The Russian government has come a long way from the Soviet years to a democratic nation it is today. But, there are a few issues from its Soviet past it must confront in order to move forward democratically. It must exercise the influence it has and play a more active role in Syria, by taking the side of the people not the tyrant. Finally, Russia must allow its citizens to express their opinions without the fear of repercussions, if it truly seeks their input in Opening Government. The purpose here is not to criticize the efforts by the Russian government, but rather point out some ghosts in its past that once confronted would make Russia a truly marvelous democracy.
First, It is important for the Russian nation to demonstrate that it will not tolerate crimes against its own citizens, no matter when they have occurred. During the period between the Bolshevik revolution and the fall of Soviet Union the Russian government killed and displaced millions of its own citizens and yet no one has been prosecuted or even condemned. The most conservative accounts of mass murders during the Joseph Stalin’s regime place the number of those killed at 25 million. During the period between 1935- 1941 more than 19 million people were arrested and sent to the Gulag or remote concentration camps. During the great trails and purges hundreds of thousands of communist leaders were put to death without a trail out of 1.7 million total persecuted. Yet the Russian government post Soviet era has failed to condemn these catastrophes. It is Important for Russia to set a strong foundation of trust between it self and the citizens by addressing the mistakes of the past.
Source: Russian Pedia
Second, The Russian Government must show its commitment to democratic movements abroad. Arab spring showcased the hopes of ordinary Arabs, fueled not by some radical ideology, but rather aspirations of democracy and liberty. Syria like many other Arab nations demanded openness and more basic human rights, but instead of hearing their calls for change and reforms the regime of Bashar al-Assad has been carrying out catastrophes against civilian population. The recent death toll numbers suggest more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed by the regime through vicious military attacks against its own population, during almost 2 years of conflict. The Russian government is in a position to use its influence in the region and pressure the Syrian regime to open the lines of communications with its citizens and seize all hostilities.
Source: Foreign Policy Blogs
Lastly, in spirit of the Open Government initiative the Russian government must take steps to allow its citizens to express their views without being penalized. Much like the show trails of the Soviet era three Russian women, all members of the Pussy Riot music band were arrested and imprisoned for publicly criticizing the Russian leadership. On August 17, 2012, they were sentenced to serve two years in a penal colony by the orders of Khamovnichesky District Court in Moscow, causing an outrage throughout the world.
Source: The Times of London
In conclusion, with Open Government Initiative Russia is building a skyscraper of democracy, but without strong foundation this effort is nothing short of window dressing. Russia must build a strong foundation by first addressing the past catastrophes committed by the Soviet Union and condemning them. It must also show its commitment to democracy by supporting open government in Syria, by using its influence in the region. Finally, the Russian citizens must be assured that criticism of government officials will not bring unjust harm to them in anyway. Only then can Russian truly commit to the concept of Open Government, in which it already vows to protect human rights.