Soviet times even more people were subjected to the so-called “prophylaxis”: the Chekists would keep a file on them and issue them a warning. More than 120,000 people went through this measure in 1967-1974. Nowadays there are no statistics on the number of people who found themselves subject to the attention of the security services. Yet it is possible to count the number of people subjected to administrative liability for public statements and participation in rallies – there were about 105 thousand of them over the past six years. In other words, today’s figures are once again comparable to those of the Soviet Union. This does not take into account the large number of people who were forced out of the country and lost their places of work and study over the last years.

The number of 116 thousand (11.4 thousand criminally charged and 105 thousand fined) is probably far from being exhaustive. If one considers that repression includes not only the persecution of political activists, but also unjustified accusations against random people, then convictions under other articles must also be taken into account. For instance, after the COVID restrictions were already lifted, the authorities still fined 159 thousand people for not complying with quarantine measures. In addition, more than 600 thousand people were fined for disobeying the demands of law enforcers. 

Read our full study on Putin’s repressions (in Russian)

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