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Change Will Come To Russia

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) promotes cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and free speech.




Vladimir Putin and his colleagues decided that they had no need for independent opposition; they had no need for independent television and no need for real discussions of draft laws in parliament. I could not agree with this, and tried as best I could to resist. What happened next is well known: In 2003, I was arrested on contrived charges of fraud, Yukos was dismembered and annihilated, and its pieces became desirable prizes for the vanquisher’s friends. I was convicted and sentenced to prison. Now, I am in my seventh year in jail.

Russia’s current power elite came of age at a time when change was dangerous. They believe that the oil and gas bonanza will go on forever and that no real reforms need to be enacted, just some make-believe for the TV cameras. They accept corruption, embrace archaic ideas and are united in their desire to keep talented, creative people off the public stage. A modern, innovation-driven economic model is the antithesis of their hierarchical approach. It is precisely these kinds of mistakes that led to the death of the Soviet Union.

There is, however, a new generation of Russian politicians waiting in the wings, people who are ready to accept the world as it really is: rapidly globalizing and dynamic. These people are ready for real political competition; they believe in an open societal discussion of ideas, strive to win the support of fellow citizens who actually have thought through their positions on the issues and drawn conclusions about the proper course. Members of this new political establishment  are ready to run a modern, complex mechanism of state.

Russia is approaching the same point that the USSR found itself in the second half of the 1980s. There arose a crisis of the communist ideology as the planned economy of “real socialism” revealed its strategic inefficiency. For Russia, the second decade of the 21st century will become a period of crisis for a system built on corruption and hands-on control. Today’s Russian theoreticians and practitioners of “vertically corrupt management” have no intention of going anywhere. But they will have to. I know. I have seen it before.



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