Tuesday, November 20, 2018

'Twenty Years without Galina Starovoitova’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – Twenty years ago, Galina Starovoitova, the distinguished Russian scholar of ethnic conflicts and the leader of the Democratic Russia Party, was murdered at the entrance to her St. Petersburg apartment. Some of those who carried out that murder have been identified and convicted, but those who ordered this crime have not.

            Today, as they have done every November 20th since then, her friends, admirers and people of good will have paused to remember this remarkable woman for what she did, for what she represented, and for what she very likely would have accomplished had she not been taken from this life at the age of 52.

            She remains such a towering figure that Svyatoslav Afonkin of Peterburgsky dnevnik could entitle his article about her, “Twenty Years without Galina Starovoitova,” and not feel the need to give any further identification even now (spbdnevnik.ru/news/2018-11-19/dvadtsat-let-bez-galiny-starovoytovoy).

            Starovoitova’s personal assistant, Ruslan Linkov, who was with her at the moment of her murder, said that the clouds had been gathering around her in the days and weeks before that horrific event. Her office had been bugged, but later Russian law enforcement organs refused to do anything when told about that.

            According to Linkov, “Galina Starovoitova was not only a prominent politician but also a serious scholar. Therefore, very often she could make correct predictions about the development of the country. It her advice had been listened to,” he continues, “Russia would have been able to avoid many problems,” especially in relations among nationalities.

            “Many of her undertakings were not completed,” he says with regret, “but the main achievement of her political practice was the writing of the second part of the Constitution of the Russian Federation which fixed the rights and freedoms of the citizens of the country.” 

            Vitaly Milonov, another Starovoitova assistant who is now in the Duma, says that if she had lived, “she should have found a place in present-day Russian politics. She would have been a normal alternative [because] she would have been able to establish a civilized liberal party” because unlike some, she “did not suffer from a mania after greatness.”

            Yury Rybakov, a former Duma deputy who headed Democratic Russia after Starovoitova’s murder, says that the motive behind her murder may very well have been her promotion of lustration for former KGB and CPSU figures whom she wanted to exclude from Russian politics “through the use of law.”

            Had she not been killed, Rybakov says, “she would be playing a serious role in the political sphere. She was a strong and respected figure” and unlike others, if she were still alive, she would have had much greater success than anyone else in  unifying the democrats against authoritarianism.

            And finally, Russian political activist and blogger writes that “Starovoitova would have been an outstanding president of Russia. In this, I have no doubts.  She was a leader and at the same time an individual with a conscience and principles, well-educated, erudite, and with a sense of empathy and compassion” (blog.newsru.com/article/20nov2018/starovoitova).

            “But alas,” he continues, “Russia had already [at the time of her murder] began its move into the darkness and such people were superfluous” to those rising to power. 

            On a personal note, the author of these lines knew Galina Starovoitova very well.  We notably did not agree on everything, but unlike many others who have come after her, the fact that we did not agree did not keep up from being friends.  That is something that is rapidly being lost – and not only in Russia.

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