20 years under Putin: a timeline

C.I.: Why are you so interested in this particular forest?

E.C.: For several reasons. The forest is relatively close to Moscow; realtors estimate its value at about 8,000 dollars for 100 acres. At the same time, government officials estimated it to be worth 4,000 rubles per acre. This is a big difference. This whole forest doesn’t factor in to the urban development plans of Moscow – there’s only the infrastructure next to the new highway. If this highway is built through the forest, the forest will die within the first couple of years because of the harmful human impact, and then the entire 1,500 hectares can be used for commercial development.


Another reason centers around the exploitation of the toll road. The French company Vinci will earn profit from this illegal project and share it with the oligarch who is close to Putin, the one who lobbied for this detrimental and illegal project in the first place. Public opinion polls done by the Levada Center showed that 76 percent of the population is against the destruction of the Khimki forest and support changing the project. It was the Vinci company that spoke ​​at a government meeting on December 14, 2010, demanding that the highway through the woods not be modified. If that had happened, Vinci was going to demand compensation from the Russians, which is strange considering that the project is financed by Russian taxpayer money.

Not only this – coming back to the question about the future – the situation with judges not ruling according to law will become more dire. It’s not the army that will become stronger, but the government agencies with which the country suppresses the inconvenient moods of its own citizens.

C.I.: So, a “tightening of the screws?”

E.C.: This type of crackdown can’t even be called a “tightening of the screws.” I would say it’s a sign of our country falling apart.

C.I.: Do you think there’s a risk of the country closing its borders?

E.C.: No, the borders won’t be closed – the officials keep their money abroad. This is not the Soviet Union, which had an ideology that didn’t allow open borders. The situation has changed: now the officials have caught onto the glamour and insatiable hunger for consumption, which came from abroad. Our officials are slaves to this consumption: to keep consuming at this level, they have to steal from their own country. They spit on moral and other norms because they want to con-sume. But this lowly culture of the officials, in essence, mirrors what is happening to our people. Because we haven’t been cured from this glamour sickness, we don’t even notice and don’t pay attention to the fact that our resources are becoming non-existent, and that soon there will be nothing left for our children.

C.I.: What would you say is the most serious obstacle for the opposition in its fight against the regime?

E.C.: I see the following misfortune: members of the opposition do not agree with each other. This is a big problem. Actually, Russians in general, if you examine this on any level, are not able to come to an agreement and solve problems together. This is also Russia’s misfortune. It’s a grave misfortune that we don’t have a normal civil society--we haven’t learned to love one another, to protect, respect or cooperate with each other. And, frankly, it is because of this fragmentation that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is still in power.

C.I.: Not long ago the political commentator and Snob columnist Nikolai Klimenyuk wrote that the real opposition in Russia is comprised only of Nemtsov, Navalny and Chirikova.

E.C.: No, no, this is obviously not so. He is forgetting that there is also the National Bolshevik Party. There is also the Left. And the Right! Together they are pretty strong because today, the regime spits equally on leftists, right-wingers, environmentalists, and anti-corruption advocates.