Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky by Yulia Kalinina,
Grigory Yavlinsky has been keeping silent for
18 months. He neither gave interviews, nor made prognoses
and assessments, however, he did not leave politics. Political
scientists and journalists forecasted top posts for him and
speculated about his contacts with President Medvedev, discussed
prospects of his return to the post of YABLOKO’s leader. But
he kept silent.
Today MK publishes his first after a long period
interview with Grigory Yavlinsky.
MK: A month and a half ago you met with President Medvedev.
What were you talking about?
Yavlinsky: We discussed political problems, the economic
crisis and the danger of social protests.
MK: And the President invited you so that to discuss their
Yavlinsky: I began the discussion of the protests, as I think
this very important. However, I think that the protest will
not take shape of mass-scale actions. Now we may face disturbances
at the VAZ [automobile] plant, but this is a special story.
In fact people in Russia do not protest when they are in dire
straits. This takes a different form in our country. Our protest
is criminalization of behavioral patterns of the population
on a mass-scale level. People do not hope to influence the
authorities, and therefore they try to solve their problems
as they can – in criminal ways.
MK: And what was President’s reaction in face of such prospects?
Yavlinsky: With attention. The authorities should realise
that the outer behaviour of the citizens who has been voting
for [progovernmental] United Russia [party] and their inner
real behaviour are different things. The seeming tranquility
of the population suffering from the absence of justice and
lack of a clear perspective, and in addition suffering from
the crisis now, has a serious counter effect. And I think
that it is very important to discuss such topics with the
MK: In my opinion the authorities do not worry about this.
Yavlinsky: In my view the authorities do not worry much about
the inner behaviour. The outer behaviour is of primary importance
for them. And they are absolutely indifferent how we are strangling
each other on our bottom level – they don’t see it.
MK: So one should discuss the most essential matters, whoever
one has to speak to. In this view I can say that there are
a number of problems connected with such developments that
the citizens have been alienating from the state.
Yavlinsky: The first point is human rights organisations.
Instead of making use of their information timely reacting
on acute problems the authorities announce them being the
enemy because they show the drawbacks and are trying to solve
the issues the authorities can not solve.
The second breaking-down point is local self-governing. The
citizens have no capacity to make children’s playground where
they want, or to cover the street they need with new asphalt.
The powers and financing of local self-governing have been
cut in such a way that this all now looks like sheer profanation,
and there are proposals to abolish elections of municipal
heads in addition to gubernatorial elections.
The third communication channel between the citizens and
the state are political parties. They are in such an awkward
position which is fixed by law and the actual practice, that
this channel does not work either.
These links have to work, otherwise threats to the future
of the country and its sustainable development will snowball.
The problems are rooted in the break-down of the links between
the people and the state.
MK: We have always been living with such broken links. Has
this ever been different?
Yavlinsky: We have been surviving from one collapse till
the other. We lived in the Russian Empire, which ceased to
exist in 1917. We lived in the Soviet Union, it ceased to
exist in 1991. We don’t have to go through all of it for the
MK: Why have been avoiding press for a year and a half and
have not given a single interview?
Yavlinsky: Time is such that one has to do more thinking
rather than talking. Moreover, in my opinion the key things
have been voiced, and several times.
MK: Is it the election which makes you speak up now?
Yavlinsky: The elections too. I think that elections are
important. Even despite of the fact that our electoral system
can not be called fair, correct and precise.
MK: Why participating in this then?
Yavlinsky: For myself I would first of all think whether
there are people in the lists I respect and trust rather than
what kind of electoral system we have. I shall vote for them,
even if they are mistaken participating in the campaign where
everyone will be deceived once again.
MK: It’s good if you have such people in your electoral district.
In my district once in four years some known mug appears on
the notice board of our house – “hi, I am your representative
in the bodies of power”. Why should I vote for such a person?
Yavlinsky: Do not vote for such “mugs”. Vote for a person
you know. Whom you can turn for help when in trouble.
MK: Whoever I vote for, the results will be fabricated anyway.
Yavlinsky: Thus you will give everything to the falsificators,
you’ll ease their work and their task. No vote – no problem.
You don’t want to do anything for yourself, you would prefer
if someone would decide everything for yourself, but on doing
so on “your behalf” they can only deceive you!
MK: We have been criminalizing, we have our own way.
Yavlinsky: Certainly. We have called a large television company
and offered them to make a programme about a military reform
– what kind of army we should have. They told us, “It is of
no interest”. How can it be of no interest? Maybe you have
daughters? No, I have a son. And it is of no interest to you
what kind of army we shall have? Of no interest, absolutely.
Why? I shall “buy him out” from the military service.
MK: You have just told that our people do not go to protest.
This person is a part of the people. He will not protest or
anything, he will pay so that his son would be diagnosed with
a cardiac failure, this solving the problem.
Yavlinsky: Yes, now almost everyone is a patriot and almost
praises the Soviet times… But at the same time they do not
want to pay taxes and serve in the army.
MK: Absolutely, that’s us.
Yavlinsky: It is very bad, because when you refuse to improve
your state which, by the way, is functioning on your money,
such a society does not have a perspective in the 21st century.
MK: You are speaking as a person who is looking at our society
from the outside. However, you could have come into power
and mould the society so that it would have a perspective.
Why did you refuse then?
Yavlinsky: I can answer like this: I together with the society
am looking at the authorities from the “outside”. This is
a conscientious choice. I have been in opposition since 1993,
when Russia began developing bureaucratic capitalism characterised
by negligence of the interests of the citizens, cronyism,
mafia-prone power, negligence of rights of the individuals
in politics. I had a choice out of four variants: 1) join
the power and move in that direction; 2) refuse from participation
and make use of the situation for solution of my personal
problems; 3) leave the country; 4) spare no effort so that
to change this direction. I chose the fourth direction. A
discussion whether this can be done from inside the power
does not seem productive to me. A democratic opposition should
be open, public and clear. Otherwise this will be conspiracy
and intrigues rather than an opposition. Conspiracy, intrigues,
revolutions, revolts and coup d’etats never lead to anything
good. I chose an absolutely other way – public address to
the citizens and public offering of an alternative. This is
the essence of any opposition: in any minute it should offer
a meaningful and staff-related alternative to the authorities
– both in definite persons and detailed programmes. Moreover,
when we are speaking about persons, the key issue is their
personal backing of their [political] line by their biography.
Words are valuable only when backed by personal experience.
And when ex Vice Premier starts shouting at a rally “We shall
give money to the poor! We shall reduce tariffs fro housing
and communal services!” - this is simply unbearable to listen.
MK: Do you think that your personal experience is immaculate?
Yavlinsky: No, I absolutely don’t think so. I had many mistakes,
I am an ordinary person treading the ground. But we are no
speaking about the country, rather than me. I am talking about
several principled things now. For example, about living without
lying. It is impossible to work in a government which is lying
from morning till dawn. In some exceptional cases you can
work together with people even if you can not share their
views of the political course, albeit you trust them – you
can persuade them and they can persuade you, there can be
a meaningful discussion. But simply to participate in something?
I have always thought that such things should not be done.
MK: Do you see any changes in the present policies?
Yavlinsky: What has been called ‘detente’ some day is now
taking place in the foreign policies. However, no change towards
a real partnership with the most developed countries has been
seen yet. These are relationships between leaders, rather
than nations. The improvement was caused by the change of
the US administration, but here we need our new international
philosophy which would base on modernization and European
approaches to Russia’s goals rather than ground on the irrational.
MK: President Medvedev is already talking quite in a Western
manner. Speaking in the UNO he told that human rights and
human values should lie in the basis of all the relations.
A leader of our country has never said anything like this
Yavlinsky: he also told that Peter the Great’s and Stalin’s
modernizations are the experience which does not suit us,
as they are eliminating a person. These are very important
thins, especially in the context of how our reforms have been
MK: Dmitry Medvedev’s words that he and Vladimir Putin will
agree on who will become President in 2012 and who will become
Premier do not correlate with his statements in the UNO. It
looks as if these were two different persons. I would like
to understand who of the two I can trust, who of them was
Yavlinsky: The honesty of the statements on the desire to
turn Russia into a country where human values are really of
importance can be assessed along three criteria. First, these
statements should be followed by abolishment of political
censorship, return of live broadcasts to the television and
remedying of legal injustice. Second, we should definitely
determine Russia’s historical prospects. We can’t simply say
“Come on, Russia!” Where precisely should it go? If the country
leader comes and says: in 20 years Russia will become a fully-fledged
European state – then it is clear. This means division of
powers, independent judicial system, absence of censorship
and free media. And simply “Come on, Russia!” – can be anything.
For communists, for example, this “come on” would mean back
to the USSR. Third, we should give assessment of Stalinism.
We can not move towards democracy and simultaneously teach
our school children that Stalin was an efficient manager.
MK: But Dmitry Medvedev has said that Stalin’s modernization
does not suit us.
Yavlinsky: Yes, he said this, but this should be clear for
every school, for every student. We need changes in the system
towards democratization of the regime. Only in such a way
Russia can become a modern welfare state. There are no other
options, that is why we should quickly adopt a decision and
move in that direction. We won’t be able to outwit history.
So why hanging a leg?
MK: Do you realise what it is to allow right now live broadcasts
and fair elections? It will be a runaway at once. We shall
see such social protests that we shall recollect our present
criminalization as back water.
Yavlinsky: There is such a problem. We should break surface
considering serious risks so that not to plunge even deeper.
But we have to break surface! We have to abolish censorship
in the media, television should be cardinally changed, we
need real local self-governing, we need to find understanding
with human rights activists and reverse unlawful judgments…
We can’t leave it as it is!
MK: People are depressed because of poverty rather than censorship.
They live in dire straits, living cooped up in tiny rooms
without a perspective. And they drink because they have nothing
to do. They should be helped to begin new life, but how?
Yavlinsky: We handed to the President our programme Housing
– Roads – Land. People should get plots of land free of charge
and cheap loans for construction of their own housing. This
is a large-scale ambitious programme. It will push up domestic
demand, small and medium-scale business will rise and people
will have a goal they can achieve and for the sake of this
goal it will be worth working day and night.
MK: This won’t work. The repairs of the Bolshoi Theatre can
be financed three times (Ed. The funds allotted to the repairs
vanished, the works have not been finished yet). But they
are unlikely to give a plot of land free of charge, and a
cheap loan and let small-scale business to construct something.
Yavlinsky: Sooner or later we shall make it – if we want
this and if we do it. And we don’t do it, we won’t get anything
– no development – without normal laws, independent court
and private property rights. And such parliament as we have
now there can be no normal law. At present laws represent
simply messages written by the government and legalized by
the parliament. There is no conflict of opinions, discussions
and different points of view. There are only messages released
in the form of a law.
We shall never have innovations, entrepreneurship, modernization
or diversification – there will be nothing and nothing can
happen in such a situation with law, courts, judiciary, at
such large scope of raid and corruption.
MK: And what should be done with all of this?
Yavlinsky: We should insistently and patiently change the
climate both in the society and in the power bodies.
MK: These are new abstract dreams of the naive few?
Yavlinsky: We are trying to turn these into everyday deeds,
however, from the outside this may seem whatever – dreams
or unfeasible plans – but there is no alternative to them.
If we do not do it now, there will be such collapse that the
very existence of the country will be questioned.
to the Moscow City Duma, 2009