Russian society is surprisingly passive in the struggle for its rights in the early 21st century. It seems the people haven’t yet overcome the slavery of the 1930s. It will take a long time for people to learn how to unite horizontally and fight not only for their own interests, but for their civil rights as well.
The Nobel Peace Prize winners will be announced in Oslo on October 7. There are 241 nominees, including Russia's Svetlana Gannushkina. She is a member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights.
Valdaiclub.com interview with Georgy Bovt, editor-in-chief of the Russkiy Mir magazine.
Is our compatriot likely to receive the prize?
I don’t think she will receive the prize, and not because she is not doing her job well. Rather, every Nobel Peace Prize winner has a massive civil following. Meanwhile, Gannushkina’s ideas do not fall on fertile soil. She has few supporters and does not represent a massive movement that is a sine qua non for any successful nominee for the prize.
Gannushkina concentrates on the problems of refugees in Russia, but the government does not pay much attention to this issue. Why is there so little concern for the misfortunes of people from other countries?
The state must concern itself with the problems of refugees, legal and illegal migrants and foreign workers. I don’t think Russia’s migration policy is close to ideal, but it is working on it. As for refugees, our financial and material resources do not allow us to match international obligations under signed agreements.
Obviously, we cannot discuss protecting refugees and immigrants when Russian citizens themselves suffer from an encroachment on their rights and freedoms. Society is often critical of the government’s social policy toward its citizens. What explains the Russian government's attitude?
This attitude could have been even worse, such as in Syria or Libya. Russia’s human rights record is not the worst. It is not the best either. But there is certain progress. It looks better now than it did under Stalin and Brezhnev. The speed of progress here does not depend on the government alone. It is a two-way street.
Governments in all countries put their own interests above those of their citizens. It is up to citizens to demand that their government and its officials treat them accordingly. There should be a massive grass-roots movement exerting pressure on the government, but Russia does not have this. This is why the development and observance of human rights is not up to the mark. Our government reacts more emotionally to criticism from abroad than from domestic civil movements, because these movements are weak and not insistent enough.
Are people more inclined today to become volunteers and take part in public organizations that are helping the poor? Does the state encourage such initiatives?
The volunteer movement has been growing gradually in the past few years. This is probably the only positive trait that can point to the development of civil society. Otherwise, citizens are only active in defending their interests when their housing is threatened with demolition or when the construction of a business center makes their life uncomfortable. Russian society is surprisingly passive in the struggle for its rights in the early 21st century. It seems the people haven’t yet overcome the slavery of the 1930s.
I think we must traverse a long road toward the building of an active civil society. It will take a long time for people to learn how to unite horizontally and fight not only for their own interests, but for their civil rights as well.