By Paul Goble
Dimitry Savvin, editor of the conservative Russian Harbin portal based in Riga, poses a question that he says many on the right of the Russian political spectrum and now some in other countries are beginning to ask: why didn’t Russian liberals emigrate long before Vladimir Putin launched his massive invasion of Ukraine on February 24?
Most of the conditions these new emigres are claiming about, he notes, have been in place long before that date. At the very least, things weren’t completely positive before February 24 and completely negative after that date. That being so, why did Russian liberals only decide to leave after the invasion began? (https://harbin.lv/golye-koroli-emigratsii).
Savvin says he and other Russian conservatives have been asking this question for some time without receiving any adequate answer. Now, some in the West doing the same. He gives as an example Maris Zanders, a Latvian commentator, who is asking this in the clearest possible way (aprinkis.lv/index.php/viedokli/34591-maris-zanders-nav-tadu-beglu-no-putina-rezima).
Zanders suggests that Russian liberals have left now and have concentrated in places like the Latvian capital at the urging of the Americans. But whether he is right about that is less important than that Russian liberals didn’t leave earlier as many Russian conservatives did who saw trouble in post-Soviet Russia as early as 1992.
In that year, it became obvious that Russia was not going to undergo any lustration or hold communism and communists to account and that “the old party nomenklatura under a new flag with the addition of the Chekist corporation and the Komsomol staff” were going to take power and use it for themselves, Savvin continues.
A few people like Bukovsky recognized this; but those who call themselves liberals today didn’t and worked to support Boris Yeltsin who was nothing more than a CPSU leader. In 1993, the Russian liberals backed Yeltsin’s shelling of the parliament; and in 1996, they backed his staged re-election.
And the Russian liberals, Savvin points out, supported Yeltsin’s choice of Vladimir Putin as his successor and viewed Putin remarkably positively in his first term. They even worked to quiet things down in 2011 when the people were in revolt against Putin’s staged elections, and then there was the Crimean Anschluss to which they did not act against, the conservative notes.
Zanders has done a great service by reminding everyone of this record and of the fact that “the train of neo-Soviet nomenklatura oligarchic dictatorship has already been travelling for a long time,” well before February 24, as should have been clear to everyone as it was to Russian conservatives but not to Russian liberals.
Russian liberals had remarkable opportunities to act in the 1990s and even in the early years of the 2000s. But instead of being a genuine opposition, they divided into a systemic and extra-systemic group, with the former supporting the regime despite everything and the latter criticizing but not organizing or emigrating.
Is it the case that on February 24, Russian liberals suddenly recognized the enormous number of mistakes and even crimes they committed? “And now they want to correct this?” Or alternatively, Savvin suggests, have they concluded that they aren’t going to get support at home and so are looking abroad for support from that quarter?
Those Russian conservatives who have criticized Russian liberals in the past and those foreigners like Zanders who are doing so now have every right to ask the question: “If after all these years and with all these opportunities you achieved what you have achieved, then just what do you expect to achieve in emigration where conditions are certainly worse?”
Such people, Savvin says, shouldn’t expect applause from normal people who can see that those presenting themselves as liberal reformers in fact “lived quietly under the rule of murderers and rapists and even supported them” are simply trying to present themselves as victims when they failed to oppose the victimizers and even supported them on occasion.