Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Death of Illusions

by Valeria Novodvorskaya

[Below is a translation of several major excerpts from a speech given by Valeria Novodvorskaya on Dec. 30, 2010 to The New Times News, a Russian newspaper. She is discussing Russian dissidents’ loss of faith in the West and in Obama -- and for this reason she calls the new year the “Death of Illusions.” The video of her speech (in Russian) can be seen on YouTube. [1]]

I think that it is time to turn to Tolkien, for darkness is descending upon the world. This is not because of the volcano (or whatever it was called), but because a new age has begun, and the sun will not rise. It has begun because the West — our hope and our foundation, our Promised Land to which we looked in admiration — is giving up its perennial principles and values. It is an époque of a total and absolute betrayal, the year of absolute betrayal.

Obama was everyone’s hope, for we thought that he was a pupil of Salinger and would be saving us, lost children, in the rye over the abyss. We thought he would protect us from lies and would not let us fall — and that there would be an end of double-faced diplomacy and the beginning of some integrity. What, however, have we witnessed instead? Perezagruzka (resetting) – restarting of friendships. We have witnessed the most shameful acquiescence, the flattery of Putin and Medvedev. And it is done with a total shamelessness that does not have an end.

And the whole world joined in, following this course with the greatest of care. Britain is altogether silent; it has stopped its objections. There is a total change of policy in Germany. Angela Merkel no longer notices or mentions the nightmarish events that are taking place here. In Italy, Berlusconi has not noticed us or cared about us for the longest time, and Nicolas Sarkozy is selling warships to Russia, two Mistral warships, so that he can make more employment for Frenchmen. And he spits at the reality that he is creating, for these Mistral warships will sail to the Crimea, to Georgia (Caucasus). It is a total betrayal. It is a betrayal of Georgia as well, a country that has not, after all, been accepted into NATO.

We should not forget, of course, that our countries and their citizens are also betraying themselves. There was this catastrophic election in Ukraine when its population voted for Yanukovich not simply out of error, nor out of snobbishness. The people had given up striving and exchanged freedom for promised satiety, altogether as real Sovoks (that is, a people formed by the Soviets). But they did not get far after this vote. And now they will have to live through the result of their choice.

In the local elections, Yanukovich collected some votes even in the western part of Ukraine. . . (something that has never happened before). And now they have started a criminal investigation against Yulia Tymoshenko in order to silence her. And the party of Yuschenko — that had been pushing Ukraine towards the West and NATO — did not collect any voices. This is a total retreat, a retreat back into Sovok (the Soviet regime). And just think of the acquiescence of the West in that retreat. Those Western values (for which we here are prepared to die, to give up our lives for the act of the defense of freedom, that very American Act) are now exchanged for gas, oil, some minor gifts of space for an airplane landing and for the veto process.

In other words, we have been sold out. The West has sold — betrayed altogether — that small part of the Russian population that has upheld the values of freedom and was ready to walk barefoot upholding liberty through snow and perennial ice. It was ready to climb every mountain and every peak. And the selling out was done in a manner that has not happened for a very long time. To be truthful, I had not expected this from President Obama.

And if now they will ratify the agreement of the START treaty, this will be understood as a gift to Russia, as an agreement with every detail of its policy. There will be no more “interference” in our internal concentration camp. And as there sat in prison the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, in this manner he will continue sitting. He is to be imprisoned for 10 more years, and it is very possible that he will not come out alive and will never see that Nobel Prize.

Nobody defends political prisoners. Nobody defends Khodarkovsky, and this could have been done very easily and quickly. All that is necessary is for the members of the G8 to raise their voices in a decisive manner. Were this to be done, the case of YUKOS would have been dissipated like a horrible dream. But no — the members have permitted this trial, and this public auto de fé, this public torment, continues on and on.

I actually think that there is a simple reason why Judge Danilkin was told to postpone the reading of the sentence. It was decided to wait for the most fiery Western journalists to take their Christmas vacation — December 25th is the world’s Christmas — and then in the rush and business of the season (the season’s meaning is nothing to them) with Putin’s four hour speech on TV in the background, they were made to read such a shameful judgment that all of us had no choice but to be silently aghast. And we will be absolutely ashamed, and we will not be able to do anything, not even to sit next to the sentenced men, as long ago we, dissidents, used to sit down. And it is our shame that we must watch this nightmare.

But more than that. By the New Year’s celebration, while the Russian salad Olivie was being served, it became clear that Putin had succeeded in the education of the young and that his and Surkov’s exercises with “nashists” (Russian nationalists), with local young crowds, with “Young Russia” had great results; the young can proudly display their might, trampling the portraits of the opposition leaders on the city square. We have educated our own well-trained fascist youth. These fanatical boys, fed and trained by the Kremlin, were used in pillaging the offices of the opposition, and these boys raise their fascist salute near the walls of Kremlin. And these boys exclaim “Russia for the Russians”. . . .

In other words, without leaving Sovok, without giving up our Soviet training, we have arrived at the neo-fascist state….

I think that the hopes that Russian political leaders would want some change, that they would listen to the wise words of no longer living Gaidar, that if they want to survive, they need to protect democracy (so we would not turn into Pakistan, or into the Third World, or even fourth or fifth) — these hopes have no place in our lives any more. I think the war is announced, there is no pretense and no illusions about the possibilities of working with this ruling elite, of looking for round-table discussions, mutual organizations, mutual sofas and committees etc. — these illusions have no place any more. This is a year when all illusions should die.

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Valeria Novodvorskaya is one of the leaders of the party Democratic Union of Russia. In 1969, she was arrested for the first time. She was imprisoned at a special psychiatric hospital (a general practice of punishing dissidents). She described her experiences there in her book Beyond Despair.

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