The recent repentant letters of Mikhail Khodorkovky have sparkled a brisk discussion among liberals.
Former Yukos CEO writes that today the words ‘liberalism’, or ‘democracy’ are nearly as good as abusive in Russia not because people do not love freedom. For most people in Russia these words call up strong associations with the shock of 1991-1993 and the crash of 1998. In this country, supporters of the liberal and democratic path of development have to choose between two scenarios. The first one envisages that ‘old’ liberals like Khodorkovky will quit the political stage taking along the ideals of freedom and democracy without admitting to the mistakes made in the past. Under the second scenario, after acknowledging the blunders and asking for forgiveness, they will try to rectify the situation using their own methods. If not forgiven, it is they, the old liberals, who will go, but the ideals will stay, continues Khodorkovky.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, the Democratic Alternative movement, says that the liberal leaders who are liable for the mistakes made in the 1990s, have abused the community’s trust. All they have to do is to accept liability and step aside.
‘Old liberal’ Chubais, the CEO of RAO UES, neither admits to his mistakes, nor repents. Chubais said to the Financial Times that although privatisation in Russia was implemented using the wrong methods, there was no other way to create private property and avoid total destruction of the Russian economy.
Chubais agrees that the reformers of the early 1990th years have created ‘the phenomenon of oligarchs’ that did a lot of harm. On the other hand, the oligarchs revived the Soviet enterprises by restructuring them and founded the most prominent Russian companies. Privatisation results, though unpopular with the public at large, encouraged Russia’s economic growth of 38 percent over the last five years.
Yegor Gaidar, head of the Institute for Economy in Transition, Moscow, in support of Chubais says that quite a number of people are happy with privatisation results as they got property worth more than two Volga cars promised by Chubais to everybody. Moreover, people in Russia got their dwellings, which had been state-owned, for free.
“A historic dispute comparing the effectiveness of authoritative and democratic systems ended in the 20th century in favour of democracy”, writes Berezovsky aka Platon Yelenin, the disgraced oligarch living now in London.
Berezovsky says that as the two last centuries have proved that democracies are more effective than autarchies, a non-democratic and non-liberal Russia have no chances to be competitive, that is to survive, in the modern world.
Berezovsky thinks that a decade under Yeltsin showed that Russia citizens were most willing to become independent. But they failed to stand up for their independence and to overcome fear before the authorities.
“Putin’s taking office in 2000 meant not only discontinuation of support for liberal reform from the “top”, but also a crackdown on the burgeoning democratic institutes: independent parliament, independent regions, the media enjoying freedom from the state, and business environment without strict bureaucratic control. For the first time democracy felt a need for protection from the authorities,” notes Boris Berezovsky.
Putin has sacrificed reform and strategic interests of Russia to his public approval ratings, asserts Berezovsky.
Berezovsky accuses Russia of political passivity saying that it should have outlawed the communist party and the KGB long ago. And the entire nation should have demonstrated moral firmness to repent for the ugly past, adds he.
Translated by ZM