Dmitry Medvedev heard the protesters at Bolotnaya Square. He himself said during his address to the Federal Assembly that he is “listening.” But will Bolotnaya Square (now Prospekt Sakharova) hear him, especially if plausible thoughts about political reform, and pretty serious ones at that, merge into “grandfather clauses” (that is to say “father clauses,” seeing as how Vladimir Putin is referred to in the corridors of power as “the father”). Take, for example, the following clauses: “People’s right to lawfully express their opinion is guaranteed, but attempts to manipulated Russians, to trick them and instigate social discord are unacceptable. We will not allow trouble makers and extremists to draw the public into their recklessness. We will not allow foreign interference in our domestic affairs.”
So that’s how our president acted these four years. You could call it the “Medvedev swing”: first he starts off with a progressive statement instilling hope, and then disavows it.
Not long before Medvedev gave his address to the Federal Assembly, he met with United Russia party leaders, where, along the way calling the protests “foam,” said, “We obviously are going to have a new stage in the political system’s development.” Nope, the protests of course have nothing to do with it. We, the authorities, figured it out ourselves that the gubernatorial elections need to be restored and various procedural barriers need to be lowered for elections and other things. Medvedev is inviting “active people” to his “open” office, while civil society is saying that it’s too late for that. It’s you that should come meet us.
Medvedev, be he a progressive, is still a bureaucrat, so the protests for him are both “foam” and “chaos”. He addresses a fraudulently elected Duma in the Kremlin’s Georgiyevsky Hall, with privileged listeners sitting in the front row: Vladislav Surkov, Patriarch Kirill, Valentina Matviyenko, Vladimir Putin and Sergei Naryshkin.
Whom is he saying all this to? Whom is he talking to about corruption, it being inadmissible for close relatives to work in state companies, removing hurdles for disabled people, availability of kindergartens, reforming higher education, the state having a real-time dialogue with the people, public television, amending the criminal legislation and ameliorating the quality of judges? He is saying this to those very people whose children have cushy high-ranking jobs in state corporations, to bureaucrats who have let corruption get so out of control in Russia that it has rendered private enterprise meaningless. He is saying this to those people who couldn’t care less about ramps for disabled people and availability of kindergartens, because they get around in luxury cars, while their families have been evacuated to NATO countries, the very manipulators of the conscience of millions of people who will have their income base shattered by public television. He is saying this to the prosecutors and judges who have watched over such egregious cases as with Sergei Magnitsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky…
The president, standing behind his virtual barricades, more or less is expressing THEIR interests, because, you see, wherever the Georgiyevsky Hall audience is, that’s where “democracy” is, while the street is where “chaos” is. The president himself said, “Russia needs democracy, not chaos.” This beckons the Chernomyrdin quote, “I am for the market, but not for the bazaar.”
Medvedev’s speech overall was a good and substantive one (except, of course, for the last phrase, “Everything will work out for us”). It wasn’t Kennedy, of course, but he said all the right things, excluding: a) he would need a second presidential term to carry out what he stated; b) his speech didn’t fit him at all. Here is a man who voluntarily gave up his power on 24 September by renouncing the “coalition for modernisation” and the people who sincerely believed him, all the while being left with the hugely unpopular United Russia party and mysterious “supporters” picked by Surkov’s strict selection system.
So as a matter of fact, no one heard anything from him. In fact, here are what most of the comments on Facebook looked like: “Are they going to bring daylight savings time back?” That’s how the public sees the country’s president, a political figure who could have become the second coming of Alexander II, but instead remains stuck in daylight savings time with his badminton racquet while listening to the beats of his beloved hard rock music.
As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once put it, this was Medvedev’s “farewell bow.” Civil society and the president have gone their separate ways.
What a shame.