Issue No. 10-11

Publish date: December 1, 2003

Happy New Year, my dear friends! Another new year is coming, but our hopes for a better life have grown moldy—my congratulations to you on that.

On New Hopes and Old Robes

Don’t get me wrong, life is turning for the better. Only not owing to those in charge, but rather in spite of them. I reckon if we’d had different people at the helm, we would have long been living differently, too. My opponents always say when this subject comes up: You yourselves voted for these people, didn’t you? Well, that’s exactly my point: We did not. Elections in Russia have long become an opportunity to debase the very principle of choosing those you entrust with power, a democratic dressing screen of sorts, with open-work lacy ruches and ribbons at the hem and well-fed, rosy-cheeked candidates-slash-representatives on the sides, smiling broadly (it’s always like that—these candidates metamorphose into Duma deputies without standing up from their roomy chairs once). Have a look at out ruminations about elections on page 2.

We, voters, have nothing left to do but lament the powers that be, who couldn’t give a flying ballot about us. Because in these times, it’s not authorities who serve us, but we serve them—like humble slaves, dumb animals deprived of every right. Our authorities have become extremely artful: They have contrived not only a managed democracy, but a managed opposition as well. They have quickly tamed the press, too. Granted, the press didn’t put up that much of a fight, either.

A lot was said about our dealings with the authorities at two recent conferences, an environmental one and one on human rights. As before, there are those who advocate a dialog with the authorities and those who are against it. I am against it. With these authorities we’re not going to come to any common terms. “But there are no other!” I hear people say in response. Well then, we must do everything to make that change. We still have some democratic institutions left, don’t we, those that have not yet been chewed into shreds by the KGB meat grinder. There are a couple of deputies not yet as kooky as others. There are international organizations. There are laws using which we can still do what we have to do: fight for our rights.

The all-Russian conference of non-governmental organizations has demonstrated quite successfully that our politicians only need us when they can gain some profit from us. As for representatives of those in power, they could care even less. Even the human rights ombudsman and the chairman of the commission for the same human rights chose not to deign to be present at these gatherings of the public. This only shows, in Lenin’s words, how dreadfully estranged they are from their people.

To be sure, human rights advocates are themselves somewhat distant from the people. For many years now, I see the same old faces, read the same old declarations and resolutions. Not one goddamn thing has changed. Essentially, of all successes achieved by human rights advocates only one was frequently noted: introduction of amendments into the Law on Citizenship. Every now and then, a mention would be made of the instruction issued (obviously by accident) by the Prosecutor General to be friends (or to pretend to be friends) with human rights defenders.

Remember the aluminum gramophone in the comic show “The Red Arrow” blaring “Hurray, my dear comrades!”? Here we are, congratulations. So much for all our efforts. They don’t even pay attention to us anymore. They still throw us in prisons, but even that they’re doing mechanically, out of habit. You wanted democracy? There you have it. Say what you want in your daring little bulletins. It’s so difficult to hear you that you’re practically harmless for us, the authorities.

Well then, we will say what we want. We will continue to knock on the doors of the minds of at least that thousand subscribers that we do have now. Better that than being lackeys of those in power.

I’d really love to change the subject now to something joyful and inspiring: the environment is not all ravaged; we haven’t seen any mass-scale repressions as yet; we don’t have to eat hard-boiled boots out of hunger; sometimes, they even let us travel abroad (not all of us, though, not anymore)… But another election is looming ahead, and just knowing that it’s approaching is somehow so sickening. I had this same feeling of disgust last time when, at the conference of environmentalists, one of the “activists” started bragging about his close contacts with the KGB. I remember a time when certain not very bright men, soused and suddenly bold at a drinking party, would boast in the same manner about having being close with “women of not-so-difficult virtue.”

But all of this, it is still no good reason to give way to sadness. Especially, on New Year’s Eve. Once it was my favorite holiday. That is, until our beloved rulers suggested I spend it behind bars several years in a row. So the very idea of this holiday has somewhat withered away for me, whereas the powers above have, as you can imagine, grown all the more dear and beloved.

Nonetheless, there is perhaps no other holiday in good old Russia that would be as much adored by most people as the New Year’s Eve. Well, maybe only the recently celebrated KGB Day.

My best wishes to you!

Grigory Pasko,


Environment & Rights #10-11, December 2003