Friday, June 11, 2021

Scott Radnitz's "Revealing Schemes"

Scott Radnitz is the Herbert J. Ellison Associate Professor of Russian and Eurasian Studies in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. His scholarly publications include Weapons of the Wealthy: Predatory Regimes and Elite-Led Protests in Central Asia.

Radnitz applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Revealing Schemes: The Politics of Conspiracy in Russia and the Post-Soviet Region, and reported the following:
Page 99 comes about midway through chapter 6, “The Emergence and Ascendancy of Conspiracism in Russia.” It discusses the Beslan attacks and President Vladimir Putin’s response to it, marking an important moment in Russia’s evolution into a regime in which the Kremlin strategically deployed conspiracy claims as part of its official narrative. This chapter argues that the critical change took place as a result of a series of tragedies and foreign policy setbacks occurring in close succession, starting with several attacks by Chechen militants in Russia proper and the Rose Revolution in Georgia. The terror attacks in particular cast doubt on the government’s claim to have ended the Chechen war(s) and restored stability in Russia. The fact that some Chechen militants had been hiding out in a remote part of Georgia created a linkage, from the Kremlin’s perspective, between internal threats from the North Caucasus and the possibility of external, and perhaps even Western, support for militants seeking to target the Russian state.

It is in this context that militants wielding Kalashnikovs took over a Beslan school with over 1,000 schoolchildren and their families on September 1, 2004. As I describe on page 99: “After two days and halfhearted efforts at negotiations, Russian special forces launched a raid on the school. In the ensuing firefight, which lasted 10 hours, 334 hostages were killed.” This outcome sent shockwaves throughout the country. It was a national tragedy and a political crisis. Putin subsequently gave a speech in which he insinuated that foreign enemies hostile to Russia were aiding militants in their efforts, and used the episode as a pretext to concentrate more power in the executive. More important for this book, this event was critical in shifting the Kremlin’s rhetoric, if not its worldview, in a more conspiratorial direction. One can trace some of the Kremlin’s conspiratorial rhetoric up to today to ideas and tropes developed during this critical period between 2003 and 2005. The rest was (almost) history.
Learn more about Revealing Schemes at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Weapons of the Wealthy.

--Marshal Zeringue