What Russians mean by “Democracy”
“I categorically do not agree with those who maintain that there is no democracy in Russia, that it is ruled by authoritarian tradition. Russia, without a doubt, is a democracy. Yes, it is young, immature, imperfect, inexperienced — but it is democracy. We are at the very beginning of the path. They tell us about parliamentary democracy. Our Kyrgyz friends have taken the path. But for Russia, as, I am afraid, for Kyrgyzstan as well, parliamentary democracy is a catastrophe. Nothing needs to be radically changed. Not because it is not allowed, but because there is no need”
–Russian “president” Dima Medvedev, speaking at the “World Political Forum” in Yaroslavl, Russia on September 10, 2010
What does Mr. Medvedev understand from the term “democracy,” which he takes no trouble to define? If it does not include a “parliament” with rival political parties, then what pray tell does it include? Everyone knows that Russia’s direct presidential elections are shamelessly rigged, so obviously they too are not part of Medvedev’s definition of “democracy.” What is? What aspect of Russian society is any way democratic? Governors and mayors are directly controlled by the Kremlin, there is no parliament, no contested presidential elections, no opposition parties, no critical national media.
Perhaps a clue can be found in an AP report which stated: “Anyone who says that Russia has a totalitarian system is ‘either lying or has a terrible memory’ he said. Medvedev said protests were ‘normal’ but had to take place ‘within the limits of the law.’” So, it seems that when Medvedev utters the word “democracy” he means “not totalitarian” or “not Soviet.” As long as Russia is not as repressive as it was in Soviet times, then, it’s enough of a democracy that, in Medvedev’s opinion, it needs no radical change.
That is sick and perverse. The “president” of Russia, supposedly a “lawyer,” does not even begin to comprehend the meaning of democracy or rule of law. He believes his country is such a basket case that it is making all the progress it can simply to avoid being a worst-case scenario right now, today.