20 years under Putin: a timeline

Сaterina Innocente spoke with Evgenya Chirikova about Putin regime's corruption schemes, Russian liberal opposition's disturbing fragmentation, as well as about Evgenya's understanding of patriotism and her efforts of turning "vegetables" into the active citizens.



Caterina Innocente: Are you often asked why you want to protect Khimki forest, and what you are getting out of it?

Evgenya Chirikova: Yes, I’m asked this all the time. Why do I protect it? Because it’s only natural! The unnatural thing is to not protect it! Love of one’s country gives a person strength. My country is a part of me, and so is the environment I’m surrounded by. How could I possibly destroy a part of myself? The view from my window depends on me and on those close to me. I am trying to accomplish all this so that the things surrounding me can depend on me and not on the people to whom this issue seems distant and foreign, people who are indifferent to the view from my window. I want to give my children something more than a road to the supermarket. This land and this nature are a part of my cultural inheritance, a part of my history. My country’s history has already been trampled upon, so let me at least pass nature onto my children! The memories have already been crushed.

C.I.: Historic memory?

Yes. For example, I don’t even know the history of my own family to the extent that I should. In my family there were White Army guardsmen who were shot. This was concealed so we wouldn’t be affected by the repressions. The result is that I cannot track my roots very far, and in this lies a tragedy: I cannot tell my children about our family tree. It turns out that the connection to our land is the only thing I have left. And to nature that surrounds me. In order to have harmony in my life and my family, we have to, we must, protect nature. For me this is not simply a question of health and the environment. It’s a question of cultural inheritance.

C.I.: How would you describe the most common attitude of Russians towards their own country?

E.C.: First of all, most Russians have a very specific attitude toward themselves, one that is quite wrong and insecure. And this is why our attitude towards our country is also incorrect. We don’t love our smaller homeland, meaning the place we were born, grew up and now live. We allow it to be spoiled, to be built up with structures we don’t like, to have its nature destroyed. This is very bad. And this all happens because ingrained in the Russian mentality is a deep insecurity. It is absolutely clear that we consider ourselves lesser people in comparison to Europeans and Americans. This is why our consciousness is periodically skewed.

C.I.: In what way does it become skewed?

E.C.: For example, in our attitude towards other people. Like towards people of the Caucasus region. Nationalism, it’s there because of our insecurities. This is a big tragedy for Russia. I am convinced that Russia is a multinational state. As soon as we realize that Russians are not lesser to Europeans and Americans, our insecurities will crumble, and we will finally understand that our country’s strength is in the different mentalities of our different nationalities. The people of the Caucasus have one mentality, Russians – another, the Chukchi – a third, and this isn’t bad! It’s so great that we are all so different. The fact that the Caucasus is different from you is not a reason to fight [attack?] it. Only a solid, strong nation understands this.

C.I.: How do you envision Russia’s near future? How do you see the country today?

E.C.: Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] doesn’t let strong opponents anywhere near him. So Russians have a fabricated illusion that they are surrounded by a scorched desert with only one savior who can save the nation. It’s a shame that the highest seat of power in Russia is occupied by a person whose only goal is personal enrichment. This system (since it is comprised of more than one person) has created a clan that has snatched up power and now serves its personal interests using the resources of our wealthy country. Take, for example, the oil “we” are selling: there was a time when its sale supported our whole military-industrial complex, which made half the world tremble. Today this money is used to travel and entertain abroad and to send children to foreign schools. This is another sad tendency: government officials don’t tie their fate and the fate of their children to that of the country, and with all their strength, they try to get American or British citizenship.

To address the central issue of your question, my short term prognosis is this: the resource economics will grow stronger, and corruption will continue and prosper. I see how the officials — Putin and Sarkozy — are uniting, how the French people are given the chance to rob our country by colonization: they are building offshore schemes for which funds from this project will be removed from our country.

C.I.: In your work there is an example of this: you were able to prove that the French company Vinci built a financial scheme through which a network of companies will be sent money from the Moscow-Saint Petersburg highway project to fund offshore construction.

E.C.: Yes, we founded this together with Bankwatch. The majority of these structures are owned by individuals who are unknown to the public. One of the offshore structures on Cyprus belongs to the oligarch Arkady Rotenburg, a close friend of Putin’s. I would like to remind you that it was Putin who broke federal law (number 172) when he designated the land on which Khimki forest stands for the Moscow-Saint Petersburg highway.