Medvedev calls for public to route Russia’s course
The article titled "Go Russia!" and presenting the president’s vision of strategic goals and challenges which Russia currently faces, was published on Thursday. It’s a kind of rehearsal before an address to the Federal Assembly – a joint session of both chambers of the parliament – which Dmitry Medvedev is soon to deliver. Medvedev called for everyone concerned to submit their opinions and comments via e-mail.
Rooting out insulting traditions
"World economic crisis showed we are not as well off as we had hoped. Twenty years of turbulent changes have not rid our country of the humiliating dependency on raw materials. Our economy inherited the most debilitating sin from the Soviet Union – it largely ignores the needs of the common man or woman."
The call for public discussion matches the article itself, which criticizes the lack of a strong civil society in Russia as one of its major flaws, along with widespread corruption, an economy based on the export of raw materials and ageing Soviet equipment, weak democratic institutions, negative demographic trends, and instability in the southern Caucasus republics.
Read the full article by Dmitry Medvedev
All these factors are rooted in Russia’s history, according to Medvedev. The president calls for the abolition of the traditional features of Russian society which cause harm to it.
“For me, traditions are only the cherished incontestable values. Peace between religions and nations, soldierly valor, fidelity to duty, hospitality and kindness are natural for our people. As for bribery, thievery, sloth of mind and spirit – those are vices insulting our traditions.” he said.
Major reforms needed
Dmitry Medvedev outlines the prime ways of overcoming the flaws. First of all is the modernization of the economy. New technological breakthroughs will be based on a boost of labor and energy efficiency, development of nuclear energy, through use of information technology and space communication, and a new domestic industry for hi-tech medical equipment.
“The impressive results of the two greatest modernizations in our country – the imperial by Peter the Great and the Soviet one – were paid for by devastation, humiliation and destruction for millions of our compatriots… Now, for the first time in our history, we have a chance to prove ourselves and the world that Russia can go the way of democracy… And that it can be done by non-violent measures.”
“The spread of modern information technology, which we will do our best to help, gives unprecedented opportunities to implement such fundamental political freedoms as the freedom of speech and assembly. For finding and eliminating hotspots of corruption. For direct access to virtually any event. For the direct exchange of ideas and knowledge with people all around the world. Society is becoming more transparent than ever. Even if the ruling class does not like it.”
Stronger civil society will push forward democratic reform in Russia, Medvedev believes. The president sees politics in the future as based on a strong parliament with greater authority over the executive branch, established political parties with a tradition of competition and compromise. The political system is already moving in that way, but there is still much to be done.
Judicial reform is also needed. An independent and just court, based on modern legislation, is essential for protecting both democracy and civil rights. But it must be mirrored by a change in people’s minds, by abandoning long-held traditions of disrespect for the law.
“We need to find a taste for legal culture, lawfulness, respect for other people’s rights, including such an important one as the right of property. Courts with wide public support are to wipe the country of corruption. It’s a difficult task, but a feasible one. Other countries did it, didn’t they,” Medvedev said.
No blind borrowing
At the same time, the change should not be too rapid, as it would destabilize the country:
“Several times in our history, haste and rashness in political reforms have caused tragic events – put Russia on the brink of dissolution. We have no right to risk public stability, to endanger the safety of our people for some abstract theories. We have no right to sacrifice stable life even for a high cause… Reforms for people, not people for reforms.”
"Russian democracy will not mindlessly copy foreign examples… We will take into consideration the experience of other countries, their successes and failures in the development of democratic institutions. But no one will live our lives for us."
Medvedev added that rapid change would not only be harmful but also vain:
“A civil society cannot be bought with grants. Political culture cannot be changed by mimicking the political traditions of advanced societies. An efficient judicial system cannot be imported. Freedom cannot be scribbled down from a book, even if it’s a very smart book.”
Still, borrowing other countries’ experience, technology and ideas is something which Russia can’t do without. Cooperation with foreign nations is a must.
“The issue of harmonization with Western democracies is not up to tastes or the personal preferences of this or that political group. Our domestic financial and technological capabilities now are not enough for a real increase in quality of life. We need money and technology from Europe, America and Asia. And these countries need Russia’s capabilities. We are extremely interested in becoming closer with them, in mutual links between our cultures and economies.”
“We are the majority”
Medvedev called on all people who share his vision to make their contribution in making it true. He also said those who disagree with him but desire change for the better to do their bit too.
The Russian president stressed that some people will resist such reforms. They are corrupt bureaucrats and businessmen preying on the current situation and are interested in preserving the status quo.
“They want to squeeze revenues from what is left from Soviet industry and squander natural riches, which belong to all of us, till the end of time. They create nothing new; they don’t want evolution and fear it. But the future does not belong to them. It’s ours. We are the absolute majority,” Medvedev said.
“Medvedev wants feedback”
RT’s political commentator Peter Lavelle says it’s “very much in Medvedev’s style” that he wants to hear people’s opinions on the issues mentioned. He wants some feedback.
“There are a lot of people who are not happy in Russia right now because of the financial crisis and he tells the public what he wants to do about it. He is asking them what he should do as a president,” Lavelle said.
A very important point, he added, is that Medvedev said the state doesn’t have all the solutions to the problems highlighted in the article. “After living in this country for 10 years, people have to empower themselves more and they can do it,” he said.