Daily Bread for 3.30.23: The Dictator’s Little Helpers

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of 50. Sunrise is 6:39 AM and sunset 7:19 PM for 12h 40m 08s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 62.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1867, Alaska is purchased from Russia for $7.2 million, about two cents/acre ($4.19/km2), under the negotiations of United States Secretary of State William H. Seward.

 Dictators don’t rule their societies on their own. They rely on more than a few oligarchs, and more even than an army or secret police. They are aided immeasurably by the prying eyes of citizens turned informants. Polina Ivanova reports ‘Total distrust’: rise of the Russian informers (‘Teachers, neighbours and even family members are turning to Soviet-style denunciations in wartime Russia’): 

People across the country have been reported to authorities for expressing dissenting views in private or in closed settings. Teachers have reported pupils; students have informed on professors and fellow classmates; neighbours, colleagues and even family members have filed complaints. Although still unusual enough to warrant local media coverage, informing is rapidly becoming commonplace, fuelled by calls from the Kremlin and propaganda outlets to hunt for “domestic traitors” and “saboteurs” of Russia’s war effort. Two weeks after the start of the invasion, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin told the Russian people that they “will always be able to distinguish true patriots from the scum and traitors”, and will “simply spit them out?.?.?.?on to the pavement”.


Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, informers have become a key pillar of support for the Kremlin and a tool of control. With most public critics of the regime now silenced or in exile, denunciations allow the state to identify small-scale, private dissenters. On March 17, a 40-year-old man travelling on the Moscow metro was denounced by a fellow passenger, who oversaw him looking at images that “discredit the army” on his mobile phone. The man was arrested a few stations later. He was sentenced to 14 days in jail. Earlier this year, a couple discussing the war at a restaurant in the southern city of Krasnodar found themselves suddenly handcuffed by masked officers and thrown to the floor. Someone had reported their private conversation to the police. Roskomnadzor, the state censor, said it received 284,000 reports from citizens in 2022, of which “the majority concerned illegal information posted on the internet, including fakes about the special military operation in Ukraine”. That figure does not include reports made to the police or FSB security service.

Drone video released by Ukraine shows Bakhmut in ruins:

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