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St Peterburg Times, December 11, 2003

A Funeral For Russian Democracy

By Vladimir Kovalyev

I was terrified when I saw the first elections results coming from polling stations in Russia's Far East late Sunday. A few hours later my friends observing the elections raised their glasses and drank to the funeral of democracy.

It was not a joke. A funeral is exactly what happened. Last weekend the population sentenced democracy to death, giving up the right to form the country's laws and leaving this task in the hands of nationalists, fascists and autocrats.

A big and, maybe the best part of the population, the intelligentsia, young free-minded people - literally millions of Russian citizens supporting basic democratic values - were thrown aside by a crowd of the blind majority that was so easily "managed" and ready to do whatever it was told to do.

It was hard to believe there is no liberal party in the State Duma anymore, but this is a bitter fact the country will have to face for years into the future.

"The 20 percent of people who voted in St. Petersburg [for Yabloko and SPS] will not have their representatives in the State Duma," fontanka.ru quoted Mikhail Amosov, head of the city's Yabloko faction, as saying Monday. "This was the intelligentsia and the business community, in other words independent people, whose interests will not be represented in the State Duma."

From now on the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Yabloko faction is cut off from being able to back the city's interests at the federal level, as it frequently did while the faction was actively operating in the parliament, he added sadly.

"When such problems appeared I would just pick up the phone, dialing the number for Yabloko at the State Duma and the problems were solved," he said. "Now I don't know who to call."

Amosov, along with other liberals in the city and across the country have found themselves locked in the chains of the new power vertical, construction of which was started in 2000 by President Vladimir Putin. He started by creating seven mega districts and finished on Sunday with the election of the fully subordinated parliament filled with deputies colored gray, brown and red.

The Kremlin has no need for bright and open-minded figures because they disturb its plans to control the crowd. Another bitter fact is that the liberals are bound to become a part of that crowd. This is the new position found for them in the power vertical.

The situation does not look that terrible in comparison, for instance, with the experience of Kazakhstan - a country where controlled democracy has been in place for many years. Business is working, foreign companies operate quite well in the region, people are not sent to concentration camps.

But in the long run such a development looks very sad and might even be dangerous. The election is just more proof that Russia has strayed a long way off the path to becoming a real democratic country. After a more than 10 years of struggle to became part of European society, Russia has given up and rolled back to its original position. It considers itself not to be in the West and not in the East, but somewhere in the middle.

It has found its own path again, while the civilized world drives on freeways.


See also:

the original at

State Duma elections 2003

St Peterburg Times, December 11, 2003

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