2 February 2024
by Valery Panyushkin
Do I, a Russian citizen who emigrated to Europe with his family, need a congress of Russian foreign agents in Berlin? Yes, very much, if only it gets down to business instead of rambling. I have no representation whatsoever in the whole wide world. No one anywhere in the world speaks in my name with governmental, security, or public organizations about my rights and opportunities.
A congress of foreign agents could be just such a representative organ for the emigration if only because the source of its legitimacy is clear. Why do these people speak in my name? Who chose them? There is an answer to this question. Putin did. They were appointed by the Russian regime I fled. In my eyes, this negative choice gives foreign agents the definite right to speak for me.
There are two agendas a congress of foreign agents or any other representative organ of the Russian emigration might address.
The first agenda is what we are going to do when we return. This agenda does not interest me in the slightest. Because we aren’t returning. Because this regime in Russia is going to last another two hundred years, like the regimes of North Korea and Iran.
The regime is going to last for two, three, a hundred lifetimes, and if by some miracle it is replaced in the foreseeable future, we are not going to be building the “Beautiful Russia of the Future” on its ruins.
How do I know this? I’ve already seen it. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it wasn’t the stars of the emigration that started building a new Russia in its place. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn returned but did not play a notable role. The notable role was played by Yeltsin, who was the former secretary of a Communist Party oblast committee, Khodorkovsky, and former Soviet propagandist Pozner. Now I know that the Beautiful Russia of the Future is going to be built not by Akunin, Bykov, and Pevchik but by some Kristina Potupchik who, at the right moment, will be the light of democracy. Therefore, in view of its total impossibility, the “Beautiful Russia of the Future” interests me very little. If we do return, then it will only be to lay our heads down in the land of our ancestors.
What does interest me is the hypothetical émigré parliament’s second agenda: how we are going to live here? In Russia I paid a lot of taxes but there wasn’t a single deputy to represent me in the State Duma. That’s when I fled, when state decisions taken in my name became totally cannibalistic.
Here in emigration I pay even more taxes, but again there isn’t a single deputy to represent me in Parliament. I’m an adult, I’m independent, I can feed myself and my family, I pay the state that sheltered me enough money to support two or even three of its highly placed officials, but there isn’t a single official who would be for me. I can get nothing by law, as opposed to charity. Happily, there are no cannibals in power here, so I can stay for now and not flee even farther.
As in Russia, I see here in emigration many injustices around me, but I don’t have the tools to fix them. I stand on the threshold of old age and I need health care, but my medical insurance is barely enough to treat a cold. I have children, and I need education for them, but the educational system sets itself political goals and not the one goal that my children grow up intelligent and able to compete. Finally, I need a passport, if only because my Russian passport is going to expire soon. I’m not even asking for a passport from a single country where I’m going to live. I need a Nansen* passport, and therefore, in the congress of foreign agents, I would like to see a collective Nansen like that.
In short, I need someone who would proclaim in my name, to the governments of the whole world, the famous slogan of the Boston Tea party: no taxation without representation. The slogan on which freedom rests.
* Nansen passports, originally and officially stateless persons passports, were internationally recognized refugee travel documents from 1922 to 1938, first issued by the League of Nations’s Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to stateless refugees. They quickly became known as “Nansen passports” for their promoter, the Norwegian statesman and polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen. [Source: Wikipedia]
Translated by Marian Schwartz