Grigory Pasko: Interview with Russian Environmental Activist Alexey Yablokov

Yablokov-2100808Alexey Yablokov: “Not all greens have been able to find themselves a place on the vertical of power” Interview by Grigory Pasko, journalist Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда. Alexey Yablokov – professor, correspondent-member of the Russian academy of sciences, honorary foreign member of the American academy of arts and sciences. Ecologist, biologist, author and co-author of over 25 monographs. In the years 1991-1993 – advisor to the president of Russia on ecology and health care, chairman o the government Commission on the problem of the dumping of radioactive wastes in seas. President of the Center of ecological policy of Russia (until the year 2005). Chairman (2005) of the party Union of Greens of Russia (Green Russia), since June 2006 – chairman of the Fraction Green Russia in the Russian united democratic party Yabloko. Here is the opinion of party colleagues: “Alexey Vladimirovich, famous for his democratic (in the best sense of this word) views, a person with an unblemished reputation, having never bowed his head before the powerful of this world, one of the few who has been in power and has come out of it of his own free will with exactly what he had going in (in the sense of regalia, finances, real estate). He became involved in party-building, by his words, out of desperation. He simply could not do otherwise. Photo: Alexey Vladimirovich Yablokov, one of the leading lights of the Russian environmental movement (photo by Grigory Pasko)

I met with Alexey Vladimirovich at his home – he was working on his latest monograph and immediately said that soon, perhaps, he would return to scholarly work. “But what about the green party and everything that is associated with the future of the opposition in Russia,” I asked.I present here the opinion of the leader of the Russian ecologists, professor Alexey Yablokov.Alexey Yablokov:It has happened more than once already that the greens in the whole world seriously changed the political landscape in a country. In the USA, the republicans took away one and a half percent of the votes from Albert Gore on account of the greens. If not for this, Gore would have won. Greens play a noticeable role in Germany: whoever they join with – that one becomes stronger. Greens in and of themselves are not capable of heading a government, but they help to adopt important decisions. In Germany, as an example, upon their initiative they prohibited the building of new atomic power stations.Our situation here is different. Public sympathies and political representation – these are two different things.In June of the year 2006 we founded the party «Green Russia». After a congress according to the law then we needed to gather 10 thousand members and register the party. We came to the conclusion that we would be able to gather such a quantity of supporters. But then the law quickly changed: the Kremlin started to closely monitory the not-subject-to-it activeness of two noticeable organizations – the «Soldiers’ mothers» and the «greens». Then the Duma took the handoff from the Kremlin and adopted a law, according to which a party can be registered only if there are 50 thousand members in it.Towards December we had gathered 16 thousand members – there had never been anything like this for the greens in Russia before. (I’m not talking about the «Cedar» party, which is being injected with the money of commercial structures and is loyal to the Kremlin).16 thousand members – this is a serious bid in the capacity of the green wing of the democratic movement. After the new law a discussion was conducted in the abortive party: the majority were in favour of cessation of party-building in such conditions. We offered our supporters two variants: to create a faction in the «Yabloko» party and to create a movement «Green Russia – Union of greens of Russia». Into the faction attached to «Yabloko» entered around 2 thousand persons – this turned out to be the largest faction in «Yabloko». But the democratic party «Yabloko» soon felt limitations on the part of the Kremlin. Now the party is in crisis, there’s no money. The fact is that all political money in the country is found under the control of the Kremlin. Foreign foundations and organizations are prohibited from financing parties, while Russian businessmen are afraid without the permission of the Kremlin to give money. We are found in this trap.About the movement «Green Russia – Union of greens of Russia». We made several mistakes at the congress: the movement was headed by co-chairman – seven people. And this structure didn’t work out. Some really didn’t want to be engaged in this movement. The system of co-chairmen turned out to be non-working. There isn’t a common ideology. We amicably separated. The movement died out. But we had hoped that by the movement would nourish the party.Then there were talks about how the greens and «Yabloko», and all the small parties had lost at the elections. But there hadn’t been any elections! There was a Kremlin special operation to advance one-two of their parties. And even despite this, the «Yabloko» party in Moscow got around 15%\ of the votes of the voters. The Moscow organization headed by Sergey Mitrokhin was engaged in ecological problems. The party worked very actively in the Moscow suburbs – there 40% voted for the party, and the results the elections were annulled. We contested these results, but they completely annulled them in the controversial precincts. As if though they had never taken place at all.Just a few days ago it was announced about how the Russian ecological party the Greens («Cedar») will merge into the ranks of «A Just Russia». This is entirely possible. This party under the wing of the «Just Russians» will lose its individuality. This reflects a trend: the green idea nevertheless exists in the masses. The greens were at their peak in the 1990s, when ecological problems in society stood at 2-3 place, but now – at 10-15 place. People don’t connect the many-hours-long traffic jams in large cities, the high-rise construction, the clearing of greenbelts – all this is in essence ecological problems.Today in Russia the demographic problem has acutely risen. The eco-situation with the health of the population – is a demographic catastrophe. The number of births is less than the number of deaths. Every year there becomes half a million fewer people in the country. Official estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) were published in the year 2007: 492 thousand persons in the year 2004 died in Russia from ecological causes. Therefore we’re starting to discuss this question on all platforms accessible to us. But it looks like the power is seriously not interested in discussing these numbers. Apparently, in order to service oil derricks, even 40 million people in the country will be enough.Politically all is under the control of the Kremlin. On the other hand – an obvious lack of ecological prosperity: in all industrial areas the life expectancy is low. For example, in Tula the average life expectancy for men is 53 years. Russia – is the only country in the world where life expectancy isn’t rising with the increase in prosperity. This social law was violated for the first time on Chukotka: there, wages are high, but people are living less and less.Another noticeable problem – 100 thousand Russians per year are leaving Russia. A special term has even appeared – “quiet migration”. People don’t leave a prosperous country.Nobody can say when society will rise up. It probably could happen earlier, if truthful ecological information and analysis were broadly accessible. We can not now tell people the truth, the society of consumers is chewing tele-gum, it is being zombified. The statistics are lies, especially about infant mortality.Several words about the ecological movement. In Russia there were more than 50 thousand civic ecological organizations. Of these – around a thousand active ones. Around 500 are left. The overall number has sharply fallen. On the one hand financing on the part of the state has stopped – the state supports only loyal organizations, which do not criticize the state for anything. Groups that protest don’t get money. On the other hand, the requirements for grant-givers have gotten tougher. Financing from beyond the border has been reduced. Charitable foundations – American, Japanese, French – are leaving Russia. Besides the fact that the state is impeding their work, they justly ask themselves the question: if Russia – is a super-rich country on account of high oil prices, then why do their organizations need to be financed? The foundations have rolled up their programs: out of 300 foundations around a hundred are left that are still present in the country. The rest prefer to work in Africa, China, anywhere at all where there aren’t political barriers to their activity.I hope that the screws in relation to ecologists and ecology in Russia will continue to be tightened for only so long. Society is going to rise up. When? I don’t know…