Lesson in Ukrainian


Garry Kasparov: It would do Russia good to learn a lesson from Ukraine.  

When Putin’s loyalists run out of arguments in support of the his life-long rule, they resort to somewhat stale, yet still effective argument that Russia, due to its unique history, culture, and geography (the exact list of causes may vary depending on the discussion) is not equipped to become a democracy.

You cannot compare Russia to Europe, we are too different!” – is their final line of defense.

 In light of this argument, the events that are presently taking place in Ukraine gain exceptional significance.  In its culture and history Ukraine is much closer to Russia than to Switzerland with its protestant ethics, or to the Great Britain with its centuries-old parliamentary system of governance. Ukrainians, in the very literal sense of the word, is our fraternal people. Thus, we have all the reasons to compare Ukrainian experience with our own. Furthermore,

Ukrainian events can have a significant influence on the situation in Russia.

Ukraine’s European choice will be the most evident indication that Putin’s doctrine, aimed at formation of the soft-version of the USSR under the umbrella of the Eurasian union, has proven to be a failure.

In this context, Putin’s branding of Euromaidan as “pogroms” is rather consistent and logical.  What is silly is the position taken by Mikhail Prokhorov, who has been designated to play a part of the “oppositioner” in the Kremlin’s puppet show. In full seriousness and with the straight face he talks about strategic partnership between European and Eurasian unions. Prokhorov doesn’t understand, or, what is more likely, consciously ignores the fact that the two unions are based on intrinsically different models of civilization and incompatible value systems.

One of the base principles of the European civilization is the principle of the supremacy of the law.

In accordance with this principle, the law, as the mutually accepted and mutually mandatory system of norms, stands above the government. The law is what binds the government. On the contrary, the Asian principle, personified by Putin’s regime, is expressed through self-sufficiency of the governing power, not bound by any norms or regulations. When four years ago I was advancing the notion of the need to integrate Russia into Europe, I implied, that

Russia must accept the European system of values and admit that the law is superior to the governing power.

Mentality of characters such as Yanukovich, Putin, and Lukashenko is very similar to each other. It is the mentality of criminals. With great pleasure Yanukovich would build a full-blown dictatorship in his country, following the example of his more experienced comrades in the North and the North-East. There are, however, at least two obstacles in his way.

First, Ukraine still has elections. Of course, these elections are not exactly fair and are carried out with many violations as the government does not hesitate to employ the “administrative resource” (i.e. election organizers, local governors, mayors). However, they are still real elections in the sense that the results are not known until the votes are counted. In that lies the major difference between the Ukrainian elections and the show put on by Putin’s and Lukashenko’s regimes.

The second obstacle, (and it is only second in order, not in significance) is that Ukrainian society today turned out to be more mature and more oriented towards Europe than Russian society is. It already understood the importance of “playing by the rules”. The rules, that are mandatory for all including the governing powers. That is why

When Ukrainian authorities attempt to ignore the rules, they are faced with mass protests.

Dec 11th, 2013.

Dec 11th, 2013.

Many critics of the integration insist that Ukrainian industry cannot compete with its European counterparts. That is why, they argue, a free trade agreement with the European Union will bring about serious economic complications. They accuse Ukrainians of acting against the interests of Ukraine when they demand integration into the European society. I, on the contrary, am convinced of the opposite.

By placing long-term interests of their nation above short-term benefits, the Ukrainian people are demonstrating a remarkable degree of civil maturity. Western economic and cultural prosperity is based on the fact that at some point western nations realized the significance of the “rules of the game”. Had it not been for these rules, there would have been no prosperity. If these rules are not followed, then even while sitting on the barrel of resources, the nation will remain impoverished. It would certainly benefit Russia to learn this lesson. One


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