Daily Archives: March 5, 2008

March 5, 2008 — Contents

WEDNESDAY MARCH 5 CONTENTS

(1) Another Original LR Translation: Illarionov’s Call for Action

(2) EDITORIAL: Russians Write Their Own History

(3) Celebrating “Victory,” Putin Style

(4) The Economist Rips Putin a New One

(5) Bayer on Life in America

(6) Ryzhkov on the “Elections”

Another Original LR Translation: Illarionov’s Call for Action, by our Original Translator

February Theses for the Citizens of Russia

Andrey Illarionov

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

February 28, 2008

Recent events – the October-November Bacchanalia of an “election campaign”, the special operation called “02 December 2007”, the military-“Nashisti” occupation of Moscow on 2-6 December, and the special operation now underway known as “02 March 2008” – represent a qualitative break in the situation with Russian society and government. This new situation allows the formulation of a number of key theses.

On the Legitimacy of the Regime

The illegitimate character of the “elections” of December 2, 2007 and March 2, 2008 make claims by their “victors” to have won government office in Russia illegal. That means that not only the elected “State Duma” and its deputies, not only the “president” now being elected, but now also the lower officials being appointed by this Duma and this “president” – all are illegitimate.

On the Risks to Russia

The illegitimacy of the regime is leading it to an even larger-scale use of falsifications, bribery and violence against the citizens of Russia. The creation of absolute power by this illegitimate regime – along with destroying the fundamental institutions of government and society and monopolizing all political, economic and information resources in the hands of the regime’s representatives – enormously increases the level of risk for the country and its people. The main threats today are not so much threats to the economy or people’s well-being as direct threats to people’s security and lives.

On Our Aims – Long-Term and Short-Term

The main objectives for those who consider themselves citizens of Russia will be the prevention of a national catastrophe, ensuring the security of the people, and preserving for Russian society the basic norms of human morality in more difficult less agreeable circumstances. In the final analysis, it will be impossible to achieve these objectives without the replacement of the current regime. There should be no place on Russian soil for the regime of a political and criminal thug.

On the Possibility of a Gradual Evolution of the Regime

The hopes of many that the regime might be changed by nurturing, education and persuasion have been proven baseless. All efforts at changing the regime by cooperating with its leaders have ended in failure. Those who were changed were not the chekistisiloviki [TN: political slang for former intelligence officers in positions of authority in the government]; it was not the siloviki who adopted the norms of civil society, but the representatives of the civil bureaucracy who took up the craft and habits of the siloviki. The current regime in Russia has proven itself to be incapable of internal evolution.

On Cooperation with the Regime

There should be no doubt about it: cooperation with this regime by law-abiding, civil professionals does not weaken the regime, it strengthens it. Attempts to influence officials of the regime through knowledge, argument and logic simply arm the regime intellectually and further strengthen it in the war it is waging against the citizens of Russia.

On Expectations for a Political Thaw

Expectations of a political “thaw”, a possible liberalization and democratization of the current regime in connection with a rotation of personnel in the position of president, have lost all bases. There is nothing in the personal characteristics of tomorrow’s “president” – neither in his education, world view, professional resume, past experience, degree of independence, nor amount of real authority; no sort of new demand for democratic change from the regime’s political base (intelligence officers and bureaucrats, Russian monopolists and the Western political and business leaders); and nothing in the key conditions of modern Russian society – neither in the monopoly on information, repression against opponents, nor the price of oil; there is nothing at all providing any reason to expect genuine – not just stylistic – change for the better. More likely the opposite.

On Ways to Change the Regime

In democratic societies the changeover from one political regime to another occurs as a result of elections – parliamentary or presidential. There is no point in feeding any illusions here: for the Russia of today, this path is closed. Under authoritarian systems of government, the political regime can be overthrown only by revolution, coup, or external occupation. Under conditions in which the regime has a monopoly on the law enforcement and intelligence structures, and taking into consideration the regime’s willingness to use them against peaceful citizens, any call for forcibly changing the regime is tantamount to a call for suicide.

On Violence

A call for violence would be extremely undesirable. Nonetheless, it cannot be entirely ruled out. The law-abiding citizen who is attacked by bandits has the right to self-defense. The presence or absence of uniforms on the bandits at the time of the attack does not make them guardians of order.

On Term Lengths

The terms of the current regime may turn out to be longer than they seem to be or one might hope they are today.

On Unification of the People

Attempts at survival by separate parties, organizations or groups are, in the current situation, doomed. Those few victories the people have enjoyed over the regime in the past few years have been possible only when the people were able to unite: against the monetization of allowances [TN: lgoty, generally given to pensioners or the disabled, consisting of discounted or free food, transportation, utilities, etc.], for the defense of Shcherbinskiy, in the defense of Lake Baikal. Without unity, the people cannot defend their rights in an even limited way.

On a Platform for Unification

Unification of the people of Russia is not possible on either an ideological or political basis. The people of Russia support a wide variety of viewpoints, world views, ideologies and political currents. Formation of a massive political party would be possible only with the help of a totalitarian ideology and military-like discipline, or on the basis of bureaucratic loyalty. Unification of the people can be created only on the basis of moral principles that distinguish the democratic opposition from the authoritarian regime. But unification of the people cannot be constructed solely to oppose the regime; it must have a positive aim as well.

On the Aims of Unification

In Russia today there is no goal more important and no national platform broader than the restoration of civil rights and freedoms, ensuring the primacy of law and independence of mass media, and creating a democratic political system in the country. So a working title for the unification movement might be “Civil Movement” or “Civil Coalition”.

On the Principles of a Civil Movement

The guiding principles of the Civil Movement are for democratic principles in the organization of society and governmental authority: for legal equality of all citizens in Russia, regardless of their situation in life, status, political views, nationality, creed or gender; for tolerance toward the views of others as long as they do not violate the Russian Constitution; for freedom of speech; and for honest political competition. In interactions between the people and the regime’s representatives, the guiding principles remain the rules for existence worked out by the prisoners of the Gulag: “Don’t believe (the regime). Don’t be afraid (of the regime). Don’t ask for anything (from the regime).” It would be worthwhile to add to these a fourth principle: “Don’t cooperate with the regime or participate in its dealings.”

On the Participants in a Civil Movement

Supporters of liberal, conservative, patriotic and socialist points of view could all, within the framework of a Civil Movement, cooperate with each other in the project of creating a free Russia, as long as their joint program for action does not contradict the principles of the inviolability of the individual, legal equality for all citizens, and honest, fair and democratic elections. Advancing various political agendas by participants in the coalition would be possible to the extent that they do not contradict basic civil freedoms and democratic principles for the organization of society and government.

On the West

Any expectation of support – even just moral support – for a Russian civil movement from the political leaders and governments of the West is without basis. For many Western leaders, the current regime in Russia is more convenient, comfortable and pleasant than its opponents would be. Western leaders have accumulated considerable experience in cooperating with and supporting authoritarian regimes in Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The restoration of civil freedooms, legal order and democracy are matters for the Russian people themselves.

On Oil

The increase in the price of oil in recent years was not the reason for the socio-political degradation of the country, and neither will a future drop in price guarantee the civil and political emancipation of Russia. The root of the problem lies not in the molecules of oil, but in the views, ideologies and outlooks on the world that prevail among representatives of the current regime and those parts of Russian society that consider inequality of people under the law, authoritarian organization of government, and use of violence against citizens as possible, tolerable, desirable, and normal.

On Participation in the Special Operation Called “02 March 2008”

Participation by the citizens of Russia in the special operation called “02 March 2008” is unacceptable. Non-participation by citizens in the so-called “presidential elections” as a form of boycott presents the regime with an additional means for falsifying the official results. For citizens concerned about the fate of their country, not trusting the current regime and not desiring to have their own small resource used against them, have one possible course of action remaining: take the ballot home with you.

On Counting the Removed Ballots

Ballots that have been taken home can and should be counted – outside of official voting places and outside the election commission. Counting of the removed ballots is necessary not in order to show the results to the regime, or to convince them of something or mock them. It is necessary for the citizens of Russia to conduct a different election, build a different system of government power, elect a different parliament, and create a different country. Removed ballots might be exchanged for “citizens’ ballots” that could be used to elect members of a Civil Movement proto-parliament.

On the Proto-Parliament

The major project that might unify participants in the Civil Movement could be the formation of a proto-parliament through elections using “citizens’ ballots” that would be received in exchange for unused ballots from the official “presidential election” of March 2. In doing this they could draw on their experience with free elections developed during the “Other Russia” primaries in the Summer-Fall 2007 period. The main objective of the Civil Movement should be the discussion of issues associated with ensuring the security of citizens, restoration of civil freedoms, establishment of legal order, and the creation of a democratic political system in Russia.

On the Basic Program of a Civil Movement

Working out a final program for the Civil Movement will demand time and cooperative work from its participants. But several key requirements for the basic program can be formulated as follows:

1. Immediate release of all political prisoners.

2. Immediate end to all political repression.

3. Immediate elimination of all limits on the activities of the mass media.

4. Elimination of limits and prohibitions on political activities.

5. Restoration of basic civil freedoms, including the sanctity of the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of assembly and association.

6. Introduction of a criminal prohibition against interference by the executive branch of government in court decisions.

7. Restoration of election laws to what they were as of December 31, 1999.

8. Cancellation of the official results from the special operations of 02 December 2007 and 02 March 2008.

Another Original LR Translation: Illarionov’s Call for Action, by our Original Translator

February Theses for the Citizens of Russia

Andrey Illarionov

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

February 28, 2008

Recent events – the October-November Bacchanalia of an “election campaign”, the special operation called “02 December 2007”, the military-“Nashisti” occupation of Moscow on 2-6 December, and the special operation now underway known as “02 March 2008” – represent a qualitative break in the situation with Russian society and government. This new situation allows the formulation of a number of key theses.

On the Legitimacy of the Regime

The illegitimate character of the “elections” of December 2, 2007 and March 2, 2008 make claims by their “victors” to have won government office in Russia illegal. That means that not only the elected “State Duma” and its deputies, not only the “president” now being elected, but now also the lower officials being appointed by this Duma and this “president” – all are illegitimate.

On the Risks to Russia

The illegitimacy of the regime is leading it to an even larger-scale use of falsifications, bribery and violence against the citizens of Russia. The creation of absolute power by this illegitimate regime – along with destroying the fundamental institutions of government and society and monopolizing all political, economic and information resources in the hands of the regime’s representatives – enormously increases the level of risk for the country and its people. The main threats today are not so much threats to the economy or people’s well-being as direct threats to people’s security and lives.

On Our Aims – Long-Term and Short-Term

The main objectives for those who consider themselves citizens of Russia will be the prevention of a national catastrophe, ensuring the security of the people, and preserving for Russian society the basic norms of human morality in more difficult less agreeable circumstances. In the final analysis, it will be impossible to achieve these objectives without the replacement of the current regime. There should be no place on Russian soil for the regime of a political and criminal thug.

On the Possibility of a Gradual Evolution of the Regime

The hopes of many that the regime might be changed by nurturing, education and persuasion have been proven baseless. All efforts at changing the regime by cooperating with its leaders have ended in failure. Those who were changed were not the chekistisiloviki [TN: political slang for former intelligence officers in positions of authority in the government]; it was not the siloviki who adopted the norms of civil society, but the representatives of the civil bureaucracy who took up the craft and habits of the siloviki. The current regime in Russia has proven itself to be incapable of internal evolution.

On Cooperation with the Regime

There should be no doubt about it: cooperation with this regime by law-abiding, civil professionals does not weaken the regime, it strengthens it. Attempts to influence officials of the regime through knowledge, argument and logic simply arm the regime intellectually and further strengthen it in the war it is waging against the citizens of Russia.

On Expectations for a Political Thaw

Expectations of a political “thaw”, a possible liberalization and democratization of the current regime in connection with a rotation of personnel in the position of president, have lost all bases. There is nothing in the personal characteristics of tomorrow’s “president” – neither in his education, world view, professional resume, past experience, degree of independence, nor amount of real authority; no sort of new demand for democratic change from the regime’s political base (intelligence officers and bureaucrats, Russian monopolists and the Western political and business leaders); and nothing in the key conditions of modern Russian society – neither in the monopoly on information, repression against opponents, nor the price of oil; there is nothing at all providing any reason to expect genuine – not just stylistic – change for the better. More likely the opposite.

On Ways to Change the Regime

In democratic societies the changeover from one political regime to another occurs as a result of elections – parliamentary or presidential. There is no point in feeding any illusions here: for the Russia of today, this path is closed. Under authoritarian systems of government, the political regime can be overthrown only by revolution, coup, or external occupation. Under conditions in which the regime has a monopoly on the law enforcement and intelligence structures, and taking into consideration the regime’s willingness to use them against peaceful citizens, any call for forcibly changing the regime is tantamount to a call for suicide.

On Violence

A call for violence would be extremely undesirable. Nonetheless, it cannot be entirely ruled out. The law-abiding citizen who is attacked by bandits has the right to self-defense. The presence or absence of uniforms on the bandits at the time of the attack does not make them guardians of order.

On Term Lengths

The terms of the current regime may turn out to be longer than they seem to be or one might hope they are today.

On Unification of the People

Attempts at survival by separate parties, organizations or groups are, in the current situation, doomed. Those few victories the people have enjoyed over the regime in the past few years have been possible only when the people were able to unite: against the monetization of allowances [TN: lgoty, generally given to pensioners or the disabled, consisting of discounted or free food, transportation, utilities, etc.], for the defense of Shcherbinskiy, in the defense of Lake Baikal. Without unity, the people cannot defend their rights in an even limited way.

On a Platform for Unification

Unification of the people of Russia is not possible on either an ideological or political basis. The people of Russia support a wide variety of viewpoints, world views, ideologies and political currents. Formation of a massive political party would be possible only with the help of a totalitarian ideology and military-like discipline, or on the basis of bureaucratic loyalty. Unification of the people can be created only on the basis of moral principles that distinguish the democratic opposition from the authoritarian regime. But unification of the people cannot be constructed solely to oppose the regime; it must have a positive aim as well.

On the Aims of Unification

In Russia today there is no goal more important and no national platform broader than the restoration of civil rights and freedoms, ensuring the primacy of law and independence of mass media, and creating a democratic political system in the country. So a working title for the unification movement might be “Civil Movement” or “Civil Coalition”.

On the Principles of a Civil Movement

The guiding principles of the Civil Movement are for democratic principles in the organization of society and governmental authority: for legal equality of all citizens in Russia, regardless of their situation in life, status, political views, nationality, creed or gender; for tolerance toward the views of others as long as they do not violate the Russian Constitution; for freedom of speech; and for honest political competition. In interactions between the people and the regime’s representatives, the guiding principles remain the rules for existence worked out by the prisoners of the Gulag: “Don’t believe (the regime). Don’t be afraid (of the regime). Don’t ask for anything (from the regime).” It would be worthwhile to add to these a fourth principle: “Don’t cooperate with the regime or participate in its dealings.”

On the Participants in a Civil Movement

Supporters of liberal, conservative, patriotic and socialist points of view could all, within the framework of a Civil Movement, cooperate with each other in the project of creating a free Russia, as long as their joint program for action does not contradict the principles of the inviolability of the individual, legal equality for all citizens, and honest, fair and democratic elections. Advancing various political agendas by participants in the coalition would be possible to the extent that they do not contradict basic civil freedoms and democratic principles for the organization of society and government.

On the West

Any expectation of support – even just moral support – for a Russian civil movement from the political leaders and governments of the West is without basis. For many Western leaders, the current regime in Russia is more convenient, comfortable and pleasant than its opponents would be. Western leaders have accumulated considerable experience in cooperating with and supporting authoritarian regimes in Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The restoration of civil freedooms, legal order and democracy are matters for the Russian people themselves.

On Oil

The increase in the price of oil in recent years was not the reason for the socio-political degradation of the country, and neither will a future drop in price guarantee the civil and political emancipation of Russia. The root of the problem lies not in the molecules of oil, but in the views, ideologies and outlooks on the world that prevail among representatives of the current regime and those parts of Russian society that consider inequality of people under the law, authoritarian organization of government, and use of violence against citizens as possible, tolerable, desirable, and normal.

On Participation in the Special Operation Called “02 March 2008”

Participation by the citizens of Russia in the special operation called “02 March 2008” is unacceptable. Non-participation by citizens in the so-called “presidential elections” as a form of boycott presents the regime with an additional means for falsifying the official results. For citizens concerned about the fate of their country, not trusting the current regime and not desiring to have their own small resource used against them, have one possible course of action remaining: take the ballot home with you.

On Counting the Removed Ballots

Ballots that have been taken home can and should be counted – outside of official voting places and outside the election commission. Counting of the removed ballots is necessary not in order to show the results to the regime, or to convince them of something or mock them. It is necessary for the citizens of Russia to conduct a different election, build a different system of government power, elect a different parliament, and create a different country. Removed ballots might be exchanged for “citizens’ ballots” that could be used to elect members of a Civil Movement proto-parliament.

On the Proto-Parliament

The major project that might unify participants in the Civil Movement could be the formation of a proto-parliament through elections using “citizens’ ballots” that would be received in exchange for unused ballots from the official “presidential election” of March 2. In doing this they could draw on their experience with free elections developed during the “Other Russia” primaries in the Summer-Fall 2007 period. The main objective of the Civil Movement should be the discussion of issues associated with ensuring the security of citizens, restoration of civil freedoms, establishment of legal order, and the creation of a democratic political system in Russia.

On the Basic Program of a Civil Movement

Working out a final program for the Civil Movement will demand time and cooperative work from its participants. But several key requirements for the basic program can be formulated as follows:

1. Immediate release of all political prisoners.

2. Immediate end to all political repression.

3. Immediate elimination of all limits on the activities of the mass media.

4. Elimination of limits and prohibitions on political activities.

5. Restoration of basic civil freedoms, including the sanctity of the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of assembly and association.

6. Introduction of a criminal prohibition against interference by the executive branch of government in court decisions.

7. Restoration of election laws to what they were as of December 31, 1999.

8. Cancellation of the official results from the special operations of 02 December 2007 and 02 March 2008.

Another Original LR Translation: Illarionov’s Call for Action, by our Original Translator

February Theses for the Citizens of Russia

Andrey Illarionov

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

February 28, 2008

Recent events – the October-November Bacchanalia of an “election campaign”, the special operation called “02 December 2007”, the military-“Nashisti” occupation of Moscow on 2-6 December, and the special operation now underway known as “02 March 2008” – represent a qualitative break in the situation with Russian society and government. This new situation allows the formulation of a number of key theses.

On the Legitimacy of the Regime

The illegitimate character of the “elections” of December 2, 2007 and March 2, 2008 make claims by their “victors” to have won government office in Russia illegal. That means that not only the elected “State Duma” and its deputies, not only the “president” now being elected, but now also the lower officials being appointed by this Duma and this “president” – all are illegitimate.

On the Risks to Russia

The illegitimacy of the regime is leading it to an even larger-scale use of falsifications, bribery and violence against the citizens of Russia. The creation of absolute power by this illegitimate regime – along with destroying the fundamental institutions of government and society and monopolizing all political, economic and information resources in the hands of the regime’s representatives – enormously increases the level of risk for the country and its people. The main threats today are not so much threats to the economy or people’s well-being as direct threats to people’s security and lives.

On Our Aims – Long-Term and Short-Term

The main objectives for those who consider themselves citizens of Russia will be the prevention of a national catastrophe, ensuring the security of the people, and preserving for Russian society the basic norms of human morality in more difficult less agreeable circumstances. In the final analysis, it will be impossible to achieve these objectives without the replacement of the current regime. There should be no place on Russian soil for the regime of a political and criminal thug.

On the Possibility of a Gradual Evolution of the Regime

The hopes of many that the regime might be changed by nurturing, education and persuasion have been proven baseless. All efforts at changing the regime by cooperating with its leaders have ended in failure. Those who were changed were not the chekistisiloviki [TN: political slang for former intelligence officers in positions of authority in the government]; it was not the siloviki who adopted the norms of civil society, but the representatives of the civil bureaucracy who took up the craft and habits of the siloviki. The current regime in Russia has proven itself to be incapable of internal evolution.

On Cooperation with the Regime

There should be no doubt about it: cooperation with this regime by law-abiding, civil professionals does not weaken the regime, it strengthens it. Attempts to influence officials of the regime through knowledge, argument and logic simply arm the regime intellectually and further strengthen it in the war it is waging against the citizens of Russia.

On Expectations for a Political Thaw

Expectations of a political “thaw”, a possible liberalization and democratization of the current regime in connection with a rotation of personnel in the position of president, have lost all bases. There is nothing in the personal characteristics of tomorrow’s “president” – neither in his education, world view, professional resume, past experience, degree of independence, nor amount of real authority; no sort of new demand for democratic change from the regime’s political base (intelligence officers and bureaucrats, Russian monopolists and the Western political and business leaders); and nothing in the key conditions of modern Russian society – neither in the monopoly on information, repression against opponents, nor the price of oil; there is nothing at all providing any reason to expect genuine – not just stylistic – change for the better. More likely the opposite.

On Ways to Change the Regime

In democratic societies the changeover from one political regime to another occurs as a result of elections – parliamentary or presidential. There is no point in feeding any illusions here: for the Russia of today, this path is closed. Under authoritarian systems of government, the political regime can be overthrown only by revolution, coup, or external occupation. Under conditions in which the regime has a monopoly on the law enforcement and intelligence structures, and taking into consideration the regime’s willingness to use them against peaceful citizens, any call for forcibly changing the regime is tantamount to a call for suicide.

On Violence

A call for violence would be extremely undesirable. Nonetheless, it cannot be entirely ruled out. The law-abiding citizen who is attacked by bandits has the right to self-defense. The presence or absence of uniforms on the bandits at the time of the attack does not make them guardians of order.

On Term Lengths

The terms of the current regime may turn out to be longer than they seem to be or one might hope they are today.

On Unification of the People

Attempts at survival by separate parties, organizations or groups are, in the current situation, doomed. Those few victories the people have enjoyed over the regime in the past few years have been possible only when the people were able to unite: against the monetization of allowances [TN: lgoty, generally given to pensioners or the disabled, consisting of discounted or free food, transportation, utilities, etc.], for the defense of Shcherbinskiy, in the defense of Lake Baikal. Without unity, the people cannot defend their rights in an even limited way.

On a Platform for Unification

Unification of the people of Russia is not possible on either an ideological or political basis. The people of Russia support a wide variety of viewpoints, world views, ideologies and political currents. Formation of a massive political party would be possible only with the help of a totalitarian ideology and military-like discipline, or on the basis of bureaucratic loyalty. Unification of the people can be created only on the basis of moral principles that distinguish the democratic opposition from the authoritarian regime. But unification of the people cannot be constructed solely to oppose the regime; it must have a positive aim as well.

On the Aims of Unification

In Russia today there is no goal more important and no national platform broader than the restoration of civil rights and freedoms, ensuring the primacy of law and independence of mass media, and creating a democratic political system in the country. So a working title for the unification movement might be “Civil Movement” or “Civil Coalition”.

On the Principles of a Civil Movement

The guiding principles of the Civil Movement are for democratic principles in the organization of society and governmental authority: for legal equality of all citizens in Russia, regardless of their situation in life, status, political views, nationality, creed or gender; for tolerance toward the views of others as long as they do not violate the Russian Constitution; for freedom of speech; and for honest political competition. In interactions between the people and the regime’s representatives, the guiding principles remain the rules for existence worked out by the prisoners of the Gulag: “Don’t believe (the regime). Don’t be afraid (of the regime). Don’t ask for anything (from the regime).” It would be worthwhile to add to these a fourth principle: “Don’t cooperate with the regime or participate in its dealings.”

On the Participants in a Civil Movement

Supporters of liberal, conservative, patriotic and socialist points of view could all, within the framework of a Civil Movement, cooperate with each other in the project of creating a free Russia, as long as their joint program for action does not contradict the principles of the inviolability of the individual, legal equality for all citizens, and honest, fair and democratic elections. Advancing various political agendas by participants in the coalition would be possible to the extent that they do not contradict basic civil freedoms and democratic principles for the organization of society and government.

On the West

Any expectation of support – even just moral support – for a Russian civil movement from the political leaders and governments of the West is without basis. For many Western leaders, the current regime in Russia is more convenient, comfortable and pleasant than its opponents would be. Western leaders have accumulated considerable experience in cooperating with and supporting authoritarian regimes in Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The restoration of civil freedooms, legal order and democracy are matters for the Russian people themselves.

On Oil

The increase in the price of oil in recent years was not the reason for the socio-political degradation of the country, and neither will a future drop in price guarantee the civil and political emancipation of Russia. The root of the problem lies not in the molecules of oil, but in the views, ideologies and outlooks on the world that prevail among representatives of the current regime and those parts of Russian society that consider inequality of people under the law, authoritarian organization of government, and use of violence against citizens as possible, tolerable, desirable, and normal.

On Participation in the Special Operation Called “02 March 2008”

Participation by the citizens of Russia in the special operation called “02 March 2008” is unacceptable. Non-participation by citizens in the so-called “presidential elections” as a form of boycott presents the regime with an additional means for falsifying the official results. For citizens concerned about the fate of their country, not trusting the current regime and not desiring to have their own small resource used against them, have one possible course of action remaining: take the ballot home with you.

On Counting the Removed Ballots

Ballots that have been taken home can and should be counted – outside of official voting places and outside the election commission. Counting of the removed ballots is necessary not in order to show the results to the regime, or to convince them of something or mock them. It is necessary for the citizens of Russia to conduct a different election, build a different system of government power, elect a different parliament, and create a different country. Removed ballots might be exchanged for “citizens’ ballots” that could be used to elect members of a Civil Movement proto-parliament.

On the Proto-Parliament

The major project that might unify participants in the Civil Movement could be the formation of a proto-parliament through elections using “citizens’ ballots” that would be received in exchange for unused ballots from the official “presidential election” of March 2. In doing this they could draw on their experience with free elections developed during the “Other Russia” primaries in the Summer-Fall 2007 period. The main objective of the Civil Movement should be the discussion of issues associated with ensuring the security of citizens, restoration of civil freedoms, establishment of legal order, and the creation of a democratic political system in Russia.

On the Basic Program of a Civil Movement

Working out a final program for the Civil Movement will demand time and cooperative work from its participants. But several key requirements for the basic program can be formulated as follows:

1. Immediate release of all political prisoners.

2. Immediate end to all political repression.

3. Immediate elimination of all limits on the activities of the mass media.

4. Elimination of limits and prohibitions on political activities.

5. Restoration of basic civil freedoms, including the sanctity of the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of assembly and association.

6. Introduction of a criminal prohibition against interference by the executive branch of government in court decisions.

7. Restoration of election laws to what they were as of December 31, 1999.

8. Cancellation of the official results from the special operations of 02 December 2007 and 02 March 2008.

Another Original LR Translation: Illarionov’s Call for Action, by our Original Translator

February Theses for the Citizens of Russia

Andrey Illarionov

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

February 28, 2008

Recent events – the October-November Bacchanalia of an “election campaign”, the special operation called “02 December 2007”, the military-“Nashisti” occupation of Moscow on 2-6 December, and the special operation now underway known as “02 March 2008” – represent a qualitative break in the situation with Russian society and government. This new situation allows the formulation of a number of key theses.

On the Legitimacy of the Regime

The illegitimate character of the “elections” of December 2, 2007 and March 2, 2008 make claims by their “victors” to have won government office in Russia illegal. That means that not only the elected “State Duma” and its deputies, not only the “president” now being elected, but now also the lower officials being appointed by this Duma and this “president” – all are illegitimate.

On the Risks to Russia

The illegitimacy of the regime is leading it to an even larger-scale use of falsifications, bribery and violence against the citizens of Russia. The creation of absolute power by this illegitimate regime – along with destroying the fundamental institutions of government and society and monopolizing all political, economic and information resources in the hands of the regime’s representatives – enormously increases the level of risk for the country and its people. The main threats today are not so much threats to the economy or people’s well-being as direct threats to people’s security and lives.

On Our Aims – Long-Term and Short-Term

The main objectives for those who consider themselves citizens of Russia will be the prevention of a national catastrophe, ensuring the security of the people, and preserving for Russian society the basic norms of human morality in more difficult less agreeable circumstances. In the final analysis, it will be impossible to achieve these objectives without the replacement of the current regime. There should be no place on Russian soil for the regime of a political and criminal thug.

On the Possibility of a Gradual Evolution of the Regime

The hopes of many that the regime might be changed by nurturing, education and persuasion have been proven baseless. All efforts at changing the regime by cooperating with its leaders have ended in failure. Those who were changed were not the chekistisiloviki [TN: political slang for former intelligence officers in positions of authority in the government]; it was not the siloviki who adopted the norms of civil society, but the representatives of the civil bureaucracy who took up the craft and habits of the siloviki. The current regime in Russia has proven itself to be incapable of internal evolution.

On Cooperation with the Regime

There should be no doubt about it: cooperation with this regime by law-abiding, civil professionals does not weaken the regime, it strengthens it. Attempts to influence officials of the regime through knowledge, argument and logic simply arm the regime intellectually and further strengthen it in the war it is waging against the citizens of Russia.

On Expectations for a Political Thaw

Expectations of a political “thaw”, a possible liberalization and democratization of the current regime in connection with a rotation of personnel in the position of president, have lost all bases. There is nothing in the personal characteristics of tomorrow’s “president” – neither in his education, world view, professional resume, past experience, degree of independence, nor amount of real authority; no sort of new demand for democratic change from the regime’s political base (intelligence officers and bureaucrats, Russian monopolists and the Western political and business leaders); and nothing in the key conditions of modern Russian society – neither in the monopoly on information, repression against opponents, nor the price of oil; there is nothing at all providing any reason to expect genuine – not just stylistic – change for the better. More likely the opposite.

On Ways to Change the Regime

In democratic societies the changeover from one political regime to another occurs as a result of elections – parliamentary or presidential. There is no point in feeding any illusions here: for the Russia of today, this path is closed. Under authoritarian systems of government, the political regime can be overthrown only by revolution, coup, or external occupation. Under conditions in which the regime has a monopoly on the law enforcement and intelligence structures, and taking into consideration the regime’s willingness to use them against peaceful citizens, any call for forcibly changing the regime is tantamount to a call for suicide.

On Violence

A call for violence would be extremely undesirable. Nonetheless, it cannot be entirely ruled out. The law-abiding citizen who is attacked by bandits has the right to self-defense. The presence or absence of uniforms on the bandits at the time of the attack does not make them guardians of order.

On Term Lengths

The terms of the current regime may turn out to be longer than they seem to be or one might hope they are today.

On Unification of the People

Attempts at survival by separate parties, organizations or groups are, in the current situation, doomed. Those few victories the people have enjoyed over the regime in the past few years have been possible only when the people were able to unite: against the monetization of allowances [TN: lgoty, generally given to pensioners or the disabled, consisting of discounted or free food, transportation, utilities, etc.], for the defense of Shcherbinskiy, in the defense of Lake Baikal. Without unity, the people cannot defend their rights in an even limited way.

On a Platform for Unification

Unification of the people of Russia is not possible on either an ideological or political basis. The people of Russia support a wide variety of viewpoints, world views, ideologies and political currents. Formation of a massive political party would be possible only with the help of a totalitarian ideology and military-like discipline, or on the basis of bureaucratic loyalty. Unification of the people can be created only on the basis of moral principles that distinguish the democratic opposition from the authoritarian regime. But unification of the people cannot be constructed solely to oppose the regime; it must have a positive aim as well.

On the Aims of Unification

In Russia today there is no goal more important and no national platform broader than the restoration of civil rights and freedoms, ensuring the primacy of law and independence of mass media, and creating a democratic political system in the country. So a working title for the unification movement might be “Civil Movement” or “Civil Coalition”.

On the Principles of a Civil Movement

The guiding principles of the Civil Movement are for democratic principles in the organization of society and governmental authority: for legal equality of all citizens in Russia, regardless of their situation in life, status, political views, nationality, creed or gender; for tolerance toward the views of others as long as they do not violate the Russian Constitution; for freedom of speech; and for honest political competition. In interactions between the people and the regime’s representatives, the guiding principles remain the rules for existence worked out by the prisoners of the Gulag: “Don’t believe (the regime). Don’t be afraid (of the regime). Don’t ask for anything (from the regime).” It would be worthwhile to add to these a fourth principle: “Don’t cooperate with the regime or participate in its dealings.”

On the Participants in a Civil Movement

Supporters of liberal, conservative, patriotic and socialist points of view could all, within the framework of a Civil Movement, cooperate with each other in the project of creating a free Russia, as long as their joint program for action does not contradict the principles of the inviolability of the individual, legal equality for all citizens, and honest, fair and democratic elections. Advancing various political agendas by participants in the coalition would be possible to the extent that they do not contradict basic civil freedoms and democratic principles for the organization of society and government.

On the West

Any expectation of support – even just moral support – for a Russian civil movement from the political leaders and governments of the West is without basis. For many Western leaders, the current regime in Russia is more convenient, comfortable and pleasant than its opponents would be. Western leaders have accumulated considerable experience in cooperating with and supporting authoritarian regimes in Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The restoration of civil freedooms, legal order and democracy are matters for the Russian people themselves.

On Oil

The increase in the price of oil in recent years was not the reason for the socio-political degradation of the country, and neither will a future drop in price guarantee the civil and political emancipation of Russia. The root of the problem lies not in the molecules of oil, but in the views, ideologies and outlooks on the world that prevail among representatives of the current regime and those parts of Russian society that consider inequality of people under the law, authoritarian organization of government, and use of violence against citizens as possible, tolerable, desirable, and normal.

On Participation in the Special Operation Called “02 March 2008”

Participation by the citizens of Russia in the special operation called “02 March 2008” is unacceptable. Non-participation by citizens in the so-called “presidential elections” as a form of boycott presents the regime with an additional means for falsifying the official results. For citizens concerned about the fate of their country, not trusting the current regime and not desiring to have their own small resource used against them, have one possible course of action remaining: take the ballot home with you.

On Counting the Removed Ballots

Ballots that have been taken home can and should be counted – outside of official voting places and outside the election commission. Counting of the removed ballots is necessary not in order to show the results to the regime, or to convince them of something or mock them. It is necessary for the citizens of Russia to conduct a different election, build a different system of government power, elect a different parliament, and create a different country. Removed ballots might be exchanged for “citizens’ ballots” that could be used to elect members of a Civil Movement proto-parliament.

On the Proto-Parliament

The major project that might unify participants in the Civil Movement could be the formation of a proto-parliament through elections using “citizens’ ballots” that would be received in exchange for unused ballots from the official “presidential election” of March 2. In doing this they could draw on their experience with free elections developed during the “Other Russia” primaries in the Summer-Fall 2007 period. The main objective of the Civil Movement should be the discussion of issues associated with ensuring the security of citizens, restoration of civil freedoms, establishment of legal order, and the creation of a democratic political system in Russia.

On the Basic Program of a Civil Movement

Working out a final program for the Civil Movement will demand time and cooperative work from its participants. But several key requirements for the basic program can be formulated as follows:

1. Immediate release of all political prisoners.

2. Immediate end to all political repression.

3. Immediate elimination of all limits on the activities of the mass media.

4. Elimination of limits and prohibitions on political activities.

5. Restoration of basic civil freedoms, including the sanctity of the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of assembly and association.

6. Introduction of a criminal prohibition against interference by the executive branch of government in court decisions.

7. Restoration of election laws to what they were as of December 31, 1999.

8. Cancellation of the official results from the special operations of 02 December 2007 and 02 March 2008.

Another Original LR Translation: Illarionov’s Call for Action, by our Original Translator

February Theses for the Citizens of Russia

Andrey Illarionov

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

February 28, 2008

Recent events – the October-November Bacchanalia of an “election campaign”, the special operation called “02 December 2007”, the military-“Nashisti” occupation of Moscow on 2-6 December, and the special operation now underway known as “02 March 2008” – represent a qualitative break in the situation with Russian society and government. This new situation allows the formulation of a number of key theses.

On the Legitimacy of the Regime

The illegitimate character of the “elections” of December 2, 2007 and March 2, 2008 make claims by their “victors” to have won government office in Russia illegal. That means that not only the elected “State Duma” and its deputies, not only the “president” now being elected, but now also the lower officials being appointed by this Duma and this “president” – all are illegitimate.

On the Risks to Russia

The illegitimacy of the regime is leading it to an even larger-scale use of falsifications, bribery and violence against the citizens of Russia. The creation of absolute power by this illegitimate regime – along with destroying the fundamental institutions of government and society and monopolizing all political, economic and information resources in the hands of the regime’s representatives – enormously increases the level of risk for the country and its people. The main threats today are not so much threats to the economy or people’s well-being as direct threats to people’s security and lives.

On Our Aims – Long-Term and Short-Term

The main objectives for those who consider themselves citizens of Russia will be the prevention of a national catastrophe, ensuring the security of the people, and preserving for Russian society the basic norms of human morality in more difficult less agreeable circumstances. In the final analysis, it will be impossible to achieve these objectives without the replacement of the current regime. There should be no place on Russian soil for the regime of a political and criminal thug.

On the Possibility of a Gradual Evolution of the Regime

The hopes of many that the regime might be changed by nurturing, education and persuasion have been proven baseless. All efforts at changing the regime by cooperating with its leaders have ended in failure. Those who were changed were not the chekistisiloviki [TN: political slang for former intelligence officers in positions of authority in the government]; it was not the siloviki who adopted the norms of civil society, but the representatives of the civil bureaucracy who took up the craft and habits of the siloviki. The current regime in Russia has proven itself to be incapable of internal evolution.

On Cooperation with the Regime

There should be no doubt about it: cooperation with this regime by law-abiding, civil professionals does not weaken the regime, it strengthens it. Attempts to influence officials of the regime through knowledge, argument and logic simply arm the regime intellectually and further strengthen it in the war it is waging against the citizens of Russia.

On Expectations for a Political Thaw

Expectations of a political “thaw”, a possible liberalization and democratization of the current regime in connection with a rotation of personnel in the position of president, have lost all bases. There is nothing in the personal characteristics of tomorrow’s “president” – neither in his education, world view, professional resume, past experience, degree of independence, nor amount of real authority; no sort of new demand for democratic change from the regime’s political base (intelligence officers and bureaucrats, Russian monopolists and the Western political and business leaders); and nothing in the key conditions of modern Russian society – neither in the monopoly on information, repression against opponents, nor the price of oil; there is nothing at all providing any reason to expect genuine – not just stylistic – change for the better. More likely the opposite.

On Ways to Change the Regime

In democratic societies the changeover from one political regime to another occurs as a result of elections – parliamentary or presidential. There is no point in feeding any illusions here: for the Russia of today, this path is closed. Under authoritarian systems of government, the political regime can be overthrown only by revolution, coup, or external occupation. Under conditions in which the regime has a monopoly on the law enforcement and intelligence structures, and taking into consideration the regime’s willingness to use them against peaceful citizens, any call for forcibly changing the regime is tantamount to a call for suicide.

On Violence

A call for violence would be extremely undesirable. Nonetheless, it cannot be entirely ruled out. The law-abiding citizen who is attacked by bandits has the right to self-defense. The presence or absence of uniforms on the bandits at the time of the attack does not make them guardians of order.

On Term Lengths

The terms of the current regime may turn out to be longer than they seem to be or one might hope they are today.

On Unification of the People

Attempts at survival by separate parties, organizations or groups are, in the current situation, doomed. Those few victories the people have enjoyed over the regime in the past few years have been possible only when the people were able to unite: against the monetization of allowances [TN: lgoty, generally given to pensioners or the disabled, consisting of discounted or free food, transportation, utilities, etc.], for the defense of Shcherbinskiy, in the defense of Lake Baikal. Without unity, the people cannot defend their rights in an even limited way.

On a Platform for Unification

Unification of the people of Russia is not possible on either an ideological or political basis. The people of Russia support a wide variety of viewpoints, world views, ideologies and political currents. Formation of a massive political party would be possible only with the help of a totalitarian ideology and military-like discipline, or on the basis of bureaucratic loyalty. Unification of the people can be created only on the basis of moral principles that distinguish the democratic opposition from the authoritarian regime. But unification of the people cannot be constructed solely to oppose the regime; it must have a positive aim as well.

On the Aims of Unification

In Russia today there is no goal more important and no national platform broader than the restoration of civil rights and freedoms, ensuring the primacy of law and independence of mass media, and creating a democratic political system in the country. So a working title for the unification movement might be “Civil Movement” or “Civil Coalition”.

On the Principles of a Civil Movement

The guiding principles of the Civil Movement are for democratic principles in the organization of society and governmental authority: for legal equality of all citizens in Russia, regardless of their situation in life, status, political views, nationality, creed or gender; for tolerance toward the views of others as long as they do not violate the Russian Constitution; for freedom of speech; and for honest political competition. In interactions between the people and the regime’s representatives, the guiding principles remain the rules for existence worked out by the prisoners of the Gulag: “Don’t believe (the regime). Don’t be afraid (of the regime). Don’t ask for anything (from the regime).” It would be worthwhile to add to these a fourth principle: “Don’t cooperate with the regime or participate in its dealings.”

On the Participants in a Civil Movement

Supporters of liberal, conservative, patriotic and socialist points of view could all, within the framework of a Civil Movement, cooperate with each other in the project of creating a free Russia, as long as their joint program for action does not contradict the principles of the inviolability of the individual, legal equality for all citizens, and honest, fair and democratic elections. Advancing various political agendas by participants in the coalition would be possible to the extent that they do not contradict basic civil freedoms and democratic principles for the organization of society and government.

On the West

Any expectation of support – even just moral support – for a Russian civil movement from the political leaders and governments of the West is without basis. For many Western leaders, the current regime in Russia is more convenient, comfortable and pleasant than its opponents would be. Western leaders have accumulated considerable experience in cooperating with and supporting authoritarian regimes in Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The restoration of civil freedooms, legal order and democracy are matters for the Russian people themselves.

On Oil

The increase in the price of oil in recent years was not the reason for the socio-political degradation of the country, and neither will a future drop in price guarantee the civil and political emancipation of Russia. The root of the problem lies not in the molecules of oil, but in the views, ideologies and outlooks on the world that prevail among representatives of the current regime and those parts of Russian society that consider inequality of people under the law, authoritarian organization of government, and use of violence against citizens as possible, tolerable, desirable, and normal.

On Participation in the Special Operation Called “02 March 2008”

Participation by the citizens of Russia in the special operation called “02 March 2008” is unacceptable. Non-participation by citizens in the so-called “presidential elections” as a form of boycott presents the regime with an additional means for falsifying the official results. For citizens concerned about the fate of their country, not trusting the current regime and not desiring to have their own small resource used against them, have one possible course of action remaining: take the ballot home with you.

On Counting the Removed Ballots

Ballots that have been taken home can and should be counted – outside of official voting places and outside the election commission. Counting of the removed ballots is necessary not in order to show the results to the regime, or to convince them of something or mock them. It is necessary for the citizens of Russia to conduct a different election, build a different system of government power, elect a different parliament, and create a different country. Removed ballots might be exchanged for “citizens’ ballots” that could be used to elect members of a Civil Movement proto-parliament.

On the Proto-Parliament

The major project that might unify participants in the Civil Movement could be the formation of a proto-parliament through elections using “citizens’ ballots” that would be received in exchange for unused ballots from the official “presidential election” of March 2. In doing this they could draw on their experience with free elections developed during the “Other Russia” primaries in the Summer-Fall 2007 period. The main objective of the Civil Movement should be the discussion of issues associated with ensuring the security of citizens, restoration of civil freedoms, establishment of legal order, and the creation of a democratic political system in Russia.

On the Basic Program of a Civil Movement

Working out a final program for the Civil Movement will demand time and cooperative work from its participants. But several key requirements for the basic program can be formulated as follows:

1. Immediate release of all political prisoners.

2. Immediate end to all political repression.

3. Immediate elimination of all limits on the activities of the mass media.

4. Elimination of limits and prohibitions on political activities.

5. Restoration of basic civil freedoms, including the sanctity of the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of assembly and association.

6. Introduction of a criminal prohibition against interference by the executive branch of government in court decisions.

7. Restoration of election laws to what they were as of December 31, 1999.

8. Cancellation of the official results from the special operations of 02 December 2007 and 02 March 2008.

EDITORIAL: Russians Write Their Own History

EDITORIAL

Russians Write Their Own History

In the “presidential elections” held last Sunday, just under 70% of eligible Russians supposedly went to the polls and just over 70% of them supposedly voted for the dictator Vladimir Putin’s hand-picked “successor” Dimitri Medvedev. That means that, in the best-case scenario for the Kremlin, less than half of all registered Russians went to the polls on election day and cast a vote for Medvedev.

In other words, neither we nor the Kremlin has any idea what the majority of the country wanted, even if we accept the Kremlin’s numbers — which we know are false based on evidence gleaned from the parliamentary ballot a few months ago, when Putin’s lowest level of support across the entire country was received in his own home city, St. Petersburg. The tiny handful of elections observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stated that “election repeated most of the flaws revealed during the Duma elections of December 2007. Equal access of the candidates to the media and the public sphere in general has not improved, putting into question the fairness of the election.”

This is the very most optimistic thing you can say about the people of Russia. They didn’t really support the Putin regime nearly as fully or enthusiastically as the Kremlin is claiming. Look any deeper, though, and what you see is truly appalling. It’s barbarism, pure and simple.

The results show that, as they have shown many times before, if Russian “voters” couldn’t have Medvedev, the anointed proxy of a proud KGB spy, then their second choice was a Communist (Gennady Zyuganov).

In 1984, Republican Ronald Reagan was reelected president with the support of 49 of the 50 American states. At that time one of the most popular figures in American electoral history, Reagan collected just 59% of the vote, far less than the share taken by Medvedev, a totally unproven unknown. In Franklin Roosevelt’s best of four election performances, his first reelection in 1936, his result was almost exactly the same (61%, losing two states). FDR was the only president ever elected to a third term, so popular was he in his prime, yet his share of the vote was likewise far behind that of Medvedev, who has never accomplished a single thing for Russia. No president in American history has come remotely close to securing 70% of the popular vote but Dmitri Medvedev, a walking cipher, a sycophant, exceed the performances of Reagan and FDR by a whopping 16% even though inflation is spiraling out of control, Russia’s relations with foreign countries have never been worse, corruption and human rights abuses are rampant and the country is losing hundreds of thousands from its population ever year due to unremedied sickness from a thousand sources.

Medvedev did not debate, face critical TV advertising or criticize any aspect of the Putin administration.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated: “These are free and democratic elections, and they were preceded by a free and democratic campaign.” Yet, the Moscow Times reported:

One independent observer told The Moscow Times that a less subtle approach was used at Polling Station No. 1513 in the Pechatniki district in southeast Moscow. The observer, Roman Udot, said he peered through the slots of both the sealed ballot boxes at the polling station and saw neatly stacked ballots, despite the fact that voting had not yet begun. The top ballot in each stack had a mark next to Medvedev’s name, Udot said. He managed to take a photograph of the stack of ballots in one of the boxes and posted the pictures on his blog, romanik.livejournal.com. The photographs appear to support his claim. “I reported this to the election officials,” Udot said in a telephone interview. “I called police, and they came here for a while. What drives me nuts is that no one cares or takes any action.”

Garry Kasparov was not allowed to walk onto Red Square during the elections. Oleg Vasilyev, 21, and Ivan Afonin, 18, members of the opposition youth group Oborona, were arrested on sight by OMON. A Moscow Times photographer was threatened with arrest and assaulted when he attempted to photograph these actions. And the day after the elections, when citizens peacefully gathered to protest all of the foregoing facts, this is how, as we report below, Medvedev’s government responded:


It’s barbarism, pure and simple. Russia must be cast out from the community of civilized nations. It’s people have made their choice, now we must make ours.

Celebrating "Victory" Putin Style


Reuters reports:

Russian riot police clashed on Monday with opposition protesters who tried to hold an unauthorised rally in Moscow against the election of President Vladimir Putin’s protege, Dmitry Medvedev. More than 300 riot police, sometimes using batons, detained scores of activists and dragged protesters to police buses, Reuters reporters at the scene said. Some of the protesters lit flares spreading scarlet smoke across the square in central Moscow, screaming “your election is a farce” and “Fascists! Fascists!”

“It is my duty to come down here and express my opposition after these pre-planned and falsified elections,” Yelizaveta, a protester in her 50s, told Reuters as riot police arrested people around her. “Now they are dragging us away one by one.” The leaders of Russia’s small and splintered liberal opposition have called a series of rallies to protest against the election of Medvedev, who official figures show won just over 70 percent of the vote. Opposition leader Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who attended a separate rally in the northern city of St Petersburg, said 250 people had been detained in Moscow. A spokesman for Moscow’s police declined to comment.

Western observers have criticized Sunday’s election as not fully democratic but Putin said the vote was held in strict accordance with the constitution. Independent opposition candidates were either barred from running or refused to take part in protest.

KREMLIN OPPONENTS

“We need to ensure that this regime is recognized as illegitimate,” said Kasparov, who in December dropped his bid to run in the presidential election, saying obstruction by the authorities made it pointless. “The authorities have stopped paying any attention even to the formalities of democracy,” he said, adding that the opposition would call an assembly of opposition parties before Medvedev’s May 7 inauguration as president.

Police at the Moscow rally detained Nikita Belykh, leader of the small free-market Union of Right Forces party, and Lev Ponomaryov, a prominent human rights activist. “Yesterday they were shouting Heil Putin … on Red Square to celebrate their victory,” Alla Petrova, a pensioner who was wrapped up warmly against the driving snow, told Reuters. “Today they are beating innocent people. Shame on them.”

In St Petersburg, about 2,000 activists chanted “Revolution, Revolution” and “Russia without Putin”. The meeting had official permission, but Maxim Reznik, head of the Yabloko opposition party in St Petersburg, was detained late on Sunday, opposition worker Olga Kurnosova said. “He was accused of not obeying police orders. He called me this morning and said his coat had been torn and his forehead bruised,” she told Reuters. Police confirmed the detention, saying Reznik was detained after he had attacked another man — a charge Kurnosova denied.

Voice of America and the Associated Press have more.

Though opposition marchers were banned, Nashi’s pro-Kremlin youth cult forces were free to march as they liked, as the Moscow Times reports:

Moscow authorities have repeatedly refused to authorize opposition marches on the grounds that they would snarl traffic and inconvenience people. But with the city’s blessing, thousands of pro-Kremlin youths marched across central Moscow on Monday — and created some of the worst traffic jams ever seen in the capital.

Around 5,500 young people marched from the Ukraina Hotel to the U.S. Embassy to celebrate the election of Dmitry Medvedev as president and to accuse the West of improperly meddling in domestic affairs. The marchers were bused into Moscow from around the country by Nashi, the pro-Kremlin youth group. While the march received generous coverage on state television, Moscow drivers were less than thrilled about the ostensible display of enthusiasm for the new president. “The policemen actually narrowed the street because they stood on the street next to the group of young people rallying on the sidewalks,” said Yevgeny Krestinsky, a driver who spent 15 minutes making the short trip from the Arbat to the Garden Ring.

Traffic was paralyzed in central and east Moscow for much of the day. Motorists stuck in east Moscow called radio programs to complain that traffic police had blocked traffic to let dozens of Nashi buses into the city. Traffic police spokesman Igor Koloskov said the jams were caused by “some transportation problems … and numerous events scheduled for today.”

“These events saw some participants from other cities come to Moscow, and the traffic police tried to do their best to normalize the traffic situation,” he said. When asked whether he meant the Nashi march, he said he was not authorized to name any specific events. “I mean all of the events permitted by Moscow authorities for today,” he said.

The anti-Kremlin opposition tried to hold a Dissenters’ March near the Chistiye Prudy metro station to protest Sunday’s election, but OMON riot police dragged away dozens of people before it could start at around 5 p.m. (Story, Page 2.) Moscow authorities had refused to authorize the opposition march, just as they had rejected repeated requests to hold similar marches for the past 15 months. Many times, City Hall has said it could not permit the marches because they could worsen the city’s already bad traffic problems. A City Hall spokeswoman, Natalya Panina, did not say why the Nashi march had been cleared and the opposition marches rejected. She said all marches are authorized or denied by the police. The police spokesman also did not explain why Nashi had received a green light.

The Nashi youths gathered near the Ukraina Hotel and walked together across the Novoarbatsky Bridge. While some split into large groups to head off in various directions, most veered left, crossing four lanes of traffic toward the White House and trudging uphill to the U.S. Embassy. Across from the embassy, they unsuccessfully tried to squeeze into a 50-meter-long stretch of sidewalk, spilling into the traffic-clogged Garden Ring. Police kept waving television crews and photographers out of the second lane. In the first lane, teenagers held up a huge red-and-white banner reading, “Let them teach their wives to make shchi” — echoing President Vladimir Putin’s comment at a Feb. 14 news conference that the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should stay out of Russia’s affairs. “We want all decisions about the future of Russia to be made in Russia,” said Razhab Musayev, 22, the leader of the Nashi delegation from Grozny.

The Economist Rips Putin a New One

The Economist devotes it’s most recent issue to “the trouble with Russia’s economy.” It includes a long feature on the “smoke and mirrors” Potemkin Village created by proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin, as well as the following leader reviewing the “election”:

Most elections have an element of uncertainty about them. Not Russia’s. This weekend, barring a miracle, Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin’s handpicked successor, will win the Russian presidency by a landslide. The emasculation of the country’s fragile democracy—from the Kremlin’s monopoly over television to the crushing of any serious opposition candidates—is enough to ensure that. But so is Mr Putin’s popularity: he enjoys an approval rating above 70%.

This figure is artificially exaggerated, as is to be expected in a country with no democratic tradition, almost no free media and no independent power centres. But there is little reason to doubt that many, perhaps most, Russians are satisfied with Mr Putin’s apparently successful eight years in office and willing to accept his choice of Mr Medvedev. Yet Mr Medvedev’s chances of maintaining this level of satisfaction seem remote.

Mr Putin’s reputation rests on four chief claims advanced by his supporters, both at home and abroad. The first is that he brought political stability after the chaos of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Second, he imposed peace in Chechnya and across the north Caucasus. Third, he restored Russia’s rightful position as an influential world power. Fourth (and most important), he presided over sustained rapid economic growth and a sharp rise in Russians’ living standards.

Claims of Straw

Yet a closer look reveals big flaws in all these claims. Russia’s purported political stability rests on a perversion of the normal meaning of democracy and an excessive concentration of power in the Kremlin that has wiped out regional autonomy and fostered corruption, thought by businessmen to be worse now than in the Yeltsin years. The so-called peace in Chechnya has been won by handing control of the republic to a former rebel, Ramzan Kadyrov; the rest of the north Caucasus is more troubled than ever (see article).

As for rising influence and higher living standards, both depend critically on the economy, which Mr Putin touts as his proudest achievement. Average annual growth rates for GDP of 7%, and for real wages in double digits, are certainly impressive at first blush. And it is true that, from early in his presidency, Mr Putin did much to restore macroeconomic stability through fiscal and monetary discipline and the appointment of liberals to the main economic posts—though, given Russia’s debt at the time, he had little alternative. Even so, during the Putin presidency growth has been lower than in most other ex-Soviet countries. Moreover, it has relied heavily on surging commodity prices, especially for oil and gas (see article).

Russia’s consumption splurge has, in short, been driven by a natural-resource boom. The competitiveness of the non-oil economy has eroded sharply since the devaluation of 1998. The concept of manufacturing for export scarcely exists, outside the arms industry. By the end of his first term, Mr Putin had abandoned most of his tentative attempts at economic liberalisation. Worse, the long-drawn-out Yukos affair, which began in mid-2003, presaged not only an assault on property rights and the rule of law but also a resurgence of state control over, and interference in, the economy. Russia’s own history offers powerful testimony of the harmful effects that state intervention tends to wreak.

Even macroeconomic stability, the final legacy from Mr Putin, is under threat. Inflation has already crept up to double figures. It could rise further if the government gives way to growing pressure to spend more from the stabilisation fund, which has so far acted as a useful absorber of oil-and-gas revenues. The trade balance is deteriorating as imports boom. A weakening world economy will not only soften demand for primary commodities, but may even lead their giddy prices to fall.

A grim inheritance, Dmitry

In retrospect, Mr Putin was lucky to inherit a recovering economy and an incipient oil- and commodity-price boom from Mr Yeltsin. Mr Medvedev is in a much worse predicament. He will find it far harder than Mr Putin did to do his job as president at the same time as retaining the support of ordinary Russians. He will take over weakened institutions and a cash pile that promises nothing but headaches as people fight to spend it. The economy is simultaneously overheating and facing the threat of imminent global slowdown.

Mr Medvedev is a canny lawyer who owes his political career entirely to Mr Putin, for whom he worked in St Petersburg in the early 1990s (see article). He comes with two points in his favour: unlike Mr Putin and most other cronies in the Kremlin, he has no background in the security services, not least because he is too young (just 42) to have worked for them in Soviet times; and, as he has confirmed in two recent speeches, his instincts are to favour liberalisation and a reining-in of the state’s role in the economy. Unfortunately, his failure to reform Russia’s gas monopoly, Gazprom, when he was its chairman, offers less reason for hope.

Worse, Mr Putin will probably still be around as prime minister (he stood down as president only because the constitution sets a limit of two consecutive terms). Nobody can predict exactly how this duo will work, although Mr Putin has made it clear that he intends to be highly active, not least in foreign and defence policy. For his part, Mr Medvedev has promised to stick to the “successful” policies of his predecessor.

In some countries, a division of power might be welcome, not least to avert the risk of too much accruing to one man. But in Russia, where the notion of a tsar survived the Soviet Union, divided power is usually problematic. Maybe Mr Putin will slowly fade out, building up Mr Medvedev as a strong successor. More likely, either Mr Medvedev will be a figurehead atop a strong Putin government, perhaps an interim leader before Mr Putin returns as president; or he (and those around him) will set about using the president’s immense powers to try to sap Mr Putin’s strength. Either way, a double-headed government promises to be a source of extra instability. At a time when the challenges for the next president are harder than ever, that is the last thing Russia needs.

Bayer on Life in America

Alexei Bayer, a native Muscovite, a New York-based economist, writing in the Moscow Times:

Soon after immigrating to the United States in the mid-1970s, I got a job in a small suburban town outside New York and moved into a rented room.

It was an exhilarating experience for a 19-year-old. None of my friends in Moscow dreamed of earning a living and having a place of their own. But a thought kept bothering me: How could it be, I wondered, that the U.S. government has absolutely no idea where I am living? After all, I was a draft-age former national of the United States’ main Cold War foe. God only knew what damage I could cause if left to my own devices.

My concern for the fundamental vulnerability of the U.S. system was shared by all arriving Soviet immigrants. Nearly every one of us was an implacable anti-Communist and harbored ingrained fears about the Kremlin’s designs for world domination. Americans, in our view, were far too naive and complacent, and they underestimated the mortal peril their democracy was facing.

In Russia’s current mood of Soviet nostalgia, it has become customary to declare that immigrants were not quite representative of the Soviet people. They were Jews and therefore probably had one foot in the United States or Israel all along. But regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation, all Soviets in the 1970s and 1980s shared those ideas, publicly summarized by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his notorious 1978 commencement address at Harvard. The Nobel Prize-winning writer admonished the West to shed its crass materialism, but he also called upon the Americans to tighten the screws before it was too late.

Communism is no longer a serious threat to U.S. security. Nor are African-Americans who, as many in the Russian-speaking community feared, were “undermining” the United States from within by demanding equal rights, any longer perceived as a “fifth column.” But new enemies have emerged — namely Muslim terrorists and, paradoxically for first-generation refugees, illegal aliens.

Older Russian-speaking immigrants in the United States remain relentlessly right-wing in the U.S. political context. By some estimates, up to 80 percent voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, even though most live in the Democratic strongholds of New York and other big cities. They welcome the Bush administration’s security measures, especially domestic surveillance. They want to be spied on, and they want illegal aliens deported.

A rabid Russian who takes his politics seriously and spouts dire warnings to naive Americans has become a cliche. When asked how the strict controls he demands jibe with democracy — which he presumably sought when he left the Soviet Union — he is likely to shrug ruefully and declare: “But what’s the choice? It is a question of democracy’s survival.”

These attitudes say much about Russia and about the reasons why the country repeatedly succumbs to authoritarianism. Too many Russians are willing to dismiss parliaments as talking shops that are poorly suited to effective government, especially when security is at stake. Putin has been considered an effective leader because he preferred to rule by decree. Even inflation, many Russians believe, is best defeated by an administrative fiat, not economic measures.

Needless to say, this reasoning is flawed. It is obvious that liberal democracies are the safest places to live on Earth. The argument that they achieved security first and indulged in the luxury of democracy second is wrong. Which repressive, undemocratic regime has ever achieved enough security to start implementing democratic reforms?

For all its naivite and laxity, the United States has one of the most stable political systems on Earth, one which has endured in its current form for more than 230 years. Russia, on the other hand, seems to be changing its political system every couple of years.

Ryzhkov on the "Elections"

Vladimir Ryzhkov, a State Duma deputy from 1993 to 2007, and host of a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio, writing in the Moscow Times:

Every so often in life we come up against situations where we have to do something unpleasant and boring but necessary. Men’s daily ritual of shaving is a good example.

For many authoritarian regimes, an equally burdensome but unavoidable chore is holding elections. These are boring, embarrassing, unpleasant and pointless affairs, but they still must be staged from time to time to provide an outward appearance of legitimacy — even if it is clear to everyone that they are, in reality, a complete sham.

Another goal of these elections is to provide an ironclad guarantee that power will remain in the hands of the ruling elite. In this way, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the Aliyev family in Azerbaijan, to name a few, periodically prolong their terms in office. Sadly, modern Russia has joined their dishonorable ranks.

The widespread, popular myth is that President Vladimir Putin has abided by the Constitution by stepping down from office and holding an election. Just the opposite is true: Sunday’s vote was the latest, and most significant, chapter in a whole series of actions taken by the Kremlin to eliminate free and fair elections in the country.

Why then didn’t Putin simply disregard the constitutional limit preventing him from serving a third consecutive term as president? After all, President Nursultan Nazarbayev had no problem at all doing this in Kazakhstan. The only explanation is that the country’s political elite was concerned that Western countries would initiate punitive actions against its foreign financial interests if Putin stayed on for a third consecutive term.

After all, family members of top Russian bureaucrats live in luxurious homes in the West and their children study there. The money they have stolen from the state budget and major state-owned companies sits in foreign banks accounts. Russia’s leaders are forced to act as if they were abiding by the Constitution because they fear that the West will deny them entry visas, block access to their foreign bank accounts or investigate their financial dealings. This is the regime’s real Achilles’ heel. This is where the Pied Piper’s fabled flute is capable of bewitching Russia’s high-ranking “patriots.”

The presidential election campaign, which was carried out in a classic authoritarian fashion, was a complete farce. Medvedev’s three political “rivals” were reminiscent of the three “competitors” who were propped up by Karimov in Uzbekistan’s December election. Medvedev refused to participate in the presidential debates. In the end, the “debates” were limited to the Kremlin’s three other handpicked candidates hurling insults at each other without much enthusiasm, while tiptoeing around subjects the authorities might deem too sensitive. At the same time, the Putin-Medvedev duo dominated television airwaves as usual, occupying 70 percent to 80 percent of all election coverage.

The campaign was devoid of any criticism of the Kremlin, which meticulously orchestrated every scene. Viewers were treated to a smorgasbord of staged events: Medvedev with Putin, Medvedev with children, Medvedev with pensioners, Medvedev helping the Serbs give the Americans a licking. These dishes were peppered with Medvedev’s meaningless quips about incorporating “the rule of law,” “putting people first” and “helping small businesses,” with no specifics given about how to accomplish these bold tasks.

It is no wonder that Medvedev’s success was the predictable final act of the dull and boring theatrical show that the Kremlin called the presidential election.

History shows that most authoritarian regimes agree to reforms or make concessions to their citizens only when faced with military defeat or economic catastrophe. That was true under Peter the Great and after Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War. It was also true following the chaos caused by war communism from 1919 to 1921, as well as after the Soviet Union’s failures in Afghanistan and after the economic crisis of the 1980s. These preconditions for reform do not exist under Putin’s oil- and gas-fueled eight-year economic boom, which our leaders assume will never end.

What does the continuation of Putin’s Plan under President Medvedev promise for the country? Russia will continue plodding along for the next few years, but the country’s serious and chronic illnesses will become more acute. Corruption and the already large income gap will grow even more. The technological gap between Russia and other nations will continue to widen, and the country’s infrastructure will deteriorate even further. The monopolization of the economy will intensify, high inflation will remain a huge problem, and Russia will become even less competitive in world markets.

Authoritarianism has destroyed Russia several times throughout its history, and the current leaders are again leading the country down this same self-destructive path. The ruling elite’s main interest is in acquiring personal wealth, and it is willing to betray its own people to get what it wants. It has not built the modern social institutions and state structures that are necessary for the nation’s long-term development and for improving the living standards of its citizens.

In the latest survey by the Levada Center, 60 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “Overall, the country is moving in the right direction.” They are the ones who dutifully cast their votes on Sunday in strict accordance with the Kremlin’s instructions. Once again, the majority of Russians placed their bets on a shell game in which they have no chance of winning.