Marietta Chudakova: "Current power in Russia is tending to the rigid vertical of power."
WSN: Mrs. Chudakova, last year’s most remarkable event in the political life of Russia was the State Duma elections. Could you, please, comment upon the results of the elections?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: First of all, the results were pre-determined on the whole. They are: the overwhelming predominance of the ruling party which is necessary for the authorities, in particular, in order to change the Constitution -- that might be possible; the presence of one or two parties totally controlled by Kremlin; and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). The comparatively big percentage gained by CPRF can be partly explained as a result of a protest vote by people who wanted to support the liberal parties. However on one hand people were witnessing infringements during the election campaign and didn’t believe that the liberals could pass. On the other hand people didn’t want the Political Party United Russia to get their votes.
WSN: During the elections you were among three candidates, heading the federal list of the Political Party «Union of Right Forces» (SPS). Were you confident of victory? And if not why have you decided to support SPS?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: I thought (and I still do believe) that the potential electorate of Union of Right Forces is rather large. Therefore in case of the intensified election campaign it is possible for the Party to overcome the barrier of 7%. Anyway, witnessing the current trends in the development of my country I don’t consider it possible to refuse to struggle, even though I was never eager to do politics.
WSN: Why are the opposition parties not able to unite?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: With some forces (the communists) the Union is impossible to unite because of our principles.. With other forces -- Russian Democratic Party «Yabloko» -- the Union might seem rather natural. There is only one obstacle (I claim it confidently) – the personal ambitions of Grigory Yavlinsky (Grigory Yavlinsky is the leader of «Yabloko» -- WSN).
WSN: At the edge of the elections you were a proponent of the letter, addressing Vladimir Putin, a President of Russia. The letter emphasized that it would be impossible for Mr. Putin to be the Head of State when his constitutional term expired. Famous actors and writers signed this letter.
Several days earlier Vladimir Putin had also been addressed by prominent representatives of “creative intelligentsia”, who pleaded him to prolong his authority and asked to stay for the next term. What do you think this variety of ideas might show: the freedom of opinion in modern Russia or a traditional controversy within Russian intelligentsia?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: I won’t choose anything listed above. The presence of controversial views and opinions on crucial issues expressed by various groups within society is a usual peculiarity that signifies the developed nation.
WSN: What does «democracy» mean to you?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: The participation of entire society in the distribution of power. Rigid promotion of constitutional rights and freedoms for citizens and social groups. Freedom of speech and information.
WSN: During Russian history were there more democratic periods than the one we are currently live in?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: Yes, there were. I would point out the period from March till October 1917. Just after the February revolution (Russian revolution in February 1917 -- WSN) numerous freedoms were proclaimed. However all of them were abolished several months later by those who initiated the October revolution. Russia gained her liberties back only after 74 years -- after August 1991.
And, without any doubt, during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency.
WSN: Boris Yeltzin brought democracy to Russia. What went wrong in the period of democracy under Boris Yeltzin?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: There was no complicated assessment given to the life of the state during Soviet period. There was no verdict about criminal activity of the ruling party and KGB (Committee for State Security of Soviet Union-- WSN). The verdict that could allow a prosecution against those, who might have denied the violations committed by totalitarian Bolshevik regime.
WSN: What should the Western democracies do to promote democracy in Russia?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: First of all the Western democracies, -- despite any reasons and any purposes -- should not reject principled criticism of modern Russia, precisely to the Russian authorities. One should not be lulled by equivocal thoughts -- “the less criticism we make the deeper mutual understanding we have”.
WSN: Would a federal Russia - giving more autonomy to the regions - better placed to develop democracy?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: A lot depends on specific circumstances. In such a big nation the equilibrium between unitary state structure and independence of elements is very difficult to promote, especially when there is a lack of independence within legislative powered federal authorities. Current power in Russia is tending to the unitary, to the so-called rigid vertical of power, to the complete control. It is not likely to have an ability of solving this balance issue flexibly enough.
WSN: Decisive elements of democracy are the division of power, pluralism, free speech and free media. How can these elements develop in Russia ?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: In current Russia all three branches of power are being united again, following the soviet example. It seems that there is no independent court, in spite of some self-sacrificing actions taken by particular judges. Independence of the State Duma has been lost after the results of the previous and the latest elections. Such process is taking place partly because of the power pressure and partly because of the social apathy-- comparatively large part of society expresses nostalgia for «before-democratic» time. Freedom of opinion still exists, but considerable curtail is being prepared by the single textbook on the 20th century Russian History being adopted for schools. The manual describes the soviet regime in “white color” and seems to justify (for the first time after 1956) Stalin’s evil deeds.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press also function, but tend to narrow-- it is impossible to imagine Mr. Putin being criticized in broadcast.
WSN: Mrs. Chudakova, You are a famous historian of Russian literature. Do you think the possibility for literature to influence people increases in the modern information society and how can literature influence policy?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: Fiction literature doesn’t have a strong influence on adults any more, especially not on politicians. Nevertheless it influences children and teenagers greatly. Several years ago, hence I decided to write the detective novels about modern Russia for teenagers.
WSN: Mrs. Chudakova, in the books for teenagers, you express your citizenship clearly. What will the new Russian generation brought up on your books be like?
Mrs. Marietta Chudakova: I would like to see them active and kind people. People who understand the absolute value of freedom for themselves as well as for the others. People who feel themselves in Russia not as foreigners accepted in someone else’s izba (peasant’s hut-- WSN) but who feel themselves in Russia as at their home.