The emasculation of any substance and the reduction of politics to technologies and some type of algorithm is comparable to the regime’s concept of “little cogs in a big machine”. Our country’s history has demonstrated convincingly that whenever an individual is treated as a mere cog, another image emerges very rapidly: you cannot chop wood without making the chips fly. A vote cast according to the algorithm becomes such a chip.

The introduction into public consciousness of the idea that supporting not simply some figure whose ideas ideologically are remote from one’s own, but also an exponent of misanthropic views, is admissible and even justifiable for the sake of attaining some alleged political goals, is harmful and ethically unacceptable. This path debases values, results in an abdication of one’s individuality and identity and negation of the idea of free will. Such steps are bound to take a heavy toll on the individual.

Vladimir Putin is visiting Ivanovo, Russia, March 2020 // Alexey Nilolsky, REUTERS

Putin is accustoming society to Orwellian absurdity15, while the “thinking opposition” already feels at home in this absurdity and assures its audience that a vote for a Stalinist represents “support for political prisoners”.



I have repeatedly said and written, but will repeat here once more: a national-populist political line is completely alien to our party. Yabloko is a democratic party, European party, a party of centrist social-liberal views, an ideological party.

Navalny’s policy is entirely different in principle. It is Bolshevism of the post-modern era. The following represent the key “values” of this direction: the leader, absolute unity of the horde, adherence to the principles “whoever disagrees with us is against us” and the “goal justifies the means”, endless incitement of the poor against the rich, imperialism, nationalism, moral ambivalence, hatred of opponents.

In addition, one is forced to agree with the opinion16 that Navalny obstructed for almost ten years the creation in Russia of an opposition consolidated on the basis of democratic values, and in this capacity suited the regime. Navalny’s allies would in any circumstances defend their leader (and still do so) and assert his infallibility with savage fury. For his “political managers” were the people who in February 2021 threw people into the furnace  [of the state’s repressive machinery] organised a smear campaign against anyone who dared criticise Navalny, and then consciously and pointedly called on the public to vote for Stalinists. These people are pursuing their own agenda, seeking to secure some personal advantage. These people should assume full responsibility for their calls to action and incitement.

This summer the captain of England’s football team Harry Kane told racist fans: “We don’t want you”. To all intents and purposes, I said the same thing to the supporters of Navalny’s politics: you can decide not to vote for us, we know your programme and will never implement it. So-called “Navalnists” are alien to us, as they are all similar one-man bands, whether nationalists, Stalinists or Putinists.  They have one distinctive trait — the organic inability to engage in dialogue, while their domain is hating, in other words, the hatred of and harassment of anyone who disagrees with them: they behave like Bolshevik Leninists, like the “revolutionary sailors” who in January 1918 barracked and intimidated the deputies of the Constituent Assembly on its first and only day from the balconies of Tauride Palace.

However, another important and influential group also participated in the debasement of public opinion and contributed to the degradation of their audience. I am referring here to certain representatives of the intelligentsia and journalists intoxicated by activism who consider Navalny the only figure “capable of consolidating the protest”17. In the recent elections there was a clear alternative to the idiotic and immoral idea of “Smart Voting”. If this was not already clear to anyone, the Yabloko party was also listed in the ballot paper as cooperating with “foreign agents”. However, the same people who said that criticism of Navalny while he was in prison was unacceptable called on the public to vote for the same communists who had adopted the law on foreign agents. And it is no longer important whether they supported a specific communist deputy for a single-seat district or the entire list of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Now it is irrelevant. Anyone who campaigned directly or indirectly for the communists, whether a human rights advocate from Memorial, a professor of the Higher School of Economics, a famous writer, popular blogger or simply high-profile representatives of the media intelligentsia — all these members of the “crème de la crème” must now assume personal responsibility for the consequences of this immoral action. And one can only hope that an irreversible catastrophe for the country doesn’t happen in the next few years.


Sandarmoch, North of Russia. Mass graves of the Stalin terror victims.

It goes without saying that we do not perceive the “crème de la crème” as our political opponents. However, at the same time it is impossible to view them as moral authorities in politics. As a rule, these people are consummate professionals in their area of expertise, but utterly incompetent when it comes to politics and furthermore infinitely self-confident, even though in most cases they suffer from an inferiority complex.

Oddly enough, the “crème de la crème” and “Putin’s elites” are part of the same establishment group, they all date back to the 1990s. And neither one supported reforms for the majority: instead like Bolsheviks they both the treat people as mere fodder. However, the “crème de la crème” through their inane chatting also covered up the “reforms’ in the 1990s that were so  detrimental to the public at large, the criminal distribution of property through the loans-for-shares auctions, the creation of an oligarchic economy and state, destruction of the institute of elections, starting back in 1996. The “crème de la crème” supported the second Chechen war and backed Putin as the “leader of the nation”. Short-sighted and devoid of any ability to think strategically, they failed to promptly discern the dangers (even for themselves) of the modifications to the oligarchic system established around Putin. However, when opposing Putin, the “crème de la crème” were unable to view critically their own sad experience and failed to recognise the errors that they had made. Sooner or later, however, the country will have to provide honest and exhaustive assessments of the 1990s. And I don’t mean here an opportunity to settle scores, but instead a real assessment of the Bolshevik-Stalinist period in history, which is essential if the country is to move forward.

Finally, there are people who succumbed to the mass lobbying and after such brainwashing voted for the communists, or decided not to participate at all in politics, disillusioned by the activism and deeming unacceptable the calls to action from individuals they considered authoritative. Such a position is understandable. These people had simply been immersed in the endless calculations and conversations about the “need to be rational” when voting, caught up in illogical, verbose and obtrusive discussions that a vote for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation was a vote “against the regime and Putin”, whereas by voting according to one’s conscience, “votes cast for parties that will not make it into the State Duma will go to United Russia”. In actual fact, this is nothing more than “reflective profligacy”18. Discussions about the “need” to support a lesser evil, based on some kind of calculation, are nothing new: this has also happened in the past. This is simply pseudo-scientific dissimulation. As for the squeamish call for a boycott, in the current environment this is imply a gift for the regime: this implies total disengagement from the information space, for whoever opts out is always wrong.

It would be naïve to assume that one could remain “outside politics” or “above the fray” in Russia during the past 30 years. As this approach has been widely adopted, virtually no professional and influential journalism remains in our country today. In most Russian mass media, you will find nothing other than state propaganda. However, even courageous investigations, which appear sometimes in the honest and independent press that can still be found, merely serve to embitter the public even more, as they don’t talk about an alternative – they fail to indicate the people who could guide the country in the right direction and resolve the pent-up serious problems that we face. Such journalism, systematically inciting just discontent, pushes people to revolt. As we know all too well, life is even worse after such rebellions.

Finally it must be understood that the infamous “Smart Voting” for “any electable candidate other than…” is not simply an extremely ignoble deed, but instead populism pure and simple which in practice functions within the framework of negative selection, ensuring in our country the selection of the worst possible individuals. Such an approach is geared to achieving fictitious or short-lived success and as a result leads to a perceptible deterioration compared to the underlying situation.

The campaigners and advocates of “Smart Voting” can now assume full liability for the actions of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, A Just Russia with Prilepin’s followers and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in the current State Duma.



People are tired of poverty and are waiting for positive changes in the economy. The range of available products is vast: thanks to the Internet, you can make purchases without even leaving your house. However, people don’t have any money. In such circumstances, people sliding into poverty can be palmed off with anything: a new State Plan, nationalisation19, and the closing of borders — in general, our recent past. Destitution offers a propitious basis for revenge.

Now society will have no answer to the question “what should be done” for a long time to come. The tandem of communists and Putin’s security, defence and law enforcement officers will not rid the country of poverty, crime and state falsehood, will not restore trust in the regime. Russian citizens have figured this out and haven’t expected anything good from the state for a long time, but at the same time believe that they themselves are not responsible for the regime’s actions or anything else happening in the country. At the same time, people are ready for the repressive model enacted by the regime, expect it and in some sense are even tailoring themselves to it. Society simply cannot imagine any other state than a repressive one and expects only violence, coercion and theft. This leads to the desire to cast aside moral considerations, take revenge and “rob what was robbed”, exercising the only way available to no longer be a “trembling creature”. And if this aspiration is adopted widely, if life proceeds in this direction, then Russia will not simply forfeit any potential promise, but also its future: our country with its current territory, unified historical and cultural space, will simply cease to exist.

The threat of such a scenario is the reason why we must focus first and foremost on explaining to people the existing opportunity and need to build another state, and different institutions which operate on a completely different basis. To achieve this objective, we must already cultivate today a desire to create, which is not at all equable to the call from the Communist Internationale — “To the ground and then…”20

Urgent interdependent objectives also include the need to counter growing obscurantism, defend democratic values, constantly remember and talk about political prisoners, demand investigations of political assassinations and poisoning, find points of support within Russian society, create and develop the components of an alternative to “Putin’s system” — ideological (European values), substantive (draft laws and programmes such as “Land, Homes, Roads”21), staffing (highly professional specialists with untarnished reputations).

There is no need to wait until some period “after Putin” in order to start everything with a clean slate. We already need to determine now the opposition’s priorities, with a view to the future. We have been right about our assessment of the situation in the country — everything that we warned about is happening. However, we believe in the future, in Russia, in our people, in life without fear, in a law-based state and in freedom. And that is why we will continue trying to persuade people that you can and must be guided by your conscience in politics and life — and vote on this basis. This is the only possible moral and intellectual opposition at a time of reactionary responses, repressions and falsifications. You should never reconcile yourself to lies, you should never turn a blind eye to falsehood, otherwise you become an accomplice to such deceit. You must vote every time for yourself, and not simply back the horse which will finish first. This is not a horse race. It is up to you to choose where and how you will live. Voting is always a matter of conscience and not a calculated decision.

Today power in Russia is in the hands of the few. Objectively, modernisation and reforms are vital for the majority. However, only through peaceful means. A rebellion is not in the interests of the people and is not in the country’s interests. The European path is objectively the only path that Russia should take. Despite all our problems and weaknesses, no other political direction can formulate any meaning to moving forward. All other directions represent a “non-existent path”, the reproduction of Putin’s system in different forms and along the same trajectory. The Yabloko party and I myself personally have offered a substantive alternative to society eleven times over 28 years, have never deceived the public, have never reneged on our principles and convictions. We have a programme today that we are ready to implement. Support for Yabloko’s programme and platform are consistent with the requirements of history and with the present moment, and this represents an opportunity to win in future.