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Russia is a scary place for people who disagree with President Vladimir Putin and his allies. As Russia continues to isolate itself through actions in Ukraine and the constant testing of the defense response times of various NATO and Baltic states, those who speak out in favor of reconciliation and a calming of tensions face anger, threats of arrest, and sometimes violence that can lead to death. Putin’s reign has allowed a new and toxic strain of fascism and nationalism (ironically he claims to be fighting against fascism) to envelop Russian politics and everyday life as his supporters feel as though they have impunity to threaten and attack members of the opposition. This became even clearer after the murder of opposition figure, Boris Nemtsov.marilyn_gardner_milton_boris_nemtsov

Nemtsov was more than just an opposition figure who wanted to change the way Russia was being run. He started off as a politician and had a successful career under former president Boris Yeltsin and once Putin came into power, became a leading opposition figure who spoke out against the Kremlin. But Boris was also more than just an opposition figure striving to change the way Russian politics work. He was able to speak to people of all backgrounds and political beliefs and bring them together under a cohesive narrative that spoke to each one in a different way. Nemtsov had the ability to draw nationalists, communists, liberals, and all sorts of people from the fractious Russian opposition together under one banner aimed at forcing change in the Russian government.

While his death is going to be mourned for a number of reasons (all of which are fully deserved), it is this ability to speak across boundaries that is going to be the biggest blow to the Russian opposition movement. While the opposition movement will eventually recover from the death of Nemtsov and while this murder might force the Kremlin to tone down the anti-opposition rhetoric it has been spewing recently (it has called them traitors¬†and is now doubt spurring the violence opposition members face), his death will most likely never be solved and will force all of those in the opposition to live in fear. The toxic political climate that Putin has created in Russia seems like it’s going to continue to get worse and I can only hope that no more people in the opposition get targeted and assassinated like Boris Nemtsov was. He has left a giant whole and the need to unify all of those against the Kremlin is now going to be that much more difficult.

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