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(“Hero of the Day”) programme, the NTV

Interview of Grigory Yavlinsky for the “Geroi Dnya”

December 21, 2000

Svetlana Sorokina: Hello and welcome to the programme “Hero of the Day”. The results of the parliamentary elections were announced exactly a year ago. And today parliament passing decisions on new symbols. The Federation Council approved today the Duma decision on new state symbols. The leader of the Unity faction said he would invite President Putin to become a member of the party, so that he could run as a Unity candidate in the next presidential elections.

How does the leader of Yabloko faction, Grigory Yavlinsky, view the past year in parliament? He is with us in the studio today. Good evening.

Yavlinsky: Good evening.

Svetlana Sorokina: First of all, I would like to ask you a personal question. Of late your TV appearances have been less and less frequent. Even important statements are made by your deputy.

Yavlinsky: There were several reasons for that. One, although not the most important reason, was our belief that after the election of the new president we should allow him some room for manoeuvre. He shouldn't be criticised on every occasion. He should be given a chance to become aware of the scale of the problems and his responsibility. In that sense, the pause was deliberate.

Svetlana Sorokina: But didn't it last a bit too long?

Yavlinsky: In addition - and here we move on to important issues -- we felt that it was important for as many people as possible in our country to analyse individually developments in the country during this period and draw serious conclusions themselves. In this case our appeal to them and our policy would arouse a response. Besides, as you know, apart from your TV company, the other national companies have presented political news and political programmes in a manner that avoids serious issues. They don’t provide any serious political opinions.

Svetlana Sorokina: Is the moratorium on commenting on the actions of the President that you have imposed coming to an end? Has it come to an end for you?

Yavlinsky: It is indeed coming to an end, as we are gaining the impression that more and more people are beginning to realise what is actually happening in the country and what system is emerging.

Svetlana Sorokina: What is happening in the country?

Yavlinsky: First of all, the policy that is being implemented in our country is the policy not of yesterday, but of the day before yesterday. It is linked to the nostalgia that a considerable number of people in our country hold for Soviet stagnation and Soviet traditions.

We witness a traditional policy, a return to old habits such as a renunciation of freedom of expression, renunciation of all freedoms, renunciation of such values as non-use of the army in internal conflicts, renunciation of personal initiative and outspokenness; an expectation that the benefits are about to be distributed from above. This is the way that most citizens feel. And this is the main feature of the past year. The policy followed by the authorities and President this year tends to restore the mentality of the day before yesterday.

Svetlana Sorokina: You mentioned that the results of the parliamentary elections became known exactly a year ago. The press describes the Duma as totally controlled by the Kremlin. Do you agree with this statement?

Yavlinsky: Yes, this is indeed the case. In general, the State Duma is far less effective than even the previous Duma. However, that is in line with the policy pursued by the president, and the atmosphere in the country. For instance, the refusal to set up an independent commission to launch an inquiry into the Kursk disaster. Or the vote allowing governors to run for a third term. Or the vote on the anthem. All these factors clearly indicate the direction in which political or rather sociological thought in the Kremlin is moving. The Duma today follows the Kremlin’s orders.

Svetlana Sorokina: Are you pleased with the work of your faction at the Duma? Do you consider it to be successful? In particular its recent work?

Yavlinsky: Well, we are glad that we have managed to relieve you -- I mean Russia’s citizens - of the staggering income tax burden. Now it will be 13 percent. I have argued in this studio and on this programme on many occasions for a personal income tax rate of 10 percent. I have always been told that this is impossible. But now it has become possible and we are very glad. We can say that when adopting the budget this year we managed to trace assets which the government admittedly till prefers to hide and not use. But at least we spoke out about this fact openly. We are satisfied that we have been able to state our position on the submarine disaster and about the need for an independent commission to inquire into its causes.

Svetlana Sorokina: But it was never –

Yavlinsky: But we were not given a say on the anthem. So, the situation is changing. We are satisfied that our point of view has not changed since our election to the Duma.

Svetlana Sorokina: Irina Khakamada said today that the SPS [Editor: Union of Right-Wing Forces]intends to form at least an electoral bloc together with Yabloko by the time of the next parliamentary elections in 2003, and as a maximum, to form a single party.

Yavlinsky: We want to form a coalition with the SPS. We are working hard on this issue in the regions and in Moscow. Sixty two of our regional organisations are working on a policy aimed at creating a coalition with the SPS. Actually, the situation in the country is such that there are far more basic values and basic problems that unite us than divide us. We are ready to accept that the Union of Right-Wing Forces won't act in opposition to the present administration and challenge official policy. But that has been the case in the past as well. However, we are looking for common ground. And we think that we will be able to set up a workable coalition. We will move towards an alliance.

Svetlana Sorokina: But the SPS has recently made very sharp opposition statements. However, in general, it is thought that if the SPS and Yabloko do not form an electoral bloc, you won't get into the next Duma and so such an alliance is a foregone conclusion.

Yavlinsky: This statement has always been made. It has always been used to try and scare us. I think that we have enough brains to resolve the problem correctly, because in our opinion the views of our voters are what matter, including the reasons why we won their support. This reflects what we have fought for at the presidential elections. The reasons for our opposition in the presidential elections continue to form the meaning and basis of our work.

Svetlana Sorokina: You signed an appeal in defence of NTV yesterday. I would like to put this question to you. We have found ourselves in the focus of political events. You are an experienced politician. Do you think that the authorities are consistent in their bid to fully take control of NTV?

Yavlinsky: Yes. The same thing holds true for all the other mass media. It is a political case and our position is that it is an attempt to undermine the political base of all the democratic independent political parties. In general, it is a blow to public policy in principle, and I think the authorities will be consistent in this.

Svetlana Sorokina: You say that establishing control over the mass media is part of the plan to create a strong vertical power structure. Do you think that they will draw a line there? Is it possible to create a controlled democracy in our country, as some political technologists say?

Yavlinsky: A controlled democracy brings you along a road that leads to a dead end. A 21st century economy can only be created by free people, people who have all available information about developments in their country and in the world, people who independently analyse their own lives and develop the policies of their country.

It is possible for an agrarian country to become an industrial nation through a totalitarian regime. However, the transition to post-industrialism in the 21st century is impossible in such a state. It simply leads to a dead end. A controlled democracy involves the constant manipulation and duping of our citizens. This can be done and can be sustained for a fairly long time. But nothing will come out of it. It will lead to an impasse.

In general I would like to tell you that Yabloko is approaching the point when it will become a fully-fledged, all-inclusive democratic opposition. Our views are diverging more and more from the statements of the President and the authorities. We are very close to becoming an opposition, together with millions of our voters. The situation is becoming much clearer than in the past.

Svetlana Sorokina: Do you think you can occupy the niche of a constructive opposition that has been referred to so often recently?

Yavlinsky: I don’t understand this term, constructive opposition. Deconstructive opposition would imply piracy.

Svetlana Sorokina: You don't want to be a pirate?

Yavlinsky: To date we have not been pirates. Consequently we are always constructive as a political opposition as we say: this should be done differently. For example, money shouldn't be stashed away, it should be used to abolish army conscription and establish a contract-based army. This is what I term an opposition.

We are expressing the opinions of the opposition on all key problems. But we are extremely alarmed, as the country has stopped worrying about its dead, as the year draws to a close. This is a very serious issue. The country no longer pays attention to the fact that hundreds of people die in the North Caucasus every week and every month, even of soldiers who do not take part in combat actions.

Svetlana Sorokina: We have time for just one more short question. Yesterday we started asking our guests questions from visitors to our Internet site: elita.ntv.ru. Now they can put the questions to the Hero of the Day. We picked out the following question for you from the Internet: "If you create a coalition with the SPS, will it be named a fruit or vegetable?"

Yavlinsky: Yabloko will remain. We will leave it up to our partners to decide whether they want to add some vegetable to Yabloko (Ed. “yabloko” means “apple” in Russian).

Svetlana Sorokina: Thank you very much.

See also:

Yabloko and the Grim Symbols of the Soviet Era

December 21, 2000

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