Conversations on Russia: Reform from Yeltsin to Putin

By Padma Desai | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Grigory Yauhinsky
The Permanent Oppositionist

May 2002

Gorbachev liberated us. He gave freedom to me, my family, my children, my friends,
millions of Russians, and the next generation. That was his contribution.

The reform process is missing steps that really belong to the noneconomic sphere.
The major problems are elsewhere. In that regard, the process is slow, very
slow… There cannot be a market economy without a free press, without the
guarantee of basic human rights. Again we need free and fair elections in order
to feel part of a liberal, market system.

In Russia, the people can be manipulated and corrupted by the authorities who,
in turn, can ignore their welfare. The public feels alienated. There is no mecha-
nism for them to get control of the rulers. None at all.

The Russian government is a technical department of the Kremlin. It is not a
political institution.

However, the events of September 11 suggest that we are past the moment of
checking our credentials. We must marry and marry now. Alternatively, we can
chalk up a long romance lasting more than a century, but the situation we are in
rules that out.


May 2002

DESAI: Let's start with Mikhail Gorbachev. How do you assess his role in recent Russian history? As a leader who lost control and brought about the demise of the former Soviet Union? Or as a liberator?

YAVLINSKY: One may endlessly explain and discuss his role as a politician, an economic reformer, and a party leader, but I have a different view of him. I see

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