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Parlamentskaya Gazeta
No. 234
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]

The decade of the democratic reform under Yeltsin is drawing to a close. There are no more democratic dreams or illusions about the bright future. We have remained with hopes, and also mistakes, which we need to analyse and draw lessons from in order to avoid them in the future. Correspondent of Parlamentskaya Gazeta Tatiana TSYBA spoke with the last of the democrats of the first democratic wave, former people's deputy of the USSR, former first mayor of Moscow, Doctor of Economic Sciences and President of the International University in Moscow Gavriil POPOV to comment on that period.

Question: What has happened to us and the country over the past decade? Can we draw up the results of the democratic reform? Did this reform actually take place?

Answer: Our pro-Western course of reforms has come to a crasher while the democratic forces have failed to offer for the first time in the Russian history their own version of the country's development. I think that the reason consists in the fact that nobody believed that all this would happen so quickly. It seemed that the problem of the departure from communism was a matter of such distant future that it was not time for arguing on further actions. That is why, the democrats accepted what was offered to them: the Western model and assistance.

But the West was not so naive to give us money for free and create new rivals. Apart from that, we failed to use properly even the meagre funds it gave to us. The government maintained reforms through the export of raw materials and Western loans. Parasitic capital appeared in the country. New Russian capitalists thought only about their capital augmentation; they were not interested in the production sphere. They were hardly concerned about entering the world market and winning their niche in it. These were parasites, rather than young wolves, who clung to the state to draw all the resources from it.

Question: Why didn't you, people who were in power then, do everything possible to make the country embark on a proper course? There had to be someone to point to mistakes and help the President.

Answer: I personally already saw at that time, although not quite distinctly, that we hadn't taken up any power. Having assessed the situation properly, I didn't find strength to make the correct conclusions. Of course, it is possible to refer to other leaders, to the situation and the sentiments of the people at that time. But I must be responsible before myself. I am sure that it would have been impossible all the same to change the course of history, and power all the same would have passed over to democrats-functionaries. However, it could have been possible within the framework of the inevitable historical process to create more conditions for the democratic versions of reform to implement what was realistic.

Question: In your book "Democratic Alternative to Yeltsin" you write that Yeltsin had no other choice: either reform to be carried out by bureaucracy or nothing else but slaughter and bloodshed. What are Yeltsin's mistakes?

Answer: Boris Yeltsin is one of bureaucrats-reformers. However, he was the only person from among the party nomenclature to link his further activity with the democratic movement long before the victory over the CPSU. It is not the elections that made him the leader. On the contrary, the elections only formalised the functions of the leader performed by him. Yeltsin was one of the first CPSU leaders to quit the party and join the people's revolution and this is his merit. He knew what had to be destroyed in the country; however, he did not know what had to be built and how.

However, he is not to blame for that. The entire Russian intelligentsia, including me, is to blame for that. We have failed to develop the model of Russia of the 21st century. For Yeltsin there was no other choice: either bureaucratic reforms or nothing else but slaughter and bloodshed. The country had to get out of the quagmire of state socialism stagnation at the expense of the people. Yeltsin is not to blame for that, This is the trouble of the whole of Russia. Among various versions of nomenclature reforms he chose the worst one: the pro-Western and liberal reform. But he could have done nothing different because he had been taught all throughout his life: the quicker, the better.

But still, Yeltsin is to blame for the choice of the worst of the possible scenarios. But this is his guilt to the Russian bureaucracy. However, Yeltsin's guilt before the people consists in quite a different thing. Having chosen this path, he didn't warn the people about the troubles in store of them. He did not protect them against the arbitrariness of bureaucracy.

Question: But the past decade is characterised not only by failures, losses and mistakes. There have been achievements, too. What is the most important of them?

Answer: But still, the main result of the past decade is Russian democracy. It does exist. I have a feeling that incumbent authorities will act more efficiently The people does not already experience the euphoria about authorities as was during the Yeltsin period. That is why, unless authorities act resolutely and efficiently, resistance may begin. I see the task of authorities in removing the barriers preventing people from actively and conscientiously building their life.

Question: You have left the corridors of powers and have engaged in party building. You have been in opposition all these years. Why?

Answer: I don't think that the guilt of our governments in the past few years is that they governed the country inefficiently. Their guilt is quite different: they failed to organise the process of elaborating the country's development model. Meanwhile, it is the intelligentsias's elite that can and must elaborate this model. I am in opposition because I believe it necessary to be an opponent to any government that carries out reform. This is like during the defence of a thesis: it may be good or bad but there must be an opponent.

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