On the Russian people and individual democrats By Grigory Pasko, journalist Last year, I visited Samara and told readers of the blog about the surroundings in which the Germany-Russia summit was taking place. One of the articles was fully devoted to Samara’s roads – probably the worst in all of Russia. In my article, in particular, I cited such numbers: according to official data, 3 billion rubles were directed from the federal budget to the Samara budget on the eve of the summit in a targeted allocated for the repair of roads. 800 million rubles for repairing roads was allocated from the oblast budget. The city itself promised another 40 million rubles from its own funds. All in all – 3 billion 840 million rubles. That’s $154 million dollars. Towards the beginning of the work of the summit, a PIECE OF ONE road leading from the airport to the city had been built – no more than five kilometers. A month after the summit, I telephoned an acquaintance of mine and expressed interest in the state of the roads and the process of their repair. He responded: if in the days of the work of the summit at least the cracks in the pavement were being filled with tar, nowadays no works whatsoever are being conducted. The eternal Russian question: where did the budget money disappear to? The eternal Russian answer: it was pilfered! [Photo: Vladimir Putin and Grigory Yavlinsky, RIA Novosti]
Do you know what the second edict by president Putin was relative to the conducting of the Olympiad in Sochi? (The first was on the founding of a state «Olympic» corporation). The second edict was on the founding of a committee on the non-permitting of the pilfering of the Olympic money to take place.Yet another question worried me in Samara: why, given such a quality of roads – the practical absence thereof – are the Russian people not outraged? After all, it is these very same people who are destroying their cars on them!But the people were silent.And all of a sudden, at the end of March 2008 – news!In Samara, there took place an action by motorists protesting against bad roads. At the shopping center on Moscow chaussé, there gathered a whole hundred (!) Samaran motor enthusiasts dissatisfied with the quality of the roads.With the help of such a distinctive flash mob, the motor enthusiasts attempted to draw the attention of the Samara authorities to the bad quality of the city streets. The information bulletin reporting this news added that the State Automobile Inspectorate registers several incidents per day in Samara of damage to automobiles due to bad pavement. Ruts in the asphalt, non-working storm drains lead not only to accidents, but also to the components of automobiles.I phoned my acquaintance once again and asked whose attention these hundred people had managed to catch. He replied: that of the police and several journalists. Repair of the roads has yet to commence.The infamous roads of Samara aren’t getting any better (photo by Grigory Pasko)Yet another unique Russian feature needs to be noted here. All the roads in all of Russia after winter become simply nightmarish. The snow lay on them – huge holes have appeared. This speaks not of the power of the snow, but of the quality – abominable – of the Russian roads. Russians don’t know how to build roads (just like they don’t know how to build cars, either, by the way). But they sure do know how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on their construction.In connection with roads, I recall yet another colorful character from Russian reality – first deputy prime minister Sergey Ivanov. Last year at a meeting with the students of the Far-Eastern Auto Road Institute he said: “One of the misfortunes in our country consists specifically of bad roads…”A completely Russian saying sounds like this: “In Russia there are two misfortunes – fools and roads”. Ivanov did mention the roads. But for some reason he was silent on the subject of the fools. Why? Could it be because appearing in the role of these fools are none other than the members of the government, who, after so many years, still haven’t gotten around to putting some of the colossal oil money coming into the country into the construction of roads?And now about certain democrats.An intrigue has been launched in recent days in the Russian opposition internet press by two newsmakers – president Putin and the leader of the «Yabloko» party, Grigory Yavlinsky.Yavlinsky was summoned to Putin for a meeting. They must have had a chat about something there, but nobody other than the two of them knows about what. After their meeting, everybody waited with bated breath for Yavlinsky to gather a press conference and, in the spirit of freedom of speech and democracy, to tell at least the members of his party just what exactly he had discussed with the ruler, who has so often criticized him in the past.He didn’t gather. He didn’t tell. He limited himself only to a reply with respect to the leader of the St. Petersburg branch of «Yabloko», Maxim Reznik, who was found under arrest at that time. Putin, supposedly, had promised to sort it all out. Well, apparently Putin did sort it all out, because they soon released Reznik from jail.Yavlinsky himself only regained his power of speech a week afterwards. At a conference of his party he expressed himself thus: “A dialogue is needed with the authoritarian power, in all allowable political forms”. Yavlinsky, it is true, qualified that by saying that contacts with the power are possible only from a position of political and professional independence. “We and today’s power are very different”, he noted. “We have different views with respect to all questions of substance. But one can work with the country only thus: to meet, to discuss profound questions, to come out with alternative initiatives, to insist on one’s own, should the opportunity present itself to participate in their practical realization.”Grigory Alexeyevich has apparently forgotten that “dialogue” presupposes the participation of a minimum of two interested parties in a conversation. And when only the power is doing all the “talking” – with the barbaric actions of the OMON – while the only ones listening to the opposition are investigators in jail cells, then that’s not a dialogue. This is monologues, sounding in various – both politically and geographically – places.Really, the key word in Yavlinsky’s last phrase is “should the opportunity present itself”. That is, this naïve leader, who has already for a long time not enjoyed the unconditional support of all the members of his party, believes that the power will obligingly grant him and the members of his party such an opportunity. It would be good to know just when it will grant this? So far, it hasn’t done so, NOT EVEN ONCE, and not only in “practical realization”, but even in theoretical debates.To this day, the democratically inclined press in Russia is discussing the question: why did Putin meet with Yavlinsky? (Please note: not “why did Yavlinsky go to Putin”, but “why did Putin summon Yavlinsky”. Because with Yavlinsky himself, apparently, they have already sorted everything out).Here’s what I think: Both now, when he is already nearly at the prime-ministerial post, and in the future, when he will once again climb into the chair of the president, Putin is going to have to somehow indicate at least some kind of democratic opposition in the land of victorious chekism. In order to look presentable in the eyes of enlightened Europe and the generally demanding (albeit two-faced) West. So that, should the occasion arise, he could say: of course we have a free mass media («Echo Moskvy» radio and «Novaya gazeta») and of course we have an opposition – Yavlinsky, for example, and that «Yabloko» of his.After all, not everyone in Europe and in the West in general understands that «Echo Moskvy», which belongs lock, stock, and barrel to Gazprom-Media, can be shut down in an instant at any time. And that «Novaya gazeta», which belongs to KGB colonel Lebedev, can be shut down just as easily and quickly. That such leaders as Yavlinsky, who are fighting for “dialogue” with cannibals, are just what this kind of power needs: they cause no harm, no problems – with the likes of them around, you can just go on building totalitarianism.…It will not surprise me if under Medvedev, Yavlinsky will turn out to be coddled and treated even more kindly by the power. Grigory Alexeyevich passionately loves (and I’m using his words here) “to meet, to discuss problems, to come out with alternative initiatives…” Only there isn’t anybody who is ever going to let him actually participate in the “practical realization” of anything.Besides, I don’t think he’s exactly champing at the bit to do this anyway.By the way…“Member of the bureau of the Petersburg branch of «Yabloko» Daniil Kotsiubynsky has declared about withdrawal from the party. Kotsiubynsky has posted on his blog on the internet a notification with a critique of the leadership of «Yabloko» – Grigory Yavlinsky, his deputies, as well as the press secretary.