Archive for October 2008
Here are some photos from the Human Rights Award 2008 ceremony:
PS: Now I have an English-language Facebook page. Feel free to contact me there.
I am in New York, just a few hours ago I received the Human Rights Award 2008 from Human Rights First. Dissident Liudmila Alexeeva, human rights activist and senator Ted Kennedy and former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Mary Robinson (present at the ceremony) were among previous awardees. In fact, it was a complete surprise for me to win it. I’ve always thought that it takes a hero to get it but I don’t feel like a hero and I’ve never have. However, I know that there are many heroic young men and women in Russia who struggle for democracy together with me. I really see this award as recognition of their work.
Here is a fragment from my acceptance remarks:
When Oborona was born three years ago, almost nobody in Russia had the bravery to stand up against the re-emerging authoritarianism and tyranny in the country. And no politician would speak the truth about who created this system—Vladimir Putin. It was the youth that broke this conspiracy of silence and said, “Enough is enough”. Many old political leaders considered us dangerous freaks and predicted our defeat. Some of those politicians are forgotten now, but others eventually joined us. The movement that was born three years ago lives on and its activity, its very existence proves that every nation deserves justice, democracy, and freedom.
It is an honor for me to receive this award on behalf the hundreds of anonymous true heroes who risk their well-being, their freedom and sometimes their lives without expecting any awards for this.
I hope to post photos from the ceremony later today or tomorrow.
Before coming to New York, I spent several days in Washington D.C. I’ve had plenty of meetings with various NGOs like Freedom House, American Enterprise Institute, National Endowment for Democracy etc. I also met the officials of State Department and of Helsinki Commission and a number of journalists. The interest to events in Russia seems to be growing as Russian stocks fall and the popularity of Putinism is to follow.
I’m in Helsinki, invited by the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, on a mission to establish contacts with the Finnish NGOs and policy makers. I’ve already had successful meeting with three of local political parties, Left Alliance, The Greens, and Swedish People’s Party, as well as with students of University of Helsinki and with officers of Foreign Ministry. A roundtable discussion in Helsinki Press Club will open in an hour.
Finland has always been particularly sensitive about Russia’s issues, the reason is obvious–the long history of Russian colonization of Finland and of Soviet domination. So, many Finns are remarkably well aware of the situation in Russia but at the same time many of them seem scared to do something about it. They don’t want to be left alone, tête à tête with their huge and unpredictable neighbor.
Russian stock markets had a hard day today. Two main indexes fell at rates unseen since the August 1998 supercrisis: RTSI lost 19.1% of its morning value, MMVB lost 18.7%. Among the most unfortunate companies are giants like NorNikel (mining), Sistema (telecom), VTB (bank), UralSvyazInvest (telecom), and even Rosneft (petrol) who stole bought YUKOS’ assets.
This drop was the biggest in the world and is perceived by many as the end to the Putin’s “stability”. The long-promised economical crisis is not at the doorstep any more. It is here and its scale appears to be greater than anywhere else in the world (except maybe just for Ukraine with its traditionally weaker economy).
What’s notable is the reaction of Russian media, TV in particular, to this historical event. The two major TV channels (both state-owned) didn’t even mention this “black Monday”. On the contrary, while stock brokers were watching RTSI and MMVD indexes falling a point after a point, ORT and RTR news hosts said that “Russian economy is more protected against the crisis than economies of other countries”. They showed Dmitry Medvedev meeting in Kremlin with oligarch Mikhail Friedman whose assets include shares in cellular operators MTS (dropped -17% today) and Beeline (-23%), X5 Retail Group (-28%) et al. Friedman and Medvedev were telling each other that Russia’s economy is safe and that this crisis provides more opportunities for the national business. Then TV channels showed foreign stock markets and reported that Dow Jones passed a “psychological mark” of 10,000 points. None of them took time to say that Russian RTSI passed a “psychological mark” of 1000 points and then another “psychological mark” of 900 points with ease.
This way of dealing with the crises and avoiding their political consequences reminded me of a well-known Soviet story. When Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded and caused fallout in the whole Eastern Europe in 1986, Soviet television didn’t mention it. They thought it would cause panic and undermine the image of USSR at home and abroad. A few days later citizens of Kyiv and other Ukrainian and Belarussian cities next to Chernobyl participated in the traditional May 1st demonstrations in support of CPSU under radioactive rain. Several days later, however, fallout reached Scandinavia and was noticed by the West. Soviets then had to admit not only the disaster but also their lies and attempts to hide it. Looks like the modern Russian media chooses the same strategy.