Photo by RIAN
First off, about the election results. I have spent half my life in the Vologda Region and half in Moscow. So as I see it, I have a really good idea of how the people in these regions feel. In the Vologda Region, United Russia received 33% of the vote, and that’s keeping in mind that it’s a stable, conservative and quiet place. This number didn’t surprise me one bit, since I already had a good understanding of how people from my hometown were feeling. After meeting with Surkov the other day, Vologda Governor Pozgalyov told it like it is: “What do you want? We had fair elections.”
Having half of the votes in Moscow go to United Russia, however, is hard to believe. At long last the Vologda Region has become more liberal than Moscow. That’s not just implausible, it’s laughable. What I’ll probably do for the presidential elections is take my absentee ballot and go vote at my mom’s place. At least there my vote will be counted… Second, I’d like to speak to those who call the television the idiot box. Do most of you belong to that crowd? (protesters yell: “Yes!”). You, and only you, can change television. You can send each other YouTube videos entitled “You Are Surkov’s Propaganda” and cliché portraits of television anchors with the caption “There’s this profession where you lie every evening.” All this, however, is just fun and games on the Internet. If, even according to the Central Election Commission, the ruling party’s opponents received 50% of the vote, then this gives us a chance. It really does. Yes, this takes into account people being forced to vote. Yes, the state-recognised opposition doesn’t exactly have the best integrity, which goes for their work to this very day in the Duma and the Duma itself. We get all that. We, nonetheless, will use what we have: today’s opposition has 50% of the vote.
If you value your votes and if television programming doesn’t suit you, then lobby your parliamentarians to get this fifty per cent reflected on television. Split right down the middle, with 50% of the voices on air coming from the authorities, and 50% from the opposition. And lobby them to finally free journalism on television from being used for propaganda and campaigning. Why is it that the Russian presidential administration controls television channels’ information policy, and explicitly so at that? Who elected these guys? Whose mandate have they been adorned with? Why do they teach us how to love our homeland at our own expense? What idiots do they take us for, driving down our throats North Korea-style reports from United Russia party congresses, or broadcasting “newscasts” with the slogan “And It’s All About Him”? How poorly do you have to understand people to not realise that this junk has been aggravating them for a long time now, and at the same time continue the same old ludicrousness with their tractor rides, badminton lessons and diving for amphorae?! Why have they been singing the praises of the one hero (well, one and a half) for 12 years? As Zhvanetsky once said, “if I have just one window in my room how high is its rating?” Their political rating comes from television ratings, and from nothing else. And if these elections showed a yearning for change, for moving forward, especially after we were offered to spend this decade with the same hero from the previous decade, then that means that there should finally be a public dialogue that has not existed the past 12 years. All we have had is the same talk from the same person. The talk and arguments about what we want have not been articulated. And the same goes for what our national ideals are, where we want to go from here and where want to see Russia. Once we have this, then we will have political competition, new leaders and new ideas. And maybe, after sometime, that wretched, childish cry of “There is no alternative to Putin” will finally fade away.
Gorbachev ordered to have the I Congress of Peoples Deputies broadcast on television in 1989, which engendered both new leaders and new ideas, including Anatoly Sobchak. Where would the authorities today be if it weren’t for that moment of political competition and the revamping of the political elite at that time? If it weren’t for these things, then we still wouldn’t have an alternative to Nikolai Ryzhkov and Yegor Lichachov, God bless them! (Cries of “Bravo!”)
In conclusion, the slogan “We Won’t Forget, We Won’t Forgive” is, of course, a very good one. But if we are to yell it some from the 5th to the 10th of December, then it’s all pointless! Then our activist spirit will go up in smoke, followed by the long New Year’s holiday break. We’ll wake up on 10 January and forget about what happened a month ago. It isn’t a feat to vote on 4 December the way we wanted. You need to demand from yourself and from your parliamentarians, if you are so serious about these Duma elections, to defend your interests, to move forward. Society has been moving backwards for 12 years now, and we are going to have to, one step at a time, return our bits and pieces. And there’s nothing else. A voters organisation needs to be created, whereas nothing of the sort exists to this day! You need to know how to demand that your parliamentarians work each and every day; Russia lacks such political tools as well. And if this evening (look over there, the river banks are packed with television vans) the newscasts again tell us that we gathered here today, because Hilary Clinton sent us a text message, or that Churchill concocted all this in 1918 to tear Russia to pieces, then you ought to repeat it one more time: “We Won’t Forget, We Won’t Forgive!” (The protesters chant several times: “We Won’t Forget, We Won’t Forgive!”)