Courtesy of Evgeny‘s comment at Mark Adomanis’ blog, I found a very interesting piece by Sergey Lukyanenko – the bestselling Russian sci-fi writer best known for his Night Watch series, which was later converted into Russia’s first blockbuster film in 2004 – on the recent turmoil in Russian politics. It is a bit dated, from January 3, and originating as a blog post the language is highly colloquial and informal. But I think it worthy of translation for two main reasons.
First, there is the distinct (but wrong) impression that the mass of the literary “intelligentsia” is behind the anti-Putin protests, because of the visibility of high-profile writers like Boris Akunin, who recently wrote a rather rambling op-ed for the NYT. Lukyanenko demonstrates that this is not the case.
Second, I personally agree with almost all of it, save for a few parts like citing Switzerland or the UK as a good democracies. But on the whole I can vouch for practically every word. And as a science fiction writer in whose worlds the lines between good and evil are frequently blurred – if they exist at all – he brings a much needed “middle ground” position to the rigidly pro-Kremlin/anti-Kremlin binary that dominates this discourse.
I Will Vote For Putin
I didn’t want to, but in the end I had to make a comment. For every so often agitated young people would run into my LJ blog, asking me the following types of question: “Where were you during the Meetings [for Free Elections]? At home? That means you voted for the swindlers and thieves! Are you not ashamed of yourself? Your friends Kaganov, Eksler, Bykov were out there, making rhetorical history and laughing and waving placards… How could you look them in the eyes now? If everything in your life is fine, you’d be for Putin, right? You consider this regime to be ideal? What, you mean to say, that we don’t have anyone else qualified to be President?”
So an explanation is warranted.
I voted for the Communists. I did it with a pinched nose, for today’s Communist Party has no relation to communists, to the people, and unfortunately, even to politics in general. In the past I voted for the Union of Right Forces, but with equal amounts of horror and aversion. But the defining weirdness of my thoroughly anti-democratic and anti-liberal conscience consists of my belief in everyone’s right to think differently. And I want the Parliament to have representatives of the right, and the left, and centrists, and swindlers and thieves too, as they too make up a considerable share of our society – why bother denying this? As our most ardent supporters of democracy insist on denying others the right to their own opinion, I will sing my own song and do everything I can to make “a thousand flowers bloom.” I am mostly satisfied with the result – yes, of course there were violations (yeah, as if they didn’t exist earlier… You remember how Yeltsin won? Nothing bothered you back then?), but the Duma did become more diverse. (And I, by the way, don’t call for my political opponents to be hanged in the squares, stripped of their rights and exiled to Magadan. Unlike you, my dear liberals…)
And the fact that Leo, Alex, and Dima went to the Meetings does not in the slightest interfere with my appreciation of their books. More power to them. And I consider them sane people too.
I am always touched by the argument: “Well, life is good for you – so that’s why you support the current regime?” This is usually said in an outraged and pressured tone. I mean, how could this be – why are those people, who aren’t bothered by the government, why are they of all things not protesting against it? The binomial theory! The great mystery of the universe! The great Russian pastime – cutting off the nose to spite the face! Yes, I will actually vote for the current government, as long as I believe that it is right for me. And you will vote against it, as long as you believe that it is bad for you. And this is all right and proper. Is this not the very democracy that you want?
So moving on, does this mean I consider the current regime ideal?
What a profoundly intellectual conclusion! I do not consider the sausage that I buy in a supermarket to be ideal. I don’t consider my books to be ideal. I consider our entire world to be far from ideal. So what should I do then – refrain from eating, from writing books, and from living in general? If you are not the Dark Lord, you will always find mistakes in the universe. We have no shortage of fools both in power and under their power. We have many swindlers, thieves, idlers, and rascals. But here is one crucial elaboration – these people are everywhere, in all spheres of life. And their percentage shares among construction workers, medics, and politicians are all broadly similar. The world isn’t perfect, you know? People too. Have you forgotten how thirty years ago, the entire country voted in unison for the Block of Communists and Non-Party Members. I remember. Have you forgotten, how twenty years ago schoolboys dreamed of becoming hitmen, and schoolgirls – whores? Better by far that they dream of becoming bureaucrats! Satellites are falling, the Bulava can’t take off? And did you know how many satellites burned up on their way to orbit under the USSR, and how many unsuccessful missile launches there were before things got righted? So the country is dying out? Look at the charts – at how life expectancy has changed in the past few years. Few births? Look at the figures for Europe. Problems with immigrants? Take a walk in London or Paris (which, by the way, is now possible, as was not the case under the USSR).
Do you want the level of democracy they have in Switzerland or the UK? Learn a bit of history, people. How many years did they spend building their modern democracies and modern relations of people to the state? How many people perished in the process? Yes, it would be wonderful to wave a magic wand and… but I don’t have one. I’m afraid Putin doesn’t have one either. There, in Tajikistan yesterday they killed… Father Frost! As a socially and religiously alien element. Do you assume we aren’t Tajikistan? In some respects, we completely are. At least with respect to our attitudes towards differing viewpoints. The entire LJ blogosphere continually demonstrates this.
Not long ago, I was still wondering who to vote for in the Presidential elections. And, you know what, you guys helped me make my choice – with your meetings, provocative placards and loud slogans. I will vote for Putin.
Because we really do NOT have another politician, capable of leading the country.
Because the slogans of everyone else are either naked populism, or facsimiles of Putin’s slogans, or unorganized set of contradictory promises.
Because the “opposition leaders” plaster each other with obscenities, and would tear each other apart if the current government were to fall apart. Do you expect Krylov to get along with Yavlinsky? That liberals will make friends with Communists and nationalists? My friends, this isn’t even funny… All the current protesting opposition marches under the banner of destruction and mutual hatred… Yes, and you they also hold cheap…
Because Zyuganov would flee to Switzerland in panic if you were to vote him in.
Because Mironov, though a good man, is not a national leader.
Because Nemtsov – well, that’s not even funny.
Because Zhirinovsky – ‘twould be fun, if the country had a “Save Game” button.
Because Prokhorov is a businessman, and a country can’t be managed like a mining company.
Because Navalny is a person, who works for another country. Not for ours.
Because there is no other. Hasn’t appeared yet.
So is Putin responsible for all that? That he hasn’t raised a successor?
But you didn’t like Medvedev either. “Too liberal”; “too scheming”; “iPhone President”; “innovation”, this and that…
Putin, by the way, was put forwards by Yeltsin. You don’t like the result? So what do you want, that Putin himself could put forward someone, whom you consider worthy? Well then it would be but a continuation of Putin’s policies.
The opposition, in your opinion, should be raised by the acting regime? Don’t take the mickey… Politics aren’t the Olympic Games. Politicians grow notwithstanding the current government. And let them grow, and good luck to them. Let Navalny and Chirikova organize a party, write a program and come to power.
What, they wouldn’t be allowed in? LOL. United Russia had its share of the vote inflated, but probably by not more than 5 percent. United Russia is the party off the majority, that is a fact. So what if they got a few percentage points less – they’d have joined a coalition with Fair Russia. And as if that’d have made a great difference to the political picture in Russia…
Here are transparent ballot boxes, web cams at the elections, parties of 500 people… the mass media are controlled? Again, LOL. There are opposition media everywhere. Do you want to have the first word on TV? Then work for it, fight for it. If you get the majority – you’ll have this all. And if not – well, my apologies…
You have the right to vote. And to monitor the vote. And it’s entirely possible, that on that day – I too will go have a look. So that you, my passionate and fiery friends, don’t flood the streets will your bulletins. Because whenever one side says, that it’s all pure and white, that side I don’t trust in advance.
… And about what is happening now in the world, how one country after another is ruined in the name of democracy and maintaining the status quo, I won’t even talk about that. Either you see it and understand it, or you are naive beyond all measure. And over the next several years, while the world is undergoing this HUGE crisis, I want to see a leader in power who is capable of bold moves. And ready to defend our country.
So I will go and vote for Putin. For the next six years he has my trust on credit. And you go and vote for your candidates. This is what is called democracy.
But magic wands and a free lunch don’t exist in this world.