The Kovalyov Letter

RFE/RF has an interesting analytical piece about a letter sent from Sergei Kovalyov, a much respected human rights activist, to Vladimir Putin before the March 2 presidential elections. Kovalyov’s letter is worth reading, as it rises above much of the typical criticism flung at Putinism, and identifies the damage done by Russia’s culture of official dishonesty:

Kovalyov, addressing the leadership, speaks of a “paradoxical change” in the relationship between the public and the ruling elite. “You lie, your listeners know this and you know that they don’t believe you…and they also know that you know they don’t believe you. Everybody knows everything. The very lie no longer aspires to deceive anyone. From being a means of fooling people it has for some reason turned into an everyday way of life, a customary and obligatory rule for living.” “The customary lies of leaders always generate and cultivate cynicism in society and cannot achieve anything else,” Kovalyov declared. “And gradually going back by the same path we came on is almost impossible, since you are doomed to lie.” He said that, in such a culture, President-elect Dmitry Medvedev’s statements about “freedom being better than non-freedom” and the need for independent media can only be taken as “a continuation of your untruth,” rebounding against the hard wall of the public’s cynicism.