22 November 2021
by Lev Ponomarev, human rights activist, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
‘THIS STATEMENT (MEDIA) CREATED AND DISTRIBUTED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA IS PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT AND (OR) IS A RUSSIAN ENTITY PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT’
‘It would not be an exaggeration to say that today the honour of Russia – the honour of the Russian people, the Russian intelligentsia – has been trampled before our eyes. It’s all screwed up, it’s all ruined. But at the same time, it is impossible not to notice that there is practically no response to this’.
The wonderful Dmitry Bykov said this on Ekho Moskvy radio. I cannot reproach him for these words, and I understand why he said them.
But I also cannot help but answer him.
Everything that I and my fellow human rights defenders have been doing for the past 20 years is in varying degrees an attempt to resist Russia’s gradual slide into the cesspool of a real dictatorship that is ‘great in the Hegelian sense’, one that is pure evil and leaves no room for manoeuvre.
And it would be completely hopeless if I did this alone. But I am not alone, and that’s a fact. The honour of Russia was defended by many thousands of people who went on mass protests, who organized these very protests and entered into an open confrontation with the authorities during elections and in the media space, while utilising the whole spectrum of peaceful resistance methods.
Now there are no mass protests, and the most active and largest opposition structures have been dismantled – this is a fact. But if there was no constant and dogged resistance, a real struggle for public opinion – a struggle in which Dmitry Bykov actively participates and knows the price of very well – evil would – according to the law of diffusion – fill all the space available to it with great speed. That is why the authorities are not ready to ‘follow through’. And, to be honest, I wasn’t planning to get upset because of this ill-preparedness.
The evil that has to be confronted today is multifaceted and ingenious. It has all the traits that make it necessary for one to resist it with all of their might – it has a bestial grin, and is senselessly cruel and immoral. It lies on TV, rapes prisoners with mops, puts pregnant women in isolation wards, and plunders health and education budgets. And it’s all the more disgusting because there is not even a persuasive myth behind it – only lies, palaces and yachts.
But how can one resist? In the 21st century, there is no place for an underground armed struggle, in which, by the way, many people never participate. In conditions of relative prosperity, an ordinary person would not be prepared for this. And the absence of such a struggle, the unpreparedness of entirely peaceful people for an open forceful confrontation with the mobilized army of the security officials, cannot be used as an argument about there being “trampled honour” and “no response.”
The only way out is to continue to resist, to be in a constant search for forms of mass peaceful resistance, and to not besmirch one’s honour. Where is Dmitry Bykov wrong? In saying that there is “no response.” There is a response. People are outraged. There are indeed a great number of these people, and among them there are people who are even to some degree part of the system, who previously avoided politicization and who affixed their signatures under the statement in defence of Memorial * that was published in the Novaya Gazeta blog on the Ekho Moskvy website.
The authorities have cleared the road, but the river flows under the ice. Let’s not say that there is ‘no response’. Let’s create, strengthen and develop it. Signing the statement is a real step towards enlarging a network of resistance.
On 25 November, the question of the liquidation of International Memorial * will be decided by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. The session is open to the public. The media can register via the Russian Armed Forces’ official website.
#МыМемориал (#MeMemorial) #SaveMemo
P.S. I have recorded a new video – watch it on my channel, subscribe, and, of course, support the ‘For Human Rights’ civil rights project.
* “Memorial” is an NGO recognized as a foreign agent. International Memorial is an NGO recognized as a foreign agent.
Translated by Tyler Langendorfer