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Nicholas Atanasio GLED 101 20 March, 2015
"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
- United States Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776 -
The question of when a government has forced its powers too far is one that concerns all of humankind. Since the dawn of the species, man has been blessed with an insatiable desire to feel free, and such balance between freedom from oppression and freedom from fear of the violence of other men can be seen to create government as it is known today. However, when such freedom is tipped out of balance, when one or both sides can be seen to weaken, it is man’s birthright, their duty, to try and right the wrong, to restore balance that seems most appropriate to them and their fellow men.
Such actions were the intentions of Boris Nemtsov, famous Russian political activist, perhaps best known for his tireless opposition of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Serving under Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the 90’s, Nemtsov since served as an outspoken critic of Putin during the President’s ongoing reign. All of this ended, however, when Nemtsov was very suddenly assassinated in the early hours of 27 February, 2015 in central Moscow. Reportedly, Nemtsov was walking home with his girlfriend near the Kremlin when he was shot four times in the chest from a passing car, and was declared dead at the scene.
In recent months, Nemtsov had gained particular notice for his opposition to Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine and support of rebel forces there. Nemtsov had recently been promoting a rally which would have taken place the day after his death that was in opposition to the Russian involvement in the Ukraine. Citing a lack of democracy and continuing economic failure in Russia, many in the nation have lost support of Russian involvement in the Ukraine. However, strong political consolidation by President Putin means the exile or imprisonment of some on the side of the opposite political fence, and the murder of Nemtsov only increases the lack of strong opposition leadership. In light of such lessening of protest by Russia’s citizens, the question begs itself of what role the US and others have to play in scaling Russia back from the Ukraine, whether it is further sanctions or more drastic measures.
News sources reportedly state that Nemtsov was very close to preparing a report that proved and decried Russian involvement in the Ukraine – research that was seized by police citing national safety concerns after his death. In addition to this, Nemtsov had expressed fears only three weeks before his murder that President Putin would have him killed.
The Kremlin’s response was simple, but firm. Putin stated that he believed it to be a contract killing with a provocative nature, and will personally head the committee to investigate the murder. While many in the country, particularly who oppose Putin, are convinced that he himself is to blame for the death of Nemtsov, others are convinced that this killing can be attributed to others who have consolidated power within the Russian government.
Regardless of who is truly to blame, the killing raises serious questions for Russia and its people. In a time of increasing unrest in a powerful country whose government has already been dissolved once in the past 20 years, some may see this country as being close to the verge of another period of unrest, or even significant governmental change. Russia should be asking itself of ways to place checks on the power of not just Putin, but those under him who have increased their level of power well past its appropriate proportions.
It is the right of the governed to appoint and governors, and expect that those who represent them are completely answerable and responsible for their actions. When such ends are prevented, all who live for Democracy and freedom around the world should take a moment of silence for a brave man who fought for his voice, only to have it taken from him. And all should reflect on their personal role, through the continuing fight for worldwide individual freedoms, of what they can do to honor the memory of Boris Nemtsov.