Peter Sarukhanov — Novaya Gazeta
TO THE CITY OF SEGEZHA = >
From a letter of the editors to Correctional Facility 7 of the Federal Penitentiary Service Directorate for the Republic of Karelia, the city of Segezha
“Dear Mikhail Khodorkovsky. We are looking forward to your new lecture on the nationality: our readers are knocking down our door, and thus we are doing the same with you here, because we are counting on your “free time in a confined space”, to borrow Brodsky’s expression. The first version of the text was good. Perhaps we could settle for it? D. Muratov.
P.S. Mikhail, one more question. What demands of the opposition, “the Bolotnaya square demands” do you share? Which of the presidential candidates would you support?”
(This letter was sent and the reply was received before Grigory Yavlinsky was disqualified as a candidate in the upcoming presidential election)
<=LETTER FROM SEGEZHA
Hello and sorry to inform you that my lecture ‘Liberalism and the National Question’ has been ‘lost’ somewhere in the bowels of our facility. If it is not found, I will write it again.
At first glance it may appear that our thinking is surprisingly similar to Putin’s strategies. If my lawyers show you the rough drafts you will be surprised.
As we remember from my series of articles on modernisation, the issues of logistics in my case are of prime importance. But even in the absence of quick access to the media my main difference from my opponents is that, having completed this model in my head, I rewrote the article while they remained ‘with the old version’.
Today, however, I would like to write to you about a different, albeit closely related, topic.
In his articles and speeches, Putin gives a lot of various thoughts on the development of the country and the state. Many of them are unacceptable, because specialists have long known what they lead to (for example, governing in ‘manual control mode’, ‘the vertical power structure’, etc.). Some are adequate and sometimes even useful.
Moreover, theoretically the liberal opposition could agree to the implementation of much of what he has spoken about. What is the problem? Why does Putin allow his own proposals to be “talked out of existence”? Why is he clearly failing to do what he writes about? Much to the chagrin of the present political elite, running a state is a science which has its own laws, and not a talkfest for your typical political scientists.
To invent a new model of governing a country previously unknown to science, but at the same time a model that works, is an impossible task even for a much stronger team than the one at the current Prime Minister’s disposal. Thus, all they have thought up in state development either does not work or is old news. We know that an eclectic set of methods of governance poached from different systems, far from creating a new system, is simply dysfunctional, even if you call it “sovereign democracy”.
Therefore, any decent Putin initiative, for example, strengthening the government under law (it should be noted that throughout the last 12 years Putin has deliberately used the term ‘dictatorship of the law’ and not ‘government under law’), the fight against corruption or the development and implementation of a viable national policy either does not work or calls for a change of the foundations of the regime in order to be carried out.
Thus, he declares something, starts doing it and then is confronted with the problem of real political competition, something he is not ready for.
As a result, Putin gets scared and waters down even his own initiatives.
I am not now looking at the numerous cases when these initiatives are torpedoed by the bureaucrats around them, because they contradict the interests of that bureaucratic entourage.
What then can one expect to see after the elections? The signs are that Putin has already come to the conclusion that his main power base can be the security and military organisations, as well as some national republics. This has prompted dramatic pay raises for the police and similar agencies; this is why the deliberately loosely controlled federal transfers are taking place.
It looks as if such policy will continue, although it does not guarantee the readiness even of these people to rise in defence of the regime that society dislikes. In addition, the emerging huge gap in the pay of civil servants (including the siloviki) and the remaining public sector employees (including employees of state enterprises not connected with raw-materials production, teachers, utility workers, etc.) will generate serious discontent in these social strata that expect their living standards to improve constantly.
For his part Vladimir Putin may even feel that he is attempting to establish a relationship with the middle class (whose growing numbers are becoming more and more of an electoral factor from year to year and from month to month). Our future president, however, does not want to antagonise the siloviki who surround him or, to use his own terminology, is not ‘doing his friends in,’ no matter how inefficient they may be. More importantly, he is afraid of real political competition. As a result, his moves will amount to no more than attempts to intimidate people.
The competence of these people, which the authorities underestimate, will render Putin’s habitual scenario ineffective. And he will be wondering why the “angry city dwellers” do not understand and do not accept him.
In general, by the autumn of 2012, or by the spring of 2013 at the latest, the authorities will adopt the habitual mechanisms of pouring in money to put out fires and launching selective reprisals against the opposition. Such a shaky situation may last a year or two until a sudden crisis puts an end to it.
Speaking of the tactics of the “new opposition,” I believe that the demand to hold a repeat parliamentary election in a year or a year and a half after 4 December 2011 is the right thing to do. The country needs a full-fledged, honestly elected parliament and it must be a legitimate one.
The changes proposed to electoral law may be just a ploy aimed at turning United Russia’s 30% into a parliamentary majority.
The authorities’ failure to understand the essence of the relations between the federal centre and the regions and their attempt to emasculate the reborn idea of direct gubernatorial elections by leaving the so-called “presidential filter” in is a separate issue.
This cannot be tolerated because such ploys will be perceived by society with still greater irritation and will thus undermine constructive dialogue within society.
When we address a possible alliance between liberals and nationalists, it is important to properly define “nationalism”. If we mean chauvinists, let alone Nazis who uphold the idea of ethnic superiority, an alliance is out of the question for any reasonable person. Our grandfathers made a very clear statement on that in 1945.
If the nationalists are those who promote the idea of the right of nations to self-determination, equal rights of nationalities within a single state (including the right of the Russian people to self-government and cultural identity), then I see nothing wrong with an alliance with such people.
Let me note that this is how nationalism is interpreted in European political science, this kind of nationalism went hand-in-hand with liberalism during the collapse of colonial empires and during the velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Only one thing matters for a liberal: human rights come first, inalienable and not subject to being replaced with any surrogate. The presidential election in March is a contest of symbols and not a real election of the guarantor of the Constitution.
It is important to seek a fair election.
It is important to cause a run-off election.
It is important to demonstrate in what direction we want to move, because the main things will happen after the elections.
I think Grigory Yavlinsky could be a good symbol. Other candidates must, in the remaining time, demonstrate what path they are symbols of. This applies to Prokhorov, Mironov and Zyuganov.
Sincerely yours, Mikhail Khodorkovsky
P.S. LETTER FROM THE EDITORS TO SEGEZHA =>
“Dear Mikhail Khodorkovsky. There is much talk among politicians about releasing you, Platon Lebedev and the YUKOS people. I think people already vie with one another for playing the key role in this. How do you feel about being a resource in the electoral race?
D.M., Novaya Gazeta
<= LETTER FROM SEGEZHA
…Not only my own fate.
“I took understandable interest, perhaps belatedly, in parts of the conversation between President Dmitry Medvedev and Moscow University journalism students concerning myself. I also read the opinion of my lawyers and other lawyers and human rights activists concerning the possibility of a pardon and my reaction to such a possibility. All this is very revealing. I would like to thank these engaged young people for their attention to my fate.
I thank President Medvedev for expressing sympathy and a very possible answer. I thank the Presidential Expert Council, which probably made more understandable the legal deficiency of the Khamovnichesky Court sentence. I will of course avail myself of all the opportunities offered by the judiciary system to obtain a just ruling even though I have profound doubts about its ability “to independently cleanse the case of its political elements”.
In that sense the amnesty recommended by the Presidential Council that does not rule out painstaking work to change the established law enforcement practice, would be in my opinion the most valid approach to the problem, the solution to which not only my life depends on, but also that of the many people caught between the grinding stones of a vile system.”