Sergei Lukashevsky: Arseny Roginsky nurtured not only Memorial but the very culture of civic engagement itself

posted 21 Jan 2018, 04:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 05:12 ]
20 December 2017

By Sergei Lukashevsky, director of the Sakharov Centre


Amongst the things currently being recalled and written about Arseny Borisovich Roginsky, I'd like to note something that I find very significant. Arseny Borisovich was the most brilliant non-political politician in Russia.

"Man is a political animal", so went the ancient classic. People require the capacity to act independently as individuals, but also collectively. Because of our history, we have been sorely lacking in the traditions and culture of a public, common cause.

The dissident movement was forged by a moral imperative, but it was a fellowship of individuals, each of whom followed his or her own path to existential liberation.

In the late 1980s it became possible (and therefore necessary) for the pursuit of truth and law to take organisational forms.

With his charisma, determination and clear-headedness, Arseniy Borisovich created a common space.

Possessing obvious leadership qualities, he helped to create a horizontal, diverse community of citizens, rather than the 'vertically integrated system' so familiar to us now.

He was a one-of-a-kind operator in a complex, at times conflicting, network of social initiatives and structures, who did not allow things to become mired in deadlock and who helped to resolve the most intractable problems.

Arseny Borisovich had another surprising quality, one that was also political in nature: the ability to connect the possible and the permissible. To stick to the truth, and yet be open to a dialogue with one’s detractors. To engage in such dialogue, but not lose oneself in it.

To be conscious of one's limitations in terms of capacity and resources, and to set forward-looking objectives.

I sincerely believe, and will keep on saying at every opportunity, that civil society is the best thing that has been created in our country in the last 30 years. It functions, it is adaptable, and it can withstand pressure.

Over these years, Arseny Borisovich nurtured not only Memorial but the very culture of civic engagement itself.

Today we are united in sorrow, but also in a community which may not even have existed were it not for him. Herein lies our strength, our memories and our hope.

Translated by Lindsay Munford