Grigory Yavlinsky on the Russian coup of August 1991
Svoimi Glazami (Eyewitness) programme, Ekho Moskvi radio station, 22.08.2013
Today’s Vladimir Putin and his colleagues think about the people exactly in the same way as the Emergency Committee thought. The only difference lies in the fact that today people do not have that alternative, which was there then, today they have a lot more money, but today three is no political elite – and then there was a political elite – today there is only nomenclatura.
TIKHON DZYADKO: This Svoimi Glazami (Eyewitness) programme. Good evening! We – Olga Bychkova and Tikhon Dzyadko – are here in the studio, good evening once again!
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Good evening!
TIKHON DZYADKO: Today our guest is Grigory Yavlinsky – politician, leader of the YABLOKO faction in the St.Petersburg Legislative Assembly. Good evening, Grigory Alexeyevich!
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Good evening!
TIKHON DZYADKO: In this programme we are discussing only those events that our guests were eyewitnesses of, and today we will discuss the events that happened 22 years ago: the August coup of 1991, what was happening then, what consequences it had and, especially, where we are now in the context of the events of the coup of 1991. Let me, before we begin, remind you all of our contacts: phone for sms on-line questions: +7 (985) 970 45 45, you can also send messages to us via Twitter, if you are writing to the vyzvon account, or you can use our web-site www.echo.msk.ru.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Certainly a lot of water has flowed since then, and many developments have taken place in our lives and in your life too: different posts, elections – there have happened a lot. On August 19, 1991, it was Monday, and I remember it very well, as my vacations began on that day, so I remember the day very well. But where and how did this news [on the coup] caught you?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: I, too, was on vacations, and my vacations also stopped at once…
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Same!
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: I quickly returned to Moscow and came to the White House [the Government building], that’s all. It was pretty simple. In fact, the developments were so swift-passing and, as we realise today, so insightful that, although they were only an episode in our history, they still are of great importance for us so far, if someone could seriously analyze them.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: So, you returned to the White House [Government House] then, please tell our listeners about this, as many of them were only born then.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: In fact, it seems to me that these events are interesting if only discussed in the context of today’s situation.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: We will come to it. But first please tell people about yourself.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: I am very glad that you all are saying it in chorus, but I’m afraid that you won’t have enough time to discuss it, because 20 years have passed and [we still need much] time so that to figure out what the problem was then and why all this ran out in such a way that today, when we look at [public opinion] polls, most people are almost nostalgic about these events – this is such a serious and important question that it deserves much more discussion than what was happening on some definite hour, and so on …
OLGA BYCHKOVA: But still, what was happening to you? Please “be nostalgic” a little, and then we will move on, of course, because we will definitely not let you go without a political analysis and conclusion.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: The question is exactly like this. But, first of all, I am not nostalgic of these events..
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Please tell me what was happening to you personally.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: So, I’m telling you, what was happening to me personally. I personally had a feeling when witnessing these events – as I came, and as you put it, the vacation was over, – that there was a great difference between how a large number of people perceived this and the true essence of these events. And when Moscow celebrated the victory, and all were pretty excited – I would even say, were in a euphoric state – I had a feeling that very hard and probably very bad times were to begin, and further events proved this. Because it was more or less clear why all that happened. If you are asking about my feelings, I would say that I had a feeling that this operation on a part of nomenclatura was doomed, it was doomed because they absolutely did not understand what an absolute majority of people really wanted. They were such a closed nomenclature which had their own ideas about what people wanted. Does this remind you of anything? They were kind of thinking for the people. They thought that a small circle of some people came to the Government House, but the nation as a whole wanted something completely different. That’s all.
And it was obvious that this was not the case, that the events of the second half of 1980s gave people hope and people wanted to be respected, they wanted to live like in Europe, because for the first time they could see how people in other countries lived, and people wanted self-realization, they wanted to get property, they wanted to be self-supporting and self-reliant. Gradually this process began gaining momentum, and then it got out of the hands of even Mikhail Gorbachev, who had initiated it. And when suddenly people were forced to live in a different way, i.e., as they had lived before, this was absolutely absurd, and they [those who initiated the coup] felt it in the course of these two days. On the third day they stopped it all.
TIKHON DZYADKO: You would think that this was all absolutely doomed from the very beginning?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Yes, it was. This could have been quite dangerous, that is, it could have been dangerous from the point of view people could be killed, and several young people were killed and we should remember their names: Usov, Krichevsky and Komar. They died due to an accident but it was very tragic and there could have been much more victims due to this foolishness. That is the first lesson: do not ever do anything against the will of the majority of the nation: consciously or unconsciously, in the form of political action or even sitting on the couch, you should not refuse respect, prospects and hope to the people. And these people [who initiated the coup] attempted to do it, because they thought that this was not the case.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: I can recollect, and it is completely subjective, of course, that the night of August 20 to 21 was an absolute nightmare, I did not know how it would end. For example, in the October [coup] of 1993 it was objectively worse, worse and tougher, but for some reason that night [of August 20-21, 1991] remained in the memory as the worst of what happened.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: I do not know, I did not have such a feeling, because I was in the Government House, I saw how Boris Yeltsin behaved…
OLGA BYCHKOVA: But I was in the Government House.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: But you did not see Boris Yeltsin…
OLGA BYCHKOVA: I saw Boris Yeltsin in the moment …
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: I was with Boris Yeltsin almost all the time. I saw how Boris Yeltsin behaved, how people around him behaved, and it was clear, it became clear almost immediately that this was not so [bad] at all… Also I saw what they were constantly talking with Kryuchkov [KGB head and one of the coup leaders] on the phone, exchanged, so to say, information. It immediately became clear that the case was not as it seemed. There were a lot of different things … but it was all different [in the essence]. And that is how it all ended. People were right, they stood their ground, and the entire gamble failed.
TIKHON DZYADKO: Let us now turn to the polls, which you mentioned. Here I have a poll conducted on Monday. It was conducted by the Levada Centre. According to the survey, 39 per cent of Russians now evaluate the events of [the coup of] 1991 merely as an episode of a power struggle in the top leadership of the country, and 33 per cent, that is, one third – as a tragic event that had a disastrous affect on the country and the people, and only 13 per cent asses it as the victory of the democratic revolution and 15 per cent of the respondents hesitate to give it some evaluation. Now, if we speak about these 33 per cent in the first place who assess it as a tragic event and these 13 per cent who evaluate it as the victory of the democratic revolution – how would you explain these figures today?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: I suggest that we look through the poll further. There is a much more importnat figure…
TIKHON DZYADKO: Here is a huge list…
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Do you know what is the most notable here? When asked “Who was right?” 57 per cent said, “Neither one nor the other” – they say so today. And, if we add 22 per cent of those who say that we do not know anything about it, that is, this means that 79 per cent say that “neither” – that’s a very indicative figure. And what does it mean? This means that it is clear to them that what GKChP (State Committee on the State of Emergency) was aiming at and what approximately they [the respondents] have today – and GKChP aimed at what we are having now [in Russia] – approximately the same but not in such sophisticated way, not so slyly, but approximately the same. And those whom people believed, whom they trusted, whom they defended, and, most importantly, whom they thought about as of an alternative – fell short of their expectations. By and large, they fell short of their expectations, and so people today say that “of course, we did not need a GKChP, but those who was opposing it as Yeltsin also did not meet our expectations”, that is why, in my opinion, 79 per cent and formally 57 per cent say so: “Neither the one nor the other were not right.” And this is the most important lesson for us today. This is the most important thing! Why did people supported [Yeltsin and his team] then and why were they deceived. Why does the slogan “Down with!” can not replace the slogan “Let us!”. This is the most pressing question now. And it is the consequence of those events.
And why does the situation today looks like GKChP? Because GKChP also thought that the desire of people to be respected, their zest for freedom, their desire to have property and their zest towards creative work did not matter for GKChP. GKChP thought that some different things mattered. That is why they lost it all. Today the authorities also believe that all this does not matter. Only they solve this problem in a different way: by means of all kinds of entertainment, glamour, feeding people all kinds of meaningless news reports and propaganda, but the essence is the same. Today’s Vladimir Putin and his colleagues think about the people exactly in the same way as the Emergency Committee thought. The only difference lies in the fact that today people do not have that alternative, which was there then, today they have a lot more money, but today three is no political elite – and then there was a political elite – today there is only nomenclatura. And today people seem to yield to this manipulation. Moreover – and this is important to say in your programme – today fear has emerged. Fear emerges, it returns to the country. It is returned on purpose, because they do not know how else to rule the country, they can do it only through fear.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Well, there was also fear back in 1990s.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: There was fear then. But, you will agree with me that it was different.
TIKHON DZYADKO: It was different, but please explain it.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: You know there was the fear associated with the history of the Soviet Union.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Tanks that were moving to Moscow …
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: This was due to the fact that once there was Stalinism, that something [bad] could happen. But there was nothing understandable, tangible, in the sense of such fear, because after 1953 [Joseph Stalin’s death] the Soviet Union was developing after all…
TIKHON DZYADKO: But in a different way…
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: In a different way, it was a different fear, though there were events in Novocherkassk and other… That is, that fear was rooted somewhere… Officials had fear… Today they introduce a different fear. Today they introduce fear to everyone. These law suits on the Bolotnaya Square rally case and other things – this is planting fear in every person.
TIKHON DZYADKO: And what are other important things in addition to the Bolotnaya case that allow you to speak of such fear today?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: First of all, the Bolotnaya Square rally case is quite enough in itself. Second, the decisions that are taken in the form of laws almost every day – they also lead to this [fear]. When non-profit organizations a mass scale are suddenly recognized be foreign agents this is not a joke. To say nothing about the war in Chechnya. Besides, I am not talking about how many journalists have suffered recently. I am not talking about the fact that, generally, any person, in contrast to the Soviet period, can count on it – sorry for being so straightforward – being hit on the head at the entrance of his house tomorrow. And then [the police will fail] to find out who did it and why. You know all this and you feel all this. Does the case of Anna Politkovskaya say nothing to you? Does the case of Natalya Estemirova say nothing to you? And no one can do anything about it. And there can not be plenty of brave people opposing all this.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Indeed, it is characteristic that in 1991 or by 1991 people had had such stories, but these stories referred to the past. True, there was nothing of the kind, before their eyes in 1991.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Exactly! This is very serious. Well, look, for example, how many people came to the Government House then. People expected that there may be trouble, but seriously, no one expected something to happen. In addition, in such a situation… For example, a person well known to you, he is famous today – Sergei Mitrokhin, – what was he doing then? He was first stood in defense line of the Government House, and then went to the MosSoviet (Moscow City Council) and telephoned regions and organized resistance to the Emergency Committee from the City Council. He and our other friends did this, he headed this work. There was courage [in people] then. And officials were simply dying from fear. And there were people who organized the resistance across the country. These were all extremely important things. It was a matter of devotion to what they were fighting for. Certainly, the saddest thing in our history is that people were deceived in their hopes. That is why when asked today why people, like you have just told me about the poll, are nostalgic of that time or why they do not support the struggle for democracy today – it is associated with their profound disappointment. And how a person who was going to sacrifice his life for democracy behave now? As such things have been done for the past ten – twenty years that such a person does not believe anyone.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Yes […]
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Do you see where such gross economic miscalculations and such almost criminal political action lead to? Here they were able and in two years only to transform the Government House from one state to another: from the basis of democracy into the symbol of destruction … Strictly speaking, everything [all democracy] was over after 1993 and finally after [presidential elections of] 1996, and the county began turning into what it is now. So it happened in 1993-1996. Why? Because after 1991 they held a confiscatory reform. Inflation reached 2,600 per cent and all the savings were wiped out. People did not expect this. They did not expect that such things could be done to them. And that is how we got to such a terrible outcome.
TIKHON DZYADKO: Let me remind [to our listeners]: the phone for sms-questions is: +7 (985) 970 45 45, also you can send on-line messages via Twitter, account vyzvon, and with the help of our website www.echo.msk.ru. And did you have a feeling in December 2011, after parliamentary elections [that demonstrated huge fraud and gave rise to mass-scale winter protests in Russia] that this frustration and fear were somehow vanishing?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: No, the fear was only beginning to emerge. And as for disappointment, in December 2011 people simply experienced a shock, a real shock because they saw what politicians had known for a long time. Politicians knew that since [presidential elections of] 1996, all [elections] had been falsified every time, but they simply failed to get it to the people then. But the events [mass-scale election fraud] of 2011 led to a situation when many people suddenly saw this. And people were outraged with this [fraud]. But there was no important components that could lead to significant changes then.
TIKHON DZYADKO: Now we have to make a pause for a short news break. News from Yakov Shirokov broadcasted by Ekho Moskvi, after which we will return to the studio. So our guest today is Grigory Yavlinsky.
TIKHON DZYADKO: Here is the Eyewitness programme. Grigory Yavlinsky, politician and leader of the YABLOKO faction in St.Petersburg Legislative Assembly, [is our guest]. We are speaking today of the August 1991 coup and, certainly, about the present. Our phone for sms-questions is: +7 (985) 970 45 45, vyzvon an account on Twitter, and our web-site www.echo.msk.ru from there you can also send questions.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: For example, [our listener] Rubrikht is asking you, “Do you condemn Yeltsin for his talking with [KGB chief and one of the coup leaders] Kryuchkov?” I would add to his question one more thing: whether everything that happened later was based on those developments?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: No, certainly I do not blame him, because these conversations led to the fact that the victims were just as they were [not so numerous as they could have been]. In general, I believe that it is the duty of politicians to talk to anyone, so that to help to avoid bloodshed. But this coup really laid grounds for further developments. These grounds were laid as the thinking part of the society had the following reasoning: “it is clear that Yeltsin, a candidate to the communist party Political Bureau, Secretary of the Communist Party City Committee and First Secretary of the Regional Committee, is not a democrat, but we will use his as a battering ram for ousting Gorbachev, and then we will make it out [what to do]. Don’t you see the resemblance with today?
And naturally this all ends in such a way that one nomenclatura is simply replaced in power by another nomenclatura which can not conduct reforms because it does not think of people, their interests, about respect, they think of abstract schemes and selfish mercenary things. So that’s how we got what we have now. And look, what happened in the country in three steps, if we take that it happened in three steps: first they conducted a confiscatory monetary reform which led to hyperinflation amounting to 2,600 per cent; and in such conditions the second step – privatisation – could be conducted only in a criminal way by distribution of [state] property [among a close circle of associates and those who had money left after the first step]; and then they needed simply a guardian who would guard all this, and [Yeltsin’s] ‘successor’ was appointed to guard it all. That’s it. Election fraud, manipulating with press, ‘privatisation’ of journalists of the First Channel of the national television by well-known now deceased persons – all this was created so that to maintain the status-quo established via criminal privatisation and all this has been going on now. That’s it.
TIKHON DZYADKO: Speaking about the [presidential] elections of 1996, again our listener who signed under his question as Poker wrote, “Election fraud in 1996 was a must, otherwise communists would have come to power”.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: This is untrue.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: It is an old and long dispute.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: This is a perfect lie. Now I will explain why. The lie is a follows. I can assure you that the second round, if for instance I and Yeltsin, as we would have won over [communist] Zyuganov, according all the polls and in all the situations. There was no such a poll or such an assumption that the combination of Yavlinsky with Yeltsin would not win over Zyuganov, and if I got it to the second round, we would have changed the government, would have changed the policies and the situation would have gone in the other direction, but this was not possible, because [Yeltsin’s circle] played the figure of General Lebed [who stopped the first war in Chechnya]. By the way, I like Alexander Ivanovich Lebed, but he is diseased… But if we speak politically, politically his figure was a bubble made out of nothing… Well, why are we repeating this once again now? Why are we doing it again? How many times can we step on a rake again? How many times can we fell into such psychosis? I remember that reactions on Alexander Ivanovich were absolutely the same [as we see now]. Just because he was a General and he had a “thick voice,” as one girl said. A “thick voice” and a General did the trick! That was enough [for people]. He was used, and then Alexander Ivanovich was thrown away. “Thrown away” in the direct meaning of the word, he was thrown away from everywhere. It is a tough system. Well, how could he … [not to realise it]? But there was such a psychosis around him then and he was played as a card. For what? So that to maintain the same policies, so that to keep all this unchanged. Well, we can now all this unchanged, we got the situation of 1998 [Russia’s default, change of tow governments, very hard economic situation for the people], then there came 1999 – bombings of blocks of flats [in Moscow] and the successor, and 2000s – such was the fee for this unreasonable choice, for such choosing of a “lesser evil”, for taking fright of communists who definitely could not come to power then, rather than choosing what we needed.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: And speaking about you, when did you change your attitude to Boris Yeltson, that scenario and those policies?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: When I resigned from his government, it was it the Fall of 1990, not 1991 [after the coup], it was in 1990, when I realised that there is a different game there. And the matter was not the reforms, it was about a serious and uncompromising struggle for power. And the problem was that they thought they could destroy any country, anything, simply in the name of taking the power. Well, then I decided that for me this was totally unacceptable, because we had to build and not to destroy. Because we had to build a new system. It is clear that the Soviet Union as a political structure was doomed, it was clear.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: It [the USSR] would have collapsed anyway.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: It did not function like this anymore. But it was vitally important to preserve a single economic space. It was vitally important to avoid a 2,600 per cent hyperinflation. It was necessary to create a middle class and conduct privatisation with the money that people had accumulated over their lives. And so on and so forth – a lot of things had to be done. And it was clear that Boris Yeltsin, the people around him convinced him that everything had to be done in a completely different way. And this completely different way would have such consequences [as we have now]. Therefore, in November 1990, I resigned from Yeltsin’s government and never returned to the government, to his government.
TIKHON DZYADKO: Here our listeners are asking you to evaluate the role of Alexander Korzhkov, [head of Yeltsin’s security], in the events of 1991.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Well, he was just a security guard of Boris Yeltsin. He did not play any role.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: But later he…
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Later he obtained a role, but that time he was simply guarding Yeltsin.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: His position strengthened some time in the mid-1990s, right?
GIRGORY YAVLINSKY: Yes, the weaker Yelstin was, the larger was Korzhakov’s role.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Now everyone is asking, and I see approximately one and the same question from different people. For example, Tanya is asking “But could it be any different? Was there such a chance?” And this is always our favourite question.
GIRGORY YAVLINSKY: And how can I answer such a question?
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Please, give some answer.
GRIGROY YAVLINSKY: But it happened in such a way. But, I will answer differently. I would really like very much so that it would have been different, but certainly not in the sense that the coup would have been a success, it is clear that this is out of the question. And it was clear that the communist system was unable to create a different alternative to Yeltsin, it was all clear. But here we come to a cross roads. I believe that there was a significant and very serious, professional, and so to say morally ready part of the society that wanted to be a constructive opponent to Yeltsin, make Yeltsin conduct the reforms that, first of all, were promised by him, and, second, were needed. And not just become his errand boy and implement his whims, and talk him from completely unreasonable things that he began initiating almost immediately. It is a great story, it is a difficult conversation, but very important in fact.
I led such a wing that was saying: “We can not be executors for Yeltsin, we need to be his opponents, because the First Secretary [of the Communist Party] can not understand how to conduct the reform, he just can not understand this. But we have to understand this, and we must be responsible for it”. Can you imagine, that after the coup there was nothing: no militia or police, no court – you know it all. Can you imagine how difficult it was to manage the economy during those six months? A Committee for managing of the national economy was established, a kind of Council of Ministers of the USSR, right? Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev asked me to work there. It was [formally] headed by Ivan Silayev, but he was simply the head… Yuri Luzhkov [ex-Mayor of Moscow], I and Arkady Volsky. Vlasky was in charge of the military-industrial complex, Luzhkov was engaged with Moscow and engaged in humanitarian aid, and I was doing the whole economy, every day. All transport, hospitals, schools, factories, just everything that existed and virtually in a manual mode. This meant doing all this twenty hours a day… And you will not read anywhere about strikes somewhere in that period or patients dying from lack of medicine and so on. But it was impossible doing all this [in a manual regime] for a long time, it was possible for a few months. So that’s it.
Why I am telling all this? Because a part of the society which understood what was going on and what had to be done – it had to become Yeltsin’s opponent. But it was impossible to achieve this: “Yeltsin is our leader!”, rejection of any criticism, rejection of understanding [of the situation], “there is communist Zyuganov, he is terrible” – and that’s it! This question was very well answered by Larissa Bogoraz [Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, died in 2004), if you remember who it was. She was one of those who came out to the Red Square in 1968 [protesting against USSR sending troops to Czechoslovakia]. In 1996 she supported me in the presidential election, and journalists asked her about the same thing as Tikhon has just asked me, they asked her, “Are you not afraid of Zyuganov?” And Larisa Bogoraz replied, “Look, I was not afraid of Stalin, I was not afraid of Brezhnev – why should I be afraid of Zyuganov? “- here is the answer on your question. But there was a special intimidation campaign: “Vote [for Yeltsin], or you will lose!” – exactly what they have been trying to implant into our heads again. This is a very dangerous path. The second time there will be no mercy, and we will reap terrible crops.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: What kind of crops, for example? What consequences do we have ahead, what would you say? What cross-roads do we have ahead of us and what scenarios are possible?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: One of such unpleasant scenarios may be, for example, a scenario which was used in Belorussia, where Lukashenko said: “Everyone, come to the liberal elections, come to the polls!” There was a certain number of candidates, the entire opposition participated in the election, and Lukashenko also helped everyone to get registered in the campaign [like was done in Moscow by the acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin of the threashold of the Moscow mayoral elections of September 8, 2013]…
TIKHON DZYADKO: Do you mean the past elections [in Belarus] of 2010?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Yes, of course.
TIKHON DZYADKO: When there were are beaten and arrested…
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: And then what did they do [when people came to protest] in the square? And now there is no opposition in Belarus anymore. Here is one of the scenarios that we have to avoid, but we are standing close to it. We had a “rehearsal” [of this scenario] on May 6 [when protesters were arrested and imprisoned – the Bolotnaya Case]. We are just there, very close to this scenario. This is a very serious scenario. It can happen right after [the Moscow mayoral elections of] September 8. Everyone who listens to me, I am appealing to all of you! This is a serious thing. And we can even discuss with you that by and large, the Olympics and other events are very important, of course, but is not it obvious that Russia has been increasingly becoming a peripheral country?
TIKHON DZYADKO: Peripheral, in what sense?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Meaning an appendix of the leading countries of the world. Russia quarrels with all, it is looking for some kind of its own path. Russia can not explain anything in any field – it is a very serious thing. But Russia des not solve the main problem of the rights of people in the country, the property right, the problem that the law has to be the same for all, that the court has to be independent – Russia solves none of these problems. It has been seeking for a solution to these problems through the solution of other problems: mostly migrants hinder [the prosperity] or even there are some external enemies demonstrating terrible resistance or something else. And as you can see, because of such mass-scale fooling of people for a long time, people tend to believe it, it is very bad, very serious, because such manipulations can last for a long time and absolutely manipulative results can be achieved.
TIKHON DZYADKO: One more question from our audience. Here they are asking you what is your attitude to lustration. And if lustration then, in 1991, could have turned the situation in some other way?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: It could have been an important point. For me it is important to say at once that lustration can be organised in different ways. But the fact that the same people who had been just sitting in their offices, where there was a portrait of Lenin, sat in the same offices [in 1991] and hang there a portrait of Yeltsin, showed that nothing good could come out of this, it was so obvious. Simply because they had the same way of thinking, the same attitude towards life, towards people, towards the future – it was all the same [as during communism]. So, I would answer yes, but only one needs to be very careful here, because if the KGB is made the major player in the lustration, they will draw things about you… about anyone and anything, and it will take your whole life to restore justice. I think it is such a question… Look, for example, at the Czech Republic, or other countries. This means that we should do it like all other countries, but it should be done with extreme care. But now it is already quite another story.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Nevertheless, speaking about lustration, there is a widespread view that every country has its historical models. A day before yesterday I and Tikhon discussed, for example, the situation in Egypt. There is military dictatorship again. We know a lot of countries, in South America, for example, where they have such a force that always takes up, or very often in many critical cases, they have a military dictatorship, and we have, for example, the KGB, the secret services and all those people. I mean we have our specifics which is inevitable.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: We do not have any specifics here, we just have not yet passed through the Soviet period, it just has not ended yet. And taking up what you are saying – let us not touch Egypt now, as it is a very important and serious topic. By the way, just a few words about Egypt, look, have you noticed that we [in Russia] have some “fans” of such development? So this is not a joke, but let us don’t speak about Egypt now, let us speak about the analogy – what is the crucial point? The point is that we should immediately develop an alternative: a personal, personnel, programme and moral alternative, then in a couple of years we will have something to offer as an alternative. We only should not fall into psychosis.
TIKHON DZYADKO: And how can we form, in particular, the personnel alternative, if all the attempts, at least many attempts, of young and not so young people to engage in politics are extinguished in the very beginning?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Well, actually, your opponents did not promise you that they will bring up their own alternative. It’s the first thing.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: But there is no one [in terms of new young politicians] anyway.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: But why there is no one? Because, in order to choose an alternative, we need to be able to analyse these 20 years, we have to see how the political process has been developing, what political biographies are there, what political reputations are there, whom can be relied upon, with whom it is possible to deal with, we have to set forth our conditions to these people, concentrate around these people, rather than giving up engagement in our life for the past 20 years. We have to form an alternative, look for an alternative and see an alternative. It is not about saying some funny words about new faces and so on, we need to see what have been happening in our country, which politician did what and why. Words are not so important. In 1990 we did not have any political history. But now we have a real political history – for over 20 years. Look, choose, make you choice, amend, develop a strategy – this is the most important thing now. And if every time we try to find out who was the wittiest and on what issue or wrote something funny in the blog, and we consider this quite enough … then we will always lose. And the society will lose as a whole, and Russia will lose, and the 21st century will lose. It is a serious situation, we have only a few decades left, we do not have much time. Russia today has the largest financial capacity in its history. We are now able to carry out any reform, absolutely any reform. And we do simply nothing, absolutely nothing!
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Why does even not the opposition but a social alternative fail to make like, for example, Solidarity did in Poland? To create a platform, create a Cabinet, write all the programmes in advance, and it would be clear at once what should be done, and they did it in Poland? Was it only because the regime there was different?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: First, I should absolutely responsibly tell you that there is a programme what should be done. I am telling you this responsibly. Furthermore, there is a concept of a transition period, because we can not go without a transition period now. But the problem is that no one discusses anything – neither a programme, nor a transition period.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: The problem is that it should be accepted by the society.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: The problem is that there are opponents who are doing things but it is never in the focus of attention. What is the most important thing now? A game what MP has what house and where, what bank accounts they have, where and in which flat they are printing electoral leaflets. And it has been going on, it is not only now, during elections. All these games which are partially squealing and partially kind of fight against corruption, something like this… When all condemn the judicial system but at the same time write complaints on others to the same judicial system. And all this goes on instead of development of an attitude to the existing programmes, to the transition period and the concept of what should be done. Look, I will just give you one example. We need a driving mechanism. But who can be the driving mechanism of this? Only independent people who are not afraid to get involved in this and are interested in it, i.e. the middle class. But how to create a middle class?
TIKHON DZYADKO: But maybe people simply do not need it?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: No, they need it, but it is another topic, why they do not need so much so that to run out in the streets. Just because they do not see what for they should do it. And now I would like to tell you why the simplest, the most important task, which they have been promising for the people to solve for the past 150 years has not been solved – giving people land for free so that they could build their own houses? Why? We are the biggest country in the world, but beyond the Urals we have three persons per a square kilometer only. Give people 100 acres [per household], let people build their own homes there. Why not to spend money obtained from oil and gas on building of roads, infrastructure, provision of electiral energy, gas and water? Why the country is not developing? Why again mega-construction, such as the Trans-Siberian railroad somewhere to China again?
OLGA BYCHKOVA: and they need to build 100 palaces.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Really, 100 palaces … But if we give people land and let build their own homes there, we get a middle class that will feel independent. Here is the programme. That’s what we should insist upon. That’s what we should fight for. That’s what those who are afraid for themselves in this situation and who are ready to leave the county if something changes here will never do. Unfortunately, this has not become a subject of discussion yet.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: “But no one promised you anything”, speaking in your words…
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: But that’s not a problem… You have asked me what should be discussed, so I say what should be discussed. And I am sorry that it has not been discussed yet. Simply promise that we will discuss this with you – that’s it..
OLGA BYCHKOVA: But I am ready to discuss it, [but other people]…
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Well, while you are allowed to …
OLGA BYCHKOVA: While we are allowed, yes.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: That is what we are speaking about.
TIKHON DZYADKO: Let’s while we still have a couple of minutes see the messages from our listeners. Our telephone for sms-questions is +7 (985) 970 45 45. Here, for example, Dmitry writes: “Tell me if something in our country depends on an ordinary person?”
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Much can depend on an ordinary citizens, Dmitry, if you can convince your neighbors that much depends on them. And they convince their class-mates, parents, etc. If people agree that much depends on them, at the next election and other elections… They can manipulate us only as long as, relatively speaking, the voter turnout makes 20 per cent. If the voter turnout could be 80 per cent, if people really would like to change something, the situation would be different now.
OLGA BYCHKOVA: One more question, from Alexander: “When will we lose the Urals and the Far East?” – so this is some fear which emerged after 1991. The Soviet Union collapsed and Russia may collapse – whether this has a reasonable basis under it?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: This has grounds under it, because if we have policies such as conducted for the past 15 years, this can happen. This can really happen. This is a very serious thing. You see, we have not only three people per square kilometer there, but also 50 per cent of economically important resources of the planet is concentrated there. And our neighbors in the south – you know who our neighbors are there – they call Siberia “North-East Asia”, it is on their maps. And they have 180 people per square kilometer. So we do not have much time to decide whether a ministry should be built there or not, or some other bureaucratic things, we do not have such time any more, we need to [do something] immediately… This can be done only by people if they are respected, if they are given the impression that it is their country, so that they would not ask such a question “what I can influence on? – I can influence nothing”. Then we will not lose our sovereignty over the Far East.
TIKHON DZYADKO: Thank you very much, unfortunately our time is up and we are thanking our guest Grigory Yavlinsky, politician and leader of the YABLOKO faction in the St.Petersburg Legislative Assembly, for being with us. This is the Eyewitness programme. Olga Bychkova and Tikhon Dzyadko were with you Thank you all!
OLGA BYCHKOVA: Thank you!
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Thank you very much!