Friday, January 8, 2016

Russians Won’t Come to Aid of State When It Begins to Collapse, Yavlinsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 8 – However much they “formally support” the Russian state, Russians overwhelming “fear it and do not want to have anything to do with it,” a pattern that explains their desire to move away from it and means that when it begins to fall apart, they “will not do anything” to save it, according to opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky.

            And that, he says, “will be a tragedy because in the contemporary world, it is already impossible to live without a state. Someone must do” what only a state can. Thus, “if you lose the state, this is like losing one’s home, the founder of the Yabloko Party says (

            Many have pointed out that Russian liberalism tends to end at Ukraine and that Russian liberals often attack the existing state without necessarily having a clear idea of what they would put in place of it, and such attitudes make Yavlinsky’s reflections on this latter point especially important.

            He continues: “Our people do not see themselves getting anything good from this state; it never gave them anything and never offered anything. On the contrary, it took everything from them. Therefore, [the Russian people] know that they have to fear it.” And that explains their behavior past and present.

            “We consider the state something alien,” he writes. “Reflect on why [Russians] have the largest country in the world.” The reason is simple: When the state became too repressive, Russians simply moved away rather than trying to change the state as was the case in Germany or Britain. 

            Russia, he points out, “is the only country in the world which was settled from south to north. People simply occupied other territories, went there, and so on.” Such departures – and they have been frequent in Russian history – are what Russians define as freedom. “But the state went after them; it followed them” wherever they went.

            “If in Europe, cities were created as centers of crafts and culture, as we are taught in school,” Yavlinsky says, “then in Russia they were created as administrative advance posts in order to control the population which was constantly moving away,” a population whose attitude toward the state was and is simple but dangerous.

            Instead of demanding that the state change and respect the popular will, Russians have always said to their rulers: do what you like but don’t prevent us from doing what we want and especially do not block us from moving away from you. Such attitudes underlie Russian culture and explain why “we cannot change anything.”

            Now this same attitude is manifest in the desire of many Russians to move away, not to Siberia as in past centuries but to foreign countries given that they have the possibility to do so, Yavlinsky says.  Polls show that “40 percent of parents want their children to have a passport to another country.”

            Such attitudes, he suggests, are simply a “contemporary” form of the departures for Siberia in the past. People leave because “they do not want to live” under the Russian state. If Russia and Russians are to have a future, “this must change.”

            In essence, Yavlinsky concludes, “all the reforms of the 1980s and 1990s and the end of the Soviet Union were directed at changing the relationship between man and state so that the individual would feel that this is his state” rather than some “external force” that one must simply accept or flee from.

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