Viktor Kogan-Yasny: On the Yeltsin-Putin Regime, Liberal Democracy, and Personalized Power

posted 28 Dec 2017, 06:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Dec 2017, 06:50 ]
28 December 2017

By Viktor Kogan-Yasny

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

I am once again convinced just how dangerous, both in terms of the present time and historically, the Yeltsin-Putin regime has been - a regime of provincial Russian bureaucrats imbued with imperial thinking, who believe in force, cynicism and money, and who are in love with themselves. The regime is dangerous because of what it actually does; but it is much more dangerous because of the “lesson” it gives to other countries, both neighbouring Russia and further afield – and by the historical mark that it leaves behind itself the world over.

To ignore the essential nature of this regime and live in a principally different way is exceptionally difficult. The regime’s essence easily transforms us: we become cynical, superficial, lying; we love abstractions, as we did under the Soviet regime, and our own self-interest, as if we were negative heroes in Dickens’ polemical novels; we are almost unable to distinguish the essence from the form...

Who do I mean by ‘we’? All of us, since we don’t set ourselves the task of following a fundamentally different moral direction.


Liberal democracy, as a form of social Christianity, is based on the principle of the rejection of retribution as a motive for decision-making. It is also based on the rejection of the very possibility of putting in danger, let alone intentionally sacrificing, some specific people for the sake of others.

Such a principled approach cannot be adopted as the highest social value on the basis of a numerical majority - a majority which is always subject to passions and animal instincts. A huge responsibility for not allowing terrible events to take place lies with political leaders. If they allow themselves to follow animal instincts “out of sympathy,” compete with each other in this, and fail to work to make themselves better, then we are doomed to live through very difficult times.


We see a certain person is succeeding in achieving all he wants in terms of strengthening his hold on power, and in the geopolitical arena. And those who have been saying that very, very soon he will have to call a halt to his ambitions, now find themselves humiliated.

It is true, indeed, that being in power for an unlimited time, having unrestricted authority in terms of domestic politics, and adequate military force in foreign affairs, have created conditions where it would be possible to annex even the moon, and then to wait for the rest of the world to give its consent.

But the ultimate cost of such a state of affairs is absolutely beyond the capacity of a great number people to bear. The failure of this line in politics is inevitable, and the wreckage, alas, will subsequently crush very many people and very many things, in a spontaneous development of events.