Farewell to illusions  

The Moscow Kremlin
The Moscow Kremlin RIA/Scanpix

It seems that not so long ago, we were all rejoicing at Memorial’s Nobel Prize and perhaps hoping that it would somehow positively affect the country’s internal situation. Unfortunately, not much water has flowed, and not even the snow has had time to melt, and all the illusions and hopes that far from young people had already been washed away.

The Sakharov Foundation and the Moscow Helsinki Group, which seemed unshakable, especially in the lifetime of Lyudmila Alekseeva, have been banned; the others are somehow awkward to even think about in this context. Their prohibition on the country’s territory is almost a matter of course. There is no place for various Freedoms, Meduzas and Kasparovs in a country that is not free. Nothing personal, purely out of ownership – the Moscow government is taking away the House and, at the same time, the memorial flat of Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov. Again without a backward glance, the silovik fines his director a modest sum of three million rubles! The loyal media support the illusion of legal action. 

Against this background, it is pointless to say that the list of people who have been declared “foreign agents”, fined relatively small amounts, detained, arrested, and innocently and unjustly convicted is growing by the day, by the hour. Yes, a war has been going on for more than 11 months now! A war prepared, instigated and unleashed by the very state called the Russian Federation. To expect that blood will be shed only on the fields of war is short-sighted. There will be no return to stagnation and a quiet and comfortable life in a totalitarian society. The Rubicon has been passed, and the red lines have been turned into bloody ones.       

I understand that because of the many circumstances, very many people, who by some miracle or other have managed to get out of this nightmare, find it difficult to believe and not at all desirable. In his interview with Lyudmila Nemira on UkrLifeTV and in a retort posted on Kasparov.ru, Alfred Koch made one of the most accurate diagnoses of this situation. But, unfortunately, the question of “land” (property) for very many people continues to stand much higher than the question of freedom. All the more so when it comes to one’s land and the freedom of all. The only thing I will allow myself to add to what he has said and written is an important observation. In the twentieth century, for many sectors of the Russian emigration forced to leave their homeland when the red, bloody wheel of brutality rolled over it, the memory of ‘land’ remained crucial, whether it was a post or a manor house.

For this reason, even many of those who had fought in the ranks of the RAA, who had devoted their lives to fighting the USSR, welcomed the occupation of Crimea in 2014 in a very unexpected way. Yes, they had the illusion that the revival of their historic homeland had begun. It was a fatal mistake! First, of course, it was heavily laced with aggressive propaganda by the Russian media. Bribery, in all kinds of organizations such as Russian World or Russian House, not even talking about Russian embassies, which quickly handed out budgets and passports in exchange for loyalty to stupefied individuals who were corrupted by the incredible attention to themselves legal entities around the world.

I consider it essential to mention to fix this, far from the new system of the behaviour of security services and institutions and bodies of Russia attached to them, developed by tradition. It is not a coincidence that one of the Russian Federation traditions is to hold compatriots congresses in the Hall of Columns in the House of Unions. With flights and accommodation paid for by the participants. It is symptomatic that in Soviet times this was not only a concert hall but a funeral hall. Perhaps it was there, during the lavish refreshments and libations, that the wake for the Russian opposition – as opposed to a totalitarian regime, “IZMU” – took place, and with which the word begins is not so essential, the main thing is that it was grey, aggressive and bloody.         

It is very, very painful to part with illusions, but it is necessary, so as a dialogue, I will also offer my remarks about the prospects of the State Council. I am afraid that assembling a democratic State Council from the regions is hardly realistic. Consequently, at best, it will resemble the Congress of People’s Deputies. Of course, there was an inter-faction group, Sakharov, Yeltsin, Afanasiev, Landsbergis, Starovoitova and many others, but in the praesidium and in the hall was that grey majority which was whistling, stomping and hooting not on command, but on the call of their hearts, including the chairman with a bell, killing freedom with undisguised malice. The chance of other “writers” is unlikely. Why? 

In my view, first of all, because, unlike in the USSR, where the union republics had a constitutional opportunity to raise the issue and implement – not just! But constitutionally! with the secession from the USSR, the other subjects were deprived of such a right. When the precedent of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria was set, the party, administrative, security, educational and cultural nomenclatures, all the local deputies and officials were horrified to imagine that in such processes, they might lose their property rights and their privileges, which were the most critical distinction between them and other citizens. Their attack in Moscow, and far from the short-sightedness and capriciousness peculiar to generals, played their part. The war was waged to prevent Chechnya from becoming independent. The aspiration for freedom was brutally crushed, and at the same time, a clear lesson was given to other subjects.             

Tatarstan, the most powerful republic, managed for the longest time to defend at least some part of its independence. But already this year it was also forced to abandon the institution of the Presidency! They have thus lowered the level of national and regional aspiration for independence. The Kremlin-FSB power roller is keeping a sharp eye on processes in the country and systematically rolls under the asphalt, even timid sprouts, as in Vladivostok.          

To counteract this, I think we should not create, or rather, as Mikhail Khodorkovsky suggests, transform the State Council, but declare as soon as possible, not the future, rather vaguely seen federal structure of the country, but claim already now the right of all, ALL REGIONS, national and not national, and republics, and territories, and regions, to secede from the Russian Federation constitutionally! Of course, it is not at all sure that everyone will secede!         

However, with such a declaration, the national and local elites have the prospect of turning from obedient vassals to masters of their own land, just as the elites of the Union republics had. This may prompt them to take specific steps to help all of us and the world look at the country’s future optimistically. To give up illusions that the huge multi-ethnic country can simply be rebuilt.         

I know that I will be immediately confronted with the possibility of civil war and the problem of weapons of mass destruction scattered around the largest country in the world. They say it could fall into the hands of adventurers. It is possible that now they are not in the same hands. Is the question of civil war, on the level of burgeoning nationalism, out of the question? No. I think that the keys to the solution to the most critical and urgent problem of nuclear disarmament lie in the political issues of ending the war and the decades-long trend of aggressive behaviour of the Russian=Soviet authorities towards their own citizens, as well as towards citizens of other countries.           

And lastly, in place rather than importance. There is no chance to hope that anything at least partially resembling the processes of 1953 and 1985, let alone 1991, will happen again in the country. I don’t have any illusions. One way or another, in the inner and outer circles of power, there was either fear or the understanding that they did not want to live like that any longer. Today we are instead dealing with the analogue of 1982 when relations in the struggle for the post of “king of the mountain” will be decided one way or another by one or the other of the siloviki. Even if someone is quickly declared an enemy of the people and shot (brought to death), most likely as always without a trial, like L. Beria or N, Shelokov, it will have almost no effect on the aggressive vector of movement and development of the country and even less on the lives of the majority of its inhabitants.            

All should say goodbye to illusions, and the sooner the better.

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