Friday, June 14, 2019

‘Systemic Liberalism’ Undermines Opposition and Strengthens Putin Regime, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 12 – “Systemic liberalism,” or as it is known by Russian commentators who speak of it, sislibism, is “an ideological trend using quasi-liberal and completely liberal rhetoric that provides support for the illiberalism of the regime and helps to strengthen it,” as Andrey Illarionov has observed in the past (

            There have been two horrific examples of this in recent days, one Illarionov himself cites and another pointed out by a Circassian commentator, both of which must be condemned if they are to be overcome and if the opposition is going to have any chance of gaining in effectiveness rather than constantly subverting itself.

            The first and the more glaring example is what has happened in Moscow with regard to the case of Igor Golunov. Thousands of Russians of a liberal persuasion were prepared to demonstrate on his behalf and even go into the streets in a half-hearted effort to secure their victory, Illarionov says (

            But these very same people, the Russian commentator points out, have said nothing about the 549 people the regime detained at that protest. “This is not blindness,” he says. “This is a completely conscious decision. This is an absolutely recognized choice, the choice to be on the side of the regime” rather than on the side of right.

                Whatever justifications people come up with – fear, a desire to stay with the crowd, or simple shamefulness – he says, cannot hide the fact that this is the latest manifestation of sislibism (“systemic liberalism”). “Look around,” he invites Muscovites, “and you will have no difficulty identifying this phenomenon.”  

            Another example, one with even deeper roots among Muscovites than the first, is a case Illarionov himself, a Muscovite, doesn’t site. One again Muscovites have protested against something done to their own but not about the same crimes being visited by the Russian authorities on Russian citizens elsewhere in the country.

            In an article for St. Petersburg’s Gorod 812 portal, Sofiya Kodzova, a historian and representative of the Kabardin community of the northern capital, points out that Circassian activist Martin Kochesoko has been arrested and treated in exactly the same way as Igor Golunov, with one major exception.

            Golunov’s case attracted much attention, but Kochesoko’s has largely been ignored in all but the North Caucasian regional media. (Her article at has been reposted at For background on the activist and official actions against him, see

            The Kabardin historian makes the indisputable but often ignored point that “opposition in the capital is not more important or valuable for society than is its regional counterpart.” Unless that is recognized and acted upon, the powers that be will continue to play one against the other and survive to continue their repression against both.

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