Grigory Pasko: Interview with Boris Sokolov

[In September, the Russian academic Boris Sokolov was fired from his university as well as from a newspaper where he contributed a regular column after writing materials questioning the Russian government’s position on events in Georgia. Our Russia correspondent Grigory Pasko catches up with Sokolov to discuss this and other topics. – Editor] Historian Boris Sokolov: “Not even one great politician…” By Grigory Pasko Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда. B. Sokolov – author of more than 50 books on fatherland history and philology, including of the encyclopedias Bulgakov and Gogol, Secrets of the Second world [war], Secrets of the Finnish war, Hundred great wars, Hundred great politicians, Occupation: truth and myth, Russia: Successes of the past century (in co-authorship) and others. I recently had a chance to meet with Boris Vadimovich to discuss topics of modern life in Russia. I offer to your attention my conversation with the professor. sokolov-2.jpg Boris Sokolov (photo by Grigory Pasko)

Boris Vadimovich, where and as what are you now working?As a sociologist in an Orthodox foundation.How do you think, what specifically was it that some readers from the Kremlin administration didn’t like in your article “Was Saakashvili right?”In the article I indicated that, strictly speaking, this was a preparatory war of Russia. Saakashvili had no doubts that Russia would attack and he wanted to gain time in the development of the conflict. He wanted to gain several days, so that international public opinion would stand up on his side. He had no doubt that Russia would conduct the operation with the aim of overthrowing him.In my opinion, the main strike Russia should have inflicted in Abkhazia, and not in South Ossetia. Apparently, they began to improvise.…Such a point of view was not liked by the administration of the president, a representative of which, to the extent that is known to me, telephoned the publisher of the newspaper Mr. Lisin and demanded that the article be removed. And the article was removed from the newspaper’s website. By the way, editor-in-chief Fadeyev was temporarily removed from the post and then returned – he did not bear direct responsibility, was at that time on leave. And in the RGSU there were phone calls – twice they phoned the RGSU rector Vasily Zhukov, so that they would dismiss me.If your article had been published on the website, for example, of, it’s unlikely that the Kremlin’s reaction would have been like that…I think so. They called the publisher, not the editorial office. What is important here is that the newspaper «Gazeta» enters into the Kremlin pool. are not likely to be read out totally by the administration of the president.How do you assess what has happened with you?Censorship has moved on to the level of paper publications, moreover not the biggest-circulation ones. Not of the level of «Kommersant», let us say. It is obvious that the next stage – is censorship of magazines and books. They’ll start with books on history and contemporary politics, later – books on philosophy.…And then – censorship of the Internet? With the application of the law «On counteracting extremist activity».Censorship of the Internet is possible only on the Chinese-Iranian model – with filters at the output. Otherwise all information flows are going to go through foreign providers, but you can’t bring those to liability.But you could bring an author to criminal liability… There are already examples of this.Then people are going to publish under pseudonyms. Or live beyond the border. The way dissidents under pseudonyms used to get published in their time… This is the gradual approach of the regime to the totalitarian phase. This is the introduction of single-mindedness in Russia.In what direction is the country moving?I can’t say. I think that the fate of the country will be sad, and the crisis profound. For example, this financial crisis throughout Russia will be stronger than throughout other countries. The oil price is falling precipitously. If the price per barrel drops to 40 dollars, which is realistic, then the situation will change…. Because of the war in South Ossetia a second cold war has effectively begun. Now nobody is going to be giving our country free-and-clear loans that are not politically connected.But what about the imperial plans of the Russian leadership to resurrect the fleet and the army?I think this will not be. With the decline in oil prices, nobody is going to be building anything. [The cost of construction of a modern aircraft carrier with a nuclear propulsion system comprises around 4 billion US dollars. Monthly expenditures for the upkeep of an aircraft carrier (not including the salaries of the personnel) comprise in excess of 10 million US dollars.–GP]Judging by surveys, the majority of the population likes the current leadership. Although certain opposition figures are saying that the financial crisis will promote the building up of revolutionary moods in the masses..Yes, there’s a lot of talk about revolution nowadays. But revolution is unpredictable. It happens when nobody expects it – neither the power, nor the revolutionaries themselves. Under such a crisis as has broken out now, the funds of the stabfund [Stabilization Fund—Trans.] will be enough for maybe two years. Later – the pauperization of the population…Do you think that propaganda won’t be able to stupefy people’s brains?I think not. If the crisis will be long, then the people will realize.What, in your view, is taking place now in the ranks of the Russian opposition?We don’t, in my view, have a real opposition. The more or less real leaders – Garry Kasparov, Eduard Limonov and Mikhail Kasyanov. But they can’t come to an agreement, because it’s not about differences in platforms, but about personal disagreements. Nobody wants to yield to the other. If these three politicians would unite, then this would be a platform for an overall unification. I don’t know of other opposition politicians who could come out in the capacity of a unifying banner.I won’t ask about the new SPS, everything’s clear about it…Yes, and with the old one everything was clear too.I’d like to ask about the party that former KGB lieutenant-colonel banker Alexander Lebedev and ex-president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev want to create. I’m asking because Putin, apparently, spoke about how oligarchs are not going to participate in party-building. Besides this, it is known that former State Duma deputy, leader of the unregistered Republican Part Vladimir Ryzhkov also spoke about participation in the work of this party.First, Lebedev is no oligarch. He’s somewhat smaller than that… Second, I think that this party has no future. Third, I don’t share the affinity of our liberals towards Ryzhkov. He’s not a sufficiently serious politician, and besides he’s completely connected with the power. And indeed, who of them has not been connected with the power? For a serious politician to join such a party – this signifies political death. If Ryzhkov goes and joins it, as a politician he’ll be dead.A question for you, as the author of the book «100 great politicians». Name today’s greats?I can’t name them – there isn’t even one. With some measure of relativity I can say that the last great one in comparison with others was Yeltsin, who was able to build a sanational regime in Russia, like in Poland. That regime, for better or worse, was able to survive. Now – direct absolute dictatorship: there’s no room for an opposition, freedom of opinion, parties…Do you mean to say that you don’t need to be a politician in order to build a dictatorship?You need to be a dictator.Putin – a dictator? Or part of a «collective dictator»?They’re now talking about the duumvirate «Putin-Medvedev». I don’t see it. There’s no struggle for power between them, and it’s doubtful that there will be one in the future. Although that can’t be ruled out. But there won’t be any liberalization. Medvedev buried all these hopes with the war with Georgia. There will now not be any trust in him, neither here, in the opposition, nor in the west… Never.About the role of western leaders and politicians. To what extent are their hands and heads tied by Russian oil and gas?Far from all countries depend on Russian energy sources. For example, the USA and England do not depend. They didn’t receive and they’re not going to receive. Now there is going to be more dependence of Russia on the West. Oil is going to get cheaper, there will be an excess of it on the market. OPEC, I think, will not hang on for long with [production] cutbacks. When the conversation will turn to their own skins, they’ll violate their understandings. And that’s when dependence on Russia will drop.Do you see anything optimistic in our present? What gives cause for hope?The fact that western politicians have started to look more realistically at Putino-Medvedevite Russia.Thank you for the conversation.From the author:Boris Vadimovich Sokolov (2 January 1957, Moscow) — Russian historian, political essayist on historical topics, critic and literary scholar. doctor of philological sciences, candidate of historical sciences.Until September of the year 2008 was a professor in the department of social anthropology of the Russian State Social University (RGSU); was forced to leave RGSU. After publication in Gazeta (publisher of the newspaper — Vladimir Lisin, owner of the Novoliptesk Metallurgical Combine) on 19 August of the year 2007 of an article under the name “Did Saakashvili lose?” with the subtitle “The results of the war with Georgia are not as unequivocal as they’re being painted by official propaganda,” it was indicated to him, according to his interpretation of events by the leadership of the university, that “people with a different view of life and events in the country than this is reflected in the state position can not teach in a higher educational establishment”; it was likewise said to him that his dismissal is being demanded by the Administration of the president. The article “Did Saakashvili lose?” was removed from the newspaper’s website “for technical reasons”, as employee of the editorial office of Gazeta Dmitry Balburov said.