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When cooperation is collaboration

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How should liberal Russians interact with an increasingly illiberal regime? Writer and Putin critic Grigory Chkhartishvili (a.k.a Boris Akunin) delivered a simple message at yesterday's opposition rally in Moscow.

Boris Akunin
7 May 2013

If the trials that have begun and are about to begin end with the accused receiving prison sentences, this will mean that Russia will have become a police state, where the government will speak to its opponents only in the language of arrests and jail.

So I would like to take this opportunity to make a public appeal to people in the public eye who have a good reputation, people who are known and trusted by the wider community. Our rulers will of course tell them, ‘Calm down, all we’ve done is isolate a few dangerous rabble-rousers from society. But we like you; we appreciate you, stop worrying, relax and get on with your work.’

I want to address these well known and respected figures because in this climate of political repression they have an important role to play. I would like to say to them, ‘In this authoritarian state you could tell yourselves about the theory of small actions, and convince yourselves that things are not so bad. But if locking people up becomes normal, no right minded person can or should cooperate with the state.

'No decent person can cooperate with a police state. It is just not possible.'

Because this is no longer just cooperation; it is that shameful thing known as collaboration. You need to realise that every time you appear on a TV screen with a dictator, you are endorsing dictatorship. Every time you accept an award, however merited, from a dictator, people will spend more time behind prison bars. No decent person can cooperate with a police state. It is just not possible.

I also have something to say to those wonderful well intentioned liberals who work in governmental and quasi-governmental bodies, and to those respected figures who sit on presidential commissions – if a more Soviet system is re-established, get out of it before you get dirty. Leave it to the crooks, the bootlickers and the people who have no reputation left to lose. The quicker the fall of a regime founded on arrests and prisons, the better for the country. I’m no prophet; I’ve no idea how long such a repressive regime might last, but I know my history and I know how it will end. Any system that isn’t based on a dialogue with the public, that can’t maintain a consensual civic society, is doomed to fail. Modern history tells us that no other outcome is possible.

 

Thumbnail: YouTube.com/OlegKozyrev

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