Sunday, April 30, 2006

Critical dissident

I am trying to pay more attention to Russia and did a double take reading a Guardian piece on Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I have tended to find the former-dissident and writer a bit too apologetic on Russia's slide toward illiberal democracy. But a passage made me think:

At a time when American and European officials are repeatedly questioning Mr Putin's commitment to democracy, Solzhenitsyn said: "Present-day western democracy is in a serious state of crisis." He said Russia should not "thoughtlessly imitate" these democracies but look after its own people.

He might be on to something...

Yesterday's interview touched on a burning issue in Russia, that of the growing xenophobia that has led to dozens of attacks on foreigners so far this month, at least six of which were fatal. He warned against condemning all nationalism: a little was needed, he said, to stop ethnic Russians from dying out.

For me, Solzhenitsyn's observations are a reminder of why being consistent matters. As the article highlights, the West's support of democracy in Russia and the Newly Independent States was inconsistent at the very best. I see a connection between his (self-) defense of Russia and various current geopolitical policy debates. Too much moralizing about democracy without consistent action leads many to mistrust...or worse.

Wouldn't it be good if one of the bravest voices against oppression was on "our" side?

More thoughts on the "hypocrisy of international allegiances" and why you punish Belarus, lunch with Azerbaijan and bring out the pipers and drummers for China from Friday's Guardian.


slskenyon said...

I think the excerpts you chose here very well illustrate some of the root of the problem. Although we are no longer in the "cold war," that mentality of "us" versus "Russia" has not dissipated. We still see them as "others" and in some ways "backward" as well. Unless perceptions change, it is impossible for the "west" to full comprehend what is going on in Russia and what perspectives are at work there.

Pavlusha34 said...

I hope it is possible to change perceptions, but many signs don't look too good.