Right now nobody knows where Russia is headed
Adam Michnik reflects on the dialogue and confusions at the Valdai Club @ Salon.
The invitation to attend a meeting of the Valdai Club came from its organizer and initiator, the political scientist Sergei Karaganov, a close associate of Putin’s; the one to attend the Yaroslav Forum was sent by Medvedev’s trusted economist Vladislav Inozemtsev. I accepted both invitations because I was curious what this pokazukha [window dressing], as my Russian friends say, looks like. I was keen to contrast the views of official and unofficial Russia and to see what the people Lenin called “useful idiots from the West” are like. We used this term in my newspaper, publishing a text by a prominent Russian political scientist. Lidia Shevtsova, whom I admire, respect and appreciate, criticized the Valdai Club and its naïve participants.
The Valdai Club and the Yaroslav Forum definitely are pokazukha. They are well rehearsed shows aimed at presenting Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev to the world. However, I was surprised to meet some fantastic people there: Sergei Aleksashenko, Kiril Rogov, Vladislav Inozemtsev, Aleksandr Arkchangel’ski, Andrei Zubov, Vladimir Ryzhkov. These are just a few names but the list is much longer.
I was struck by the painfully honest discussion of Russia’s past, particularly the Stalinist years. Of course, some Russians tried to relativize or even justify this part of history. But the majority spoke with courage and honesty both about history and about current government policies. Prime Minister Putin had to endure more severe criticism than President Medvedev. The participants of these discussions included critics and defenders and those who pin guarded hopes on the process that is currently taking place in Russia. read more