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Viktor Kogan-Yasny: Notes of a Pessimist

posted 26 Nov 2017, 23:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Nov 2017, 23:53 ]

27 November 2017





Viktor Kogan-Yasny is chair of the NGO Right to Life and Civic Dignity and is a political adviser to the Yabloko party


The Russian Federation and the countries of the former Soviet Union will see no real progress, as opposed to an imitation of progress, until the appearance of a “political elite.” By “political elite,” I mean a social stratum of well-educated people with a sense of moral responsibility, ready and willing to take positions in government, who at the same time absolutely and categorically refuse to treat government as their personal or collective fiefdom, as nothing more than an opportunity for rent-seeking, for “sharing the spoils.”


Serious efforts, that are not merely imitative but genuinely creative and transformative, aimed at protecting citizens from arbitrary government are undertaken in conditions similar, if you will forgive me, to involuntary membership in a monastery or a criminal gang. Endless obligations are imposed on the individuals concerned, while no tangible rights whatsoever are received. Their actions are given almost no publicity, although they face threats and corruption, and are met with public indifference (and very often “friendly fire”), and can have no hope of a significant outcome beyond the realm of “small deeds.” This is the nature of the contemporary world, sceptical and cynical. It makes a mockery of what is serious, while failing to see the humorous side of daily idiotic bureaucratic entanglements that bedevil our lives…


A pattern or “matrix” has been created that establishes the ways an individual may defend their interests, and this means almost exclusively either by “going to war” or by fraud. If we don’t rid ourselves of this matrix, that’s how it will be: war – fraud - war …

And one other thing:

Putin, and subsequently Navalny, issued highly unethical commentaries on the 100th anniversary of the October Putsch. They stressed the historical scale of the event which, they said, changed the fate of the world, and so on. Navalny also added that, in his opinion, one hundred years ago the Bolsheviks were, in their own way, truly serious people and rulers, while in the Kremlin nowadays there are merely swindlers…

How should one respond to that?...As to the fate of the world, the Holocaust and Hitler’s Nazism as a whole probably changed matters rather more even than Bolshevism, but no one (in the public arena at least) would think of talking about those horrific events in such a “dialectic,” “technocratic” and morally detached manner…

So far as petty swindlers in the Kremlin are concerned, I personally would not agree, but the point at issue is something else. What is it that bothers Navalny, a public figure who has decided to compete with Putin? He opines that “back then” there were mass shootings, totalitarian ideology, and that this was all “real” and “fundamental” in nature. Nowadays, he says, there is none of this. And this absence reveals “inconsistency” on the part of a regime that pretends to toughness and authoritarianism?

Is it disappointment he feels? Or does he take the view that, along with all the shootings, the Bolshevik system gave birth to something positive? Very possibly.

But this kind of thinking, outside moral frameworks and without comparative historical analysis, rejecting cause and effect and based on pseudo-dialectics, raking everything together “in a single heap,” poisons the consciousness of our country that in any case is not so conspicuously developed.

So our rational faculties will remain dormant …And if that is the case, we shall continue in the future to face the consequences. 

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