Pride, patriotism and how Putin helped redefine what it means to be a ‘true Russian’
Opponents of the Kremlin discuss current topics of Russian politics in Lithuania
The 7th Free Russia Forum has started in Trakai. Garry Kasparov, head of the Council of the Human Rights Defense Fund, addressed the audience with a welcoming speech. He noted that the FSR is not exclusively an “emigre event”. On the contrary, the Forum is developing at the expense of Russian regions, adding that this time 60 regions of the Russian Federation are taking part in it. “There was a fear that they had forgotten about us, but, driving up here, I saw the cameras of the Russian Channel One, which means that everything is in order,” Kasparov remarked with humor..
According to the opposition leader, FSR, this is one of the few platforms where the Russian opposition can freely discuss the problems of their country..
“The Forum will last as long as there will be a fascist haze in Russia. And he will stop his work here on the day when we can freely gather in the freest Russia, ”Garry Kasparov concluded his speech..
After that, Evgenia Chirikova, a member of the Forum’s coordinating council, took the stage and read out a statement by the FSR regarding the detention of Meduza’s special correspondent Ivan Golunov. After setting out the facts of the journalist’s detention, the text says: “We are convinced that Ivan Golunov is innocent, and the criminal case against him was fabricated. Golunov is one of the leading investigative journalists of Meduza, who has conducted several high-profile investigations, mainly related to the Moscow authorities. He wrote about the real estate of the vice-mayor of Moscow Petr Biryukov, about the funeral business, about the bankruptcy of the Peresvet bank. Previously, he worked at RBC, where he was also involved in investigations, for example, on the income of the Russian Orthodox Church and on the reconstruction of Moscow “
The authors of the statement believe that Golunov had many powerful enemies, including in the spheres of power. Describing the journalist, the FSR delegates emphasize: “His work was directly related to constant intellectual activity, which does not fit well with the image of a drug dealer.”.
After mentioning that earlier similar provocations were used against regional opposition activists such as Oyub Titiev, the FSR’s statement ends with the words: “It is possible that Ivan Golunov was the first victim of this practice in Moscow. The Free Russia Forum condemns this police provocation and expresses solidarity with Ivan Golunov and his family. “.
“People are not waiting for a politician, but for a professional”
The first discussion panel of the Forum was titled “Changing public attitudes in Russia”. Moderator Ilya Ponomarev posed a question to the participants: “What has begun to change in Russia, and how reliable is the information that the regime’s level of popularity has begun to decline?”
Anastasia Nikolskaya, senior researcher at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), said that when there was a feeling in the country that moods were beginning to change, ordinary Russians began to send money for sociological research, for whom it was important to know how many more people think the same like they are. Referring to the fact that different polls show different ratings for Putin, Nikolskaya noted that it is important how to ask questions, and what result the sociologists themselves want to get. According to her testimony, citizens’ dissatisfaction with the domestic policy of Russia arose even before the last presidential elections and before the “pension reform”. At first, there was only dissatisfaction with domestic politics, but at the same time, people were pleased that the outside world began to fear Russia again. However, in recent months, there has been a request for a peaceful foreign policy..
Sociologist Anastasia Nikolskaya
According to research, the current highest need among people is for officials to respect people. Irritation was caused by remarks like “the state owes you nothing”, “We did not ask you to give birth” and the like. At the same time, Russian society is changing faster than the government. Even people in small towns with only secondary education believe that they need to change their mentality in order for the country to change..
Political scientist, researcher at Charles University in Prague, Alexander Morozov, believes that a “corporate state” has been created in modern Russia. And the institutional way out of this state can be in the creation of a conditional “popular front”. And a chance for this can be obtained only in the conditions of instant mobilization of society. In the recent past, there was a successful experience of creating an informal organization, whose members were united by the idea of progressive reforms – an “interregional deputy group” in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of the last convocation. According to Morozov, an association may also emerge within the current parliament, whose members want changes..
Concluding the discussion, Ilya Ponomarev announced that on Sunday the FSR members would picket the Russian embassy in Vilnius on Nemtsov Square. The goal of the picket is to express solidarity with Meduza’s special correspondent Ivan Golunov.
The correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America” asked Anastasia Nikolskaya if she had any information about which of the public figures and politicians is most popular. And there is a public demand for what types of figures?
“We asked the question – are there people in Russia now who speak the truth about the real state of affairs?” Nikolskaya began to answer..
According to the overwhelming majority of respondents, there are such figures, but the press does not talk about them, and the authorities are doing everything possible so that their vote does not reach the voters. And she gave an example: out of 130 respondents, only 12 people named the names of people who, in their opinion, are telling the truth..
As a result, three named Zhirinovsky, two named Navalny, two more named Putin, the rest named Khodorkovsky, Delyagin, as well as Andrei Konchalovsky and some other cultural figures..
“People are not waiting for a politician, but for a professional – it can be a director, a doctor, a weaver. That is, the one who knows what the life of the people is and will give a kind of consolidating idea. The demand for professionalism is total within the framework of our survey. From politicians to local managers – housing and communal services workers in their home.
In many regions they say: “we want the mayor of Yakutsk for the presidency, because she is fighting against the system”. It is very important for them that a person can break the system, ”concluded Anastasia Nikolskaya.
“There is ideological opposition to Zelensky in Ukraine”
The next session was devoted to the post-election situation in Ukraine. Moderator of the discussion – Lithuanian journalist Vytautas Bruveris noted that events in Ukraine are existentially important for Russia. “We see facts of pressure on the newly elected government of Ukraine – this is the distribution of passports in CADLO. There is also a “covert struggle” – that is, pressure on the new administration of Ukraine, ”Bruveris said..
Yevgeny Kiselev, a TV journalist who hosts analytical programs on the Ukrainian television channel Pryamoy, believes that Putin, as previously obsessed with the idea of Ukraine’s return to the orbit of Russian influence, continues this line. “Without Ukraine, Russia is not an empire, not a great power. For the sake of reviving this “great power”, oil pipelines are being built around Ukraine, and the war in Donbas continues. In the last 24 hours alone, there were 28 attacks by the Ukrainian military, there are two dead, twelve wounded, ”Kiselev said. And he continued that the losses of the Ukrainian army are regular, they are expressed in tens and hundreds of lives.
“Will it be possible to regain control of Kiev over the occupied territories? Yes, there is a chance if Vladimir Vladimirovich, as they say, “has enough condrats”, or something clicks in his head. As for Vladimir Zelensky, he may not understand anything about politics, but he is not a suicide or a madman. Russia will create problems for Ukraine and check Zelensky’s reaction, ”Yevgeny Kiselev said..
Ukrainian political scientist Taras Berezovets noted that Russia’s plan is that Ukraine should abandon an independent foreign policy, and that the occupied regions should acquire a “special status”. Namely: Ukraine should not take money from the IMF, the Kremlin will give all the necessary money. Russian should become the second state language, Ukrainians should forget about Crimea. According to the expert, Russia will crush the situation with the help of “European allies” such as Germany and France so that the Ukrainian authorities lift the blockade from Crimea..
Political scientist Taras Berezovets
Russia will “negotiate” in this way with Ukraine, as far as the civil society of Ukraine will allow.
American political expert Jason Smart believes that now is the best chance to end the war in Ukraine. “For Russia, this is Putin’s war. And for him now this war is not profitable. He needs Crimea, but Donbass does not, ”Smart believes. The situation is complicated by the fact that Ukraine is not the first item on the list of US interests and therefore negotiations with Russia are possible over Iran, Ukraine and other problem areas of the world. But after the election of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, there is more enthusiasm for Ukraine in Washington than during the Poroshenko era, noted Jason Smart..
Currently in Ukraine there is an election campaign for early elections to the Verkhovna Rada. The opposition platform “For Life”, created on the basis of the Party of Regions, in its program proposes a rejection of Euro-Atlantic integration, the abolition of the law on the Ukrainian language and rapprochement with Russia. In this regard, Taras Berezovets, in a conversation with the correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America, noted: “There is no, and never was, a single opposition in Ukraine. By and large, it is divided into two – parliamentary and extra-parliamentary. After early parliamentary elections, this could all turn upside down. And there is an ideological opposition to Zelensky.
This opposition is still represented by the Petro Poroshenko Bloc. They renamed themselves “European Solidarity”, or EU for short, such a trick before the elections. And the potential opposition in the form of the “Voice” party by pop singer Svyatoslav Vakarchuk. We can say with almost 100% certainty that both of them will be in parliament. All other parties, like Batkivshchyna by Yulia Tymoshenko or Igor Smeshko’s Strength and Honor party, are all potential allies of Volodymyr Zelensky, ”the Ukrainian political scientist believes..
On “anti-Sovietism” and “Russophobia”
After the break, the Forum participants gathered for a discussion panel entitled “Russophobia or Russophilia”. Here the following questions were posed: “What is patriotism in the conditions of modern Russia”, “is it needed” and “is patriotism the” last refuge of scoundrels “?
Garry Kasparov recalled that such a discussion arose a long time ago, and the problem of patriotism is most often used by totalitarian regimes. The Russian government uses the formula: “whoever is against us is against Russia,” and the “patriotic agenda” works not only within the country, but also abroad. “We have come across a situation where people in other countries say: Putin is a dictator, but in the given conditions it’s not bad for Russia,” the oppositionist said. In fact, according to Kasparov, it is necessary to explain that the current Russian authorities do not like their country: “The paradox is that, of course, there is a mafia in any state. But only in Russia does the mafia have its own state “.
Mikhail Svetov, a member of the federal committee of the libertarian party of Russia, noted that if a politician does not speak about love for his country, then he has no chance of being elected. But, in fact, there is nothing Russian or Russian, according to Svetov, in the country. “The issue of Crimea’s ownership split many nationalists and liberals. But to say that Crimea is Russian is wrong. In fact, Crimea is Putin’s. And there is nothing Russian in this, ”Svetov believes. In his opinion, a patriot is the one who wants his country to be the richest in the world, and its people to be the happiest.
The leader of the Russian European Movement, a political émigré, Daniil Konstantinov, is habitually ranked among national democrats, and sometimes even among national patriots. In fact, both definitions are not entirely accurate. When asked from the audience what he would do
in the event that Russia decides to directly intervene in Lithuania, Konstantnov said that he would publicly condemn Russian aggression and would fight it with political methods. “But I will not shoot Russian soldiers,” he said.
As for “patriotism,” according to Daniil Konstantinov, in modern Russia, patriotism is understood only as support for the current regime. Moreover, in the current “patriotism” there are more and more Soviet elements, especially Stalinist ones. “Our task is to build a Russian civil nation. If some, due to their national origin, find it difficult to perceive this definition, then I will say: building a Russian civil nation “.
The topic was picked up by Garry Kasparov, who noticed that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was “under-empire” left. And this is one of the main problems on the way to creating a democratic state. For this, according to Kasparov, “it is necessary to abandon the criminal Soviet past.” And it is no coincidence that the authorities are now highlighting the figure of Stalin..
The Voice of America correspondent asked one of the initiators of the Free Russia Forum if he believes that the current term “Russophobia” is used by the authorities against their opponents in the same way as the label “anti-Sovietism” was used in the 1960s and 1980s..
According to Kasparov, these concepts are associated with different historical eras, but both were used and are being used by the Kremlin authorities..
The authorities use this “ideological trap” in order to identify themselves with the country, which, according to Kasparov, has always been done by dictators. “And when they succeeded, as in the case of the USSR or Nazi Germany, it led to terrible catastrophes. Because people went to defend their country, but in fact they defended the dictatorship. And often, defeat in the war was the only way to get rid of this confusion. Germany – lost – today we see the result of Germany. Japan lost the war – look at Japan today. The USSR won the war with the allies – look at the result for Russia, “Kasparov continued..
And he concluded: “It is very important to understand that the use of different terms in different historical epochs -“ anti-Sovietism ”,“ Russophobia ”and the whole set of these theses – is the traditional toolkit of ideological dictatorships, in order to connect oneself inseparably with the country and force people, even critically related to the regime, to fight for it “.
The 7th Forum of Free Russia will continue on June 9th. Among the topics discussed: “Power and society: the boundaries of permissible cooperation (collaboration or conformism?)”, “Belarus and security problems in Eastern Europe”, “The future of Russia: disintegration or preservation of a single state.” Also will be discussed new candidates for inclusion in the sanctions “Putin’s List”.