Abolish the Police, Arm the Citizens: The 'Sagra
Model' of Privatized Security
William Norman Grigg
Recently by William Norman Grigg: Where
Have You Gone, Conn Conagher?
would things have been like if every Security operative, when he
went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether
he would return alive? Or, if during the periods of mass arrests
... people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with
terror at every bang on the downstairs door and at every step on
the staircase, but had understood that they had nothing left to
lose and had boldly set up an ambush of half a dozen people with
axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?"
are coming to kill us! exclaimed a young resident of
Sagra, Russia as he spied a column of vehicles approaching the
tiny village at the feet of the Ural Mountains. Responding to the
alarm, several dozen residents mustered near the town entrance,
bearing whatever weapons they could find. Some of them grabbed pitchforks,
chains, or knives. Three men arrived on the scene with shotguns.
of the approaching convoy was Sergei The Gypsy Lebedev,
head of a criminal gang that had tormented Sagra for months. Lebedev's
followers swiped anything of value that was left unguarded. Power
tools, appliances, and other household property disappeared; homes
were vandalized as copper tubing and wiring were ripped out to be
sold to scrap metal dealers. An onslaught of shoplifting threatened
the survival of the villages only significant retail store.
citizens complained to the police in nearby Yekaterinberg, only
to be treated with a mixture of amusement and impatient annoyance.
Mounting hostility against Lebedev and his underlings prompted the
gangster to withdraw but only to gather reinforcements.
no petty cut-purse; his entourage included at least one vory
v zakone (thief in law) that is, a member
of a politically-protected
The gang leaders
intent was to seize control of the village as a base of operations
for a drug operation, and he clearly enjoyed the covert support
of the regions law enforcement establishment.
Thus it was that late in the evening of July 1, Ledbedev assembled
a contingent of about 60 armed thugs and mounted a punitive expedition
against the village of 130 people.
As the headlights
from the 15-vehicle convoy probed the gathering darkness, the men
of Sagra formed a human roadblock across the bridge at the entrance
to their town. The infernal column came to a halt, while its leader
tried to decide how to deal with the unanticipated resistance. Suddenly
a voice from behind them exclaimed, Grenade! An object
that appeared to meet that description landed in the midst of the
raiders, causing several to bolt in panic.
In fact, the
weapon was a pine cone that had been hurled by Andrei Gorodilov,
who had taken cover beside the road. At that signal, the air erupted
in curses and insults hurled by many of the women of the village,
who had hidden themselves behind trees.
diversion was brief, but effective: Andreis father, Viktor,
let loose a blast from his shotgun. Two other defenders followed
suit. The rest, bearing whatever improvised weapons they had found,
lit into Lebedevs hired killers with the unalloyed ferocity
of men fighting on their own soil with their backs to their homes.
One of the
invaders was killed, several more were wounded, and Lebedev was
forced to retreat. At some point in the skirmish, Sagra resident
Tatyana Gordeyeva contacted the police, who displaying the
efficiency and timeliness for which their profession is known
arrived long after the battle was over, and immediately began to
treat the defenders as criminal suspects. Their first priority was
not to pursue and arrest Lebedev and his cronies (who were eventually
taken into custody), or to collect evidence for their eventual prosecution;
instead, they attempted to clamp down a cover-up of the matter.
They didnt succeed.
Within a few
days, news of the battle had been propagated throughout Russia,
and Sagra quickly became a catchword for a spate of violence
around the country in which people have banded together to defend
themselves in the absence of police protection, noted the
New York Times. An entrepreneur captured the public mood
in a commemorative t-shirt with the inscription: If the government
cant help people, it doesnt have the right to forbid
them from defending themselves Sagra 2011.
going on in this country is that the government isnt protecting
anyone, observed Mr. Gorodilov, who spoke with the invincible
authority of personal experience. That assessment was seconded by
Konstantin M. Kiselyov of Ykaterinbergs Institute of Philosophy
and Law: The police are corrupt or lazy or politicized, and
its the same all across the country. So people must protect
themselves. They cant count on the government or its structures.
That is why the country is turning into one big Sagra.
The most remarkable
reaction to the Battle of Sagra came from Alexander
Torshin, the Speaker of the Federation Council (a position roughly
analogous to Senate Majority Leader). Invoking the Second Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution, Torshin announced that he would propose
an amendment to the Russian Constitution guaranteeing that
a Russian citizen has the right under the law to bear arms.
give our citizens a chance at survival, Torshin told the Interfax
news agency, insisting that widespread private gun ownership doesnt
lead to a surge in killings, but rather the reduction
in street crimes and the murder rate.
Torshins stance all the more remarkable is the fact that roughly
half a year earlier he
had expressed support for banning private possession of non-lethal
that this dramatic volte-face was the product of a sincere
conversion. Its likelier that Mr. Torshin knew which way the
winds of public outrage are blowing, and aligned his sails accordingly.
In any case, Torshins proposal is tangible evidence of a growing
and thoroughly commendable Russian contempt for the very institution
is based on the assumption that human nature can be permanently
altered through the systematic application of state terrorism. Lenin
described his regime as a scientific dictatorship exercising
power without limit, resting directly on force, restrained
by no laws, absolutely unrestricted by rules. Within a generation
or two, Lenin believed, his dictatorship would beget a new creature
homo sovieticus, the selfless, state-focused New Soviet
Man. The gulag state would act as an alembic, refining troublesome
individualism out of the species, even if this meant pitilessly
liquidating millions of specimens regarded as unsuitable for the
didnt quite work out that way. Communism wasnt a scientific
doctrine for the perfection of the human species; it was, in
R.J.Rummels phrase, a plague of power. After
the Hammer and Sickle was furled in 1991, the plague of ideological
Communism mutated into form of state gangsterism incapable of reproducing
itself beyond Russias borders. The Party Nomenklatura
abandoned the conceit that they were Historys infallible vanguard,
and settled into a very comfortable new role as Russias crony
criminal oligarchy has little use for ideology, they still embrace
the idea of power without limit, resting directly on force.
Valery D. Zorkin, chairman of Russias Constitutional Court,
laments that Russias contemporary political model is based
on the fusion of government and criminals, with the
country increasingly divided between predators, free in the
criminal jungle, and sub-humans, conscious that they are only prey.
In his November
2010 State of the Nation speech, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev
acknowledged that in many parts of the country local governments
have entered into a direct merger with criminals at
the expense of the rights of law-abiding individuals. While this
will surprise nobody who understands that the State is, and has
always been, a criminal enterprise, this admission is striking when
offered by a 46-year-old political leader who graduated
from Leningrad State University.
horrifying example of the merger described by Medvedev was provided
by a November
2010 massacre in Kushchevskaya, a city of 35,000 about 700 miles
from Moscow. The city was the site of several major state-controlled
collective farms during the Soviet era. After the USSR was dissolved,
the local branch of the Nomenklatura created a quasi-private
agricultural firm called Arteks Agro, which was controlled by a
career Party functionary named Sergei Tsapok.
For the past
decade, a criminal clique headed by Tsapok, and that included current
and former members of the city government, conducted
a reign of terror in Kushchevskaya, plundering
and raping as they saw fit and killing anyone who complained
in a voice louder than a whisper.
to the police availed nothing, since their duty was to maintain
order that is, to enforce the will of the local
elite rather than to protect the rights of the innocent.
At public meetings, terrified and outraged local citizens would
barrage municipal leaders with protests about the criminal onslaught,
only to be told that There are no criminal groups here.
November 4, Tsapoks gang invaded
the home of Server Ametov, murdering
him and eleven others, including four young children. The victims
were stabbed, strangled, and set on fire. Ametov was a successful
farmer, and since about 1998 Tsapoks gang had been carrying
out a modified version of Stalins collectivization program
small farmers off their land, murdering those (including Ametovs
brother) who resisted.
outcry was sufficient to prompt official intervention, leading to
Tsapoks arrest. For millions of Russians, the Kuschevskaya
atrocity demonstrated the fatal futility of seeking protection from
the enforcement arm of the ruling criminal elite. The Russian disaffection
toward government has grown so widespread and intense that the ruling
establishment is actually reducing the size and power of its law
enforcement apparatus. This a development without precedent in the
country once terrorized by the Oprichniki,
and the Cheka.
as elsewhere, the role of the police is to control situations
and to control the people rather than help them, observes
Leonid Kosals, a professor of economics at Moscows National
Research University. As a result, people turn to their neighbors
and to relatives and local networks to solve their problems by themselves
[I]n Russia we have thousands of such cases.
The trend toward
privatization of security in Russia is likely to grow as a result
of President Medvedevs recent initiative to reform the countrys
militia that is, its police force by purging about
200,000 officers from the ranks. Sociologist Mikhail Vinogradov,
estimates that one-third of Russias police force is composed
of alcoholics and psychopaths, points out that in 1991, the
militia was reduced by about thirty percent and the result
was a sharp reduction in the crime rate.
the past decade, the crime rate in the United States has declined,
terrorism has been all but nonexistent and the country has
been transformed into a fair approximation of a high-security prison,
complete with full-spectrum surveillance of the population and undisguised
militarization of local police departments. At the same
time, the political elite in charge of the former Soviet Union is
addressing a legitimate crime crisis by drawing down the police
force and recognizing (however tentatively) the right of citizens
to armed self-defense.
For all of
its problems, Russia clearly is no longer the land of Lenin. For
all of our advantages, its just as clear that the United States
of America is no longer the Land of the Free.
Norman Grigg [send him mail]
publishes the Pro
Libertate blog and hosts the Pro
Libertate radio program.
© 2011 William Norman Grigg
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