Does Russia have a chance for a European future? What can the Russian-speaking diaspora do? How do we explain to the West what is really going on with Russia? These issues were discussed in Berlin on November 11-12 at the conference "Russian-speaking for European Values", which was held within the framework of the project "German-Russian Year of Human Rights".
The conference, sponsored by the German Foreign Ministry, was organized by the Forum of Russian-speaking Europeans and the Memorial Human Rights Center. Below is my speech on it.
Ladies and gentlemen!
In Russia, one likes to remind European values in times of despotism and lawlessness. Most of the Russian history consists precisely of such times; so, the topic of European values in Russia is almost eternal. Both the Russian elite and the despotic authorities recall them. However, they recall it in different ways: some with envy and hope, others with caution, or even hatred.
Russia, historically crucified between the West and the East, usually tends to eastern despotism, but sometimes tried in desperate jerks to approach Western liberalism and free-thinking. In this unceasing struggle, its entire millennium-long history has passed. Sometimes these breakthroughs turned out to be relatively fruitful and for some time provided Russia with the potential for civilized development.
Some Russian leaders, from Vladimir II Monomakh  and Tsar False Dmitry I  to Emperor II Alexander II of Russia  and Boris Yeltsin, in various ways and to the best of their understanding, tried to Europeanize Russia. Of course, it was not without traditional Russian costs and disgraces, but not all of their efforts were vain.
I will not stir up a distant story, where the beautiful myths often replace the true picture of events. I turn to the present. The entire 20th century, and especially the second half, was marked by the confrontation of the communist despotism and the Western democracy. European values such as liberalism, humanity, religious tolerance and human rights were formalized in the form of charters, declarations and international conventions. They became elements of the legal system - and not only in the democratic countries of the West, but also in international relations. It was a blow under the breath of various kinds of despotism, including the Soviet one. If earlier adherents of European values in authoritarian states had to appeal only to ideas that they considered attractive and useful, now they could refer to the rules of law binding on all civilized countries. For adherents of European values, this qualitatively changed the reliability of their positions.
The Communists did not immediately appreciate the "trick" of the West. During 10 years, Soviet leaders sought to organize a conference on security and cooperation in Europe. They were confident, that their usual propagandist rhetoric would once again help them empty the content of their commitments about peace and respect for human rights. They were sure, that European values would remain empty words for Soviet people - without meaning, without content, without consequences. And they were mistaken.
The Soviet leaders did not understand, that the European values were always part of the dream of enlightened Russian society. That the European experience has always attracted those, who considered Russia a part of Europe. The Soviet leaders arrogantly thought, that they had replaced the European culture in our country with either national-Russian or class-Soviet. They did not understand, that in the crushed, dilapidated cultural layer of Soviet society, sprouts of European culture still live - in literature, music, philosophy, medicine, science, even industry. It I sufficient to remove the oppression of despotism, and the tendency to the European culture became apparent.
Then in the country the People appeared, who got rid of this oppression, becoming free in a non-free country. The dissident movement in the USSR began to appeal to the provisions of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe signed 1975.08.01 at Helsinki . Signed including by the Soviet Union. So European values became not only a beacon for freedom-loving people, but also their weapons in the confrontation with the communist dictatorship.
But what about the West? Could he help those who defended European values in the Soviet Union? Did it help? The answer to this question is actually not very simple. Western society, especially its intellectual elite, provided significant support to anti-Soviet resistance. And this despite the fact that the Kremlin invested heavily in attempts to influence Western public opinion, financed terrorist groups and the so-called peace movement, bribed opinion leaders, influential politicians and government officials. By the way, he is doing about the same thing now.
In certain senses, the moral values happen to be stronger, than the blackmail and bribery. For example, I know well how much resources have been thrown to block the information in the West about the use of psychiatry for political purposes in the Soviet Union (Punitive psychiatry). Doctors and journalists were bribed, psychiatry professors and lawyers made pleasant trips to Moscow and Leningrad, and custom articles were published in the Western press. But there were still more honest psychiatrists and journalists in the West, than those bought with Soviet money. The Soviet propaganda campaign failed, and repressive psychiatry was condemned internationally, and the Soviet delegation of psychiatrists was expelled from the World Psychiatric Association. And this is just one example from the daily political life of those years.
Often, the volunteers from European countries, volunteers of non-governmental organizations, just caring people used to bring the prohibited in the USSR literature, food and medicine for political prisoners, warm clothes for exiles, voice recorders and editorial equipment for underground publishers to the Soviet Union. The most daring even drove anti-Soviet leaflets and distributed them. Some of these brave foreigners had to pay tithe are of captivity for their courage.
But I said, the question “who and how helped Soviet dissidents defend European values” is not simple. And that's why. The Western public opinion was mainly on the side of dissidents; but the same can not be said with the same confidence about Western professional politicians. I do not mean the laud declarations and statements for the press. I am talking about everyday life.
For example, the ambassador in Moscow of one big Western country gave an order, that forbade embassy staff to visit the apartments of dissidents. To once again not annoy the KGB. But I must say, state security was really very unhappy with the visits of Western diplomats to dissidents, and the fact that diplomatic mail could be used to transmit dissident information to the West. True, to the credit of the diplomats of this embassy it should be noted that not all of them followed the instructions of their boss. Some continued to maintain contact with dissidents.
In general, Western politics was often oriented towards appeasing dictatorships. This greatly inspired and supported dictators and had a very detrimental effect on the position of defenders of European values. For lack of time, I will not give examples now, but there are enough of them.
Despotic regimes in their relations with the outside world are concerned only with one thing - the preservation of the stability of their usurped power. From other countries, they require, first of all, the non-interference and respect. Of course, it would be nice to get loans, technologies, markets and various assistance, but above all - recognition of their dictatorial regimes as equal to democracies. Recognition as equal partners. Recognition of their authority. This is their way of gaining legitimacy.
“Do not interfere in our internal affairs!” - they say.
“We have such national characteristics - to sit in power for decades” - they say.
“We have such folk traditions - to kill those who disagree with us” - they say.
“Respect our sovereignty”, - they demand; - “Let's work together!”
"Let's! - the compliant Western politicians happily respond to this proposal. - We are always for a compromise! We are for peace and cooperation between peoples. Hurrah!"
Well, I understand that there are diplomatic conventions, a protocol, international customs, state obligations and the like. But tell me, for example, what was the protocol of the summit meeting obliging American President Jimmy Carter to kiss Leonid Brezhnev, Secretary General of the CPSU Central Committee? What diplomatic conventions made Gerhard Schroeder or Silvio Berlusconi cuddle with President Putin?
At this conference, we are invited to discuss among others the question of whether Russia has a European future. But I would also like to ask a second question, closely related to the first: is there a European future for Europe? This is not a rhetorical question; I do not have a prepared answer. But if Western leaders cuddle with dictators, and after serving a cadet go to a highly paid service in corporations controlled by dictators, does this mean that European values are undergoing some erosion?
And when European states, having forgotten their previous resolutions and their righteous anger over the annexation of Crimea, try to appease the aggressor by returning him to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, does this not indicate a slight devaluation of European values? What ultimately remains of these values, except for the right words on beautiful paper?
Recently, the former Minister of Health of Ukraine, Ulyana Suprun, said that when she acted as minister, she wrote many times to international organizations - the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International. She requested that representatives of these organizations visit Ukrainian prisoners in Russian prisons. But they refused. In private, they explained, that they did not want to offend the Russians, because then they would not be able to work on their territory.
And the question is: so what is price of European values in relations between Europe and Russia? If Europeans themselves rate them so low, then what European values do we today defend in Russia, already already a hundred years behind the rest of Europe?
I should not analysis the European problems, but I ask: what is happening here with European values? Do they sparkle, as before, or they are a little faded?
We are very interested in the well-being of Europe. Russia and Europe are like two cyclists riding the same bike - in tandem. Probably the cyclist from behind will never succeed in approaching that in front. Nevertheless, both are interested in the tandem moving.
Does Russia have a chance for a European future today? Yes, there is a chance. Everyone has it. There are no missing countries or hopeless nations. Even North Korea will someday free itself from communist oppression and become free. Because freedom is needed by everyone. We must fight for it, it must be defended. No one will get it from the wrong hands, even from the most friendly. We understand that. This is understood by those, who see the future of Russia as a worthy part of common Europe.
If someone helps us, fine. If noone helps - it is your choice. The main thing is not to interfere. Do not support the enemies of Russian freedom. Do not support violators of human rights. Neither with words nor with deals. Do not show solidarity with usurpers, nor any friendships. Do not legitimize their power.
Neither diplomatic protocol, nor mutually beneficial trade, nor new sales markets, nor warm houses heated by cheap Russian gas worth growing a new monster on the other side of your eastern borders. Monster, who has already suppressed freedom in his country and is about to do the same with all the Europe.
I hope, the spirit of freedom does not disappear from our continent. I hope, the European liberalism will not die under the pressure of cynical politicians who dream at all costs to avoid a confrontation with despotic regimes. Needless to say, war is bad. But friendship with tyrants, the cooperation with tyranny is even worse. This undermines the efforts of those, who oppose political oppression in authoritarian states. This knocks out the tool from their hands and takes away the hope of success. And this does not save the West from the threat of a new full-scale war.
The measures taken today, such as economic sanctions or a ban on entry for the most odious Russiaan officials, are clearly not enough. In essence, this is not a resistance, but an attempt to calm down the public opinion. The West's further indifference to territorial expansion and the suppression of civil liberties within Russia will inevitably lead the world to a global catastrophe. The Second World War, too, seemed incredible to everyone until it began. And even when it began, not everyone did not immediately understand what it was.
You probably think that I painted too apocalyptic picture? It is really so. But this is only one of the likely scenarios of the near future. Together, we can choose another.
- https://www.facebook.com/alexander.podrabinek/posts/2512571432194536 Alexander Podrabinek 2019 November 13 at 10:04 PM ·
- https://www.human-rights-year.com/event/berlin-konferenciya-russkoyazychnye-za-evropejskie-cennosti/ Немецко-Российский год прав человека// Проект Форума русскоязычных европейцев// Берлин / Конференция «Русскоязычные за европейские ценности»// (2019) Ноябрь 11 / 11:00 - Ноябрь 12 / 18:30
- https://www.britannica.com/biography/Vladimir-II-Monomakh Vladimir II Monomakh, in full Vladimir Vsevolodovich Monomakh, (born 1053—died May 19, 1125, near Kiev [now in Ukraine]), grand prince of Kiev from 1113 to 1125.
- https://www.britannica.com/topic/False-Dmitry False Dmitry, also called Pseudo-demetrius, Russian Lzhedmitry, orDmitry Samozvanets, any of three different pretenders to the Muscovite throne who, during the Time of Troubles (1598–1613), claimed to be Dmitry Ivanovich, the son of Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible (reigned 1533–84) who had died mysteriously in 1591 while still a child.
- https://www.britannica.com/biography/Alexander-II-emperor-of-Russia Alexander II, Russian in full Aleksandr Nikolayevich, (born April 29 [April 17, Old Style], 1818, Moscow, Russia—died March 13 [March 1], 1881, St. Petersburg), emperor of Russia (1855–81). His liberal education and distress at the outcome of the Crimean War, which had demonstrated Russia’s backwardness, inspired him toward a great program of domestic reforms, the most important being the emancipation (1861) of the serfs. A period of repression after 1866 led to a resurgence of revolutionary terrorism and to Alexander’s own assassination.
- https://www.cvce.eu/en/obj/final_act_of_the_conference_on_security_and_cooperation_in_europe_helsinki_1_august_1975-en-26511c7f-1063-4ae9-83e5-16859194a144.html Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki, 1 August 1975). Text.
2016.05.24 https://oslofreedomforum.com/talks/russians-are-ready-for-democracy Vladimir Kara-Murza. Russians Are Ready for Democracy. 2016 Oslo Freedom Forum, May 24, 2016. The Russian government doesn’t love activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, but he loves Russia. That’s why he is devoting his life to the fight for democracy in Russia, even though it might get him killed. Hear him deliver a powerful call for change from the stage at the 2016 Oslo Freedom Forum.
2016.05.28 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPpY7TUjm3E VLADIMIR KARA MURZA | RUSSIANS ARE READY FOR DEMOCRACY. May 28, 2016. Vladimir Kara-Murza's talk at the 2016 Oslo Freedom Forum. Message to Western citizen: .. Of our friends in the West we ask only one thing. We are not asking for your support. It is our task to change Russia, and we will do it ourselves. The only thing we ask from you is that you stop supporting Mr.Putin by treating him as a respectable and worthy partner on the world stage. And above all, by allowing his cronies to use your countries as havens for their looted wealth. And please stop falling for the lie that Russians are somehow uniquely unsuited, incapable, not ready for democracy. We are suited. We are capable. We are ready. And we will get there, just like you. ..