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Putin Gives Amnesty To Entrepreneurs In Gulags

From the New York Times:

Russia’s Stimulus Plan: Open the Gulag Gates

By ANDREW E. KRAMER | August 8, 2013

MOSCOW — A business owner in Russia has a better chance of ending up in the penal colony system once known as the gulag than a common burglar does.

More than 110,000 people are serving time for what Russia calls “economic crimes,” out of a population of about three million self-employed people and owners of small and medium-size businesses….

Gee, that sounds like our country.

But with the Russian economy languishing, President Vladimir V. Putin has devised a plan for turning things around: offer amnesty to some of the imprisoned business people.

Clearly this has been going on for years, probably decades. So how come we are only hearing about this now, when it is supposedly being ‘reformed’?

“This can be understood in the Russian context,” Boris Titov, Mr. Putin’s ombudsman for entrepreneurs’ rights, said of what is, even by the standards of the global recession, a highly unusual stimulus effort.

The amnesty is needed, he said, because the government had “overreacted” to the threat of organized crime and the inequities of privatization and over-prosecuted entrepreneurs during Mr. Putin’s first 12 years in power as president and prime minister.

"The inequities of privatization and over-prosecuted entrepreneurs"? Does that mean they were criminalizing income inequality? That sounds familiar, too. (But note their radically different use of the words ‘stimulus’ and ‘amnesty.’)

Russia’s economy does need help. In the first quarter, growth fell to a rate of 1.6 percent because oil prices are level.

Meanwhile, The Times tells us that our economy is booming along, with a 1.7%, thanks to the economic genius of Obama.

And in that economic climate, few Russians seem willing to risk opening a new business that might create jobs and tax revenue for the government.

Yet another remarkable similarity to our own situation.

Mr. Putin told an audience of chief executives at an economic forum, including Michael L. Corbat of Citigroup and Jeffrey R. Immelt of General Electric, that releasing some businessmen would help revive the economy with “the values of economic freedom and the work and success of entrepreneurs.”

Hopefully, Jeffrey Immelt will pass this radical idea along to Obama. But maybe Obama already knows what Putin is up to. And that’s the real reason he’s so mad at him, because he is going to stop criminalizing people for going into business. 

In 2010, the police investigated a total of 276,435 “economic crimes,” according to the Russian prosecutor general’s office, whose statistics show burglary and robbery are prosecuted less than economic crimes.

So many Russian business owners are doing time that support groups have sprung up in Moscow for their families known as “The 159 Society.” It takes its name from the article on fraud in the criminal code. Rus Sidyashchaya, or Russia Behind Bars, organizes weekly dinners for the wives of imprisoned businessmen.

We have similar anti-business laws in our country. One is called ‘Dodd-Frank.’

Russia’s infamous penal colonies, rural camps swirled in barbed wire, appear today much as they did when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote “The Gulag Archipelago” in the 1960s…

In the “zone,” as the prison camps are known in colloquial Russian, the business owners live, as nearly all Russian prisoners do, in squat wood or brick barracks. It is a grim, violent and disease-ridden world, they say…

Ruslan V. Tyelkov, whose short arc from businessman to inmate illustrates both the entrepreneurial spirit that still simmers in Russia and the risks. Mr. Tyelkov, a strapping 32-year-old from Moscow, invested nearly his last ruble to open a wholesale upholstery business that could hardly have gone wrong in Russia: selling leopard-print fabrics.

In 2010, Mr. Tyelkov spent the equivalent of $31,000 for 25,000 yards of Chinese-made leopard-print fabric suitable for chairs and sofas. “It’s very popular here, not only for furniture but cloths, wallpaper, sheets, shoes, bags, everything.”

With no warning, the police arrived at his warehouses and removed every roll on six flatbed trucks, handing it over to a competitor, ostensibly for storage, though it was later sold. Then they arrested Mr. Tyelkov, who spent a year in pretrial detention.

The crime? The police said they suspected copyright infringement of the leopard design. “It was funny at first,” recalled Mr. Tyelkov of his initial meeting with the police. “I asked, ‘Who owns the copyright, a leopard?’ ”

In reality, Mr. Tyelkov’s crime was probably that he didn’t pay off the right government officials. Which, again, is a lot like our country.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, August 9th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

5 Responses to “Putin Gives Amnesty To Entrepreneurs In Gulags”

  1. Noyzmakr says:

    Something tells me these entrepreneurs will be in no hurray to break the law open another business anytime soon. Unless, of course, that’s a stipulation of their parole.

    So they rushed in a stole this guys stockpile of leopard skin fabric and just happened to give it to his competition. Sounds like what Obama did to GM stockholders except the investors weren’t the union’s competition but the only thing keeping them in their cushy jobs.

  2. Petronius says:

    Putin would be a step up for America, not down.

  3. Helena says:

    Horrifying post, Steve. Brilliant, as always.

  4. GetBackJack says:

    Last time something like this happened America was flooded with criminals and gangs out of Cuba, thank you Jimmy Carter.

    Wanna bet what the next chapter in this Story will be?

    /Obama is working a Communist agenda, after all

  5. bousquem25 says:

    Paying bribes to the officals will still probably get the poor saps arrested. But now the officals get their money and their cronies still get the seized assets to use for free while the innocent business man gets a longer sentence for bribery in addition to what ever BS charges the kangaroo court sticks him with while on his way to a long vacation in Siberia. And the competitor will now be able to buy up his fledgling business to keep their monopoly going.

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