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Speech of the Chairman of the Yabloko Association Grigory Yavlinsky at the meeting in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Acad. Andrei Sakharov

May 20, 2001

Dear friends,

I am very glad to meet you and grateful to those who organised this open meeting in the hall where any person can come. I am very thankful to those who showed us a film about Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov.

I did not know Andrei Dmitrievich personally and can not share personal memories. But I would like to share with you the ideas connected with to-day.

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov formulated the main basic ideas for the whole of liberal-democratic movement of Russia. We can say that he laid the cornerstone of this political direction.

Academician Sakharov was a great scientist who in the end of the 20th century formulated a thesis exceptionally important for Russia. He determined and proved in many aspects that the flourishing of Russia, the future to which the absolute majority of the people aspire, is possible only if Russia develops as a free and democratic country. This imperative and the main condition for the full development of our country was formulated by Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov.

Looking at our present life we can single out the main lessons of the eleven years after Sakharov's death, lessons that are directly linked with Andrei Sakharov's precepts, which were left to oblivion.

Being a great contemporary scientist and thinker, Andrei Dmitrievich did not consider himself a politician. And being such a significant non-politician, he formulated very important rules and values for all who engage in politics.

Today we have many different kinds of politicians. Many officials often cite Andrei Dmitrievich and make a point of bringing flowers to his grave on his birthday or on the day of his death. But people sense that if Acad.Sakharov were alive today and spoke out, these politicians would be the ones to drown him out with applause and jeers to drive him from the microphone (Ed: in the past this technique was used at Congress of People's Deputies to keep Sakharov from speaking).

His most important precept was on morality in politics. Andrei Dmitrievich realised that appealing to politicians with a request or demand to be moral is an absolutely hopeless thing. That is why he formulated this somewhat differently. He said that moral positions in politics are most practical and most reasonable. Certainly if the goal is not only personal welfare, but, at least to some extent, the prospects for the country and its future; if the goals include how children and grand-children will live in our country.

Such a moral basis in politics as practical and correct was extremely important. Because a society raised on lies, as Elena Georgievna Bonner has recently said, will never grow up. I can add that it can not grow the way a plant cannot grow without sunshine. Such a society will forever remain in its teens, with terrible psychological complexes, feeling injured and aggressive toward everyone.

And also because the cynicism that became the instrument of "big-shot" politicians of the past decade is simply a form of foolishness. Sooner or later we see the failure of the ideas realised with the help of cynicism by such politicians. And even a small portion of cynicism can poison the most clear and needed ideas.

Contempt for the moral basis of politics manifested itself in autumn 1999 when the antiterrorist operation in Chechnya turned into a wide-scale war against all who live there. A unique situation developed then. People ran from Khattab and Basayev - from all those who did not allow Chechen independence to realise itself, from those who jeered and taunted them. This was the time for profoundly serious and moral politics to begin.

If the people who conducted the policies in Chechnya realised that the practical aspect of morality lies in calling all these people to their side, the "federal" side, and providing support and understanding and at the same time banded together with them to make terrorism no longer the essence of the developments in Chechnya! Instead they did the opposite. Mass-scale bombings and use of the cruellest weapons were used against civilians too. Consequently, the present policies toward Chechnya approached an absolute dead end.

Here was one of Andrei Dmitrievich's precepts that was clear and obvious, but was not followed.

Andrei Dmitrievich never was a politician, but a human rights activist. The notions "politician" and "defender of human rights" will be closely related in Russia for a long time. A true democratic politician in today's Russia, in my view, is always a defender of human rights. Talking about all the rights violated in our country, rather than about individual rights of citizens, makes for a political programme. If you begin defending all the rights of citizens - political freedoms, economic rights and personal rights - you turn into a politician.

Many people undergo moral and physical suffering in different forms: in the military barracks, in preliminary detention wards, while defending their rights to a small plot of land; over 30% of our compatriots are below poverty level. Therefore, it is absolutely obvious that for many years to come a Russian politician will also defend the right of citizens to a better life. And this is also one of the most important precepts left to us by Academician Sakharov.

It is true that in the last ten years we did not manage to create a socio-economic foundation for democracy and a free society. If you were to ask me if liberal policies were implemented in Russia in the last ten years, I would reply this way. If you mean the fundamental principles of nineteenth-century liberalism, then, yes they were. But if we are talking about what liberalism is today, at the end of the twentieth century and the start of the twenty-first, with human rights and social and economic well-being at its core, then I say, no, there were never such policies in Russia. The absolute majority of people got nothing from these reforms. That is why only twelve people gather in front of Andrei Dmitrievich's house. (Ed. It was stated in the documentary shown at the beginning of the meeting that 70 thousand people attended the funeral of Acad. Sakharov, and only 12 people gathered by his house on the anniversary of Andrei Sakharov's birth in 1999.) Because the absolute majority of people feel betrayed by the economic and social policies implemented in the last decade. Most importantly, what has not been done and which is vital for a serious discussion of the fundamental bases of democracy and freedom in Russia is equal opportunity. True liberalism is always equality in opportunity, equality in access to the main mechanisms, for instance, the benefits distributed in a market economy, equal rights in the market, fair and honest competition, the opportunity to resist the pressure of monopolies, the pressure of a small circle of limited people, which we call oligarchs. This is what truly liberal reforms must be. And we had not yet had such reforms.

And therefore this is a good reason and a good time if not to formulate a programme to at least discuss what the new democratic course should be which would allow us to celebrate Academician Sakharov's ninetieth birthday in other circumstances and in a different mood.

I will try to formulate a few elements of such a new course. First of all it is an uncompromising-I stress that-struggle for political rights and freedoms for all citizens of Russia. Among those rights, naturally, is the right to property, large property, too, but that right cannot replace the right to freedom. Where there is freedom, there will be property; if there is no freedom, there will be no property. I can imagine a rally "For Your Freedom and Ours" but not one called "For Your Property and Ours." This is the first lesson that must be learned by those who call themselves democrats. And no pragmatic explanations can justify deviations from this goal. Because pragmatism becomes a form of political selling-out in that case.

The second goal. All reforms for creating a free market economy in Russia, in the sphere of the structure of our economy, all reforms in the social sphere from now on must be regulated by the most important determining rule: reforms for the majority. It is impossible to implement reforms intended for the interests of a narrow group of people. The idea that this narrow group will later become the engine that will drag the rest behind it turned out to be short-sighted and flawed. This group of people did become a motor, but only for the growth of their own wealth. Reforms for the majority is a most important goal that shows that we want to build a liberal, socially oriented market economy of the European type in Russia.

Thus the third direction of the new democratic policies should be the European vector in Russia's development. The orientation on European socio-economic structures is very important, because Russia is a great European country. In past centuries and perhaps through its history, Russia brought all of Eurasia with it onto the European path.

And last, consolidation of all rational democratic forces must be a major rule. This consolidation is now possible, because life has drawn the line, settling many of the arguments that the democrats had. In economic policy the line was drawn on August 17, 1998 (Ed. the day the default was announced). In politics and personal politics, on March 26, 2000 (Ed. the day of the presidential elections). Now anyone who seriously wants to move toward the creation of a really democratic, socially oriented market economy must learn from the last ten years and head toward consolidation.

The basic direction of consolidation for the democratic forces is the consolidation of equal, independent, political organisations that are subordinate to no one, including each other. I am calling for equal cooperation of all democratic forces. And I invite them all to collaborate with my party. We will bring this movement to a practical realisation. We are working assiduously on a Democratic Assembly.

Our views were set a long time ago. Yabloko will fight against the creation in Russia of a police state. We will show every possible resistance to the creation in Russia of a controlled democracy, because a controlled democracy will doom Russia to hopeless lagging behind and deprive it of all prospects for the future.

We will take this path with everyone who is prepared to work with us to implement reforms for the majority and to guarantee a free democratic socially oriented future for our country. Reforms for the majority will make it possible for people to come to the celebration of Sakharov's ninetieth birthday in a better mood.

(Translated by Antonina W.Bouis and Olga V. Radayeva)

See also:
the Human Rights section of the web-site

May 20, 2001

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