Translation: Sergey Lukyanenko – I Will Vote For Putin

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.


  1. georgesdelatour says:


    I’ve no idea if you can get to see this BBC documentary:

    I saw the first episode. It made me admire Putin as perhaps the most astute political leader of any of the major nations.

  2. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear Anatoly,

    Not only do I agree with pretty much everything in this article but I am sure that it articulates what most Russians think and feel. I am pretty sure by the way that the effect of the protests will be to increase not reduce Putin’s majority exactly for the reason Lukyanenko says, which is (1) that there really is no convincing alternative to Putin and (2) because the protests by reminding Russians of the political chaos of the 1980s and 1990s will be even more likely to turn to Putin as the guarantor of stability.

    I would just make two points:

    1. I do not personally think Putin was simply Yeltsin’s chosen successor. I think Putin emerged as the figure who succeeded Yeltsin as a consequence of a bitter political crisis that began in the summer of 1998 and which lasted for about a year and which resulted in Yeltsin being replaced (not succeeded) by Putin. I think a lot of the misunderstandings about Putin originate from assumptions about his background and his supposed origins as Yeltsin’s supposed choice as successor and as Berezovsky’s protege that are quite simply wrong. This is a huge subject that I am not going to discuss it in a comment like this.

    2. A thought: the trend in the US and Britain since the 1980s is for both to become increasingly authoritarian and intolerant. The trend in Russia (highlighted by Lukyanenko’s article) is despite the odd sharp zigzag for the country since the 1980s to become increasingly democratic. Will the day come when Russia is more democratic and more law abiding than the US and Britain? If so how long will that take? My answer to the first question is probably yes and my answer to the second question is possibly within 10-20 years.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      Dear Alexander,
      I’ve read something very similar to your first point in an Italian article, although I don’t remember where and when. Perhaps it was “Limes” a geopolitical journal, and a few years after Putin emerged.
      According to the author, Putin choice was forced upon Yeltsin by the Russian military-industrial complex, after the failures of the pro-western policy, with the 1998 default and Kosovo being the last strokes.

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Giuseppe,

        That is exactly correct. Moreover I am sure it is true since I was being given information at the time about this from contacts I had within the Greek Foreign Ministry who were especially well informed about events in Moscow because of contacts they had developed there as a result of the Yugoslav crisis. I am sure of the reliability of this information because unlike many of the stories written about Russia I was being given this information whilst the crisis was actually playing out and before Putin was appointed. As I remember it the key event that identified Putin as Yeltsin’s probable replacement and signalled his allegiance and the direction of his future policies was his decision during the crisis to lay a wreath at the tomb of the former Soviet leader and KGB chief Yuri Andropov on the anniversary of his death.

        The US and the other big western powers including of course Italy were surely also aware at some level of what was going on but they could not bring themselves to admit it publicly because to have done so would have made public the extent to which western policy over Kosovo precipitated a change in Moscow that was contrary to western interests. “Winning” Kosovo and “losing” Russia was a bad bargain by any estimate though frankly I think even without the Kosovo crisis the political crisis in Moscow (which began with Primakov’s appointment) would have played out in the same way.

        I find it very interesting that someone obviously with access to the same information published it in Italy.

        PS: I have contacted my Japanese friend by email for advice about books about Japan. I will contact you as soon as I hear from him.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          Dear Alexander,
          now that you mention Primakov, I remember that the Italian article mentioned him as well, as a first sign that things started to change away from the pro-western path.
          Many thanks for your commitment with the books I’ve asked you.

    • Thanks, @alexander, this is extremely interesting revisionism towards the established view of Putin asYeltsin’s chosen successor and lapdog.
      I see 4 major phases of Putin era: Phase I: After Kosovo Russia turns away from West, and Putin comes to power to embody this turn. Phase II: Putin turns back towards West after 9/11. Putin hopes that his good personal relationship with George W. Bush plus having a common enemy — Wahhabists (Afghanistan for America; Chechnya for Russia) — would bring Russia and West together into an alliance. Phase III: Putin has to abandon this hope, especially after Beslan. Putin realizes that the West is not sympathetic to Russia’s problems with Islamists and is, in fact, funding and supporting those Islamists. Phase IV (=now): With West openly trying to overthrow him with Orange Revolution, Putin sets new course for Eurasian strategy.
      This is history of ever-increasing conflict between Russia and the West, with the post-9/11 honeymoon being an exception (although Russia continues to support American side in Afghanistan war).

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Yalensis,

        A very astute account of the evolution of Putin’s position with which I completely agree.

        By the way I remember that when Shamil Basayev was killed George Bush said words to the effect that “IF Basayev was responsible for Beslan he deserved to die” as it to imply that there was some doubt about the issue. I remember being not so much surprised at the comment itself (it was no surprise coming from that source) but at the muted reaction. Image if Medvedev or Putin had said when Osama was killed that “if he was responsible for 9/11 he deserved to die”.

        • Ironically, George W. Bush was the only Western leader who showed any sympathy whatsoever for Russian citizens killed by the Wahhabists. I recall one somewhat positive statement from Bush after Beslan: Western press was in an orgy of blaming Russian soldiers for the carnage at the school, and Bush said something to the effect that “They should not second-guess what the Russian soldiers had to do, and that the terrorists should be blamed, not the soldiers.” Something to that effect. Bush was the only western leader who sincerely believed that he was out there in the world fighting these “Islamo-fascist evil-doers”. I guess he wasn’t in on the joke.

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Dear Yalensis,

            I was in Moscow throughout the Beslan crisis. It seemed particularly upsetting because of the large numbers of cheerful young people who had up to then been visible in Moscow at what was the start of the school year. I remember being impressed about how calmly the city went on with its life throughout the crisis without any of the hysteria and panic we tend to get when there are terrorist incidents here in London.

            I found the British press coverage of the Beslan crisis when I returned to Britain completely nauseating. I was far from alone. Rowan Williams who is the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Anglican Church went on to BBC radio to complain about it. He is by the way a strong Russophile. He speaks Russian fluently and is a noted authority on Dostoevsky. Later I tried to find the text of his comments about Beslan but the only summary I could find (released by the BBC) gave only a severely edited version of what he had said that left all the criticism of the press coverage out.

            • Unsurprising. Just today the BBC had a report about “Russia’s only independent election monitoring organization” (their exact words) being evicted from their building and the impression they gave of course was that the government was behind it.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                “Russia’s only independent election monitoring organization”!!!


                Note the “likes” and “dislikes” bottom right, yet there are only two comments. I presume the “dislikes” are the result of knee-jerk reaction of russophobes who believe it’s all “commie propaganda”.

      • “With West openly trying to overthrow him with Orange Revolution”

        Nah, not an Orange Revolution yalensis, a White (Ribbon) Revolution remember? Really ill-advised names and symbols of course as AK and Mark have pointed out before.

        It’s incredible that they would choose that colour and symbol though. It shows about as much thought going into the endeavour as if a protest movement in Germany decided to adopt brown (or maybe beige) shirts as their symbol.

  3. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    Hi Anatoly,
    it seems you have translated the same paragraph two times. I refer to those beginning with Because the “opposition leaders” . Thanks for providing this translation, it is an interesting reading from someone that has not lost common sense. IMHO, Russians have a torn relationship with common sense. No offence intended, but while we Italians have an unstoppable attitude towards farce, Russians have an equally unstoppable attitude towards hyperbole, or as an Italian author puts it “the climate is cold, but the blood is hot”. I got this impression from Russian media (obviously translated in English). According to them, most of the things that happen in Russia are not simply good or bad, but miracles or unmitigated disasters.

    • Well-spotted – thanks!

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Giuseppe,

        “The climate is cold but the blood is hot”.

        One of Greece’s greatest writers and poets, Kazantzakis, author of Zorba the Greek and Christ Recrucified, said that the Russians are “the Spanish of the north”.


    For all the bleating in the west about electoral fraud in Russia, they sure love to ignore cases in the US which were pivotal for determining the outcome of the election. Ohio in 2004 was a case of brazen fraud, pure and simple.

    Nobody can argue that the 2011 Duma election outcome would have been much different without the fraud. I agree with this sci-fi author that it was 5% or less and nothing would change if UR did not get an absolute majority. There is no way that 20% and higher fraud is credible since the only recipients of this support would have been the communists. There is no indication from any polling that they have more than 22% support. Claiming that Yabloko got 20% of the vote is an utter joke since they never poll above 10% anywhere in Russia (Moscow is their stronghold).

    I expect there to be rank 1950s style hysteria in March as Putin wins the vote. He does not need to cheat to win since the closest contender has 11% support compared to his 52%. But you will get all sorts of retarded drivel that “Putin stole the election”. Clearly it was “Bush who stole the election in 2004” and nobody in the west is bothered by it. Bloody hypocrites.

  5. Another American commentary on the young ‘intellectual’ protesters in Russia, by Esther Dyson:

    • Peeling, Meeting, Shopping… all of these activities have the same significance, and are done in the same spirit.

    • I posted the following sarcastic comment on Esther’s blog (which, by the way, is very easy to register on):

      “Oh lordy lordy, Esther! You touched on every single Russophobic stereotype: Pavlik Morozov, Stakhanov, Khodorkovsky, etc etc. Even threw in a little jibe about Jews not being able to get jobs, except in software development (implying that Russia is anti-Semitic country). The only trope you missed was the Tatar Yoke. Next time please try to do a better job, Esther. The anti-Russian propaganda just doesn’t cut it if you don’t bash Tatars.”

  6. A great article. I like how he portrays the so called “unsatisfied” (несогласные), as a destructive mob that does not know what it actually wants. The unsatisfied hate the unsatisfied with a different ideology to their own. Some hate others because of their ethnic origins, or have personal problems of a sexual nature, or some other trivial issues.

    Complete circus to be honest. And then they complain that Putin does not allow themselves to develop? How about they grow up first?

    Actually all this is funny and entertaining. What I do not find funny is that these people feel like they are somehow relevant. This over-inflated sense of self-importance is what irritates me to the maximum degree. I tolerate this nonsense because I hear it from people who are close to me, but it still irritates me.

    The so called intelligentsia on these demonstrations is down there with Bozhena Rynska and Ksyusha Sobchak, in the same bag, its trendy to protest, woo hoo!

    • The one thing they can never hope for is a single factory worker coming out on strike to help bring them to power. They need either that, or NATO bombs. Without either to hope for, they will never come to power.

      • You hit the mark. In spite of all the farcical attempts to pull a Trotsky by a slew of these clowns (Limonov, Kasparov, and so on) they just don’t have the traction that was there in 1917. There ain’t gonna be no general strike. These clowns really do have less than 5% support.

        The sad thing is that the KPRF is a dessicated joke that shrivels up more and more every year. They should have taken a cue from their compatriots farther west and rebuilt themselves from scratch. Instead they have a dear leader, Zhyuganov, who will be there for life even when his party falls below 3% in support. (They could have won in 1996, now they have no chance).

        • Alexander Mercouris says:

          Dear Yalensis and Kirill,

          This is all absolutely correct. There is no possibility of anyone going on strike to bring this bunch to power. Why would any worker want to? So that there can be more corrupt privatisations of their workplaces and so that Prokhorov can increase their working week from 40 hours to 60?

          One of the things the endless commentary about this being a “middle class revolt” misses is that to the extent that this is true this is not a strength but a weakness. At the end of the day all people like that can do is demonstrate. They have no traction with the wider working population and as for winning elections the parliamentary elections showed that they simply do not have the votes. By the way this appears to be true even if you assume that there was 15% fraud which I don’t. As for their protests, beyond a certain point as it becomes clear that they are not leading anywhere they will become increasingly ritualistic and will lose their effect and people will begin to become bored with them.

          Nor is there the slightest chance of Zyuganov winning the Presidential election though with Mironov’s campaign evaporating and Prokhorov’s collapsing into farce I do expect him to come second and to scoop up quite a lot of votes.

          PS: I don’t think this is a revolt by Russia’s middle classes. I have already discussed this before. Suffice to say I think western commentators and the liberals themselves are making the basic mistake of thinking that because all Russian liberals are middle class that means that all middle class Russians are liberals. On the contrary if you accept Putin’s estimate that the middle class is around 20-30% of Russia’s population and if you consider that the combined vote of the liberal parties in the parliamentary elections was between 4-5% then it must logically follow that the great majority of middle class Russians are not liberals.

  7. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Going back to the original subject of this article, does anybody know what Pelevin’s politics are?

    When I first got to know Russians back in the 1990s his books seemed to be all the rage. I hear less of him now but that may simply be chance. Certainly he impressed me as an ultimately rather more serious writer than Akunin who as far as I know writes basically crime fiction. Anyway Pelevin’s latest book SNUFF seems from most accounts to be a pretty transparent and rather ferocious attack on US policy. I gather that it is all about an opulent English speaking policitally correct flying city called “Big Byz” (Byz for Byzantium) which uses the mass media and its army to terrorise an impoverished Ukraine whose dictatorship it secretly controls. This suggests that he at least is no liberal. Certainly I have not heard of him taking any part in the protest movement.

    • These are Pelevin’s immortal thoughts on democracy and liberalism. I should translate it someday, but basically he is comparing the “open society” to the microbacteria found in the intestines. Why the hell should it be closed when anything weird that falls into it will be disintegrated?

      Демократия, либерализм — это все слова на вывеске, она правильно сказала. А реальность похожа, извините за выражение, на микрофлору кишечника. У вас на Западе все микробы уравновешивают друг друга, это веками складывалось. Каждый тихо вырабатывает сероводород и помалкивает. Все настроено, как часы, полный баланс и саморегуляция пищеварения, а сверху — корпоративные медиа, которые ежедневно смачивают это свежей слюной. Вот такой организм и называется открытым обществом — на фиг ему закрываться, он сам кого хочешь закроет за два вылета. А нам запустили в живот палочку Коха — еще разобраться надо, кстати, из какой лаборатории, — против которой ни антител не было, ни других микробов, чтобы хоть как-то ее сдержать. И такой понос начался, что триста миллиардов баксов вытекло, прежде чем мы только понимать начали, в чем дело. И вариантов нам оставили два — или полностью и навсегда вытечь через неустановленную жопу, или долго-долго принимать антибиотики, а потом осторожно и медленно начать все заново. Но уже не так.

      So yes, very unlikely that he’d been one of the liberals going to the Meetings either. Of course if anyone has real information about his views on the Meetings that would be great.

      • Pretty gross metaphor. Why do the “hip” writers have to be so gross?

        • Actually the microfauna analogy is quite good. Various layers of western society have adapted to the system and actually pushed it along. Dropping this system on a society where this adaptation did not exist leads to nasty consequences. The 1990s were truly gross and the legacy of that period is still gross today.

  8. Can you recommend a truthful article on modern Russia in English?
    An owner of a popular blog is currently on the look for articles like that.

    It should be journalistic, essayistic,… If it’s slightly dreamy, I think my submission would be accepted :~)

  9. It shouldn’t be on a mere blog, I’m afraid.