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Grigory Yavlinsky: Vote for the people you know, people you can turn for help

Moskovsky Komsomolets

October 8, 2009

Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky by Yulia Kalinina, Moskovsky Komsomolets


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 YABLOKOs 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 probability?

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 Presidents 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 President.

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 dont 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 childrens 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 dont have to go through all of it for the third time

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: Its 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, youll ease their work and their task. No vote no problem. You dont 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, thats 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 detats 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 dont 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 Russias 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 before.

Yavlinsky: he also told that Peter the Greats and Stalins 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 conducted.

MK: Dmitry Medvedevs 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 sincere?

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 Russias historical prospects. We cant 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 Stalins 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 wont 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 cant 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 wont 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 dont do it, we wont 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.

See also:

The original

Elections to the Moscow City Duma, 2009

Human Rights

Overcoming Stalins Legacy

Moskovsky Komsomolets

October 8, 2009