by Anna Borshchevskaya

This article originally appeared in Operational Environment Watch. Click here to read the article in the original publication, along with the accompanying news excerpts.

Russia is gearing up for the February 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, close to the Russian-Georgian border. Preparations include tightening security measures in anticipation of possible terrorist attacks.

In September 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated a law that would allow seeking compensation from relatives and acquaintances of terrorists found responsible for acts of “terror.” The accompanying excerpts discuss the law, which Putin officially signed on 3 November. This law comes on the heels of a tragic event: on 21 October a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the city of Volgograd, killing at least six and injuring more than thirty. Russian President Putin had initiated the law in September, prior to this suicide bombing.

The first excerpt is from (Ribbon), published on 25 October, shortly before Putin signed the law. The article notes that “money and property will be claimed in favor of the government based on a court ruling.” Notably, individuals important to the “criminal”–be they friends or relatives—will have to prove that their money or property was obtained by legal means, implying assumed guilt. The article notes that the law is vague when it comes to defining precisely what criteria the government will use to pursue compensation claims.

The second article is an opinion from opposition-leaning Ekho Moskvy (Moscow’s Echo), appearing on 6 November, originally published on Italy’s Opinione by Stefano Manyi, entitled tellingly, “Russia: Terror against Terrorism.” Manyi opines that the law—notably supported by Russia’s “majority”— is a dangerous “experiment” which can lead to totalitarianism. He recalled that punishing relatives of dissidents was Josef Stalin’s forte. Stalin also wiped out entire peoples as a way of keeping down dissent. Although Manyi does not believe the law necessarily intends to go to such measures, it could either “defeat jihadism or lead to Stalinism .”

Russia’s North Caucasus is, and historically has been a volatile region which has seen a rise of radical Islamism in recent years. After Russia fought two wars with Chechen separatists in the 1990s, al-Qaeda and other radical groups infiltrated the region. Following the Kremlin’s announcement that the Olympics would be held in Sochi, the self-proclaimed Islamist insurgency leadership in the North Caucasus vowed revenge against Russia. It also advocated use of force to disrupt the Olympics.

Sochi is a historic homeland to Circassians, whom the Russian czar forcefully drove out of their land in the 1800s. Sochi is also close to Chechnya, and is right next to Abkhazia—a cause of tensions between Russia and Georgia. Even hitherto quiet Tatarstan recently saw a rise in radical Islamist activity.

There are good reasons for security concerns during the Sochi games. At the same time, it is impossible to ignore parallels to Russia’s Soviet past in some of the Kremlin’s current security measures.

Anna Borshchevskaya is Communications Director at the American Islamic Congress