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"Russia cannot go on like this”

On Friday, prominent Russians of varied political hue presented a daring open letter to President Medvedev. In the best Soviet dissident tradition, they expressed concern for the future. Russia is at a crossroads, they said; and the country needs to embrace freedom if it is to avoid revolutionary breakdown.

The situation in our country is becoming ever more worrying. People of a variety of political hues are now united with ordinary citizens disinterested in politics in a feeling that “we cannot go on like this”.  The government is rapidly losing support and authority, and comparisons with the pre-revolutionary period are increasingly being made. The opposition, as well as a significant section of the elite, the intelligentsia, the business world, the military and students have a sense that it is the end of an era; and the beginning of a new period heralding some as yet unknown upheavals. Injustice, corruption and lies have driven our country into moral isolation. As a result, virtually any type of activity aimed at changing the existing order of things has been enjoying increasing support.

"We are appealing to the government to realize, before it is too late – if it is not too late already – that a continuation of the current course is not only stifling our country’s healthy development but is leading directly to its destruction"

From open letter signed by leading Russian businessmen, political analysts, activists, clergymen, writers and journalists (in picture: Sergei Karaganov, a foreign policy analyst and one-time advisor to Vladimir Putin)

All this is well known from our history:  The disastrous rule of Nicholas I.  The February Revolution that led to that of October.

We do not want a repeat of these tragedies and neither, we believe, does our country’s current leadership. That is why we are appealing to the government to realize, before it is too late – if it is not too late already – that a continuation of the current course is not only stifling our country’s healthy development but is leading directly to its destruction.  The opposition and journalists are not demanding political reforms just for themselves but because they are vital for the country as a whole. Naturally, reforms will bring about the end of the monopoly of power but this is the only way to achieve peaceful transformation. It cannot be done without a dialogue. It is a dialogue for which we are ready.

By common consent, Alexander II's modernization of Russia was not entirely successful, but his "emancipation of the serfs" in 1861 did mean that he has gone down in history as the Liberator. Medvedev must adopt similar policies if Russia is to avoid the sad fate of 1917

One hundred and fifty years ago Alexander II realized that change was imperative and found the strength to take decisive steps towards freedom and the European-style development of Russia. He was not entirely successful but he did give the country a chance, and has gone down in history as the Liberator.  We appeal to the current President to show that he is worthy of his great predecessor.

The country must follow the path of 1861 rather than that of 1917.

Liudmila Alekseyeva, Moscow Helsinki Group Chair

Margarita Barzhanova, National Museum of Applied Decorative and Folk Art Director

Georgi Bovt, the Right Cause party Co-chairman

Yevgeni Gontmakher, Institute of Contemporary Development Board member

Leonid Gozman, the Right Cause party Co-chairman

Sergei Dubinin, VTB Capital, Board of Directors member

Denis Dragunski, writer and journalist

Sergei Karaganov, political scientist

Andrei Kolesnikov, writer

Aleksei Levinson, sociologist

Sergei Mironenko, Russian Federation State Archive Director

Boris Nadezhdin, the Right Cause party Federal Political Council member

Dmitri Oreshkin, political scientist

Yuri Samodurov, former Sakharov Museum Director, human rights activist

Georgi Satarov, political scientist

Leonid Sedov, sociologist

Griigori Tomchin, the Right Cause party Federal Political Council member

Mark Urnov, political scientist

Sergei Ryakhovski, bishop, Union of Russian Protestant Churches Chair

Piotr Filippov, Advisory Board Chairman of the International Institute of Legal Economy and of the Foundation for Information Support of Legal Economy 

Marietta Chudakova, writer

Viktor Sheynis, historian and political scientist

Viktor Yaroshenko, politician, public figure

and others

19 February 2011


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