Gary Kasparov (I couldn’t find any photos of Judge Veklich, who deserves to be remembered)

On Friday, something very unusual happened in Moscow. The former chess champion Gary Kasparov was acquitted of charges of “participation in an unsanctioned political demonstration” during the Pussy Riot trial. Even more surprisingly, the judge, Ekaterina Veklich, bluntly stated that police reports “did not correspond to reality.” (More on the story in this NYT dispatch.)

The actions of Judge Veklich are truly unusual against the backdrop of a very long tradition of widespread utter contempt for judges going back centuries. Judges twist the law, side with powerful, take bribes. Dahl’s collection of Russian proverbs, compiled in mid 19th century (which I referenced in The Estate of Wormwood and Honey), has many sayings deriding Russian judges. My favorites include the following:

  • Don’t fear the court, fear the judge; 
  • Ah judges, judges; four robes, eight pockets; 
  • What’s black, what’s white; add a bit of gold and there is no difference.

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