Describe your own feelings, and the expectations that everyone had of
Yeltsin, immediately after the putsch in August of 1991.
She is an independent journalist and the author of KGB: State Within a
I was running around Moscow on the last night of the coup, August 21. The city
was dark. There were a lot of people on the streets. And I remember this very
strong feeling that I lived through the best days of my life. Absolutely. It
was such a great sense of victory, probably the first time in my journalistic
life that I felt so tied to the people of the streets, and this amazing
feeling--we did it.
But still it was true that tanks were on the streets of Moscow. My newspaper,
Moscow News, the frontline newspaper of the years of perestroika, was
surrounded by the armed tanks. We expected Special Forces soldiers to come
into our building any time. We did expect to go into prison.
We really believed that there were very little chances to win, because it was . . . the leaders of the most powerful institutions existing in the Soviet
Union who ran this coup. The president of the country, Mr. Gorbachev, was
arrested. And clearly, we had not even dreams that we were going to win.
. . . We found a bottle of cognac in the editor-in-chief's office. Of course
opened it. It was like, "Okay, in a couple of hours, we're going to be
arrested." So we drank for all those great years of perestroika. It seemed
that there was no chance to have this victory, but it happened. It was a
With regard to Yeltsin, now we know that he was drunk most of those days. Now
we know that our great "democrats" set up festive tables in the basement of the
White House, and drank and ate, while ordinary people were preparing to die for
them outside the walls of the Russian Parliament building.
But back then, we didn't know about that. Back then, we knew that Boris
Yeltsin took a stand against putsches. . . . He was the one who consciously
rejected the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the place where he grew
up as a politician, and he'd decided to stand with us for the new Russia.
. . . After those events, he became our leader.
And what were your expectations? What was going to happen in the country
after this victory?
As with many others, I did expect some sort of a miracle to happen. I really
believed that we got a chance to create a democratic state in our unlawful,
undemocratic country. . . . I expected that Russian Parliament would pass
needed new amendments to the Constitution. I expected that those democrats who
came into power were going to do their best to establish the rule of law in the
At the time, the very word, "law," became sort of a fashion. People on the
streets and in the villages started to talk in terms of law, in a country where
law never existed.
And unfortunately, right after the August events, democrats got involved in
dividing the great piece of property of the then-Soviet Union, of Russia. They
were involved in dividing offices that formerly belonged to the Central
Committee of the Communist Party, and deciding who was going to get the crystal
plates and china.
. . . In late December, 1991, we got the first clear-cut sign that our great
new democratic leaders were not going to go by the letter of law, but rather by
the letter of some sort of Byzantine-style, under-the-carpet politics. In late
December, 1991, all of a sudden, all of us were told that the Soviet Union no
Obviously, we were in favor of dissolving the last empire, the Soviet Union.
But the way it happened was so shameful. It was such a clear sign of no
respect to the public opinion and to the citizens of the country. No one ever
asked us, "What do we think about this?"
During the night, they took the flag of the Soviet Union down. They took all
the symbols of the country of which we were citizens--we were citizens of the
Soviet Union--and then just told us that the Soviet Union no longer existed.
Consciously I was, of course, all in favor of the dissolution of the empire. I
just wanted them to ask me whether I agree with this or not. It was the first
Yes. I think it started right away. It was very difficult to believe that
those people who took a stand against the most powerful state . . . that they
happened to be just silly, simple-minded thieves.
Much later, it was said that there was a choice between communism or corrupt
capitalism. Is that what seemed to be operating, even in the relatively early
But I think that. And when I was a member of the commission that investigated
the KGB role in the August 1991 putsch, it was the question we discussed.
Some of those long-standing democrats presented themselves as very, very
pragmatic people. Because of that pragmatism, the KGB, in fact, never got
eliminated from the Russian surface, as happened in the Czech Republic, and as
happened in the German Republic, and in Poland, et cetera.
I think that their approach was "Russia is a backward country in terms of rule
of law, democracy, et cetera,"--and that's true--"Thus our task is to fool the
rank and file--to do what we consider right, but not to tell them what we are
going to do."
I think they consciously chose . . . corruption as the way to escape social
cleavages, and cleavages among the elites. I do think that choice was made
consciously. I do think that this question was discussed with the foreign
Would you discuss your views on the failures or troubles within Russia that
also pointed up failures in U.S. policy? What about the events in the fall of
In September, 1993, when President Yeltsin violated the Russian Constitution,
violated the Russia, the law on presidents, and violated a couple of other laws
by dissolving the Parliament, it was the last crush of the whole idea of the
rule of law in Russia.
Once again, one should remember that Russians are very inexperienced in the
whole school of democracy. Therefore, for them, Parliament was their first
experience of the democratic institution. After all, they voted those deputies
into the Russian Parliament. And then they saw through the means of the
Russian TV that those deputies who were representatives of them, of Russians,
were shot by tanks, by guns, by all this military force of the right, by the
president of the Russian Federation. That probably was nothing new for us.
What was really amazing to hear was the statement made by President Bill
Clinton of the United States. He said that he approved the deeds of Mr.
Yeltsin, the president of the Russian Federation. And this was shocking.
I think this was the worst mistake made by the authorities of the United States
in regard to Russia. The message that we got was clear-cut. It was, "We don't
care whether it takes killing you, and violating the law, to create the
institution of the mini-civil war in Russia. As long as you guys are going to
continue the rhetoric about the democracy and market economy, it is fine with
. . . If this had been said by any other country . . . that doesn't have such a
long history of democracy and the fight for democracy . . . probably many
Russians, or I, myself, wouldn't be that much concerned about it. But the fact
that the president of the country considered here as the most democratic
country that ever existed in the world approved the use of violence, and
violation of the law . . . It was like all our beliefs, which were probably
very naive, got ruined.
But also it was the fact that the United States and some other democratic
countries approved the violation of the Russian Constitution--the dissolving of
the Parliament--and it also gave a clear-cut message to the Russian elites.
The very clear message, was once again, "As long as you continue the path of
the market reforms, as long as you allow us not to worry too much about your
nukes, do whatever you want. Kill, kill, violate the law, go ahead and do
Therefore, now I read in an absolute majority of the American newspapers all
this great chattering about corruption in Russia, and that violation of the law
exists in Russia. And I always want to ask those journalists, and especially
the columnists, "Guys, what about back in 1993? Why were you in a rush back
then to prove those deeds made by the so-called democrats? And now you are
kind of concerned about the level of corruption and the unlawfulness existing
But to reduce the level of emotions, I would say from my perspective, that it
was a very big mistake from the side of the U.S. authorities. They gave a
message, and Russian authorities got that message.
And so a lot of the Russian people got the message.
Absolutely. . . . Since those events that ended in bloodshed in the first days
of October, 1993, the word "law" lost any real meaning for many Russians. They
were just told, "No, in Russia there are no laws. There is the power of
violence, the power of tanks." The entire Russian population watched this
great performance, but the name "law" is not for us.
. . . What did the U.S. or the Western advisors know about corruption? What
role, if any, did we have in helping to create the oligarchs?
I don't know how well foreign advisors--American advisors included--knew the
rules of the game existing in Russia. I think that they were pretty much aware
of those rules. What happened is that lots of money was going into the
privatization program, and into economic reforms in Russia. However, there was
less help for creating democratic institutions in Russia.
I think that if the IMF and World Bank put more money into promoting the idea
of law in Russia, it would help them to save some money that perished, and also
that was in the offshore accounts of the Russian oligarchs. . . . Was there a
possibility to escape the existence of those oligarchs? It's true that at the
time of privatization, most of the foreign investors didn't want to come to
Russia and buy Russia's most available enterprises.
There was political instability in the country, and there was the war in
Chechnya, before the events of 1993. All that didn't help to attract foreign
direct investors into the country. Therefore, probably it was quite difficult
to evaluate the real price of the Russian enterprises, and to conduct the
privatization program quickly.
I still don't know whether it was really necessary to do privatization so
quickly. No one country ever did privatization in such a rapid way. I'm not
sure that Russia had to be some sort of exclusive example of this speed of
But it happened that way. And what happened then is that government got
trapped into the constant war with the oligarchs. As long as the oligarchs got
something, they became more powerful than government officials.
Some Russian top government officials got privatized by oligarchs. Government
was under the constant pressure from the state Duma that got elected after the
1993 events. State Duma was dominated by the Communists, and behaved under the
slogan, '"the worse the better." All the time, the government somehow had to
find money to pay for this, to pay for that. . . .
So the government was in constant need of money. And back in 1995, it also was
the first year of the war in Chechnya, which was an extremely expensive affair.
So basically at that time, government found itself in a Catch-22 situation. It
had to find money. There was no money. All the loans that were given by IMF,
World Bank and whoever were exhausted. And that's when several Russian
oligarchs came with the idea of so-called "loans for shares."
They gave the Russian government a small amount of money, and allowed it to pay
on back wages, back pensions. In exchange for that, they got the most valuable
pieces of the state property, such as oil companies and natural resource
companies. Instead of using the profits from oil, gas, et cetera, to pay on
pensions and wages, the government sold those companies for nothing to the
It is still a big question how much corruption was involved. I think that a
lot of different sides were involved in the corruption. I don't think that all
Russian officials who were involved in those deals did this out of their
personal stakes in those deals. I do think that some of them, of course, were
bribed. But many of them really were very much concerned finding money to pay
to many people who didn't receive their salaries and their pensions for months
and months and months.
Besides, it was 1995. In the next year, there were supposed to be presidential
elections. Boris Yeltsin's rating at that time was from two percent to six
percent. So it was also a populist move--on one hand, to reserve the help from
the oligarchy in the upcoming elections; and on the other hand, to reduce the
social pressure that existed because of no payments. The government was also
looking for funds to finance the war in Chechnya.
But the result is clear. Those few rich in Russia became even richer, and the
rank and file in Russia became poorer. And those "loans for shares" not only
helped to create enormous, anonymous wealth in the hands of few; by becoming so
wealthy and so powerful, oligarchs gained a real political place in the Russian
politics. Because of the unhealthy president and his corrupted entourage,
those oligarchs became the most influential players in the Russian politics at
And, of course, this didn't help anything. In the 1996 elections, once again,
it's difficult to put it in black and white. . . . The trick is that there were
forces in Russia . . . who were lobbying to ban any presidential elections in
1996; to dissolve Duma; and so forth.
The guy who is said to be the leader of those forces in Russia . . . is
Yeltsin's powerful bodyguard, Alexander Korzhakov. So some oligarchs, along
with some Russian politicians, took a stand against these unlawful deeds. They
did want elections to happen. There was a strong concern that the
leader of the Russian Communists, Mr. Zyuganov, was going to win. Therefore,
it was the first Russian elections where the whole power of money was used--in
order to elect unelectable Mr. Yeltsin.
They succeeded. Obviously, it was better to have Yeltsin as president than to
have Zyuganov, the Communist leader. . . . But the outcome was just the same as
always--more corruption, total corrupted media, more power to oligarchs, more
problems to the government, and an exhausted budget. All that eventually led
to the collapse in August,1998.
How did people react to the fact that the U.S. and the West never criticized
the first war in Chechnya?
After the 1993 approval from the U.S. to dissolve the Russian Parliament,
Chechnya was the second message given to the Russian people. The message was
that, even though the Russian government conducts a savage war in Chechnya, the
United States will not criticize Russian government for those deeds.
In May of 1995, I was invited to testify to the American Congress on the war in
Chechnya, since I covered the war in Chechnya. And I kept telling those who
came for the hearings to stop giving money to Russia, that by giving loans and
credits to the Russian government you, in fact, finance the killing of the
thousands of civilians in Chechnya.
How were the Russian people affected by that?
For many of us, it appeared that there were double standards exercised by the
U.S. administration. It's fine to talk about democracy and to exercise
democracy overseas. But when it comes to Russia, this backward country, there
is not really a need to talk about law, democracy or these kind of things--they
are savage people, you know. . . . And I'm very much afraid that anti-Western,
and anti-American feelings are gaining momentum in Russia now. If that's the
kind of outcome the U.S. administration wanted to get in Russia, then they got
it. They got it.
This anti-Western campaign is the basis of the current support for the second
war in Chechnya.
The Russian public was given a message that democracy is not a real thing; that
democracy is some sort of a theory that doesn't belong to the Russian soil; in
fact, all that happened to Russia with the help of the United States happened
because the United States wanted to destroy the great Russian empire.
Therefore, the U.S. approved violence, and financed the previous war. If you
ask people on the street, "Why do you disapprove the previous war in Chechnya
and then approve the current war in Chechnya?" probably some of them say, "Wait
a second. But the war in Chechnya got approved by President Clinton."
In fact, Mr. President Bill Clinton of the United States said in his latest
interview to CNN that Russian government has the right to bomb Chechnya. It
was the continuation of the same policy.
I'm not sure that, at any step along the way, the policy was ever thought
out well enough to understand what was being created.
There was no real effort made in order to figure out the reality in Russia.
There were a lot of perceptions. There were a lot of books written on the
history of the Soviet Union by people who never visited this country, and who
had little understanding about what was going on. There was the perception
that, after the Soviet Union fell apart, we can very quickly set up democracy
and a market economy in the country.
What does it seem that the U.S. wanted in Russia? Democracy? Or simply
unfettered free markets?
I don't want to believe in the conspiracy theorists. I think that the United
States did want Russia to become a good state, and for good reasons. The
Soviet Union was a threat to the democratic world during all the decades of its
history. Therefore, from the Russian point of view, the United States had to
do their best to weaken Russia as a military state, as a military rival.
Secondly, I think that many advisors to the American administration judged
Russia by its bad political culture. Therefore, there was sort of an
assumption that, because Russia had such an undemocratic political culture,
there was no need to try to create any real democratic situations in Russia.
Probably the theory and the whole conception of the American politics was,
"Let's help to turn Russian government-owned enterprises into the private
hands, and that's it." I want to point out that the kind of changes that
happened to Russia over those ten years were great. I do think that what
happened to Russia is a sort of a miracle, because Russia escaped the fate of
Yugoslavia. We escaped the civil war. The empire got dissolved without
overwhelming killings, and without a civil war. That's a real miracle, and
that's a real great advantage. That's a real great achievement of the Yeltsin
regime, and he should be credited for that.
However, I think that there was great disbelief on both sides of the ocean
about the possibility of establishing true democracy on Russian soil.
If we ask those involved in policies towards Russia in the United States if
they believed in the possibility of creating a democratic state in Russia, I
think the answer will be, "No, we didn't believe. We knew it was impossible.
Russian political culture doesn't and didn't allow for that. So our goal was
to make Russia less dangerous to the United States, and therefore, to make the
life of the American taxpayers more secure." They succeeded in that. I think
they also wanted to help Russians get on the road to market reforms. In this
respect, I think U.S. policy succeeded.
Why did Boris Yeltsin resign on New Year's Eve?
Boris Yeltsin resigned for two reasons. First, Boris Yeltsin got too sick and
incapable to run the country anymore. I think his entourage got very concerned
that Boris Yeltsin was about to die any minute. That was the first reason. A
second reason was that, that after Boris Yeltsin proclaimed Mr. Putin as his
heir, it became quite difficult for the government administration to sustain
Putin's high popularity. The entire popularity of the current active president
is based on the war in Chechnya.
He got very high ratings very quickly. The laws of statistics suggest that he
was and is supposed to lose that high popularity very, very quickly. The
concern was that, should elections happen in June of 2000 as they were
scheduled, Putin would have a lot of trouble winning the elections. That's why
both Yeltsin and his entourage decided to conduct the elections in March.
I do believe that it was Yeltsin himself who made this decision. But it's also
true that his closest entourage brought him the reasons to step down earlier.
. . .
Was it a democratic transfer of power?
Russia had a real chance to create a precedent of democratic transfer of power
via open public elections. After Yeltsin resigned in December of 1999, a pure
monarchial way of transferring the power was created. Once again, it appeared
that Yeltsin was a czar. He appointed an heir. The guy who Yeltsin appointed
as his successor, his heir, is going to win the elections, just by the fact
that three months are not enough time to have a real contest.
So we keep talking about democracy, and we keep talking about elections. But
what we do in the reality is something totally different.
Who is Vladimir Putin? Why was he chosen as the heir?
Mr. Putin is a career KGB officer who spent 16 years of his life in the KGB.
Despite the P.R. conducted by his administration, he never was a career
intelligence officer, but he worked in the departments that were associated
with intelligence. He graduated from the then-Leningrad State University, from
the law department, which, like many things, didn't prepare laws. Laws didn't
exist at the time of the Soviet Union. But the law department prepared those
governmental bureaucrats. So he was well prepared for this job.
For someone from low-class upbringings to get an appointment in the KGB, as
Putin had, was a very good appointment. Putin joined the KGB at the end of his
study. First he worked in Leningrad in so-called "intelligence". . . . It's
not a pure intelligence in the Western meaning of this word. It's the sort of
the work where KGB guys were looking after foreign businessmen and tourists.
He probably was pretty good, since he was able to get a promotion, and got a
year-long study in the famous intelligence academy now named after Andropov.
For someone with his background in the class-sensitive Soviet Union, it was
extremely difficult to get this promotion, because intelligence as a whole, and
this institute in particular was a designated place for the elite of the
Communist society--for those sons of the Central Committee of the Communist
Party employees and generals of the KGB.
Probably one of the reasons he got this promotion was the same reason he became
the head of Yeltsin. He was very loyal to his superiors through his entire
life. And second, what was very important is that Putin was very capable of
suppressing his individual . . . personality, whether he had or has one or
In the Soviet Union, the rule of the game was, if one wanted to make a career
one had to obey the saying: "Never stick your head out of the tram window."
That was the rule of the game. You had to keep a very low profile, not to
express any individuality, and to be extremely loyal to your superiors in order
to get a promotion. As we can see, he quite succeeded in that. So in 1995, he
got an assignment in . . . the KGB's intelligence office in Dresden, East
Germany. . . . Dresden was not the best assignment in East Germany. The most
important and the most interesting assignment in Berlin. He never got into
this, because he never was a career KGB intelligence officer.
He wasn't very successful in Dresden, despite of all the stories that you often
read in the foreign press. He has never been a James Bond. . . .He was sort
of a mediocre officer. Turn back to Leningrad in late 1989, and he got another
For the third time in his life, intelligence didn't invite him to join its
ranks. It was bad. He got a position as assistant to the dean of Leningrad
University. That kind of position was usually assigned for the resigned KGB
colonels. It meant his career in the KGB was over.
At the same time, Anatoly Sobchak, became the mayor of Moscow.
Anatoly Sobchak was a very well-known politician of this new wave of Russian
politicians, who came from sort of democratic circles. Legend goes that
Sobchak asked Putin to help him, because Sobchak knew Putin since the time he
was a professor at Leningrad University and Putin was his student.
I don't buy this legend. What is known is that back in 1989, 1990, KGB
internal regulations required its officers to penetrate new civic situations.
If you talk to those who worked in Mayor Sobchak's office at the time, they
will tell you that all of them were perfectly aware that Putin was assigned to
this new democratically elected mayor to watch after him and advise him. . . .
and that Putin, in fact, was responsible for the questions that usually were
assigned to the retired KGB officers--conducting relationships with the foreign
institutions, businesses, et cetera.
However, those who worked with Putin--in at the time in St. Petersburg, later
Leningrad--say that he was a very effective manager, and he was one who was
capable, unlike many others, of making decisions.
Putin has a reputation as an honest guy. That's something very rare for one
who made a career inside the Russian bureaucracy. It also became known that
he's a deep believer, which is a very strange thing for one who had a career in
Obviously, I don't think that's a good idea to judge Putin just by his KGB
past. It's not right, because that's the way KGB used to judge us Soviet
citizens--just because we are not party members or had the wrong last name or
belonged to the wrong nationality or confessed to religion. I do believe that
people are capable to change, and that ten years in the democratic circles did
make a certain impact on Putin, as well.
His own experience--both in East Germany, and he frequently traveled to West
Germany--as well as his experience in Leningrad made him a believer in the
market economy. In fact, if you talk to the intelligence officers of those who
were stationed abroad, an absolute majority of them say that a market economy
is a much more effective way of running the country than the type of economy
and regime that existed in the Soviet Union.
So I'm not concerned about whether he's going to conduct the market reforms or
not. I'm more concerned about his approach towards democracy, towards human
rights, and personal freedoms and liberties.
The mentality of the KGB officer is that they were taught to be an extreme
statist. . . . those who believe in the Russian imperialistic notion of being
a great empire. That kind of mentality was taught and developed inside the
KGB. And we clearly can see that Putin is that sort of extreme statist. For
him, as for many of those who worked in the KGB, the state always comes
Everything else--democratic institutions, personal liberties, personal
freedoms, individuality, human rights--everything else is after the state.
Therefore, I'm afraid that, if this notion of creating a strong Russian state
demands that Putin crush democratic institutions, he won't think twice before
To make the long story short, for Putin, democracy in Russia is not an end. He
doesn't have personal stakes in that the way Yeltsin did. For him, democratic
institutions are the means. If the means are effective, then he will use them.
If they're sometimes not effective, then he will screw them up. I do think
that we should expect some years of authoritarian regime in Russia.
I don't want to make conclusions right away before we get to know Putin's
program. Russia is great in inventing its own political technologists. We are
probably one of those few countries in the world where the primary candidate
for the presidential office doesn't have any political program, and even openly
says that he's afraid to present any political program, because he's afraid
that his opponents will tear it apart. It's a great political technology. But
Russian democracy is undeveloped, very infantile, and Russian democracy is
Is it too fragile to withstand someone who thinks that democracy isn't that
I think that Putin is a pretty much pragmatic guy. He does understand that
Russian economy cannot survive without help from the West. On the other hand,
he does know that Russia lacks the capabilities to blackmail the Western
countries with its nukes. Therefore, Putin will do his best . . . to present
this democratic face, in order to receive Western help.
He also understands that for foreign creditors--those who can bring foreign
direct investors to Russia. . . . Those foreign businessmen are afraid to come
to Russia now, but are looking to the Russian market. They do want to have a
stronger state in Russia. And it's true that the kind of state that exists now
in Russia is pure chaos. Therefore, we do need to strengthen the state, and
those institutions that are responsible for law and order in the country.
My concern is that Putin may choose order without law. However, I do think
that he's smart enough. He does understand that the Treasury will be unable to
sustain market reforms without help from the Western countries. Therefore, I
think that he will preserve some sort democratic face, at least for the
The level of his popularity is due entirely to the war in Chechnya. What
does that say about the current mood of the Russian population? What does it
say about him? You know better than I do that it's been a horrible war.
Yes. I ask all the time how Russian people, who lost millions and millions of
the members of their families to NKVD and KGB, even dare to vote for the guy
who deliberately chose KGB as his place of work. It's a question that I,
myself, have a hard time understanding. In each and every Russian family,
someone perished in the gulag.
However, there is an explanation to Putin's popularity. It's probably very
difficult for outsiders to understand the art of survival. For Russians, the
art of survival was the most important thing that they taught their kids.
Russians lived in extreme poverty for centuries. And it's only going worse,
and under pressure from of the powerful state. Therefore, the most important
thing for many Russians and me, included, was and is to survive, and to do your
best in order to bring up a kid.
When the bomb blasts in Moscow took down three apartment buildings, it brought
a lot of fear to many Russians, including to me. It was a very simple sort of
fear. . . . It brought to us memories of World War II, of those years where
Moscow was bombed. All of a sudden, it appeared that all this discussion about
democracy and oligarchs was nothing, compared to this fear of dying inside your
In a way, you can see Russia as a pure Hobson's state--a country in a state of
nature, a country that doesn't have law. Obviously, in such an undeveloped
country, the sense of self-preservation is extremely important, and it becomes
the driving instinct. What Putin did by starting the war, first in Dagestan
and then in Chechnya, was to tell the majority of Russians, "I'm here to
protect you." And that is the message that many got.
Russia is a very infantile society. We got accustomed to having a state that
was responsible for everything in our lives--medical care, schools, even the
way we made kids. The state was responsible for everything. The state got
involved in everything.
Compared to the sick and incapable Yeltsin, Putin is this image of the guy who
is ready to give you his hand and lead you into the bright nice future. And
all you have to do is just to grab this hand and say, "Guy, take me into this
bright future. I want to go there with you, whatever it takes. And if on your
way to this bright future, you need to create another gulag, that's fine with
me, as long as you lead me." He is the image of this big father, who is ready
to take care. That's definitely had a great impact on Russians, and it still
I think that these are two major reasons why Putin became so quickly popular in
Russia. Don't forget--in this country, democracy never existed, and freedom of
press never existed--never, ever, in our entire history. For an absolute
majority of Russians, democracy is some sort of great theory. Probably many of
them see a democratic state as a big nice supermarket-- you come, you have
enough food. We always were lacking food in our history. Just ten years ago
there were nothing. Now, great food, great clothing, lots of juice for kids,
fruits that many of us didn't even know the names of ten years ago.
So, that that's probably the reason why Putin is going to be elected. However,
I think the way that this whole war in Chechnya was conducted, this most savage
and inhuman way, threatened a lot of liberals inside Russia. Many of us who
belong to so-called intelligentsia, people who have some liberal stance, are
not going to vote for Putin.
A lot of the people I'm talking to feel that an era is over. It's not that
the Yeltsin era is over, but that this bigger moment in history is over, at
least for the time being. Do you think that that's true?
I think that this stage of chaotic democracy is definitely over. This
post-Soviet epoch is over. I do think that we're getting into the stage of the
authoritarian state. I hope that it's not going to be as inhuman as the Soviet
Union was. But I don't expect that Russia will keep going on the road of
democracy from now on.
Probably it will take another generation, the generation of my daughter or her
kids, to take another stand for creating a civilized and democratic society in
Russia. From that perspective, I do think that the great epoch of great hopes
and great illusions is over.
Unfortunately, probably, I'm not going to live long enough to see Russia as a
truly democratic state. But 15 years ago, I never expected to have even a
possibility to travel and study abroad, to become an independent journalist
and independent political analyst.
From that perspective, I think I got a gift I never expected to get. . . . I
probably dreamed to have more for my country, and it's not going to happen in
my lifetime. Okay, there are a lot of false expectations, and this probably is
not going to happen. I'm still grateful that I lived long enough to see the
end of the Soviet empire. It's not a bad outcome for one's personal life.
You say that you think things will be authoritarian, that it's becoming that
way and will be so for a while. What will Russia look like in 2001, in
There are a lot of examples in Latin America. Look at Mexico, which is
basically a one-party system, with semi-democratic elections. One even can say
that it's a bit of fake elections, with a big state and huge corruption. This
is one plausible outcome.
I think the best bet is that we'll see something like Chile under Pinochet.
They had a strong leader, who didn't think twice to kill his opponents, but who
did his best in order to open the country and to promote economic reforms. Now
Chile now is one of the fastest-growing nations in Latin America.
And then there are examples like Paraguay and Columbia. . . . authoritarian
regime trapped into organized crime. There are no real contested elections.
Democracy comes every four years just to make the next president, or the same
president, look legitimate. And there's huge gap between those who are rich
and those who are poor.
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