Democracy must be crafted with our own hands, our own money and our own lives, or we’ll get another despot

August 4, 2017

Arguments have flared up recently among popular Russian intellectuals as to the future of the Russian political system.  Andrey Vasilev, journalist at the Russian independent radio show Moscow Echo raised the question of the role of the Russian democratic opposition in removing the Putin regime, during which he was extremely critical towards the activity of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia.

The Open Russia founder did not let the remarks slide without a response, taking the occasion to make clear his political position:

“I have an excuse, albeit a weak one: I stood firm and I went to prison. Those who stayed behind: what did you do in these 10 years?”

Khodorkovsky criticised Vasilev, underlining the fact that Kommersant — a Russian newspaper of which Vasilev is one of the key figures — has come under the thumb of the state.  “So we have Kommersant, in which a couple of million people read about business and “Putin is great”, and then we have the Open Russia website, where 1 million people a month who are not indifferent to the political situation in their country read about the defence of human rights, and about the fact that Russian civil society is still alive.”

“Those of us over the age of 40 have failed, for 17 years we could have defended democracy, but instead we preferred to agree to the election of Yeltsin, then failed to act in the aftermath: when they told us that the first stage of implementation of the FSB into government had been successful, when they called the wives of the men who died on the “Kursk” submarine “paid prostitutes”, when they raided NTV, when the Nord-Ost theatre siege took place, and the Beslan school seige.  Now over ten thousand people have been killed in the Donbas.”

Khodorkovsky stressed that he hasn’t been “laying on the couch” since his release from prison; he is attempting to help Russian civil society alongside his allies.  “Sure, it’s not much, but the important thing is to actually get involved and help, rather than snobbishly waiting around for “some Khodorkovsky” to come and deliver democracy on a plate! Democracy must be crafted with our own hands, our own money and our own lives, or else we’ll get another dictator.”

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