The Danger of State-Sanctioned Snitching in Russia

In recent years, Russia has seen a resurgence of a disturbing practice from its Soviet era – snitching or reporting neighbors, colleagues, and even strangers to the authorities. This phenomenon has gained momentum as the government cracks down on critics of the Ukraine war. One woman, known as Anna Korobkova, proudly claims to have written over a thousand denunciations since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.

Korobkova’s motivations for snitching are twofold. Firstly, she believes it helps Russia in its mission to defeat Ukraine. Secondly, she sees it as a means of protecting her own financial stability. As a part-time humanities professor, Korobkova relies heavily on her savings, and she fears that a Russian loss in the conflict could result in reparations that would impact the finances of the entire country. She sees those who oppose the war as direct rivals to her own wellbeing.

Since the introduction of new censorship laws following the invasion, more than 8,000 cases have been opened against individuals for discrediting the army. Independent human rights groups report that Korobkova predominantly targets those who speak to the media, especially on international platforms like the BBC. Her denunciations have had tangible consequences, leading to people being fined, fired from their jobs, or labeled as foreign agents.

It is not just critics of the state who are falling victim to this vicious practice. Personal grudges and settling scores have become a common motivation for snitching. Fisherman Yaroslav Levchenko, for example, found himself reported for holding anti-war views after being assaulted by a fellow seaman. Levchenko believes that the denunciation was a diversionary tactic to shift attention away from the assault and the illicit consumption of alcohol on board the ship.

The dangerous implications of this mass snitching culture are far-reaching. Individuals like Korobkova gain significant power and influence as they silence experts and stifle dissent. The fear of being reported has resulted in self-censorship, with people refusing to comment to the media or express their opinions openly.

The Russian police force is inundated with denunciations and spends vast amounts of time investigating charges of discrediting the army. However, this deluge of petty claims has created a diversionary effect, distracting from real crimes and issues that warrant attention.

The situation is further exacerbated by the anonymity of the snitches. Korobkova, for instance, only communicates via email and refuses to show her face or provide proof of her identity due to fears of retaliation and hacking. This lack of accountability allows individuals to wreak havoc on the lives of innocent people without facing any consequences.

The pervasive culture of denunciations perpetuates a climate of fear and distrust, where individuals are pitted against one another. President Putin’s calls to “punish betrayers” only exacerbate this division and reinforce the dangerous practice of state-sanctioned snitching.

As the conflict in Ukraine shows no signs of abating and Putin continues to instrumentalize the denunciations, it is crucial to raise awareness about the dangers and ethical implications of this practice. The international community needs to condemn such actions and pressure the Russian government to uphold basic human rights and freedoms.

In conclusion, state-sanctioned snitching in Russia poses a significant threat to freedom of speech, individual privacy, and social cohesion. It is essential to resist such practices and advocate for a society that values open dialogue, respect for differing opinions, and the protection of fundamental rights for all.