Grigory Yavlinsky rarely appears in the media nowadays. He agreed
to meet with this Izvestia correspondent on the eve of Yabloko's
congress scheduled to take place one of these days. He did not
bother to conceal his sceptical attitude towards the media.
Q: Yabloko will convene a congress this month. According
to information available to Izvestia, you plan some truly grandiose
Yavlinsky: That ia a bit of an exaggeration. We will preserve
the distinctive features and continuity of Yabloko. There will
be, however, some serious changes in the charter. If the congress
approves, we will amend the procedure for admitting members to
the party. The following procedure will apply: an individual submits
an application and is accorded membership of Yabloko three months
later, unless the application is turned down. We will abandon
the probation period we currently have.
We plan to do away with Vladimir Lenin's formula, which states
that "everybody should spend some time in the cell organization".
You may be a Yabloko member and never attend conferences or meetings.
You can only elect the party chairman during primaries and the
party's candidate for the presidency.
Q: It will surely be viewed as Yabloko's last attempt
to swell its ranks to convince the Justice Ministry that Yabloko
meets all the requirements of the new law on political parties.
Yavlinsky: We already have something to convince the Justice
Ministry. Yabloko's membership numbers over 12,000. We also meet
everything else required by law.
Q: Why then is this party liberalism?
Yavlinsky: Ours is a liberal party. We do not have any
rigid regulations covering every minute in detail.
Q: Why then is Yabloko, such a great, liberal and pro-European
party, losing votes? You may fail to scale the 5% barrier next
time. Are you afraid of coming last?
Yavlinsky: I've been answering this question since 1993.
We are not afraid of anything. Absolute voter figures have remained
constant at 5-6 million.
We are aware of the authoritarian mood and tendencies in the
country. They are natural to a considerable extent, in view of
the way in which reforms were implemented throughout the decade.
"We've seen these democrats," the people say.
Q: And yet, you are not afraid to use the term "democratic"
in the name of the party. Are you sure your electorate will remain
Yavlinsky: I'm sure about the future. Our electorate has
voted for Yabloko five times. Moreover, nobody has precise voting
figures, except perhaps the Chairman of the Central Election Commission.
Q: Are you preparing for the next parliamentary election?
Yavlinsky: We will begin preparations right after the
Q: Do you think a rightist liberal party, an alliance
with the Union of Right-Wing Forces, will be formed for the next
Yavlinsky: It depends on the situation. Our coalition
in the Duma works successfully just as we promised. We act as
one on many issues. We cooperate in some regions as well. For
the time being, I do not perceive anything beyond cooperation
of two strong and independent parties. The problem is that our
voters are incompatible all too frequently. We have principal
disagreements on certain issues. What can we do when the leader
of the Union of Right-Wing Forces Anatoly Chubais calls for war
in the Caucasus, as "this is how the Russian army can be
Q: There is a widespread opinion that Yabloko is always
in the opposition. Is this an illusion? Or have the authorities
failed to suggest over the past few years anything you would support?
Yavlinsky: We always back up anything we think worth supporting,
for example when our proposals on lower taxes were implemented.
Or when the president expressed the idea of a Russian-European
anti-ballistic missile defense. Or when the president backed the
counter-terrorism coalition. On the other hand, we will never
support the idea of importing radioactive waste. These days, we
oppose the policy of building a controllable democracy in Russia.
Look at what is being done to TV-6, how the TV channels operate
or how regional elections take place.
Q: It is rumoured that you yourself would not balk at
the use of administrative resources. I mean it is rumoured that
you called Vladimir Gusinsky on the phone when you disliked something
that the newspapers of Media-Most wrote about you.
Yavlinsky: No. I have never called him and never will.
Neither would I call your newspaper.
Q: Are you in touch with Gusinsky?
Yavlinsky: The last time we talked on the phone was in
April. I still respect the TV, radio, newspapers and magazines
he created. It is a pity that everything was destroyed.
Q: You prepared some serious programmes for the congress.
Do you discuss parts of them with the government so that they
become the foundation of draft laws at a future date?
Yavlinsky: Yes, we discuss a lot of things. All military
issues are constantly discussed with the Security Council, Defense
Ministry, and General Staff. We discuss some serious suggestions
on taxes and the budget with Kudrin, the judiciary with Kozak,
and the Russian-European anti-ballistic missile defense and matters
of local self-rule with the presidential administration. This
is a long- term programme. We will probably use it in the elections.
Q: All the same, your documents are somewhat Utopian -
implementation of law, transparent civil service, eradication
of corruption. It is not very realistic in this country with its
traditions, given the last decade, etc.
Yavlinsky: We are in opposition precisely because of what
you've just mentioned. Because those who were or still are in
power believe that "This is what our country is like and
what it will always be like". I do not think, for instance,
that my country has already built democracy and that everything
necessary has been done. I think we live in a quasi-Soviet period
now, because all our leaders, all our nomenclature, are Soviet
Q: There is such a thing as a transition period, etc.
Yavlinsky: It's a policy of the weak or the conniving.
Q: Whereas your policy is impossible to implement.
Yavlinsky: No it is not, as everything we propose exists
in real life just two hours away by plane from here. Yes, there
are countries in Latin America and Asia where the state of affairs
like the one today lasts for 5-6 decades on end. That is pretty
much what they have convinced themselves of. They say: "that
is how it has always been, and that is how it always will be".
Q: When do you think we can attain the level that you
can find two hours away by plane from here?
Yavlinsky:In 15-20 years of hard work.
Q: Let us consider one thesis in your manifesto. Freedom
of movement. Are you prepared to accept an influx of residents
of half of southern regions in Moscow tomorrow?
Yavlinsky: Everybody who needs it and who can afford it
(they usually can, you know), and receives a residency permit
in Moscow without trouble even now. The stricter the rule, then
worse the corruption, as it is a watering hole. Nothing should
be changed at a single stroke. Operating step by step, that's
the ticket. As for the Caucasus... let's decide: either you build
a wall to divide them and us, or you learn to live together.
There are no other options.
Q: What party system do you think will exist in Russia
in future? Unity talks about two or three parties...
Yavlinsky: Imagine what will happen if the president wakes
up tomorrow and says out loud that Unity is a bad party. Do you
think you will have the time to ask them what they think about
his statement? I donít think so. Unity will be history before
you even get there... It is difficult to predict the political
picture of the future At this point, we have two political parties
and a half.
Q: Probably the Communists, you, and... the Union of Right-Wing
Forces as "the half"... Is it true you spend virtually
all your time giving lectures abroad and have all but abandoned
Yavlinsky: No. The Executive Council of the party meets
every week, and the bureau every two weeks. There has not been
a single meeting that I did not chair. I read some lectures abroad
in the United States on the basis of my book on the theory of
economics. We donít depend entirely on their textbooks.
Q: However, you have dropped out of sight.
Yavlinsky: I am frequently seen in the streets. Ask somebody
else why I do not appear on TV. Our TV is a tool used to manipulate
public opinion. It is not a means for debating on social problems.
Unless this state of affairs is amended, we are going to have
figures and subjects that are taboo
Q: Do you think that the president is also thinking along
these lines, "In this country..." etc?
Yavlinsky: I do not want to think so. I will do my best
to make the president aware of this matter and the need to lower
taxes and debureaucratize the system, Chechnya... All occurrences
so far show that we were correct then.
Q: Will you run for president again?
Yavlinsky: I have not given it a thought yet. We will
see. For the time being, the tendencies are too confusing. A lot
of the presidentís actions - his statements in Berlin, Brussels
and Shanghai, his September 24 statement, and some other moves
- is quite correct. They allow Russia to retain its statehood.
At the same time, his domestic policy is geared all too oftern
at building a corporate state in Russia. Unless serious changes
take place here, foreign policy will degenerate into something
similar to what we had in 1941-45. In other words, we will establish
an alliance as a tactical objective, which will be split immediately,
once the objective has been achieved.
Q: Your deputy Sergei Ivanenko is so frequently seen in
public that some observers are left with the impression that Yavlinsky
intends to give up politics.
Yavlinsky: I like the fact that he is frequently seen
in public. That is his job. As for me: "Do not worry, as
I have not left. And do not raise your hopes, as"I'll never
leave", as Vladimir Vysotsky put it.