Vladimir Kara-Murza: ‘This is not the 1970s. This is the 1930s.’

10 April 2023

Vladimir Kara-Murza, opposition politician and political prisoner: final address to the court

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Новая газета. Европа]

Citizen Judges!

I was sure that after two decades in Russian politics, after all that I had seen and experienced, nothing would surprise me. I must admit I was mistaken. I have been surprised that my trial in 2023 has exceeded the trials of Soviet dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s in terms of its lack of openness and its discrimination against the defence. Not to mention the length of the sentence the prosecutors have requested and the language used about ‘the enemy.’ This is not the 1970s. This is the 1930s.

To me, as a historian, this gives cause for reflection.

When testimony for the defence was being heard, the presiding judge reminded me that a mitigating circumstance would be ‘remorse for what had been done.’ Although there is little cause for joviality around me right now, I couldn’t hold back a smile. Criminals are supposed to repent of what they have done. But I am in prison for my political views. For speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For fighting Putin’s dictatorship for many years. For promoting the adoption of individual international sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against those who violate human rights.

Not only do I not repent of any of this, I am proud of it. I’m proud that Boris Nemtsov brought me into politics. And I hope he would not be ashamed of me. I subscribe to every word of what I said and for which I have been charged in the indictment. And I blame myself for only one thing: that over the years of my political activity I have not been able to convince enough of my compatriots and politicians in democratic countries of the kind of danger the current regime in the Kremlin poses for Russia and for the world. This is obvious to everyone today, but it has been at a terrible price – the price of war.

A defendant in their final address to the court usually asks to be acquitted. For a person who did not commit any crimes, the only lawful verdict would be an acquittal. But I ask nothing of this court. I know my sentence. I knew it a year ago when I saw in the mirror of my car people in black uniforms and black masks scurrying behind me. Such is the price for refusing to be silent in Russia these days.

But I also know that the day will come when the darkness over our country will dissipate. When black will be called black, and white will be called white. When it will be officially recognized that two times two is still four, when war will be called war and the usurper will be called a usurper. And when those who fomented this war and those who unleashed it will be named as criminals, and not those who tried to stop it. That day will come as inevitably as spring comes after even the iciest winter.

And then our society will open its eyes and be horrified at the terrible crimes that have been committed in its name.

From that moment of awareness, of comprehension, will begin the journey along the long and difficult path, so important for all of us, towards the recovery and restoration of Russia, its return to the community of civilized nations.

Even today, even in the darkness surrounding us, even sitting in this cage, I love my country and believe in our people. I believe that we shall make that journey to the end.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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