New Year’s Address from Mikhail Khodorkovsky

January 1, 2015

The following address ushering in 2015 was issued by Mikhail Khodorkovsky:

As we counted days to approach the New Year’s Eve, I have noticed something peculiar. This time, we have been preparing for the holidays like we are bracing ourselves for the worst. We are chuckling nervously as we are about to see the New Year in. Some of us chuckle at the situation, others, at the authorities, still others, at themselves. We also have been stocking up on things, some on buckwheat, others, on patience. We feel that we’ll need a great deal of patience in 2015.

At what point did we begin to believe that things getting worse was the norm? At what point did we get used to things being bad? At what point did we convince ourselves that nothing could be changed, and we abandoned our dream? We have tried to attribute it to hard times – who has time for dreams when income and savings are dwindling and the possibility of losing one’s job increases? Prices are going up, projects are shutting down, entire sectors of the economy are sliding into an abyss, and yet they remain under the management of the same well-known circle of the President’s close friends. Conflicts are flaring up both outside and inside this country, and yet people at the helm are repeating, if even perplexedly, “We are stronger than anyone else, there will be growth soon.”

We are not afraid of change for the worse because we are used to it. Today, I would like to tell you that it is one bad habit that is worth kicking in the coming year.

Do not live by your habits, live by your aspirations instead. Stop forever choosing from among a handful of past scenarios. After all the future is not a repetition of a period of time from the past, or even the sum of its parts. The future is your choice that has been translated into reality.

Did we choose isolation, hostility, a distortion of justice that cleared new heights yesterday by sending Oleg Navalny to prison? This, too, could be swallowed, and one can grow accustomed to any level of cynicism and violence. However a conscious decision to stop getting used to the worst is indeed the first step towards improvement. That is exactly what choice means. Our choice is openness, exchange of knowledge and experience, and free interactions. Through openness and creation of new interconnections in society lies the road to long-awaited growth.
I dream that this country will muster the strength to break out of the vicious circle of bad circumstances; that peace will come into people’s homes and hearts; that citizens will be able to choose a government that acts in an intelligent and responsible manner. I can see Russia as a great, happy, and free nation. A nation surrounded by friends, not enemies.

Habit causes one to relive the past. Aspiration encourages one to achieve one’s dream. A dream that gives strength, brings together like-thinkers, leads us – via a new day, a new year – towards a new life.

Happy New Year!

— Mikhail Khodorkovsky