(*Negative selection is a mechanism prioritising and ensuring selection of the worst. See, for example, here)
The State Duma elections ended exactly one month ago. We approached these elections in a situation when the system had been consolidated and had started moving definitely and consciously to an aggressive-repressive model of relations with society. After 1 July 2020, a new modification of Putin’s vertical already emerged, following in the tracks of the authoritarian version1G. Yavlinsky. The Day After // Official website of Grigory Yavlinsky, 10 September 2020. Available at: link (accessed on 29 September 2021).. From the perspective of a value-based system and construction of the state, Russia’s post-Soviet modernisation ended in failure.
ELECTIONS? WHAT ELECTIONS?
Against the backdrop of a political regime where there is no separation of powers or independent judiciary, public, honest and simply normal elections cannot take place. It is impossible to endlessly be shocked by the dishonest calculation of votes. In September 2021 any other count or other type of election are impossible in Russia. Conversations about falsification as something new can only be attributed either to naivety or a sense of impotence: many people simply don’t want to take reality for what it is, and thinking about the long path to freedom — it is easier to discuss how “we were deceived”. Paradoxically, such conversations arguably cast a shade of legitimacy on the current State Duma: if the issue of the honesty of the elections is being discussed at all, this means that this is no longer a puppet parliament formed by the Presidential administration, but instead the result of a “slightly dubious”, but all the same popular expression of will.
Why didn’t I stand for election this time? Because I don’t consider such “elections” to be real elections and am convinced that the State Duma will adopt decisions that I find completely unacceptable or even criminal. These decisions will be supported by the absolute majority of the “elected deputies”, and it will be impossible to obstruct this move. Meanwhile my vote “against” in this case would have merely created the illusion of a debate, a discussion of the decisions being adopted: look here, you can see some real opposition in the State Duma.
So does this mean that the previous State Duma elections were any better? No, to all intents and purposes, there haven’t been any such elections since 1999. However, the adoption of patently criminal laws was not anticipated back then. There was still hope. After the amendments to the Russian Constitution last summer, all such hopes evaporated. For a long time now the State Duma has not discussed anything in earnest and does not take any decisions, but instead simply rubber stamps the draft laws handed down from the Presidential Administration. The expectation that the truth can be communicated to the people from the pulpit of such a parliament is also an illusion. In a situation where Putin occupies today’s information space, not a single politically significant mass media outlet will say anything to this effect, will not show anything. Accordingly, nobody will hear anything. Moreover, it is highly likely that they wouldn’t be allowed to speak these days.
The only real goal of participating in events in such an “alleged election” format is to tell the truth about what is happening in the country and Russia’s possible future loudly and almost with no holds barred on all available channels. And this is what we, the party Yabloko and likeminded people, did. From the very outset, we planned our “election” campaign as a momentous event. Yabloko’s campaign was not so much a battle for percentages, as a manifesto addressed to society. In June 2021 at a meeting of the Political Committee before the party congress we discussed both the option not to participate in elections at all, as well as the nomination of an electoral list consisting entirely of political prisoners. However, the political committee and then the congress adopted the decision to nominate a list of mostly young politicians who needed an opportunity to study how to talk with electors against the backdrop of an authoritarian regime. Our list also included Andrey Pivovarov who had been arrested on political grounds.
The intention of Yabloko’s work during these months was to speak directly to the Russian people as a whole on the most important issues for our country right now:
- Putin’s politics are leading us down a blind alley: poverty, a rising death rate, the collapse of the healthcare system, a deteriorating economy incapable of development — these are all the consequences of such politics;
- No to war with Ukraine;
- Freedom for political prisoners;
- We demand investigations into the poisoning and killing of opposition politicians;
- Regime change is indispensable for Russia.
And the key is that at these elections Yabloko was the only party to speak out against the policy of war. The policy of war is not only an act of aggression towards neighbours and not only militarist rhetoric addressed to the whole world. This is also indicative of the dangerous and sick state of society. We participated in this spectacle to be able to explain this all and communicate to as broad a spectrum of the public as possible. Our candidates, authorised party delegates and the organisers of our campaign, aides and canvassers, were subjected to constant pressure. Yabloko candidates were disqualified from the elections. Our list was stigmatised as the list of a “foreign agent”. For all that, we continued our campaign in order to provide people with an opportunity to cast their vote and state their position — on the ballot paper, on social networks, in conversations with neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances. This was a serious and robust political proposal of an alternative to society and a call on people to fight for it.
The official results of the main parties in the 2021 “elections” were virtually identical to the ones in 2011: the number of votes assigned to United Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation back then almost coincided with today’s numbers. At the time, such a result was facilitated by the slogans “Vote for anyone other than…” and “Nah-Nah [Vote against all]”, today this role was played by “Smart Voting”. In the ten years of the Duma union of United Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, we have witnessed the Bolotnaya Square case, the annexation of Crimea, the launch of a war in Donbass, the assassination of a critic of the regime, the politician and statesman Boris Nemtsov, Russia’s intervention in Syria’s civil war and the adoption of dozens of extremely repressive laws.
Whoever voted for a communist deputy in a single-seat district or the communists based on the list of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, guided by the instructions from Smart Voting, will now have to face up to reality and see what they achieved: with their help the Communist Party of the Russian Federation increased its representation in the State Duma, while the regime retained its constitutional majority. The communists have consolidated their position as an ideological crutch of the authorities and will push state policy even more towards wars, repressions, the search for enemies, nationalisation of the economy, and utter indifference to the interests of the general public perceived as “little cogs in a big machine”.
As for “Smart Voting” as an electoral strategy, this technology was always profoundly perverse and politically immoral, geared to creating the illusion of success through assistance to actually “promising and politically connected” candidates, regardless of their views and ideology2Calls on the public to vote for anyone who has the greatest chance of success, regardless of their opinions, convictions and programme is the politics of populism. This is its underlying idea. . The declared objective of “Smart Voting” — minimise the result of United Russia and thereby deal a blow to Putin’s system — targeted people who had no idea whatsoever of the meaning of Russian politics.
September’s elections not only failed to bring an end to the quasi-party system: on the contrary, they boosted it materially. Now, the lynchpin of Russia’s red-brown politics is to consolidate their resources in the fight against the West, the reality of war with neighbours and unlimited repressions inside the country. At the congress of United Russia three weeks before the elections, President Putin thanked directly all the parties represented in the State Duma for their “patriotic position” and clarified that United Russia “has been playing here a consolidating and integrating role”3Vladimir Putin participated in the second stage of the 20th Congress of the All-Russian Political Party “United Russia” // Official website of the Russian President, 24 August 2001. Available at: link (accessed on 29 September 2021).. However, anyone who supported Navalny’s “electoral strategies” and thereby proactively participated in the attainment of a result where all the deputies of the State Duma supported Putin, while United Russia has a constitutional majority, also deserve the President’s congratulations.
From this perspective, the post-election statements of the organisers of “Smart Voting” are so divergent from reality and belie common sense that they resemble more an unsuccessful attempt to exonerate themselves for their failure: “The main political result is that the elections of the 2021 State Duma can be summed up as widespread confrontation of Putin and ‘Smart Voting’”, or “Our consolidation, our ‘Smart Voting’ has left Putin with a very tough choice: either to acknowledge his defeat or opt for falsifications on an unprecedented scale”4“This is a result that will go down in history”: Navalny’s team summarises the results of “Smart Voting” // Dozhd (“TV Rain” independent TV channel), 23 September 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 7 October 2021).. Moreover, assertions that “Kremlin unhooded everyone, disclosed all the agents, exploited every opportunity…”5“For the time being it remains unclear what beast we will become. But definitely a beautiful one”. Letter from Alexey Navalny addressed to his staff and allies // Meduza, 13 October 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 16 October 2021). and that “we showed that the elections are being falsified” — represents an attempt to pass off what everyone knows as some revelation. And the electronic voting in Moscow is part of this “secret”6When you vote and all the votes end up with Putin // Grigory Yavlinsky’s page on Facebook, 21 September 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 7 October 2021). .
These elections also laid bare the baselessness of hopes that the new technologies, social networks and horizontal structures would come to our aid in the fight against authoritarian regimes. The opposite is true. And here we have Alexey Navalny, ranting that Apple and Google had deleted apps containing “Smart Voting”’s recommendations expressing surprise at “how omnipotent Big Tech was submissively transformed into his [Putin’s] accomplices”7Instagram, Alexey Navalny’s account, 23 September 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 29 September 2021). . However, there is nothing to warrant such a surprise. Surely everyone knows by now that the security, defence and law enforcement services have been using for a long time “protest” databases gathered online? In the context of the current Russian regime, this is the only possible option8G. Yavlinsky. Information Ochlocracy // Official website of Grigory Yavlinsky, 15 December 2020. Available at: link (accessed on 29 September 2021)..
A week after the State Duma elections a large-scale criminal case on the creation of an extremist community was commenced against the founders and former employees of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. It is highly unlikely that this came as a surprise to anyone (for some reason, this didn’t happen earlier — either in 2012, 2014 or even 2020). Moreover, it is obvious that the new case against Navalny and his allies is a signal that the Kremlin is entirely satisfied with the results of the elections and is proceeding to a new stage of the repressions.
Regrettably, the past ten years were wasted by activists playing games according to the rules of the authorities as if they had been specifically assigned this role on the board9G. Yavlinsky. Activism and Politics // Novaya Gazeta, 19 October 2019. Available at: link (accessed on 18 October 2021). . And my article in February 2021 “No to Putinism and Populism” focussed specifically on this issue: the radical change to the environment, the offensive of a repressive state, the inefficiency of activism and the risk that national Bolshevik populism might naturally take its place10G. Yavlinsky. No to Putinism and Populism // Official website of Grigory Yavlinsky, 11 February 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 29 September 2021).. In this article I also warned about forthcoming arrests and hundreds of criminal cases, the public’s disillusion over the pointless protests which were only making the situation in the country even worse. And any attempts to engage in idle talk about these key topics and make such discussions personal merely demonstrated a reluctance to face a reality which is now making itself felt literally every day.
The key issues highlighted back in February 2021 and assessments made at the time turned out to be correct. Navalny and his supporters publicly and bluntly supported Communists -Stalinists at the elections. The result of this vote — the union of United Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation with the unconditional cooperation of A Just Russia party and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia — is no accident. It was entirely predictable. And this predictability is based first and foremost on the populist essence of such politics, and secondly the logic of unprincipled voting.
Living standards in the country are falling, discontent accentuated by fears over an unknown future is growing, while public politics is becoming more primitive. Against this background, Stalinist revanchism, whose allies are namely the advocates of “Smart Voting” who mistook the revanchists for Putin’s opponents, is rearing its ugly head.
Here cooperation with revanchists is not simply some tactical union. Russian political populism is an approach which deliberately draws on primitive fears and prejudices and crowd psychology. Whereas initially nationalism had been the calling card, after the regime seized this agenda through the annexation of Crimea and aggression against Ukraine, the focus switched to left-wing populism, social and class hatred.
Incidentally, nationalism remains one of the characteristic traits of this political line. Moreover, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation backed through “Smart Voting” represents pure and simple nationalism-Bolshevism, combining imperial nationalism with a rejection of private property and a crude version of Marxism. This is repressive authoritarianism hankering after totalitarianism.
Meanwhile, Putin’s system feels entirely at ease with such revanchists. Stalinists simply want Putin to become even more like Stalin than he is right now. At the same time, the non-party fellow travellers of the communists (do you remember the unbreakable “block of communists and non-party people”, which nominated only one list at the elections of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR?) continue giving way on all matters, out of fear of offending Stalinists.
They come up with all manner of ideas to boost the growing influence of the communists. For example, they propose excluding from the current agenda any foreign policy issues11On the website of “Echo of Moscow”, political scientist Abbas Gallyamov advised: “Ideally, the non-systemic opposition should in actual fact exclude for the time being all foreign policy issues from their agenda and focus on domestic matters. The fight for power is being carried out INSIDE the country, and here the communists are more of an ally than an opponent.” See A. Gallyamov. How the Kremlin intends to set liberals and communists at loggerheads // Echo of Moscow, 23 September 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 29 September 2021). which will de facto become support for a major war, a threat which has never been more real than today since the middle of the 20th century. And given that the recent elections were, inter alia, a quasi-referendum on attitudes to war, a vote for the communists became a vote for war. This was duly noted, assessed and considered by the regime. Now this “red brick” will reinforce the foundation of imperial policy, whose goal was set out clearly in the provocative article by Dmitry Medvedev published after the elections12Dmitry Medvedev — former Russian President in 2008–2012 and Prime Minister in 2012-2020). D. Medvedev. Why Any Contacts with Ukraine’s Current Leadership Are Pointless // Kommersant, 11 October 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 18 October 2021)..
One more thing. After the national Bolshevik ideology secured additional support in September, the fight against corruption and oligarchs acquired a completely different meaning. Instead of the creation in Russia of a market-based competitive economy and the lasting and stable institute of private property, the regime will focus on nationalisation similar to state planning, the strengthening of state monopolies, a one-size fits all approach, increasing pressure on small and medium businesses.
The support of Stalinists is not the only consequence of the political line of populism, although it is a very serious one. For many years now the Russian authorities have been undermining the institute of elections, destroying society’s trust in such a procedure and the idea of a parliamentary democracy. This is the destruction of statehood implemented over a number of years. And this is exactly what so-called opinion leaders have been doing, the individuals inspiring people that in order to “teach the authorities a lesson”, they “can vote for a Stalinist, a paedophile, anyone at all”13K. Sonin. Dissenting Opinion // Echo of Moscow, 30 August 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 29 September 2021)., convincing the public that “Smart Voting” is the “most effective strike against the Russian authorities”, even if this meant voting for people “who support Stalin or are openly homophobic or racists”14S. Guriev. Dissenting Opinion // Echo of Moscow, 2 April 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 29 September 2021)..
The emasculation of any substance and the reduction of politics to technologies and some type of algorithm is comparable to the regime’s concept of “little cogs in a big machine”. Our country’s history has demonstrated convincingly that whenever an individual is treated as a mere cog, another image emerges very rapidly: you cannot chop wood without making the chips fly. A vote cast according to the algorithm becomes such a chip.
The introduction into public consciousness of the idea that supporting not simply some figure whose ideas ideologically are remote from one’s own, but also an exponent of misanthropic views, is admissible and even justifiable for the sake of attaining some alleged political goals, is harmful and ethically unacceptable. This path debases values, results in an abdication of one’s individuality and identity and negation of the idea of free will. Such steps are bound to take a heavy toll on the individual.
Putin is accustoming society to Orwellian absurdity15 The clearest example of such absurdity — how the Constitutional Court substantiated last year the reset to zero of Putin’s presidential terms by the fact that our country today has a “developed parliamentary system of government, a real multiparty system, political competition, an effective model of the segregation of power endowed with a system of checks and balances, and also guarantees of rights and freedoms by an independent judiciary, including the activity of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation”. See How the Constitutional Court Explained the Legality of the Corrections to Fundamental Law // Vedomosti, 16 March 2020. Available at: link (accessed on 30 September 2021)., while the “thinking opposition” already feels at home in this absurdity and assures its audience that a vote for a Stalinist represents “support for political prisoners”.
I have repeatedly said and written, but will repeat here once more: a national-populist political line is completely alien to our party. Yabloko is a democratic party, European party, a party of centrist social-liberal views, an ideological party.
Navalny’s policy is entirely different in principle. It is Bolshevism of the post-modern era. The following represent the key “values” of this direction: the leader, absolute unity of the horde, adherence to the principles “whoever disagrees with us is against us” and the “goal justifies the means”, endless incitement of the poor against the rich, imperialism, nationalism, moral ambivalence, hatred of opponents.
In addition, one is forced to agree with the opinion16 See V. Pastukhov. The Poisoning of Kirov // Novaya Gazeta, 15 September 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 30 September 2021). The author of the article draws two conclusions : 1. The regime played for ten years with part of Russian society through Navalny, but decided last year to end this game; 2. As a result of ten years of protests, bloody Bolshevik chaos is viewed today as the only alternative to Putin. that Navalny obstructed for almost ten years the creation in Russia of an opposition consolidated on the basis of democratic values, and in this capacity suited the regime. Navalny’s allies would in any circumstances defend their leader (and still do so) and assert his infallibility with savage fury. For his “political managers” were the people who in February 2021 threw people into the furnace [of the state’s repressive machinery] organised a smear campaign against anyone who dared criticise Navalny, and then consciously and pointedly called on the public to vote for Stalinists. These people are pursuing their own agenda, seeking to secure some personal advantage. These people should assume full responsibility for their calls to action and incitement.
This summer the captain of England’s football team Harry Kane told racist fans: “We don’t want you”. To all intents and purposes, I said the same thing to the supporters of Navalny’s politics: you can decide not to vote for us, we know your programme and will never implement it. So-called “Navalnists” are alien to us, as they are all similar one-man bands, whether nationalists, Stalinists or Putinists. They have one distinctive trait — the organic inability to engage in dialogue, while their domain is hating, in other words, the hatred of and harassment of anyone who disagrees with them: they behave like Bolshevik Leninists, like the “revolutionary sailors” who in January 1918 barracked and intimidated the deputies of the Constituent Assembly on its first and only day from the balconies of Tauride Palace.
However, another important and influential group also participated in the debasement of public opinion and contributed to the degradation of their audience. I am referring here to certain representatives of the intelligentsia and journalists intoxicated by activism who consider Navalny the only figure “capable of consolidating the protest”17The journalist Konstantin Eggert commented on this phenomenon as follows: “Reading in social networks how Moscow’s intelligentsia wrote proudly about voting for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation or Prilepin, is simultaneously painful and amusing.” (Comment: Zakhar Prilepin is a nationalist writer who fought for a while in Donetsk against Ukraine) See K. Eggert. Vasserman’s Reaction. Why the Supporters of Smart Voting Should Listen to Democratic Schizophrenia” // Snob, 21 September 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 8 October 2021). In the recent elections there was a clear alternative to the idiotic and immoral idea of “Smart Voting”. If this was not already clear to anyone, the Yabloko party was also listed in the ballot paper as cooperating with “foreign agents”. However, the same people who said that criticism of Navalny while he was in prison was unacceptable called on the public to vote for the same communists who had adopted the law on foreign agents. And it is no longer important whether they supported a specific communist deputy for a single-seat district or the entire list of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Now it is irrelevant. Anyone who campaigned directly or indirectly for the communists, whether a human rights advocate from Memorial, a professor of the Higher School of Economics, a famous writer, popular blogger or simply high-profile representatives of the media intelligentsia — all these members of the “crème de la crème” must now assume personal responsibility for the consequences of this immoral action. And one can only hope that an irreversible catastrophe for the country doesn’t happen in the next few years.
It goes without saying that we do not perceive the “crème de la crème” as our political opponents. However, at the same time it is impossible to view them as moral authorities in politics. As a rule, these people are consummate professionals in their area of expertise, but utterly incompetent when it comes to politics and furthermore infinitely self-confident, even though in most cases they suffer from an inferiority complex.
Oddly enough, the “crème de la crème” and “Putin’s elites” are part of the same establishment group, they all date back to the 1990s. And neither one supported reforms for the majority: instead like Bolsheviks they both the treat people as mere fodder. However, the “crème de la crème” through their inane chatting also covered up the “reforms’ in the 1990s that were so detrimental to the public at large, the criminal distribution of property through the loans-for-shares auctions, the creation of an oligarchic economy and state, destruction of the institute of elections, starting back in 1996. The “crème de la crème” supported the second Chechen war and backed Putin as the “leader of the nation”. Short-sighted and devoid of any ability to think strategically, they failed to promptly discern the dangers (even for themselves) of the modifications to the oligarchic system established around Putin. However, when opposing Putin, the “crème de la crème” were unable to view critically their own sad experience and failed to recognise the errors that they had made. Sooner or later, however, the country will have to provide honest and exhaustive assessments of the 1990s. And I don’t mean here an opportunity to settle scores, but instead a real assessment of the Bolshevik-Stalinist period in history, which is essential if the country is to move forward.
Finally, there are people who succumbed to the mass lobbying and after such brainwashing voted for the communists, or decided not to participate at all in politics, disillusioned by the activism and deeming unacceptable the calls to action from individuals they considered authoritative. Such a position is understandable. These people had simply been immersed in the endless calculations and conversations about the “need to be rational” when voting, caught up in illogical, verbose and obtrusive discussions that a vote for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation was a vote “against the regime and Putin”, whereas by voting according to one’s conscience, “votes cast for parties that will not make it into the State Duma will go to United Russia”. In actual fact, this is nothing more than “reflective profligacy”18 Facebook, page of the journalist Julia Kalinina, 13 September 2021. Available at: link (accessed on 8 October 2021).. Discussions about the “need” to support a lesser evil, based on some kind of calculation, are nothing new: this has also happened in the past. This is simply pseudo-scientific dissimulation. As for the squeamish call for a boycott, in the current environment this is imply a gift for the regime: this implies total disengagement from the information space, for whoever opts out is always wrong.
It would be naïve to assume that one could remain “outside politics” or “above the fray” in Russia during the past 30 years. As this approach has been widely adopted, virtually no professional and influential journalism remains in our country today. In most Russian mass media, you will find nothing other than state propaganda. However, even courageous investigations, which appear sometimes in the honest and independent press that can still be found, merely serve to embitter the public even more, as they don’t talk about an alternative – they fail to indicate the people who could guide the country in the right direction and resolve the pent-up serious problems that we face. Such journalism, systematically inciting just discontent, pushes people to revolt. As we know all too well, life is even worse after such rebellions.
Finally it must be understood that the infamous “Smart Voting” for “any electable candidate other than…” is not simply an extremely ignoble deed, but instead populism pure and simple which in practice functions within the framework of negative selection, ensuring in our country the selection of the worst possible individuals. Such an approach is geared to achieving fictitious or short-lived success and as a result leads to a perceptible deterioration compared to the underlying situation.
The campaigners and advocates of “Smart Voting” can now assume full liability for the actions of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, A Just Russia with Prilepin’s followers and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in the current State Duma.
THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE
People are tired of poverty and are waiting for positive changes in the economy. The range of available products is vast: thanks to the Internet, you can make purchases without even leaving your house. However, people don’t have any money. In such circumstances, people sliding into poverty can be palmed off with anything: a new State Plan, nationalisation19 Election programme of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation // Official website of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Available at: link (accessed on 16 October 2021)., and the closing of borders — in general, our recent past. Destitution offers a propitious basis for revenge.
Now society will have no answer to the question “what should be done” for a long time to come. The tandem of communists and Putin’s security, defence and law enforcement officers will not rid the country of poverty, crime and state falsehood, will not restore trust in the regime. Russian citizens have figured this out and haven’t expected anything good from the state for a long time, but at the same time believe that they themselves are not responsible for the regime’s actions or anything else happening in the country. At the same time, people are ready for the repressive model enacted by the regime, expect it and in some sense are even tailoring themselves to it. Society simply cannot imagine any other state than a repressive one and expects only violence, coercion and theft. This leads to the desire to cast aside moral considerations, take revenge and “rob what was robbed”, exercising the only way available to no longer be a “trembling creature”. And if this aspiration is adopted widely, if life proceeds in this direction, then Russia will not simply forfeit any potential promise, but also its future: our country with its current territory, unified historical and cultural space, will simply cease to exist.
The threat of such a scenario is the reason why we must focus first and foremost on explaining to people the existing opportunity and need to build another state, and different institutions which operate on a completely different basis. To achieve this objective, we must already cultivate today a desire to create, which is not at all equable to the call from the Communist Internationale — “To the ground and then…”20 In the Russian translation of The Internationale by Arkady Kots there is a call to destroy to the ground: “We will destroy the whole world of violence to the ground and then we will build our own new world”, while in the English version there is no such call: “The earth shall rise on new foundations” (the American version by Charles Hope Kerr) or “We’ll change henceforth the old tradition, and spurn the dust to win the prize!” (the English version by Eugène Pottier).
Urgent interdependent objectives also include the need to counter growing obscurantism, defend democratic values, constantly remember and talk about political prisoners, demand investigations of political assassinations and poisoning, find points of support within Russian society, create and develop the components of an alternative to “Putin’s system” — ideological (European values), substantive (draft laws and programmes such as “Land, Homes, Roads”21 Land, Homes, Roads. Russian United Democratic Party Yabloko. Moscow, 2011. Available at: link (accessed on 30 September 2021).), staffing (highly professional specialists with untarnished reputations).
There is no need to wait until some period “after Putin” in order to start everything with a clean slate. We already need to determine now the opposition’s priorities, with a view to the future. We have been right about our assessment of the situation in the country — everything that we warned about is happening. However, we believe in the future, in Russia, in our people, in life without fear, in a law-based state and in freedom. And that is why we will continue trying to persuade people that you can and must be guided by your conscience in politics and life — and vote on this basis. This is the only possible moral and intellectual opposition at a time of reactionary responses, repressions and falsifications. You should never reconcile yourself to lies, you should never turn a blind eye to falsehood, otherwise you become an accomplice to such deceit. You must vote every time for yourself, and not simply back the horse which will finish first. This is not a horse race. It is up to you to choose where and how you will live. Voting is always a matter of conscience and not a calculated decision.
Today power in Russia is in the hands of the few. Objectively, modernisation and reforms are vital for the majority. However, only through peaceful means. A rebellion is not in the interests of the people and is not in the country’s interests. The European path is objectively the only path that Russia should take. Despite all our problems and weaknesses, no other political direction can formulate any meaning to moving forward. All other directions represent a “non-existent path”, the reproduction of Putin’s system in different forms and along the same trajectory. The Yabloko party and I myself personally have offered a substantive alternative to society eleven times over 28 years, have never deceived the public, have never reneged on our principles and convictions. We have a programme today that we are ready to implement. Support for Yabloko’s programme and platform are consistent with the requirements of history and with the present moment, and this represents an opportunity to win in future.