16 March 2022
by Viktor Kogan-Yasny, writer, political and civil society activist and commentator, advisor to the chair of the Yabloko party
In Soviet times, the collective West proceeded from the principle ‘the authorities are bad/totalitarian ― the people are good’ not because the people really were good, not because the people then were better than they are in modern Russia, but because the West was Christian. This was their moral position rather than the attribution of a quality to the people of the USSR. And Western support for dissidents was not fuelled by an assumption that the dissidents would turn up the heat and bring down the Soviet regime. (It never occurred to anyone that the demonstrators in Red Square could have any practical influence on the incursion of troops into Czechoslovakia.)
Now, though, the West expects ‘practical success’, which is why they support Navalny and others, giving insufficient thought as to how in practice one might move towards productive change in Russia, or to what suite of opinions should be considered fundamental. The standard political view in that part of the ‘collective West’ which exhibits the most energy, though not the greatest inclination towards reason (primarily the ‘British world’, some of the US, and some states in the ‘post-Soviet world’), is that Russia is basically democratic except for its repression of Navalny. A very convenient notion, but strategically highly erroneous. We see the same thing in relation to China. A return to fractured geopolitical thinking. Putin has provoked much, and most important of all ― the transformation of others into him.
Viktor Valentinovich Kogan-Yasny is a commentator on public affairs, writer and philosopher. He has been actively involved in public life since 1989. He began as an activist of Moscow Tribune and Memorial and in 1990-91 he worked with the Voters’ Club of the Academy of Sciences and the Interregional Group of Deputies of the First Congress of Soviet People’s Deputies. He was an aide to the chair of the Human Rights Committee of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet. Since 1992, he has been chair of the board of the Society against the Death Penalty and Torture, which has now become the NGO, Regional Civic Initiative – Right to Life and Civil Dignity. Viktor Valentinovich is one of the founders of Memorial Human Rights Centre and a member of its board. Since 1995, he has been an advisor both to the Yabloko party and to Grigory Yavlinsky.