10.08.2004
It Is Too Early to Relax, Russia
№3 2004 July/September
Svetlana Babayeva

RIA Novosti Senior Analyst. 

Georgy Bovt

Georgy Bovt — a political scientist and a member of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.

Presently, there is a general consensus that it is time for
Russia to make a breakthrough into the future. It is almost
perfectly clear today what needs to be done, and equally clear how
it should be achieved. The greatest paradox, however, is that after
all those perestroikas, reforms, elections/re-elections, and,
theoretically speaking, fifteen years of post-totalitarian
development, a question is looming large: who should Russia make
the breakthrough with?

FREE MAN AS AN EMASCULATED SPECIES

“We’ve managed to do a lot of things together… Now the closest
goal of the next four years is to transform the potential we’ve
gained into a new energy of development… We often say that the head
of state has responsibility for everything in Russia. The statement
remains valid, but given the full recognition of my personal
responsibility, I’d like to tell you that this country’s
flourishing and success must not depend on one man or one political
party only… We must have broad support to continue changes in the
country. I am confident that a mature civic society would be the
best guarantee of the continuity of change. Only free people living
in a free country can achieve genuine success. It’s the foundation
of Russia’s economic growth and political stability, and we’ll do
our best to let every individual display his talent… To help the
growth of a multiparty system here, we must boost personal freedoms
of the people”.

That was President Vladimir Putin speaking at the inauguration
to his second term in office. He mentioned “the free people living
in a free country.” Could it be that he had developed a sense of
loneliness standing atop of the pyramid of state power, which he
himself had built over the previous four years?

Many people around Putin have been speaking about the need for
demanding citizens, or rather, the deficiency of demanding people.
Any country seeking a worthy place for itself in the world must
have them. It sounds a bit like a theme of free people becoming
emasculated after fifteen years of freedom.
“In the past four years, we faced somewhat different tasks, which
we’ve mostly solved by now, and the current task is to build up
civic society, to raise a layer of active people,” said a Kremlin
political technologist. “I hope we’ll get that layer thanks to our
efforts – in eight to twelve years from now, if not by 2008. Then
we’ll be able to say we’ve acquired a new type of citizen.”

But the bitter truth is that nothing changes under the Russian
sun. Let us recall what the 19th century historian Vassily
Klyuchevsky wrote about Peter the Great’s attempts to mold a new
Russian elite: “Peter the Great hoped that his thunder-like
authority would evoke a desire to act among the servile society and
the slave-owning nobility would implant European science and
education in this country as a condition for a free social
initiative…”

Did he actually succeed in his desire? 200 years later it would
seem that he did. Peter managed to forge respectable elite, but it
was later overthrown, exiled and destroyed in concentration camps
by the revolting slaves. Back in Peter’s time, there were two
Russias. One of them spoke French and excelled in science,
gentility and European culture, while the other, impoverished
Russia lived by daily chores. They were destined never to join
together…

AN UNDERSTANDING OF GOOD AND BAD

A top executive of a Russian company affiliated with a large
Western banking group made the following comment on great shifts in
the formation of new business ethics in this country. He admitted
huge changes in the investment climate on the whole, but remarked
that progress in the field of ethics had been far less. “Mentality
can quickly change, but not the soul. Well, the Russians have the
right to have their own ethical values and they must not be
criticized for it.” Perhaps it is true that he should not criticize
us, but what about ourselves? Bernard Sucher, chairman of the Alfa
Capital asset management company, made a more outspoken statement.
“What is the main barrier to investing in Russian business?” he
asked. “Most importantly, this country does not have a settled
system of social values. There is no general understanding of what
is good and what is bad, nor is there any prevailing realization of
some basic notions – justice, honesty, equality before law, or
personal independence,” Sucher went on.

Here is the main peg and the Achilles heel of investment –
morality. It so often happens that foreigners understand the gist
of the problem, despite the banal catchphrase that “common
yardsticks” are useless as units of measurement. The essence of the
problem is more significant than the characteristics of the Russian
being, described by classical writers of the 19th century. It does
not boil down simply to the laziness of an aristocrat wasting days
and nights on his sofa, or to reveries about spending hours in
useless contemplation like swans drifting on a pond. What is more,
it has nothing to do with corruption or embezzlement. Alas, the
situation is much worse than that. What is good and what is bad?
What is virtuous and what is sinful these days? What is the retail
price of honesty and justice? There are few places in the world
where the moral accents are so grossly misplaced as in Russia.
Moreover, it would be difficult to name a place where the
fly-by-night parvenus have a more powerful impact on a country’s
social and economic life as in Russia.

NEW RUSSIAN PARVENUS

And I ask him: “Why do you sell expired foods?” And he tells me:
“Why not? These folks come and buy them all the same…”

This was a dialog between a successful politician and a
successful businessman who owns one of Moscow’s largest retail
networks. Another case: A woman patient comes to a plush Moscow
clinic and pays a fortune for her treatment – only to encounter a
total disregard on the part of the medics. Her complaints that she
paid a lot of money for her treatment fall on deaf ears.

“There is a strip of forest near our township, and people have
long wanted to enclose the land and privatize it,” says a
relatively well-off man.
But I told them: “Let’s not close it off, let’s make it a public
park. If we just put up two-meter-high fences around it, other
people won’t have a place where to walk, and they’ll eventually
commit outrages upon our houses.”

And the other guys ask me: “Are you mad? Those people will foul
the place up if it is turned into a public park.”

“Well that is true,” I tell them. “That is why we’ll have to
hire a company to keep it clean. And later, we’ll have to hire a
security company. It will keep law and order and stop those who
smash bottles or pass water in the bush. That’s the only way for us
to turn people into normal citizens and to show them that we, too,
are humans,” I said.

“You know, the guys stared at me as if I were an idiot,” said
the inhabitant of the luxurious neighborhood. Nevertheless, he is
now pressing ahead for a law that prohibits the rich from
privatizing everything, while snubbing their less well-off
compatriots.

It is hardly worthwhile recounting such trivial stories anymore.
The fact that those who made fortunes in the reform years now bury
the rules, principles and ethical norms into oblivion can be seen
with the naked eye. Fairly recently, many people pinned fantastic
hopes on the middle class – ostensibly the very pillar of democracy
and civic society. It did bring a new morality with it, but smashed
the hope. The wealthy “achievers” and successful “winners” do not
give a hoot about anything. Look at their unruly driving, or the
mounds of garbage piling up around their mansions and only slightly
more modest cottages. Ask the workers at their enterprises how they
feel (a not uncommon answer will be “completely bad,” as
demonstrated by the spate of hunger strikes in recent months), or
the many thousands of customers of their services (usually of a
dismal quality). The parvenus do not let this unsettle them. Let
the deluge come here and now, but let them stand astride it.

What is the portrait of an advanced achiever, a successful
businessman or politician, a cosmopolitan proprietor or manager,
who has traveled half of the world, has a good apartment, two or
three good cars and a mansion not far from Moscow? What kind of
expression does he wear on his face? Predictably it is not a
pleasant one – because he has become indifferent.

And now it is morning and where is he? In his kitchen with a
floor area of 15 square meters (“I wonder how people manage to live
with a kitchen of just five meters,” asks his wife or girlfriend,
whose memory has erased her recollection of kitchens from the
Soviet past). Our new middle-class man is browsing through a
brainless glossy magazine with pictures advertising new models of
automobiles. He does not read newspapers – he just looks at the
headlines of the topics that may concern him. He does not give a
hoot about anything outside those topics. They are too burdening
for the brain if you think about them. “And what for,” thinks the
achiever as he gets into his car.

When he drives, he has the attitude of a king and never cares
for what is happening to the right or to the left of his car. Now
he has crossed the lane right in front of someone else’s
windshield. Well, it’s the other guy who’s a fool – he should have
stayed away. Now he has parked the car in the second lane off the
sidewalk and blocked a tramline. Trash, it’s convenient for him,
and may others go down the drain!

It is possible that the reader has developed a mental image of a
bully with his hair shaven off at the nape of the neck who happens
to own a BMW. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken. The individual
we are describing could be a Soviet-style politician in a suit
worth three grand, a well-established lecturer from a bustling
commercial college, a top executive of a flamboyant TV channel,
someone from a thousands-strong horde of Russian showmen, a
successful political technologist, or a career-making manager from
any branch of business. One may think at first we must rejoice at
watching them – their normal rebirth into bourgeoisie has begun, as
some would think. But many others disagree with it. “What is
happening to them is understandable: those people have relaxed
after years of tiring work, but it’s too early for them to relax,”
says a leading political technologist. He could not be more
correct.  Some may think that those who have achieved success
must be preoccupied with promulgating the new quality of life. As a
result, the less successful Russians may realize the importance of
not defiling the stairwells in their apartment blocks, or demanding
too much from the municipal authorities, whose thieving has become
legendary. The wealthy can teach the lowly and base that smashing
bottles on the beach is no good, because the fragments of glass may
cut the feet of their own children tomorrow; dumping garbage in the
forest is not a wise thing to do, because you may want to walk
there some day yourself. However, this is not the case. A parvenu
is unwilling to perform this social task. He goes outside his
two-meter-high fence and throws away the discharge of his everyday
activity. The victorious achievers’ conduct may suggest that they
will disappear from the country in the same manner that the small
greenish humanoids dematerialize in the rosy morning haze. In the
meantime, the losers’ conduct is no better.

“PATRIOTISM” AS THE HIT OF THE FIFTH YEAR RUNNING

The most ironic (and perhaps, bitter) side of this story is that
the parvenus give the impression that they have genuine affection
for their Motherland. The more successful a parvenu, the higher his
brows raise when he hears some speech that he believes to be
unpatriotic. “Patriotism” is a hit of the fifth political season
running. “Bah, you don’t like your Motherland,” they say with a
hawkish look in their eyes.

But what is the essence of their patriotism? Subtract
stereotyped philippics against American hegemony, and it will be
nothing. A variety of politicians, public figures and, certainly,
mass media have re-commissioned a Soviet-era method: the power of
the anti-American charge is directly proportionate to the
tastelessness of their own social and political performance (on
television, it surfaces in programming and newscasts). Some people
may get an impression these days that the main all-Russia
achievement boils down to the occasional victories of Islamic
terror in Iraq. Soviet ideologists would label this the “national
liberation struggle” – one of its goals was to divert attention
away from the pitiable standards of life. What is its aim nowadays?
Perhaps it is to divert attention away from the lack of content in
their actions?

Overt or covert criticism of the U.S. or the European Union
often reveals inherent psychological complexes and is interspersed
with emotional (due to a shortage of content) appeals to follow the
President’s decisions, which most of the zealous patriots do not
fully understand. After shouting out what they believe they should,
they get into their BMWs, Audis or Mercedes with their flashing
lights and dash off to some government-owned or private dachas,
ignoring the traffic rules and passing by the streams of
plebeian-carrying cars, who have been halted by the road police and
who have had to cancel their appointments. Back at the dachas, the
parvenus become increasingly absorbed with patriotism. Outside
their fences there lie mounds of long-forgotten garbage, teenagers
soak themselves in beer by the shabby kiosks and get high, while
young girls offer commercial pleasures. Now, that is a different
country than the traditional image of the Motherland, is it not?
Albeit ruled by the same President.

Why is it happening? Whence did Russia get a huge number of
untalented, unprofessional and cynical people, who are nonetheless
sure of their correctness? No answer. They appeared en masse and
received nice positions. But probably they had existed before, and
they just made their presence vociferously known of late.

What is most astonishing is that the ones who offer resistance
to the onslaught of smug plebeianism are the reform losers; they
react from old Soviet habit. Old ladies, half-hungry themselves,
feed stray dogs, because neither the authorities nor private
companies care to build animal-shelters. A former teacher turned
babushka can yell at a driver, whose limousine is parked across two
lanes of traffic, or a moderately achieving idiot who is chewing
fried sunflower seeds and spitting shells around himself in the
metro. The police will not do it. They stand with absent looks on
their faces in the metro – and let the deluge of beer inundate the
power line on the tracks. The courts are dozing off. Occasionally,
we will hear about some public organizations, but it is impossible
to find them. The trade unions are non-existent; the government has
other business to do; the TV men extol the President. They have had
such a long journey through the freedom of speech and over the
heads of their former fellow-journalists to reach the broad streams
of advertising revenues that extolling the President is now their
primary pursuit. TV’s second most important task is to pour out fun
and distraction. The word Anshlag [All Seats Sold Out, the name of
a popular TV gag program] has become a common noun, and the country
has been flooded with promotions for leisure time in the foamy
pools of “the right beer you need.” This also is too premature!

All these things are a subject of moral norms rather than legal
acts, of the moral dimension of a man’s environment. The latter is
split, because the consolidation of the elite takes the form of
building enclosures and creating a “ghetto for the upper
class.”

GHETTO FOR THE UPPER CLASS

“Most of all, people want stability,” a high-ranking Kremlin man
stated recently, as if disagreeing that a realization of one’s own
needs and goals is an acceptable approach to stability. “Now people
can plan their future,” he added. They can plan buying a car or
redecorating their apartment, and the fact that the market economy
has made it possible is great. Yet there are no benchmarks, as
usual. To make things move in this country, it is necessary to
frighten the people a bit or put them into a straight line. Both
have been done, and here now we have stability. How is it managed?
Well, rather haphazardly, it seems. Most people whom it was meant
for used it for speedy enrichment, and did so in the traditionally
Russian, repugnant form.
“It has always been that way here,” says a well-known historian.
“Recall the drunken revelries of the 19th-century merchants. It was
no less abominable than today’s grabbing. It had a bad finale
then…”

What finale are we heading for this time? “Most people simply
don’t believe in this country’s future, they feel like they are
spectators here, and that’s why they behave the way they do,” says
the historian. “Look through your telephone book and see how many
of your friends have left. Leaving doesn’t mean the emigrations of
the 1980s. Quite often, these people come here and earn money, but
they’ve left Russia all the same. They have houses and families
there, and they also observe different rules of conduct.” That is,
they know how to behave.

“And that is where the elite has consolidated – in the total
lack of trust in this country,” says the historian.

A government official had this to say: “All of them are on a
long-term business mission here. They walk, speak, earn money here,
but they fend themselves off from reality as much as possible.”

“Squeamishness is the word to describe their treatment of the
ones who’re poorer than them,” – that is how an economist with fair
knowledge of government officials and businessmen (who are the same
people in many cases) describes the elite’s condition.

To draw the bottom line, the President does not believe regional
governors and the people around him, the governors do not believe
Moscow, businessmen have no trust in the government, which responds
with reciprocity, and all of them together have no trust in the
country they work and live in. One must say, however, that the
feelings are profusely reciprocal. Millions of squeamish parvenus…
They are seeking to make their sojourn longer. They strictly guard
their caste that has virtually unlimited resources and separate
themselves from the dirty outside world. “One of the big shots in
the Russian White House was told in the course of the latest
government restructuring that his new job and status did not
presuppose decorating his official car’s license plate with a big
Russian national tricolor,” relayed one insider. “The guy called
into the offices of the big bosses and raised real hell, demanding
that he continue using the car with a flashing light and tricolor –
and he got his way!”

“When you’re riding on the wrong side of the road with a
flashing light, you have a feeling that you are in a different
life,” says one wealthy Audi owner. “You begin looking at life from
behind the tinted glass from a different angle. And you begin
cutting your encounters with the ‘former’ life to a minimum. You
leave your elitist apartment or gated community, go to the
restaurant where you have an appointment, get out of the car, and
soon you find yourself in your customary world again. The different
life takes the space of two meters between your car and the door of
the restaurant. It doesn’t take ages to cross…”

WHO CAN THE KREMLIN RELY UPON?

To give feasibility to the reforms that Putin and his team have
launched, or are about to launch, Russia must get a layer of
grateful ‘reform consumers,’ otherwise it is no use taking the
trouble. As a Kremlin official noted recently: “It will take just a
few steps to establish full authoritarianism – and the people will
support them.” So the temptation is great.

But Putin’s team is focusing on different things – efficient and
moderately thieving bureaucrats, a competitive public utilities
market, an efficient law enforcement system or at least its
semblance, defense of property rights, a sensible tax system, and a
mobile, state-of-the-art military. Where is the obstacle? Again,
the very people who must be the most interested in these changes
simply do not give a hoot. They view almost any project as a budget
to be partitioned, and any program, as a tool for beefing up their
own importance or capitalization, so to speak. Phrases like, “he
paid 10, 20, 50 million to get the job” has become common hearsay
among the bureaucrats. Incidentally, 50 million is the price of a
ministerial position these days. The figure is fresh. A bureaucrat
is actually a businessman, but with more opportunities which tempt
him into petty tyranny and venality. Many are unable to resist such
temptations.

The reform initiatives demand a consumer. All the population
needs quality medical services, while many people between the ages
of 5 to 40 need quality education. Russia’s 145 million nationals
need quality armed forces. At the same time, everyone earning
between 100 rubles and 100 million rubles stands in need of a
rational tax system. It might seem that the people earning 100
million rubles must be in the first ranks of those rallying for
better services, a more humane law enforcement system, more safety
for their children (in every aspect – from roads to the
environment). They should not sit idling until the government
changes itself and begins making changes. Unlike the other
one-hundred million Russians or so who desperately want justice, or
have gotten used to its absence, the well-off class can exert
influence in life, expedite changes and channel them in the right
direction. Even if they do not control the levers of power, they
have resources. And yet they do not give a hoot. They are squeamish
come-and-go parvenus living in ghettos for the upper class.
They have learned how to justify their fly-by-night nature over the
past four year. A show of fright in the face of the authorities has
become all the vogue. In a justification of their silence they
refer to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, saying: “Well, look at that smart
guy, look where he is and where we are.” It looks as if we are
living in the year 1937. But even then many had fewer fears than
now.

When Peter the Great decided to drive the dull Russian nobility
into a more European lifestyle and create a semblance of etiquette,
he organized the noble assemblies – free gatherings of people for
entertainment and unrestrained discussion of business. They proved
instrumental in implanting new culture from above. The nobles were
required to arrive at these assemblies in European dresses only,
smoke tobacco (an attribute of civilization at the time), amuse
themselves with dancing European dances, and play chess (Peter did
not like card games). Any well-off landlord was obliged to lend
part of his house for public entertainment at least once a year.
Several halls would be given over to dancing, society games,
smoking and social chatting. A secret agent from the police would
keep record of all the people coming, and no one was allowed to
miss these events without a solid reason. The assemblies would
later grow over into children’s holidays, home concerts and balls.
All of these traditions totally disappeared in later epochs.

Here is an example of how one particular book, entitled The
Decent Visage of Youth, or Instructions for Everyday Manners (quite
naturally, a translation from German), published during Peter’s
rule, interpreted the notions of good and bad. “Do not walk on the
streets with your face down to the earth and your eyes dropped, do
not look at other people askance, but look at them with gaiety and
unending good-natured pleasantry; when you meet a person you know,
stop three steps away from him and take off your hat courteously
instead of looking back at him after you have passed by; do not
dance in top boots; when in society, do not spit inside a circle of
people, spit outside it; do not blow your nose or sneeze loudly in
a room or in a church; do not pick your nose with your finger, do
not wipe your lips with a hand; when sitting at a table, do not
lean with your arms against it, or roam with your hands aimlessly,
or lick your fingers, or gnaw bones; do not pick at your teeth with
a knife; do not scratch your head; do not chomp like swine; and do
not speak with your mouth full, for this is what peasants do.” What
matters is that virtually all of these rules were assimilated,
although some recommendations are still topical.
Let us get back to our question: Who is Putin going to rely on? Who
are those “free citizens of a free country?” No doubt, one can take
comfort in the incantations that after fifteen years of freedom the
people of free spirit and flesh run around in abundance, which is a
downright lie. There are none! We behave as if Nikolai
Chernyshevsky, a Russian democratic thinker of the mid-19th
century, had never stated 150 years ago: “A nation of slaves!
Everyone from top to bottom!” Free people must be bred, and bred
forcibly – like the small Singapore city-state – bred over several
decades to automatically conform to cleanliness and politeness (to
say nothing of a high economic efficiency). In Singapore, a person
will face a penalty of $250 to $1,000 for spitting on the street,
or for forgetting to flush the water down in a public toilet. Of
course, this is an Asian extremity, but the streets there are clean
and you will never see an illegally parked car.

“Culture should be implanted,” said a high-ranking member of the
Putin team, one of the advocates of “free people in a free
country.” “Back in the Soviet times, some people would also defile
stairwells in the houses, and you would always see four-letter
graffiti next to slogans like Guard the Socialist Property. Do you
think they voiced discontent with socialist property that way?
Trash. Simply, there are people with a vandalistic itch in every
culture, and this does not exclude the West. Nevertheless, the
authorities there have tighter controls, and most people have been
brought up with the idea of preserving the environment they live
in.”

“The government, too, must moderate itself and show people that
it is serving them,” he went on. “It’s true that we need a reform
of the judiciary, and a genuine reform of our law enforcement
system, instead of empty statements about the need to put things in
order. We need mechanisms that will change man as such. Even
mortgage loans make people more responsible.”

WHERE IS THE SUPPORT?

Who could Putin rely on? Here are a few considerations.

1. Self-regulating public associations. He could order the
business community (given the presence of private business in
Russia, which exists simultaneously with the much more powerful
bureaucratic business) and all of the more-or-less notable figures
within the political spectrum to join those associations. These
would include groups like nature conservation societies, insurers’
societies, philanthropy organizations of different orientations,
university and college associations, landlords’ societies, school
councils or neighborhood security groups. In the 21st century, all
of this may sound like Soviet-era banality, but is there any other
remedy against moribund Russian life? Czar Peter also compelled the
nobility to attend his assemblies. Nor was the institute of the
zemstvos (late 19th century county councils) set up under pressure
of the freedom-loving general public. In what concerns freedom, the
Russians were mostly speechless. However, the necessity of being
together – albeit a forced necessity – will first result in small
undertakings, and then something greater will automatically follow.
It is essential that such associations be given a scope of
competence and a set of powers in order to end the dominating
Russian myth that “nothing will come out of it all the same.”

Special attention must be given to the Russian youth and sports
associations. The Americans – not such a poor nation – have a
special program which states that a basketball court must be built
in the yard of each apartment block of the poor neighborhoods. The
more such facilities are constructed, the fewer youth gangs, drugs
and homicides. Also, these facilities prevent the black ghettos
from eventually engulfing the ghettoes for the upper class.

2. The skeptics have often described the Russian judiciary
system of late as basmanny justice [a derivative from the Basmanny
district court of Moscow that has taken a number of controversial,
politicaly motivated motions that have been widely publicized]. The
judiciary is a rather closed and numerically limited caste, but
unlike all other elements of the law enforcement system, it can be
reformed somewhat more energetically and without huge expenses.

The whole story does not boil down to money, however. In some
post-Soviet countries, like Lithuania, a Supreme Court judge may
get a monthly pay of $4,000. But who can guarantee that an average
Russian judge, should he or she be given the same salary, will pass
verdicts as unbiased as the ones passed by judges in a country that
has recently become a member of the European Union? Financial
rewards are not the whole story; the mindset of people is also
important.

The law enforcement system as a whole will not get any new
strategy unless society reduces (dictatorially or in some other
way) its level of tolerance for even minor violations of the law.
This would include all types of violations, which the surviving
fish-eyed werewolves in police uniforms overlook (and why shouldn’t
they, since the presidential race is over?). Forget the talk of
free citizens in a free country until the country gets a normal
police force, whose presence will impress the rank-and-files in the
good sense of the word.

3. Church. Let religion be separated from the state, but if it
can prevent someone from planning a crime in the morally
disoriented country, so much the better. If it finally discards the
Soviet-era commands about engaging in charity – and many church
bureaucrats find this so convenient – and stops emanating
myrrh-scented PR, this will send a signal that it is becoming more
adjusted to modern times, as opposed to the days of the schism of
the 1660s.

4. There must be some kind of national encouragement message,
something more significant than the five-minute TV reports about
the President, intermixed with criticisms of the “global hegemon.”
Certainly, it is much easier to gush about Putin, haze the foes and
giggle at the profanity of the TV audience while sitting at a cozy
dacha in some elitist place west of Moscow. This giggling is prone
to risks, though. We do need some abetment – different from the
Soviet accounts about the tons of grain threshed, the acreage of
farmland plowed, or the output from the coal mines, heavily
seasoned with stories about the rise of national liberation
movements around the world. The encouragement we need should be
bigger than simply filling our pockets, it must make us think and
call for action – call those who still care. Otherwise the anshlag
performance “Stability and Happiness in the Motherland” “where
everything has changed over the past four years” runs the risk of
turning into a fancy. No doubt, the change has swept everything and
everyone, many people are less fearful and have acquired a sense of
confidence, but even the authors of the system must admit
privately: “This system is too vulnerable.”

5. Therefore, it is necessary to stabilize it through a new
class of people – a free, demanding and aspiring people.

Do not make the nation feel that “you’re not a worthy human and
you’re hopeless without a flashing light and a tricolor on the
backside of your automobile.” However distasteful the idea of civic
organizations may sound to some people, we will have to organize
them or at least lend them our support. Nothing is going to happen
otherwise: many people will not bud of their own in the depths of
society. First, the latter is impotent; second, the will to
conceive them was clubbed down for too long. Consider the past four
years, full of craving for vertical subordination. Now it has
happened, everyone is standing in a straight line. Let us now make
a step toward comprehension. Once we comprehend, we will be able to
make demands, and action will follow. There will be discussions
surrounding such notions and the displeased ones will raise their
voices. However, if it is possible to overpower the fear of a
strong opposition (which will hardly appear now) these debates will
help the government correct its plans; it may even thank, however
quietly, the opponents later.

All of this will give rise to a class of people who really need
the reforms, as well as everything that Putin has done in the past
four years, and what he is supposed to do in the next four years.
If he succeeds, history textbooks will depict him as a president
who managed to avert the disintegration of Russia and who stopped
the oligarchs from dictating our lives. Period. After all, it is
either the destroyers or the builders who make history. Staying
motionless is the abode of the mute.