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Grigory Yavlinsky

Speech at the All-Russia Emergency Congress in Defence of Human Rights

Moscow, January 21, 2001

Thank you very much for the invitation to make a speech at this extremely important congress.

First of all I would like to express my deep respects for all the participants in this congress, for everybody who has chosen this difficult and very dangerous route in their lives. On behalf of my colleagues from Yabloko I would like to express our deep respect to those who have enough courage and managed to overcome the apathy and laziness and fight in todays Russia for the right to live and be free. Today people are not imprisoned for such actions as was the case previously, but now they are beaten, persecuted, mutilated and humiliated. And this happens everywhere in our country. The authorities consider all advocates of human rights to be their opponents and their enemies. I would like to make a special welcome to the young people here: you can see lots of them in this hall. Their choice demonstrates their courage and personal maturity.

Grigory Yavlinsky
Photo: Grigory Yavlinsky speaks at the All-Russia Emergency Congress in Defence of Human Rights. Moscow, January 21, 2001. Photo by Olga Schweitzer.

On behalf of our party I declare here our solidarity with virtually everything that has been said at this congress. Today, more and more people are beginning to understand, albeit very slowly, what is actually happening in our country. People are beginning to understand that we have a pretence of freedom of speech, which in actual fact only allows us to systematically offer praise of the people at the top. People see that the declared independence of the judiciary is a fake, as it continues to execute the orders of the leadership. This system can be used like a truncheon - whenever it is needed. It is always ready to open criminal proceedings on whomsoever it is and initiate the persecution. We have sham elections: Everybody knows full well that people manage somehow to elect the people promoted by the authorities, rather than the people they want. This happens at all levels. The country has a sham multi-party system: the party of power has special privileges, even bigger than was the case for the previous parties of power that have regularly appeared since 1990. This "party" is seeking to obtain a monopoly, after virtually joining forces with the CPRF [the Communist Party of the Russian Federation]. We have a sham separation of powers because our government is not subordinate to anyone. The executive authorities do whatever they want, are accountable to noone, not on a single issue.

An understanding of recent developments is coming very slowly, but the veil is vanishing little by little. It is becoming clear that the present policies are more and more reminiscent of a special [military] operation. And every special [military] operation as you know has two main forms: recruitment and active measures. This is evident in all areas of current policies. They make statements, set tasks and then all of them are transformed into a virtual reality, are burnt out by it, and only recruitment is left in the end. And people who are not recruited for some reason or other are then subjected to active measures.

Photo: Grigory Yavlinsky speaks at the All-Russia Emergency Congress in Defence of Human Rights. Moscow, January 21, 2001. Photo by Sergei Loktionov, Press Service, Yabloko.

Normal open public policies are today easily replaced by PR, lies, libel and mudslinging. Today they dont enter into discussions with their opponents. There is no political discussion any more. Today, if they are seriously concerned about an opponent, they arrange for his political burial in the press, the television or three hours before the X-hour when he is removed from the elections. Today, this is enough to show who is right.

What is the real name of such policy? It is well-known in Russia: the end justifies the means. Without such policies it is impossible to conceal crime and corruption or conceal the reasons why half of Russia is literally freezing. The most characteristic trait of today's authority is the absence of any notion of the value of human life which it unabashedly demonstrates, or of any inalienable rights and freedoms. It is senseless to speak about this issue with the authorities. They refuse to all such simple truths to enter their consciousness. This is how things have been for almost ten years. And what is the result?

Over ten years our country has suffered through two wars, one of which continues; two defaults, one of them enormous in 1998; and hyperinflation in 1992, which destroyed all the material resources of our fellow citizens. In 1993, we faced the start of a civil war. The energy accumulated during this period is beginning to be transformed into a new quality: our country has ceased to count its dead. We no longer pay attention to the number of people who are killed every day in zones of military conflict or owing to a number of other reasons that cannot be explained from the point of view of logic, the law or the Constitution. A country that does not count its dead is moving along a very dangerous road : it becomes indifferent. This is just what is needed for the biggest political adventures. Just recollect peoples reactions to the events of 1991 [public resistance to the attempted coup detat]. And now look what happens today.

The foundations of a new political system are being formed in our country. Today I would call it as yet unrecognisable national bolshevism. It is easy to explain each of the terms based on a totalitarian bureaucracy rule. This is deeply engrained and is the basis of everything, including our economic system.

Such a process does not occur all of a sudden. An attempt to create capitalism without creating a civil society fails and results in what I have just described. In Karl Popper's book "The Open Society and Its Enemies", he pinpointed two major enemies to an open society: fascism and communism. Incidentally Russia's experience revealed that an attempt to build capitalism without a civil society, efficient and independent judicial system, without laws, without the usage and understanding of national traditions and cultures creates a no lesser enemy of civil society.

People who have been deprived of their civil rights and duped cannot create a modern economy. The present Congress and all the fields of activity connected with the protection of human rights do not have to simply remind people [of the past], or serve simply as part of a political process, or as some politicians would say, to count the number of prisoners per cell No. When a state is based on the priority of human rights, the role of your congress and the movement for the protection of human rights is absolutely different. Only once we have put the unalienable human rights of each man at the centre of the economic system, will we be able to create a pragmatic and effective economy.

Manipulators playing with the meanest of feelings think that they win the elections on the order of their bosses. This is true. But at the same time they are losing the country. I address all those who adhere to the opinion that Russia needs an iron hand, a controlled democracy a controlled and dummed down public opinion, a corporate state to protect itself in the world. They cite the examples of South Korea and Chile.

Dear manipulators and thinkers, the tasks which the South Korea had to face not so long ago were solved through big blood in Russia in the 1930s. We dont have to solve these tasks a second time. The economy of the 21st century can be created only by free people, who have the right to free information and a fair judiciary. And let no one hope that this can be achieved in another way.

It seems to me that the moment has come when the whole of the movement for the protection of human rights in Russia should think about how to help society develop individuality, personal responsibility, overcome laziness and cowardice. I think that the movement for the protection of human rights cannot be paternalist. that is why the development of personal initiative and personal freedom is at the forefront of Yablokos policies. That is why we think that the protection of human rights and freedoms is our central task.

Our understanding of freedoms is very broad. Our understanding of rights is also broad, just as they should in our opinion be understood in Russia. Human rights imply a freedom of private property and a right to private property, a freedom of fair competition and a right to fair competition, social freedoms and social rights, the right to honest elections. All this serves as the basis for our ideology. That is why you can be certain that all the people in our party share without exception the ideas you are discussing at Congress and have solidarity with virtually everything you have discussed. We think that today serious and important practical tasks need to be undertaken.

For example, protection of the Constitution that we have frequently criticised and did not support in 1993, has become almost a programme task of our party. When asked about our attitude to the Constitution and the so-called Constitutional Assembly, we say that we view extremely negatively attempts to revise the Constitution and will protect it with all parliamentary and extra-parliamentary methods.

We would like to mention our proposal on joint work in army reform. We propose to use here all the funds at our government's disposal and which it refuses to show to society, including to the State Duma. We can easily show these funds in the budget: they suffice to initiate army reform. For example, there are enough funds to stop this year already the mass-scale conscription of young people to the Armed Forces. These are not slogans or wishes these are definite and real possibilities that have developed in the present unique situation.

Let us do this together!

We think that it is absolutely right and stress once again the 100% refusal of our faction to import nuclear waste to our country. We call on you to support us here. We support you and you can support us.

I dont want to raise here the topic of complex relationships between politicians and human rights defenders, but we have common goals. We think that a special, well-thought out and multi-tiered operation to liquidate freedom of speech is being implemented. We think that that the closure of the NTV channel is a political action, and prosecution of the leadership of the NTV is a political prosecution. We think that this is an attempt to liquidate a real possibility for the political forces to defend their rights, and if this information base ceases to exist, the possibilities for political forces will fall abruptly.

Really, why do they have to fight with political parties? It is better to silence them. It is much easier!

We prepare to submit to the State Duma a block of laws on civil control over secret services. We insist that the introduction of such control is necessary and should be carried out as soon as possible. We express solidarity with your proposals on reforms in criminal law and the judicial system, and we shall do all we can to support it.

Finally, we begin practical work on the holding of the Democratic Assembly this year and call on all of you to support this. We would like to join together all the civil and democratic forces regardless of posts and subordination at a round table and make this a regular event, to ensure the rotation of co-ordinators of this work and develop a common agenda. We have begun practical work here. We are going to convene the first meeting of the Assembly already in April this year.

We are very glad that you managed to join forces at your Congress. Only reforms that guarantee real rights and real freedoms to every individual, only reforms that reach each individual can bring strength and prosperity to our country. And your Congress demonstrates this all too well.

Thank you.

See also:

the web-site of the All-Russia Emergency Congress in Defence of Human Rights

Moscow, January 21, 2001