Khodorkovsky’s Challenge to Putin

Once again defying Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky appears boldly in the Western press calling for insurrection against the Kremlin, this time in The Los Angeles Times:

I am a member of the last generation of Soviet people — those who were born and came of age in the USSR. In 1990, the final year of the Soviet Union’s existence, I was 27 years old. The next generation — of which the first of my sons, born in 1985, is part — only knows about “those times” from our stories.

Growing up, an ordinary young man from the outskirts of Moscow from a family of engineers who worked at a Soviet factory, I believed the things that were said on television, written in the newspapers and taught in school. I wanted, like my parents, to work at a factory and serve my country. I wanted to go further than my father, to become a factory director. Like a third of my peers, I studied at a technical institute, and like 90% of them, I was a member of the Young Communist League.

It seemed to me, as it did to everyone else, that the USSR would exist forever. Nobody believed that everything could change in an instant, but that is what happened. In the past two decades, it can be said that Russia has been born anew and has finished with the “socialist choice.”

Many trials and tribulations awaited us. Having found freedom, we had to defend our choice in the brutal internal conflicts of 1991-93. Things came no easier in the economic sphere. The USSR, having fallen to pieces, buried all of the country’s production systems under its wreckage. During the interregnum, specialists left and equipment broke down.

As I became the manager and then co-owner of a huge energy company, production volume in the oil industry nationally fell to 300 million metric tons a year from 600 million metric tons. But our company, Yukos, managed to achieve excellent economic results. In fact, from 1996 to 2003, oil production doubled to 80 million metric tons, wages quintupled and debt was repaid.

We met daunting challenges, including those brought on by Russia’s 1998 financial collapse, when the price of oil fell below the cost of production. In addition to 150,000 employees, I was responsible for the populations of more than two dozen cities and settlements. It’s easy to be bold when you’ve got nothing to lose. But I believe that several million people supported the changes that I put through and that changed their lives as a result.

We staked our claim on efficiency. We reduced costs and competed aggressively. In place of the monster we inherited, one that engaged in everything from beer production to construction, we created a professional oil production company. We spun off all of Yukos’ noncore businesses into independent firms, helping employees become owners.

At the same time, we spurred creation of many jobs in what was then a new industry in Russia, Internet services and programming. We retrained thousands of schoolteachers through the Federation of Internet Education, a nonprofit, nongovernment organization.

We emerged from the crisis as the best oil company in Russia, with good public support. It felt as if Russia was irreversibly moving in the direction of a modern democracy and European values. Along with operating businesses, I began to get actively involved in socio-political projects such as education. I established a foundation to support nonprofits and human rights groups, and I also provided funding to opposition parties.

Now, I am in my seventh year in jail.

Vladimir Putin and the former colleagues-in-service brought by him into all the structures of power decided that they had no need for the independent opposition that I supported; they had no need for independent television and no need for real discussions of draft laws in parliament. In short, they opposed everything we were working to achieve all these years.

I could not agree with this, and tried as best I could to resist. What happened next is well known: In 2003, I was arrested on contrived charges of fraud, the perfectly well-working company Yukos was dismembered and annihilated, and its pieces became desirable prizes for the vanquisher’s friends. I was convicted and sentenced to prison.

Throughout my troubles, I have had considerable support from outside Russia, including a Senate resolution co-sponsored by John McCain, Joe Biden and Barack Obama in 2005, which said I had not received “fair, transparent and impartial treatment” from the Russian justice system.

But that has made little difference. As my sentence was drawing to an end, additional charges were brought against me in an attempt to ensure I would not be freed anytime soon. The charges are so absurd that even government ministers have rejected them in court. The second trial is ending with my final statements in about 10 days. But nobody expects that there will be an acquittal when the verdict is handed down later this year. Acquittals don’t happen in the Yukos case.

I understand Russia’s current power elite; they came of age at a time when change was dangerous. If the roof is not leaking today, they don’t worry that it will in the future. They believe that the oil and gas bonanza will go on forever and that no real reforms need to be enacted, just some make-believe for the TV cameras. They accept corruption, embrace archaic ideas and are united in their desire to keep talented, creative people off the public stage. A modern, innovation-driven economic model is the antithesis of their hierarchical approach.

It is precisely these kinds of mistakes that led to the death of the Soviet Union.

There is a new generation of Russian politicians waiting in the wings, people who are ready to accept the world as it really is: rapidly globalizing and dynamic. These people are ready for real political competition; they believe in an open societal discussion of ideas, strive to win the support of fellow citizens who actually have thought through their positions on the issues and drawn conclusions about the proper course. Members of this new political establishment realize the need for working state and civic institutions that include an independent judiciary, parliament and media. They are ready to run a modern, complex mechanism of state, and not to try to simplify it down to a primitive “vertical” of executive power.

This is why the conservative “old” leadership is very much afraid of a real transfer of power to the “new” generation.

Russia is approaching the very same point that the USSR found itself in back in the second half of the 1980s. Then there arose a crisis of the communist ideology as the planned economy of “real socialism” revealed its strategic inefficiency. For Russia, the second decade of the 21st century will become a period of crisis for a system built on corruption and hands-on control. Insightful Russians with initiative, knowing how to look to the future, understand this already.

In my youth, the leaders of the USSR had no desire whatsoever to leave power. But history obliged them to do so just the same. Today’s Russian theoreticians and practitioners of “vertically corrupt management” have no intention of going anywhere.

But they will have to. I know. I’ve seen it before.

14 responses to “Khodorkovsky’s Challenge to Putin

  1. Khodorkovsky’s Challenge to Putin
    La Russophobe:
    Posted on October 22, 2010 by larussophobe| Leave a comment
    Once again defying Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky appears boldly in the Western press calling for insurrection against the Kremlin, this time in The Los Angeles Times: …
    ————————————-
    Los Angeles Times “calling for insurrection against the Kremlin” seems to be the only cure for Russia with its 11 time zones. Couldn’t read any futher these lines but laugh.
    Thank you Dr.La_Russophobe

  2. He’s not, an “insurrection against the Kremlin” actually continues while we’re speaking, and is getting some quite interesting turns:

    Military depots supply arms to N.Caucasus militants
    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20101025/161079625.html

    And an interesting thing about something what happened 8 years ago – about the real average Russian’s attitude, actually not ruthless and bloothirsty as the Putin gang (“only” 1/5 of Russians are insane, and they’re a small minority):

    http://www.interfax.com/newsinf.asp?id=197799

    Sixty-seven percent said if something similar was to take place again, bloodshed must be avoided even at the cost of meeting terrorists’ demands. However, 20% said that terrorists must be killed no matter what.

  3. The unfortunate reality is that Khodorkovsky may never see freedom until Putin himself is imprisoned or flees into exile.

  4. Robert | October 25, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Reply
    “Sixty-seven percent said if something similar was to take place again, bloodshed must be avoided even at the cost of meeting terrorists’ demands. However, 20% said that terrorists must be killed no matter what.”

    Looks like wishful thinking. I wonder what was the actual % of “bloodshed must be avoided even at the cost of meeting terrorists’ demands” in aug.2008. Any statistical data on this?

    Most Russians don’t want to go to a war but when it comes to real terms they do it in their Russian fast manner making American vassals chewing their neckties with US Delta Force ” back up” dead soldiers being scattered all around the center of tskhinvali. Georgian 4th brigade went to HELL in 3 daytime hours with its Iraqi experience.
    —————————
    “Georgians learn on how to fight from your Pendos teachers on genocide, we’ll come and check it up next time. (Gori aug 15th 2008).
    60 trains of American ammunition were delivered to Moscow district a month later. The soldiers of the Land of the Brave with their Georgian clowns failed to prove it in 2008. — Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Arlington place of honor is waiting for your democratic bodies. You are ever welcome. Say Hello from Russia.

    • @US Delta Force ” back up” dead soldiers being scattered all around the center of tskhinvali.

      Cool! Can’t wait until you show me the picture of them and tell me their names (actually only one name would be enough, if you provided the evidence). Please, please do!

      Maybe even some captured ones (like the dozens of Russian Counterintelligence Service officers and active-service Russian Armed Forces tank crewmen, cosplaying as “the Chechen oppposition”, that were “kidnapped” by “bandits” in Grozny in Nov. 1994 and then shown on the “bandit” television and then all across Russia)? It would be a double blast!

      @Georgian 4th brigade went to HELL in 3 daytime hours with its Iraqi experience.

      Not really :)

      @The Arlington place of honor is waiting for your democratic bodies.

      Really, show me these bodies you’re talking about. I promise I’ll personally contact their families and then alert the US and foreign media. Can you even imagine how HUGE this scandal would be? Yes, I might possibly help you to put George W. Bush in prison! Would you like to see this? So, come on, I’ll be waiting.

      Btw, less civilians died in this “genocide” than the at least 130 Russian and foreign civilians killed by the FSB in the 2002 Moscow chemical attack (back to the original subject). That’s of course not
      countring the rest of uncounted (but speaking of in the range of either tens or hundreds of thousands) civilians victims of the Russo-Chechen conflict.

    • @Say Hello from Russia.

      “Hello from Russia.” Now, the evidence of the ‘US Delta Force ” back up”‘ – if you want me to help you bring down the US government. If you don’t want (“reset “and all that), you don’t have, you know.

      And speaking of “place of honor waiting for (undemocratic) bodies”, last year Russia officially just stopped looking for the hundreds of soldiers still missing from Afghanistan. Exactly 270 from Afghanistan and “some 700” from Chechnya are sttill MIA according to official data provided by Maj. Gen. Alexander Kirilin when his Military Memorial Center stopped their Afghan search in March 2009. I guess their “place of honor” will have to wait, but anyway most of these still missing have actually defected to the mujahideen after deserting or being captured :) A number of them are even still living there, occasionally interviewed by reporters – others since then either died or moved back to their homelands after the amnesty in 1988 or even to the other countries (like some who went to Canada).

      Oh and Americans and others in Afghanistan (and previously in Iraq), and the Pakistanis in Pakistan, and Somalis in Somalia also are often facing Chechens, who are hardcore, and scary, and also as imaginary as your ‘Delta Force ” back up”‘ boogeymen. Even after they captured at least 10 Russian citizens and many more people from the former USSR and there was 0 Chechens among them, everyone Russian-speaking or even just fair-skinned is almost always “Chechens” (sometimes “Chechens and Uzbeks”).

      But the main, and also very telling, difference here is this: for some reason the everyone’s scary imaginary enemies are “Chechens” and not the ‘Russian GRU Spetsnaz ” back up”‘. How strange, isn’t it?

      A note to the sane people reading this (as opposed to the dumb Russian nationalists): This also reminded me of Milosevic’s 1991 claim of how tens of thousands of Kurdish mercenaries were fighting for Croatia. I guess Chechens were just still unknown to the world back then, before slaughtering the entire regiment- and brigade-sized units of Russian supersoldiers on the New Year’s Eve of 1995, actually scattering thousands of Russian bodies “all around the center of” Grozny and getting a wordlwide fame literally overnight, and as of the ‘US Delta Force ” back up”‘ they must have been held in reserve ;D

  5. Meanwhile, in America, there an uprising against the marxist Washington elite.

    The revolt will spread worldwide and the Putin’s Bolchevik will swing
    from lamp posts!!!

  6. Ming_the_Merciless | October 27, 2010 at 4:42 am | Reply
    Meanwhile, in America, there an uprising against the marxist Washington elite. The revolt will spread worldwide and the Putin’s Bolchevik will swing
    from lamp posts!!!
    ——————————-
    Can’t agree with that statement. Obama-man is quite popular with ranks and files on both coasts, flyover country apart.

    • Sorry Russian Typical Simpleton, but Obama is actually pretty unpopular everywhere now.

      • Don’t rely on Imedi. Twice.

        Obama is much more popular than Bush ever was.

        LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS:

        You’re such an ignoramus!

        Obama now has LESS THAN 50% job approval and it’s being suggested his party may lose the lower house of parliament.

        During 911 Bush was well over 70%.

        You make Russia look like a nation of braying, drunken jackasses.

        • @During 911 Bush was well over 70%.

          I always knew the team was brilliant, but never thought it’s that smart:)

          By 9/11 Bush has been in office for 8 months! And for the following 8 years, his ratings fell WELL below 40%

          http://www.hist.umn.edu/~ruggles/Approval.htm

          BTW, go take look at the stats and you’ll get a good insight on who exactly benefited from 911.

          Oh, but I forgot, insights are for people with brains, and you make USia look like a territory where brains are being mandatory burned out by heroine in child age.

          • Just for people who are good with numbers:

            The right part of the chart looks really scary. It looks like every foreign policy decision made by Bush was prompted by his falling domestic support.

            And that somebody really needed to have him president for the second term.

  7. See, if you compare it to the left, “good one”, you’ll spot the drastic difference between smooth ratings in the end, right part (nobody cares about Billy, he’s a future lame duck) and the strong lines to the left (support after 911 falls and won’t last for elections? – go make a war, still falls? – go hang Saddam, etc.)

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