The Coordinating Council of the Opposition has released [ru] a statement on the ethnic clashes and protests taking place in the town of Pugachev [ru]. First posted to the e-democracy website democratia2.ru [ru] on July 9, the draft was republished [ru] on the Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) website on July 15. By then, it had already been signed by Alexey Navalny, as well as several known nationalist members of the Coordinating Council. The resolution was accepted on July 16, by 10 Yeas and 4 Nays (with 26 abstentions).
A note at the beginning of Ekho Moskvy’s publication of the statement said this of the text:
Некоторые уже называют его националистическим.
Some are already calling it nationalist.
Was it even possible to comment on a matter such as Pugachev without at least touching on some aspect of nationalism? While the majority of the document focuses on the inability and/or refusal on the part of authorities to respond to their constituents (whose demands are to drive the local Chechens from their town), one paragraph was called out for being particularly “nationalist”:
Попытка приравнять к «экстремизму» законный протест коренных жителей против демонстративно вызывающего поведения выходцев из других регионов, которое грубо противоречит местным традициям и моральным нормам, а также упрямое желание со стороны властей сводить происходящее к «бытовым» причинам, напоминает позицию страуса.
The attempt to equate “extremism” and legitimate protest of the local people against the deliberately provocative behavior of people from other regions [i.e. the North Caucasus], which is grossly contrary to local traditions and moral standards, and the stubborn desire on the part of the authorities to reduce what's happening to “common” causes, is reminiscent of an ostrich [hiding its head].
One user on Ekho’s website commented sarcastically:
авторы могут назвать «местные традиции и моральные нормы», которые нарушают «приезжие»?
может быть они имеют в виду повальное пьянство, мат и т.д. и т.п.?
can the authors name any “local traditions and moral standards” that the “newcomers” violate ?
maybe they are referring to general alcoholism, swearing, etc., etc.?
Over on the Coordinating Council’s website, Professor Mikhail Gelfand voted against the statement and noted:
Требования поголовного выселения по национальному признаку, т.е. тотальных этнических чисток не являются “законным протестом”.
Demands of wholesale ejection on the basis of nationality, meaning total ethnic cleansing, are not “legitimate protest”.
However, some on Ekho Mosvky's website did not object to the statement at all:
Вполне взвешенный документ, ничего националистического в нем нет.
This is a balanced document, nothing nationalist about it.
Another commenter felt that the real problem was the Kremlin’s refusal to address the issues of inter-ethnic relations in Russia:
Федеральная власть должна высказаться и определиться по поводу взаимоотношения людей различной национальности. Власть должна провести совещание на высоком уровне с представителями различных республик и принять согласованное заявление о национальной политике в России. Сам КСО тоже должен определиться со своей позицией. Я против выселения, я за дружбу народов (как ни по советски это звучит). Но жители всех республик должны понять, что Конституция России действует на всей территории, что надо всем соблюдать права людей и вести себя доброжелательно по отношению друг к другу.
The Federal government should speak out and decide about the relationship between people of different nationalities. The authorities must hold a high level meeting with the representatives of the various republics and accept an agreed statement of national policy in Russia. The CCO [the Coordinating Council] itself must also define their position. I am against ejection [of ethnic minorities], I'm for the friendship of peoples (no matter how Soviet it sounds). But the residents of all of the republics should understand that the Russian Constitution applies to the entire territory, that everyone must respect the rights of all people and behave kindly toward each other.
26 members of the Coordinating Council either did not care enough to vote on the statement, or perhaps thought to distance themselves from it. Only 4 members voted against: biology professor Mikhail Gelfand, journalist and radio host Sergei Parkhomenko, professional oppositionist Ilya Yashin and human rights activist Anna Karetnikova. The 10 members who voted to adopt the statement, included Alexey Navalny, conservative philosopher Konstantin Krylov, the usually liberal journalist Oleg Kashin, and nationalist leader Vladimir Tor. The only non-nationalists to vote for the resolution were members of the so called Navalny's Bloc – Alburov, Naganov, and Sobol. All three work on Navalny's projects outside of the Coordinating Council.
Thank you for drawing attention to this Nina, especially right now when anything short of messianic praise for Navalny is likened to blasphemy on the networks. Yes, his prison sentence is an injustice and is clearly both political and personal, and most of his words and deeds deserve merit. That said, his pandering to populists and xenophobes deserves to be highlighted and criticized, even now. He himself admitted after his original shout-out to the racists in the post-election protests in ’11 that he was driven by political necessity because, frankly, xenophobia is the only message with universal appeal in Russia today. It may be naive and overly literal to expect a “leader” to assume an unpopular position and LEAD the electorate toward it, but he’s capable of better. And so is Russia.