Oleg Kozlovsky’s English Weblog

Politics, Democracy and Human Rights in Russia

Bad Time for Kremlin’s Potemkin Exhibition in Chicago

with 11 comments

Russian National Exhibition, a grand event organized by Russian government to attract US investment, opens in Chicago tomorrow. Russian bureaucrats and businesspeople will try to convince their American counterparts that it is safe and profitable to put money in Russia’s economy. This difficult task appears even less achievable after today’s tragic death in Moscow custody of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital Investment. He was arrested a year ago on tax evasion charges and, according to the defence, the investigators tried to coerce him into giving false testimony against his boss William Browder. Heritage claims that corrupt police officials have used its stamps and documents to steal huge amounts from the national budget as tax compensation. But it was Magnitsky who those same officials later charged with tax evasion. He complained multiple times about his health and was refused health care, his attorneys say. His death is another sad warning to those who risk to invest in Putin’s Russia.

The organizers of the Exhibition will not ignore the humanitarian aspect too. They even have a whole 2.5-hour long session on “Formation of Civil Society.” Five regional ombudsmen (from Samara, Yekaterinburg, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria), an editor of an online paper and an unkown (to me) expert will be explaining how Russia develops its civil society. The apparent lack of any NGOs’ representatives speaks for itself: the government has no activists to show to their Western partners without loss of image.

Written by Oleg Kozlovsky

November 18, 2009 at 02:46

11 Responses

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  1. Oleg, Magnitsky is not the only recent victim of neo-Soviet violence this week:


    One can imagine, moreover, that if William Browder were foolish enough to have remained in Russia, where he spent much time encouraging unwary Westerers to invest in Putin’s Russia until Putin turned on him just like Stalin used to do, Browder would have a cell right next to Khodorkovsky.

    In that sense at least, there is some justice in the Kremlin’s persecution of Heritage. We really hope this will be, as you say, a lesson to those who “risk to invest in Putin’s Russia.” They are, in fact, investing in the murder of democracy and, indeed, the murder of the future of Russia’s children.

    La Russophobe

    November 18, 2009 at 02:57

  2. The Russian market offers too much opportunity for foreign businesses to ignore. As a condescending European, I’d like to turn the clock back a hundred years to a time when Russia was governed like any other more-or-less civilised Western country, but can you point me to information that indicates today’s Russians want the democracy and civil society you plan to export to them?


    November 19, 2009 at 00:30

  3. Theo, well, I couldn’t _export_ democracy even if I wanted to. Check the meaning of this word with a vocabulary. ;)

    As for whether Russians want democracy and civil society, the very question is ridiculuous. Russians are human beings and we are very little different from any other people on Earth. And I don’t see a reason why we should be denied rights that many other peoples have. Are we too stupid and unaccountable to govern ourselves? Don’t we have thoughts and believe to share freely? Are we too dangerous to be allowed to gather in our cities and discuss issues that we consider important? Are our rulers so perfect that they don’t need laws?

    Yes, we’ve never had in our history a long period of democracy, but so had all other nations a couple centuries ago. It’s never too late to start.

    Oleg Kozlovsky

    November 19, 2009 at 02:55

  4. No need for a dictionary, Oleg – it’s right there in your page description:
    ‘We are committed to bringing democracy and civil society to our country, and are eager to use the blogosphere to communciate with those outside Russia who share our aims [to bring democracy and civil society to Russia].’
    Bringing something to Russia from abroad, including theoretical concepts like democracy, is importing.

    I have lived in Russia since Beslan, working in schools, an NGO and now, an outsourcing company. In five years, I have never encountered anyone with the slightest yearning for a more democratic society. I recognise the advantages of democracy, but tell me, Oleg, is there any evidence the majority of Russians (70m+) want it?


    November 19, 2009 at 09:00

  5. THEO:

    Your remarks are pretty ignorant. There were very few if any whites in the American south who wanted to end Jim Crow, but Martin Luther King fought to do so and he was entirely right.

    You may as well say its fine to live in caveman times because people fear fire, or not to sail too far because they believe the world is flat. You have a small mind and little faith in the people of Russia. Oleg thinks much bigger, and loves his country enough to believe his people can rise above the insulting stereotypes you offer.


    November 20, 2009 at 02:38

  6. Theo, you should really be more accurate with what you write. First you talk about “export,” then “import” and then you misquote me with “bringing [democracy] to Russia from abroad,” which I haven’t said or written anywhere.

    I wonder what kind of an NGO you’ve been working for that you didn’t find anyone there “with the slightest yearning for a more democratic society.” Perhaps, Nashi?

    And before I continue the argument, I have to ask you: do you like krevchi and would you get some?

    Oleg Kozlovsky

    November 21, 2009 at 11:33

  7. Oleg, great to have you back. For a while there I thought my words had struck a chord and you were reevaluating your life’s purpose, but no, it seems not.
    The NGO I worked at was committed to fighting substance addiction, the spread of STIs, and mental health problems among young people – laudable aims and arguably more plausible than those of Oborona.
    I gather there is a Professor Krevchi working at Ulyanovsk State University, but we are not acquainted.
    Now. I have answered your questions; do please answer mine. What evidence is there that suggests the majority of Russians want civil society and democracy, as opposed to, say, the long-term stability that comes with the current administration?


    November 21, 2009 at 12:57

  8. Sorry, but I can’t believe that guys at that NGO didn’t want a more democratic society. If it’s so, something is very much wrong with them. I haven’t seen in my almost 10 years in Russian NGOs a lot of people there who weren’t concerned with the state of democracy.

    In fact, you already answered your question. You don’t know what krevchi is and you don’t want it, of course. The same applies to democracy. This is still a very vaguely known concept in Russia. Some people think that what we had under Yeltsin was democracy. Some think that what we have now is (sovereign) democracy. Some don’t even know what it’s about. And what’s worse, they don’t have an opportunity to discuss it widely. When there is no public opinion, it makes little sense measuring it.

    Oleg Kozlovsky

    November 21, 2009 at 13:26

  9. What Russians had in 1906 was the closest thing to parliamentary democracy. Do you think, Oleg, that like Plekhanov thought with regard to Marxism, there are certain objective socioeconomic preconditions to be met before democracy becomes possible? Would it be fair to call you a ‘utopian democrat’, as opposed to a ‘scientific’ one, as Marx distinguished between followers of his ideas?

    Death to Spies

    November 24, 2009 at 00:56

  10. I don’t understand why you haven’t take part in Civil Society session yourself. It seems to me that you haven’t made any attempt for participation. It was open for participation for everyone.
    It’s too simple to talk or to give such titles for exhibitions… What is the reason of protest actions without results? We need real deals for Russia, we need to build our country together. Russian national exhibition is one of these real deals.
    About your title for exhibition – it works against Russia, against Russians, but not against one person you named. Why don’t you understand it? It’s my own opinion. And I’m talking now only because I’m still thinking that you stand for Russia.


    November 28, 2009 at 13:30

  11. Victor, I wasn’t invited to that event and didn’t know that it was going to happen until I read the news. The organizers apparently didn’t want the civil society to know about their plans, otherwise they would invite somebody.

    Russian government doesn’t pursue the goal of “building our country together,” because this goal includes things like rule of law, democracy and fight against corruption–something they are absolutely not interested in. And they use opportunities like this exhibition to conceal Russia’s real problems and pretend that everything’s fine. They invite fake “experts” to speak about “development of civil society” in our country. They lie to foreign investors that their interests will be protected by the law. Meanwhile, Russian NGOs are harrassed and businesses are raided by government officials. I think that these lies need to be exposed. Because they won’t help us build the country, not the one we’d like to live in, anyway.

    Oleg Kozlovsky

    November 28, 2009 at 22:06

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