Boris Akunin: If Navalny is jailed

17 April 2013 

Source: (info)
If Navalny is sent to jail, Russia will fall into a rut it will be impossible to get out off before we reach the final destination. And this last station will be called Revolution Square.

We have already embarked on this dead-end track once before: on 24 September 2011. At that time I cited here, on my blog, an article from the New York Times: "The next Russian Revolution started this month. It will be another two or three or even four decades before the Russian people take to the streets to overthrow their dictator — and the timing will depend more on the price of oil than on anything else — but as of Sept. 24, revolution rather than evolution became Russia’s most likely path in the medium term."

Then in December by some miracle we jumped off that fatal track, and now we are returning to it, under even more gloomy circumstances, against a background of repression and imprisonments, means that the revolution is not twenty years away, but much nearer.

This is no artistic exaggeration or 'crying wolf.' It is a logical chain.

If Navalny is sent to jail, then it is an absolute certainty that those arrested in the 6 May case will be jailed too. And you can be sure that that will not be the end of the affair. Because, once they've said 'a' and 'b', they'll be forced to go through the entire alphabet right to the end.

If Navalny is sent to jail, the concept of centrism, which people like me have been defending all these last 18 months, will be destroyed. Our only remaining option will be to keep quiet. It turns out that those who were foaming at the mouth trying to get through to us that you cannot play with the Putin regime using legal means, that white ribbons and bright smiles would not drive this cloud away, will have been proved right.

Centrism is a very broad concept. It unites all those who want a smooth, gradual transition to democracy: from the pre-Putin era Kudrin-Prokhorov on one flank to the radical Navalny on the other, and "people like me" somewhere in the middle.

Yes, Aleksei Navalny is also one of the "centrists." Despite all his protest rally rhetoric, he did not want to smash up the political system, but purge it of corruption; he had no plans to storm the Kremlin, but to participate in elections. That is the position of a reformer, not a revolutionary. A term of imprisonment for Navalny will be equivalent to a defeat for the very idea of non-violent regeneration.

Putin's regime will not hold out for long in any case, because in today's world an autocratic model of governance is archaic and hopelessly ineffective. But there will be no peaceful retirement after the loss of an election. There will be an overthrow of the government. With a crash and a bang and quite possibly a splattering of blood. As a result someone will come to power who is capable of crossing over through this blood. Possibly Navalny himself, but not today's Navalny, but one hardened by life behind bars.

If Navalny is jailed, the mainstream opposition will inevitably become revolutionaries. And it won't be the harmless buffoon Limonov or the angry intellectuals Kasparov and Piontkovsky. New leaders and new ways of fighting will emerge. The chief slogan will be one of irreconcilability: "Either we'll destroy them - or they'll destroy us."

As for the centrists, they will split into two groups. One will unite with the "revolutionaries", the other will join the ranks of the Putinists (only up until the first bang, of course).

"People like me" will not side with one one group or the other. It's clear why we won't join the Putinists. They stink to high heaven. But we won't call anyone to revolution either. Because we clearly understand: it would be us doing the calling, but it would be the young people who would fall under the batons, and even bullets.

So okay, it isn't really about "people like me" at all. Just as we have been featuring in a small way now and again in the political news (not "our" news) over the past 18 months, so we shall no longer figure there. We shall return with relief to our familiar and beloved work. But then again that isn't true: there will be no sense of relief. There will be bitterness and a feeling of guilt that we tried to avert a disaster and did not succeed. That is all I have been thinking about lately. 

If everything does turn out that way (and if Navalny is jailed, it definitely will), then what lies ahead of us, all of us, is exactly that: disaster.

And out along the Rublyovka a little man swims in a big pool and plays with big dogs, revelling in his grandeur, thinking he will live forever. He sees nothing, hears nothing, understands nothing.

Source: "A love of history"