A Political Prisoner’s Wife: Meet Anastasia

I have done a Q&A podcast with Anastasia Zotova, here. She is the wife of Ildar Dadin, the Russian political prisoner. I wrote about his case earlier this week, here.

He has the unfortunate distinction of being the first person imprisoned under an onerous new law: Article 212.1 of the Russian Civil Code. This law effectively forbids the regular protest of the government — without the permission of that same government.

Dadin was tortured at a penal colony in Karelia. He feared that they would kill him. Then the authorities moved him to a penal colony in Siberia. For more than a month — 37 days — his family didn’t know where he was. They feared the worst.

Russian law requires that the authorities tell families where prisoners are. Why did they keep Anastasia and the rest of Dadin’s family in the dark? “Revenge,” Anastasia told me. They wanted to punish the family for publicizing Dadin’s case. For embarrassing the government abroad.

Ildar and Anastasia met in pro-democracy circles. I asked her what she liked about Ildar. He was so honest, she said. He would never lie. And such a person is exceedingly rare.

She paid a price in marrying Ildar. Her own mother disowned her. “You are marrying an enemy of the state. I have no daughter anymore.”

I asked Anastasia why Ildar does what he does — why he doesn’t just keep his head down, keep quiet, and keep out of jail. “It is important for him to stay human,” she said.

I also asked her to explain to me a contradiction, or seeming contradiction: Everyone says that Putin is wildly popular. At the same time, he punishes nobodies like Ildar Dadin with prison. He sometimes murders his political opponents (such as Boris Nemtsov). That does not suggest that he is very secure in his popularity, if popular he is.

Anastasia gave me an interesting answer. She said — I am paraphrasing — “People don’t care who the leader is. They admire the leader. The government is the government. Today the leader could be Vladimir Putin; tomorrow the leader could be Alexei Navalny [a major democratic opponent of Putin, not yet dead]. It’s like Soviet times. Everyone has to have the same thoughts, period. If the government tells you you have four fingers, not five, then you have four fingers. And you had better not say otherwise.”

People such as her mother? They are not pro-Putin. They are indifferent to Putin. They are pro–getting along. Pro–not rocking the boat.

Again, to hear Anastasia Zotova, go here. She is a brave young woman (25). She has a lot of pressure on her. She is trying to keep her husband alive. She is hearing from many other prisoners, too, who have their own testimonies to give. They want her to help them.

“I don’t even have my own apartment!” she says. Yet she has a lot of responsibility. And, as far as I can tell, she is handling herself superbly. Setting an example. As Russian women, and others, have done before.

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