Yuri Felshtinsky: Where I see the main problem, of course, is that the government hoodwinks the people and the people go along with it. In other words, the people have no objection in principle to such an approach. I personally don’t like it, but on the other hand I find myself imagining someone who fell asleep in 1988, say, during perestroika, waking up in 2001 or 2008, under Putin, anyway. And this person had slept through the whole of the Yeltsin era, slept and didn’t even know that the Yeltsin era had ever existed. Imagine newsreels where someone just took a pair of scissors and cut out all the Yeltsin-era material from 1990 to 2000. And actually, let’s be honest, the picture we see today is absolutely wonderful, if we compare it with the Soviet era, or the period of 1988-89-90. There’s no Communist Party, or at least, the CP exists only as one of numerous political parties. There’s no ideology. There’s a market economy, there’s freedom to travel abroad. The elections can’t really be called elections, of course, but that’s only if we compare them with elections in France, or America, or Britain. And if we compare them with the elections there were in the Soviet Union, the elections in Russia nowadays are simply beyond one’s wildest dreams. Both at a local and at a national level.
There is absolutely no freedom of speech, of course, let’s be frank about that. Nevertheless, there is a sort of opposition press, there’s Novaya Gazeta, there are some journalists, there’s Latynina. Yes, journalist are killed from time to time. But even so, we’re not talking about the millions of people who lost their lives in the purges of the Stalin era – we can speak, we can have different opinions, these statistics are always sad, and some of the people who’ve been killed were my very close friends, Anya Politkovskaya, for example (that was a personal loss) but we are nevertheless talking about 200-300 journalists being killed, not about total political control.
And while there is absolutely no question that some politicians have been murdered, there is no global political terror of the kind there was in the former Soviet Union.
So you know, it all depends on how we compare those different eras. And perhaps we really need to agree that yes, Russia is not capable – at this point in history, at least. and we’re not talking about 10-30 or even 50 years – Russia is not capable of becoming some European, civilized, democratic country, it’s not ready to become that yet.
Russia is still trying to find its place in history and its path in history. Another thing is that, as history shows, Russians must constantly pay for this quest. Russia’s search for its path in history is an expensive venture in the world of today. Of course, I would prefer it if Russia and the Russian people, or the Russians, would calm down and realize that they don’t have a path of their own in history.
Mikhail Sokolov: A special one.
Yuri Felshtinsky: They have no special path.