Yaroslav Zabavskiy (Russia, AC07-09) about President Putin, the media and Chechnya…

Daniel Prinz (Hungary, AC07-09) asks Yaroslav Zabavskiy (Russia, AC07-09), who lives in Tomilino, Luberci Region, Moscow District, questions about the current political situation in his home country.

In the present Russia or in your environment what do you see remaining from the Soviet era?

There are a lot of changes even compared to the 1990’s. During my childhood there were food shortages which is now not a problem any more. What remained are the people in the parliament and the government. They were all born during the communism. So people are still the same. Our ideology and strategy changed, we removed the monuments of Lenin and Stalin, we renamed the streets, people became able to travel to the western world. On the last elections the Communist Party of the Russian Federation gained 57 seats Duma [it is the second largest after the United Russia, the party of Putin with 315 seats – editor]. On the other hand I don’t see any chance for communism to come back.
Our politicians used to vote for communist leaders and then suddenly all of them became democrats. Sometimes the old generation of the politicians apply Soviet ways of thinking for different goals.

Is Putin a part of this so-called old generation?

No, definitely not. He brought new ways of thinking and democratic means of government.

But from the western media it seems the Putin sometimes uses not so democratic instruments…

Well, Putin’s status as a national leader is very high which I don’t think is right. This reminds many people to the Soviet times. Not the way he rules, but his popularity amongst ordinary people. Sometimes his like a tsar. Sometimes there are ideas that he should become a sort of Russian Lukashenko [Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus since 1994 – editor] and rule for his life. In 2007 there were wide concerns about this, but now it seems that he is ready to leave power at the end of his second term.

But is not he keeping his power becoming a prime minister? According to the constitution the power is with the president but probably he will be able to influence the new president, especially because it seems it will be his choice.

Medvedev [the potential candidate for the presidency, nominated by Putin – ed.] is a quite powerful personality of Putin’s party, since 2004 he has had a high appointment as First Deputy Prime Minister and First Deputy Chairman of Council for Implementation of the Priority National Projects which apparently he fulfilled well, so that is why he is popular not because of Putin.

Is there anybody else who can potentially become a president as well?

There are some like people Zhirinovsky [Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky who ran for presidency in 1991, 1996 and 2000, his best result being 7.81% – ed.]. But they do not really have any influence. It is not good, that we only have one real candidate, the people do not have much choice. But this candidate is good and reliable.

What is the role of the media? Is it free and working?

It is, you can find many anti-Putin media on the internet or in bookshops. It is not like in Soviet times, when you could not say anything against the leaders. People make the choice, but they only have one choice. This is a bit unfair, that Putin’s party is this influential in the Parliament.

At the end of the day is this democracy?

A kind of democracy. Year by year Russia is becoming more and more democratic. The western media is quite manipulative. Russia is not a perfect democracy but it is getting better and better, people started to live better. This is a fact. Compared to the 1990’s, now people can buy food in shops. At that time they could not. Not because they were poor but there was not enough food in the shops. There is certainly a possibility of growing democracy. But we were all afraid of Putin becoming a national leader for ever, but now we know he will not break the constitution and stay for one more term.

What is the role of the secret services?

If they do influence our life in anyway it is good, as they are fighting terrorism and the drug problems.

What do you think of Chechnya?

The war there is kind of stopped now. There is no massive battles or bombing there. The situation is quiet. Not many terrorist attack for a long time which is very good. The president [Asajef – ed.] was killed, now his son leads the territory. There are big improvements carried out (schools, social institutions).

But then what do the terrorists want?

They want the independence of Chechnya. At the moment they are just hiding. Since Putin is the president some big names were killed (for example Basayev). I remember when I was small during the Yeltsin-era there were news about attacks every week. Now it is only small groups in mountains and they are much less strong than they used to be.

But isn’t their aim legitimate? Don’t they have a right to be independent?

Putin said “we do not negotiate with terrorists”. No, the people of Chechnya do not wish to be ruled by these leaders of the terrorists. They think the Russian army is good for them, they are not on the side of the terrorists, who destroyed everything in Grozny. Now it is fully repaired. They can just compare. They have their own president in their own republic. They are mostly muslims, they have their religion. There is no way to be ruled by people who kill children. These terrorists are not being seen as freedom-fighters. They are just terrorists.

What do you think about plans for the unification of Russia and Belarus?

I have heard about it, but the government officially did not say it is true. I have not heard anything from the Belorus government either. It is like a joke. There is no way for this plan. We had some problems over oil and gas, but our nations have good relations.

A last question: why do you have a red star at the top of one of the towers of the Kremlin?

In the eyes of the people it has no connection with the red terror. People are just used to it. You do not see any monument of Stalin any more. There are still some of Lenin. The problem cannot be in any stars, it is in the heads of the people. For me from the new generation a red star looks nice on the top of a red building on the Red Square. And that’s it.

– United World College Student Magazine –

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