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“So Andrei—what now? Are Russians just waiting?”
“This will all develop gradually. But no, we can't just sit and wait.”
“You told me last time I was here that the answer is not a bloody revolution.”
“Right, that would be death to our country.”
“But the answer is also not to sit and wait.”
“Civil society needs to be developed. We all have to take our own small steps.”
Truth be told, that comes directly from the message playbook of Putin and his cronies.
They often say that Russia's citizenry is not yet “developed” enough to have true demo-
“Did the experience here give you—personally—more faith in these values we're talk-
ing about?”
Andrei pauses.
“When all this happened, I made a lot of friends. And in our life the most important
value is the human resource.”
Now I'm thinking about the babushkas, who in times of tragedy turned to one another
and found a true sense of community to get by. I'm thinking about Boris, and how his time
in that cramped communal apartment with Gia was the best time in his life.
“Honestly, Andrei, what you want really sounds like what we have in my country. Isn't
that ultimately the right choice for Russia?”
I have now opened up a whole new can of worms.
“You want to know something? I don't like your system of electing presidents.”
Okay, the Electoral College is weird. Point for Andrei.
“And your congressmen all have the same names, don't they?”
He's suggesting the same families often dominate American politics. And he has a point
here, too.
I have often reported on Putin's potential reign—if he wins reelection as president and
stays in the Kremlin through 2024, he will have been in power either as president or prime
minister for twenty-four consecutive years. While that is unheard of in the United States, I
do take Andrei's point. I put my notebook on the table, and scribble names in order. “Bush
Clinton Clinton Bush Bush Obama Obama Clinton Clinton.”
I am pointing out that, if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in 2016, there's the po-
tential for a few familiar names to have occupied the White House over thirty-six years of
American history.
“Neepravilno! [not right]” Andrei yells, laughing. Everyone else joins in.
But then I press Andrei on what really he dislikes about Western-style democracy.
“I don't understand why in European countries, they have gone so quickly from being
so religious, so hateful of gay marriage, to enshrining it in their laws.”
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