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Yabloko can go it alone, and should 
Editorial, Moscow Times
November 27, 1998

In the wake of Galina Starovoitova’s murder, those who called themselves her friends immediately sought to profit from her death. A good example of this was the call by Anatjly Chubais, Viktor Chernomyrdin and other prominent has-beens for “democrats” to unite in Starovoitova’s honor.

Chubais cunningly plays upon a host of myths here. One is that Russia’s democrats are divided over petty matters of ego and trivia. Another – perhaps the most enduring – is that Chubais or Chernomyrdin were ever really democrats.

The main division between Russia’s liberals is the one that divides Grigory Yavlinsky and the Yabloko party from everyone else. Yabloko is the nation’s only real opposition; rather than accept symbolic posts in flawed and corrupt governments, Yabloko have steadfastly stuck to their principles.

By contrast, Chubais and Chernomyrdin served uncomplainingly for years in corrupt governments, and each has been tarred by allegations of personal corruption. Both oversaw rigged privatizations that – as Starovoitova notes in a posthumously published interview in this week’s Argumenty i Fakty – created a criminalized oligarchy.

Try as they might, those in the so-called “Party of Power” – Chernomyrdin’s Our Home Is Russia, Chubais’s Russia’s Democratic Choice and the other elites du jour who play musical chairs at the Kremlin – have never been able to coopt Yabloko or silence its incisive criticism.

Frustrated, they have instead sought to smear Yabloko, and in particular Yavlinsky. We are told Yavlinsky is arrogant; that he simply can’t get along with the other liberals; that he only knows how to complain, not to take responsibility. Why can’t  he be more like the Communists and the LDPR – carping publicly, but in the end voting as the Kremlin says?

Now Starovoitova is dead, and Chubais has called “Grisha” to put aside his ego for the good of the nation. But why should the nation’s only principled party – an organization whose moral authority grows with each passing year – associate with a corrupte, discredited collection of failures?

Chubais always knew Yavlinsky would never agree. That was the point. This was never about “uniting the democrats”, but once again trying subtly to blacken Yavlinsky’s name. His role was to be that of the spoilsport who robs the nation of a chance to give a “meaning” to Starovoitova’s murder.

But there is no meaning there. There is only the tragedy of a nation run into the ground by those now beating their chests and demanding they again be put in charge – in the name of a woman killed because they casually allowed crime and corruption to flourish.


ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals