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Grigory Yavlinsky's interview to Vladimir Pozner

The First Channel, programme "Pozner",
April 20, 2010


Pozner: Good evening. This is the Pozner programme. Our guest is Grigory Alexeyevich Yavlinsky. Good evening. Havent seen you for a long time.

Yavlinsky: Good evening.

Pozner: Before we come to our viewers questions, by the way we have over 20 pages of questions, which shows that you have been of great interest at least for the views of our programme. But before coming to the questions, and we have selected only a part of them, the most frequent and interesting questions, I would like to ask you a very funny question in my view. According to your own words, for the first time you showed fidelity to your principles in early 1970s when as a student of Plekhanovs State Economic Institute you were sent to practical training to Czechoslovakia. And, as you say, in sauna students began discussing politics. You said that our people deserved a better life for that enormous quantity of blood shed by our nation. The komsomol boss of your group mates expressed an opinion that socialism deserved even ten times more blood shed for it. You said, that this outraged you. Not only did I call him a man-eater, Stalinist and Moist, you said, but also I gave him a good threashing with a wash bowl. So why a wash bowl? You had been twice a Champion of Ukraine in boxing among juniors in the second welterweight.

Yavlinsky: But you have already said where it was all taking place.

Pozner: In the sauna.

Yavlinsky: Yes, in the sauna, and everyone had a wash bowl there. And that guy had such a face as if asking for being taught exactly by a washing basin on his clever head. And I did not intend to really beat him.

Pozner: You simply expressed your attitude in such a way

Yavlinsky: Absolutely.

Pozner: Ok, now let us proceed with a vox poluli. Let us first listen to the questions from the persons we recorded in the streets. Please look at the screen.

A viewer: Grigory Alexeyevich, tell us please, why did you leave your party? And all party heads have left it one by one, so that now we do not hear about the party at all?

Yavlinsky: Thank you for such a question. I reality we did not leave the party. Frankly speaking virtually none from those people who had been creating the party and headed the party, left it, except for a few persons. But there should be some changes in the party, there should be rotation of leaders. I have been leading the party for almost 15 years, and headed the movement for about 20 years. And time came for new people, the fresh blood to come, but we participate in the party work. And we find this very important.

Pozner: A question from Ivan Petrovich Nekhoroshev: what is in your opinion the key reason behind the party failure at the past elections?

Yavlinsky: As you know, there are great difficulties today in presenting the party programme, its aims and goals, the attitude of the party to the present developments and the policies that should be held in the opinion of the party, in such a scope so that most of the citizens of our country could hear us and assess it. This is not news, and everyone in Russia knows that. Different parties are in different positions in Russia. There are parties that have a monopoly both to the access to mass media, presentation of their position and participation in public life. And we think that one of reasons [behind our failure at the past elections] is that we do not always have a possibility to openly, fully, clearly and consistently inform our electorate of what I have just said.

Pozner: This reminds me of Orwells Animal Farm: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Yavlinsky: Exactly. We have a fine absolutely equal party, and everyone knows it, and this party is holding a dominating place. However, monopolism in the political sphere leads to very sad consequences.

Pozner: A question from Oleg Vitalyevich Kim, What is your opinion, what or who did not let you to reign in the minds of the electorate (in the past)? Why did the people prefer to vote for, say, [Zhirinovskys] LDPR rather than YABLOKO?

Yavlinsky: First, I have to say that part of the electorate has always been voting for LDPR, and another part voted for YABLOKO. Certainly that main answer is that we have not always cooped with our duties very well. We have not always spoken clearly [for the broad public] and not always deep enough, sometimes we failed to understand the desires of the people so that to respond to these. This is what one should learn and this requires much time. And we actually have been trying to accomplish this. In addition, our possibilities were certainly restricted by what was happening in the country.

Pozner: One more question from the street.

A viewer: I would like to ask Grigory Yavlinsky if he would like to return to politics?

Pozner: Do you have a desire to return to politics?

Yavlinsky: If we speak in a serious vein, as soon as Russia has public politics

Pozner: Then you may return?

Yavlinsky: I think I will.

Pozner: Olga Sergeyevna Sergyeva, Who you personally and your party view the merger of the church and the state? And also to teaching the basics of the Russian Orthodox religion in school?

Yavlinsky: As an advocate of our Constitution I think that we have a circular state, and the church should as a very important public institution of great value to do its business. By the way, I have to tell you that our reforms turned exactly where we are now, because the reforms were conducted in a predominantly atheistic country. And it is extremely difficult [if at all possible] to conduct such reforms connected with land, private property and changing of the way of living, in the situation of truculent atheism. The state should not merge with the church, the church should implement its own role. And speaking about teaching, I would say that it would be good if any schoolchild could study the basics compulsory, as we should not intrude upon them here of that religion which is close to him/her due to his/her backgrounds and his/family tradition. I think this could be quite useful.

Pozner: Alexander Yakovlevich Gudkov is asking you, Do you think that the peak of your political carrier is left behind?

Yavlinsky: You know, I would answer to Alexander Yakovlevich that I have not yet finished [my political carrier], therefore I have not started the revision of my peaks yet, and how it all was. We shall see.

Pozner: Gennadi Kolomoyetz, Do you think that that fact that Yanukovich came to power in Ukraine would unite our two nations? And is a new alliance possible?

Yavlinsky: I think that the present Russias policies do not envisage any alliance.

Pozner: Boris Yakovlevich Arest, How can you assess the benefits that you gave to the Russian society as a politician?

Yavlinsky: Oh, it is not my business to do the summing up.

Part 2

Pozner: The same type of question. From Alexander Yakovlevich Anikevich, Why proposals by your party, YABLOKO, in fact the cleverest did not find implementation in the Russian society? Can it be only because any society has only five per cent of intelligent people?

Yavlinsky: I think there are a lot of clever people in Russia. But not all at once. We are certain that fundamental ideas our party is advocating will finally find their place in the Russian society, and the events confirm this. However, sometimes the way towards what should be done is very crooked, and not very consistent.

Pozner: Eugenia Naumovna Krupina is asking, Will you run for Russian presidency in 2012?

Yavlinsky: We shall discuss this issue.

Pozner: Is it definite already?

Yavlinsky: Not yet.

Pozner: But you dont say no, do you?

Yavlinsky: I dont say no, but I am saying that we shall discuss this issue.

Pozner: Andrei Kapitonov, Dear Grigory Alexeyevich, I was expelled from YABLOKO for my participation in the Solidarnost movement with the wording that my activity in this [Solidarnost] movement harms YABLOKO politically. Please, explain me, what this harm is about. Of course, you do not know the details, but how can this happen?

Yavlinsky: It is really like this. Our party adopted a decision at its congress that dual membership in our party and some other organisation with a programme different from ours is not permitted. We think that people simply have to make their choice: either they join one political organisation with one political programme or another. It is not worth while [to be member of two parties] at once.

Pozner: And the last question from our views. Here goes.

Viewer: Grigory Alexeyevich, you have been always fighting for glasnost. What, in your opinion, is situation with glasnost in our country now?

Yavlinsky: I think that today we have a very limited freedom of speech. Virtually we have no freedom of speech or glasnost. It is certainly not like in the Soviet Union. But what is freedom of speech? It is a possibility to systematically and consistently express a point of view. This means a possibility to explain why we have such corruption, why the leader of the state act in such a way, what happens in the army, what happens with the price growth, why we have such inflation, etc. Different political forces and political movement, people with a point of view differing from that adopted today as the [official] state point of view do not have such an opportunity today, they do not have a possibility to express it to a mass audience which is political importance.

Pozner: Now we are proceeding to advertising, please be patient for several minutes and then we shall return to our conversation with Grigory Alexeyevich. Please stay with us

Grigory Alexeyevich, it is already two years that you are not YABLOKOs leader. You even said once and I have even put down the quotation, I am dreaming about the time when the party will be able to exist without me, this is the sense of my life. Looks like you dream has come true, because the party is without you now and it does exist, and you are free from this leadership. But what you have been doing all this time? You have completely disappeared, we have not seen you or heard about you. Is it your desire to disappear? What have you been doing? First, please tell all our viewers who are interested in this, even very shortly. And second, why have you disappeared?

Yavlinsky: First of all I live in Russia. And there are many different things for me to do in Russia. It is not only my political or party activity. There are many other things. Formally I am a professor of the Higher School of Economics, I lecture for students and post-graduates. Also I have been making a research about the reasons of the world economic crisis.

Pozner: You mean you lecture in economics?

Yavlinsky: Yes, in economics, I teach economics. Also I cooperate with a number of large foreign universities, I am writing books for them. Also I work in the YABLOKO party or continue working there. So the dream has not come true yet in this sense, the party has been working together with me. I think this will last for some time. And what I meant to say was that in my view Russia must have a political party like the Russian United Democratic Party YABLOKO. And if we speak about Russian historical tradition the party is connected with the Russian zemstvo (district councils). If we speak about a political tradition, our party is also connected with the cadets, the constitutional democrats (that existed before 1917). So this is not something invented or imported, this is a political union of free people that is really deeply rooted in Russia and grows from inside the Russian culture. These people have their own views and convictions.

Pozner: So, it looks like that we your stepping out from your post [of the party leader] Russian mass media lost interest in you or it is not interesting for you to communicate with them which is right here? I should repeat once again: you have disappeared.

Yavlinsky: No, I havent. You see I can tell you if you are asking me so persistently. The matter is that I do not share the policies conducted by the present President and Prime Minister. I do not share these policies. And mass media due to different reasons hardly show any interest to those who have a dissenting opinion as regards our present development.

Pozner: So you have finally given me an answer. Now, in 1982, quite long ago, you published a report entitled On Development of Economic Mechanism of the USSR. In this report you warned about the forthcoming economic crisis in the country. And after this report your problems with the KGB began. They called you for questioning and so on, and then they sent you to undergo treatment allegedly from tuberculosis. Thats how you wrote about it, I was told after a health survey that I have a tuberculosis in an open form and they sent me to hospital at once. I stayed in hospital for nine months. And at home they had to burn all my books and my things. So it all was very bad. Thats how you wrote about it. How can you explain and this is my sincere question that you joined the CPSU (communist party) after you left the hospital? I can not understand this. Or it is some mistake?

Yavlinsky: No, it was not like this.

Pozner: You did not join the CPSU in 1985, did you?

Yavlinsky: No.

Pozner: Bu when then?

Yavlinsky: First, I managed to leave the hospital because Gorbachev cam to power. I has troubles in Brezhnevs period, however, I did not have any troubles when Andropov was in power.

Pozner: But you were there then?

Yavlinsky: I worked in the institute, But then Chernenko came to power and my troubles began, it was the peak of my troubles, in other words, I was in great trouble.

Pozner: And then they sent you to hospital [with a faked TB diagnosis]?

Yavlinsky: Yes, but all this stopped when Gorbachev emerged, and it stopped in an instant, and they all let me go in this sense.

Pozner: But had you been a communist party member before than moment?

Yavlinsky: No, I had a been a Komsomol member before that. But then, when I left Komsomol to continue work where I worked in 1984-1985 I had to be a communist party member I left Komsomol in 1985 in spring, I do not remember already when it was exactly in 1984 or in 1985, as I could not delay with this any more as I was too old for the Komsomol.

Pozner: You mean to say that you joined the communist party simply to preserve your job? Can I put it like this?

Yavlinsky: Yes, you can.

Pozner: Or did you believe to Gorbachev that something will change?

Yavlinsky: By the way, all the story with that my report was connected with the fact that I had made an analysis there that the economic system of the Soviet Union would not function. I love my country and I loved it then and I did not want it to collapse. I began insisting that we had to change the system. In that period it looked like a crime. You know what were they all asking me about? They were asking me, Who taught you to write this? And I answered, Noone. Until you tell us who taught you So all the discussions evolved around their desire to make me tell that it was the director of the institute or someone else

Pozner: Should I understand it like this, that you, Grigory Alexeyevich, thought then that the system could be changed and that it should not be abolished and if some things were changed it could function?

Yavlinsky: You know I came to understanding what the system was about very gradually. If you allow me I could in a few words explain how it happened if you are eager to know.

Pozner: I think it is interesting to other people as well, not only to me.

Part 3

Yavlinsky: As economist I specialised in labour. My specialisation refers to organisation, efficiency, labour rating, labour incentives and labour at work place. After graduating from the institute I was sent to the Ministry of Coal Industry and worked for quite a long period tree or four years at coal mines in Kuzbass and in Korkino, Chelyabinsk region. I worked their as a specialist on rate setting and this implies going down to the mines and works daily with the miners, together with them. So I came to a conclusion that there was absolutely no method to organise the workers labour in such a way so that they would like to work, work better and reach higher labour efficiency speaking in economic terms. There could be no incentives nor interest, and, consequently, no progress. And this was the starting point for my speculations. What were the limitations? What was interfering? Why this task could not be solved? I gradually I came to the entire mechanism of planning. By the moment I wrote the work, I had proved that the entire system would never give people a chance to work better, more efficiently and with higher productivity. This was where they found my guilt. As I had such a conclusion: either we had to transfer to the principally different economic system or you have to create a system of fear, so that people should have fear. As it was impossible and unacceptable to return to that system, we had to change the overall economic system. However, naturally as the time went by it became obvious that we also had to change the entire political system as well. And I did not think much of my membership in the communist party. I was not a party functionary, I did not take any posts there. Simply to have this job one had to be a party member. Thats it.

Pozner: The country learned about you in connection with the 500 Days programme in 1990s. Let us not now plunge into details of the programme, however I read it when it appeared and it was all very interesting. Has, in your view, anything from this programme been implemented by now?

Yavlinsky: Very little.

Pozner: But there should be something?

Yavlinsky: Of course we are not the same country as we were in 1988 or 1989.

Pozner: Or course.

Yavlinsky: By the way, the essence of the programme was not than that in 500 days our country could turn into a Switzerland or something of the kind. The essence of the programme was that one had to take up responsibility for what he was doing and answer every time what had been done and see the perspective, as well as clearly explain to the people what we were going to do. That was the essence.

Pozner: In 1991 you were Vice Premier. And you left the government the next day after the Belovezh Agreements [on the dissolution of the USSR] were signed. Was this in protest? Were you against the dissolution of the Soviet Union? Or was there something else? Why did you leave exactly after this?

Yavlinsky: I held the post of Vice Premier twice.

Pozner: But I mean exactly this case. We shall speak about your second term later.

Yavlinsky: But I was Vice Premier of the Soviet government.

Pozner: Yes.

Yavlinsky: And a decision was adopted in the Belovezh forest that the Soviet Union should cease to exist.

Pozner: Does this mean that you left due to a formal pretext?

Yavlinsky: No, but I did not support that idea [of the dissolution].

Pozner: Up to the present?

Yavlinsky: No, this problem consists of two parts. This is an important issue and many people a really concerned about this. Even my children are concerned about this. So this consists of two parts. Speaking about the economic part, I was an ardent supporter of an economic union, maintenance, development and creation of a free market, creation of a single banking system, a banking union and preservation of a single instrument of payment.

Pozner: This means the rouble.

Yavlinsky: The customs union. I was a supporter of a free trade zone and such an economic agreement was developed by me as Vice Premier. And it was signed. You may be surprised now, but it was signed in the Kremlin in October November 1991. It was signed by the heads of ten republics [out of total fifteen]. And three more republics signed it as observers, these were the Baltic states.

Pozner: Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

Yavlinsky: Yes. Only Georgia headed by Gamskhurdia then refused for an obvious reason and Azerbaijan which took much offense as Russia had been supporting

Pozner: Armenia in the Nagorny-Karabakh dispute.
Yavlinsky: Yes, all the other republics including Ukraine represented by its Prime Minister realised that they can not move forward without an economic union, that [without such a union] it would be adventurism.

Pozner: So, you were for the economic union, werent you?

Yavlinsky: Yes, this one side of the problem. Speaking about the political union, it was clear that as no steps towards maintenance, development and, excuse me for the catchy word, modernisation of the political system of the country were undertaken in late 1980s, and what was done did not solve the problem, as politically this organisation was doomed. It is quite another story how decisions had to be taken, in what form and how, all this did not meet my understanding what happened in the Belovezh forest. It this clear? Moreover, they decided in the Belovezh forest to do away with the economic union, and they killed it completely. And this did not correspond to my ideas about the future of my country.

Pozner: And, probably does not correspond now.

Yavlinsky: No, it does not.

Pozner: They were not right from your point of view?

Yavlinsky: No, they werent, if everyone has been thinking at present how to do it.

Pozner: I am asking your opinion.

Yavlinsky: Of course, I cant agree [with such an approach].

Pozner: All right then. Many people have different memories of you, but certainly they all remember you as a politician who has been criticizing everyone and so on. Look. In 1990s, and here you have used a quotation from Zhvanetsky, however, without a reference to him, you called these years the years of typical fight between ignorance and injustice. Then you criticized Yegor Gaidars economic reforms, then you criticized privatization programme developed by Anatoly Chubais. You refused to cooperate with the authorities, in particular, in 1998. You had proposed Eugeny Primakov candidacy to the State Duma for Prime Minister post, but as soon as he became Prime Minister and offered to you to become Deputy Prime Minister, you refused as you disagreed with his economic polices. You reminded someone of the USSR Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, who was known in the West as a Mister No as he was always answering no. And you looked like a Mister Against It All, so to say. Generally speaking it is pleasant and easy to criticize, as you dont bear the responsibility. However, the thing that you have always been negative: I am critical, etc Here I have to quote the people whom we are used to consider liberals, the people of our views in the broad meaning of the word. Look, Gaidar said, I know Grigory Yavlinsky well. I respect him as a clever person and a highly qualified economist. In my view he is a very clever politician, and he has a very string political advantage: he always knows when to avoid responsibility. This is the first quotation. Now Chubais, It is true, Grigory Alexeyevich, that for the eight years of your presence in the Russian political elite you did not move hand or foot, you did not do anything except constant, incessant, clever, responsible and effective speeches. Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yavlinsky has a position. As he took it once switching one speed, as motorists would say, he has been still driving that speed. He always keeps saying that any steps taken by the government are incorrect. This is his position. And finally Boris Nemtsov, No one has even managed to make an agreement with Yavlinsky. He is not capable of making agreements pathologically. Yavlinsky reminds me of [a protagonist from the Golden Calf by Ilf and Petrov] Vasisualy Lokhankin. The latter as you remember was lying on the sofa doing nothing and discussing the prospects of the Russian intelligencia. What do you think about all this?

Yavlinsky: The matter is that I turned out to be right.

Pozner: I beg your pardon?

Yavlinsky: It turned out that I was right. I have been right that Russia still have not been able to create a normal economic system because all these people did what they did. All the persons you have just quoted. That is why we have not had property in Russia yet. It happens because law doe not function in Russia, because these people have been constantly violating the law. And because they have been conducting their policies we have entirely corrupted Russia today. It is entirely corrupted. Today they, at least some of them, are weeping and wailing that they have been ousted from the power. But that was the matter. By the way, I have also a question to them. What do you think, if a person have been repeating for 20 years that two by two makes four, should we call him stupid or principled?

Pozner: Well, he is basically educated and principled.

Yavlinsky: Thats it. And all that my colleagues have been criticizing here, some more delicately some less, comes from elementary education rather than shrewdness. Also I was saying such things as Plundering is bad. I am not going to participate in the government which has been consistently plundering and basing its government and its policies on this. I also told to Boris Yeltsin in 1996, Boris Nikolayevich, replace this government and I shall work with you. And he answered, I cant. They are all my friends. What are you saying, Grigory Alexeyevich? I told Primakov, Let us form a normal government after the crisis. He answered, No. He needed people of absolutely different view in the government, such as Maslyukov, Kulik and Geraschenko. And he offered me to become his deputy in social policies issues. I told him, No, Eugeny Maximovich, this wont go. I do not believe in the policies conducted by these people. And what did Primakov do? Virtually he did a correct thing that he was doing nothing, as this help the economy to recover, which had been meant [when Primikov was appointed Prime Minister that by doing nothing he would allow the economy to recover on its own].

Pozner: You have been always accused that you did not want to cooperate with the authorities, that you did not do that. As there were people taking up the responsibility and you did not want to take up the responsibility. And here comes you answer, look, I did not agree with the principles and the logics of the reforms and how these reforms were conducted. And any normal person who aims at professional and honest work rather than making a personal fortune, I could not participate in what was obviously incorrect and even crimeful.

Yavlinsky: Yes.

Pozner: Did you really think that you will be offered exactly what suited you? It is a mere idealism. There should be compromises, do you agree here?

Yavlinsky: No. Compromises are good until they have some meaning. When one party makes half of the way and the other party the second half. I Russia a compromise is understood like do what I am saying. And if you dont do it, them why are you so disagreeable? As no one really intended to discuss the essence of the problem, to see a partner in the other person, respect his views and realise that he is taking some decisions proceeding from his professional views on the developments. Let us view the Russian history from another angle. All these persons have said their word. However, how did Russia develop in that period? Except for the changes that took place in the very beginning. What was 1992 about? There was inflation 2,600 per cent. Two thousand and six hundred if someone has forgotten. What was 1993 about? There was a skirmish by the White House, almost a civil war and gun fire. And this was provoked from the two sides, not only by the Supreme Soviet. Boris Yeltsin also provoked the skirmish saying that the deputies were antireformist forces. People asked him, Listen, we have inflation 2,600 percent, we are left with nothing. At least explain us what has been happening! No! 1994 marked the beginning of the war in Chechnya. 1995 was remembered by the meanest story when privatization in the forms of loans-for-share auctions, distribution of property among a narrow circle of persons accompanied by statements that we were to build capitalism soon, began. 1996 we had elections that could be hardly called elections. Since then Russia has not seen unfalsified elections any more, not once since 1996. 1997 was marked by the largest bubble in the history of our country, a Ponzi scheme. Or course, it collapsed in 1998. And again we had to face crisis, devaluation and again small and medium businesses were in a terrible situation 1999 another war [in Chehcnya] began, and the change of power took place.

Pozner: Tell me please, Grigory Alexeyevich, if you and people like you had joined the government and accepted the offers made to you, dont you think that all the things you have been just talking about would not have happened? Or at least this would have been less acute? Dont you think that your presence [in the power], and here I mean all your colleagues, could have become a positive factor?

Yavlinsky: No, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Unfortunately not. The matter is that the authority, especially the Russian authority, represents such a system that if you come there and do not share the policies of these authorities, you dont find a common language with the head of this authority and they will not give you an opportunity to do anything, never.

Pozner: Ok, Grigory Alexeyevich, they will dismiss you then, but you can say I have at least tried.

Yavlinsky: Listen, first, I was there. I would not be my first time. I was there and took up the responsibility. By the way about the responsibility, as all the people you have quoted were referred much to it, who has even been held accountable in our country? Who was held accountable for 2,600 per cent of inflation? Who was held accountable for such privatisation? So let us not speak about the responsibility. Responsibility means that one should take such decisions that would not involve such consequences but would allow for the normal development of the country. Thats what responsibility is all about. An finally, to live and work in Russia does not necessarily imply be a Cabinet member.

Pozner: I agree here.

Yavlinsky: I worked in the State Duma for ten years and initiated 167 laws and legislative acts, and was a person participating in the discussion of the key political issues and publicly stating his opinion. And I can repeat what I have been saying many times: my aim was never to deceive my voters and not to steal from my country. And our party in general managed to accomplish this.

Part 4- to be continued


See also:

The original



April 20, 2010