Tightening screws can't keep a nation together - Medvedev

It is not tightened screws, but freedom that keeps a nation together, President Medvedev said at a conference dedicated to the use of Russia's past experience in today's modernization.

The symposium entitled “The great reforms and the modernization of Russia”, opened in St. Petersburg on Thursday, as Russia marked 150 years since the abolishment of serfdom.

Speaking of relying on past experience, Medvedev brought to the fore the figure of tsar Alexander II, the Liberator, known in particular for abolishing serfdom in 1861. For instance, Russia still relies on the principle of never putting off freedom for a later date, the president pointed out.

“You cannot postpone freedom until later and you should not be afraid that a free man will make inadequate use of his freedom,” Medvedev said.

Also, a nation cannot “be held together by tightened screws,” the president maintained.

“Overly severe ways and too many overseers do not result in the triumph of good over evil, they result in more rather than less corruption, and worse rather than better management, this is why it is very important to give society the chance to sort itself out,” he said.

According to Medvedev, Russia still sticks to the old principles of keeping the reforms thoroughly evaluated, rational, progressive, and stable.

Another timely principle is that the state is never the goal, but merely a tool in a country's development. “A nation is a living organism, not a machine for replicating the prevailing ideas of the day,” Medvedev said.

“Only by encompassing all of society into the modernization processes will the correct, positive effect be produced, providing a chance for success,” he said.

Medvedev admitted that implementing reforms in practice was harder than constructing attractive theories, but the great reformers of the past managed to succeed, he reminded the audience.

“They believed that the reforms could be implemented without turmoil and violence, that Russia could shift from serfdom to being a free country. Modernization and progress are always aimed at enhancing freedom in society, in international relations, and in everyday life. Freedom from fear, humiliation, poverty and diseases, freedom for all – this is the aim of development, as I see it,” Medvedev said.

“And this is not just high rhetoric, this is what every modern and sound person expects, ” he concluded.