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Not all Russians accept Vladimir Putin’s view that Russia must follow a path separate from Europe, one that is increasingly dividing the Russian Federation not only from the European Union but also from the values of democracy and freedom many Russians share.
One who doesn’t is Anton Krasovsky, a journalist and gay activist, who has published a remarkable cri de coeur in an equally remarkable place, the current issue of a Pskov newspaper, “Pskovskaya guberniya” (and reposted at “Chastny Korrespondent”).
Where Moscow is now was shown by the Kremlin’s decision to send Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rather than the Russian president or prime minister to march in Paris. Lavrov was “put in the fourth row, somewhere between the military attache of the Nigerian embassy and the education minister of Honduras.”
Moreover, Krasovsky notes, Lavrov stayed with the march only a few blocks “and then went to a Russian church to light a candle for the Donbas. It would seem that the minister did not do anything important, but he in fact did: He answered the most central question and this who are we?”
“Russia of course is Europe otherwise no one would have gone,” the journalist says. But it is the most provincial part, “in the suburbs” as it were, and thus something “without which Europe can easily continue, just as Russia could continue without Crimea.” In essence, “no one needs present-day Russia.”
“For a contemporary European, Russia is like Judea for an ancient Roman of the time of Christ. A colony far away and alien.” But there is a distance, “no one has sent manacles” to Russia or required tribute. “We ourselves have decided to put them on. We have colonized ourselves.”
We Russians “have decided that Europe is our enemy and that America is a universal evil, that the bases in Poland threaten each of us, that our word given to the Ukrainians is meaningless, that homosexuals are going to hell, and that Caucasians are going to heaven.”
But, Krasovsky says, “I am a Russian and I am a European” as well.
“You ask me: do I want NATO bases at Russia’s borders? No! I want these bases to be in Russia. I want NATO facilities in Pskov and in Tver, in Vladivostok and in Novosibirsk. But I want them to be Russian facilities” because as part of Europe, Russia should be part of NATO to fight all the challenges Europe faces.
“I am a Russian and I am a European. I want Russia to be a member of the EU. I consider that I have the right to go to Athens and Helsinki without a visa. And I want to guarantee the security of the European Union.”
“I am a Russian and I am a European. And I want the Russian president to stand in one rank with the president of France and the chancellor of Germany” against the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and in fact always.
“I am a Russian and I am a European, and I want that here in my country there will be the freedoms written in my Constitution. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought and belief. I stood up for them in August 1991 and I will never forget that they were taken from me in December 1999.”
“I am a Russian and I am a European, and I want that a Tajik, a Somalian, and a Mongol will not be afraid to go into the streets in my country … I want to hear the voice of a mullah in a Moscow minaret just as I want to hear the sound of bells in my own church” in France.
“I am a Russian and I am a European, and I want that my people, all 142 million of my people have the right to choose their president, their governor and their mayor.”
“I am a Russian and I am a European, and I want that each adult have the right to love any other adult, to enter into marriage, to hold hands in a hospital, to educate their children, to divorce and even to fight in court over property.”
“I am a Russian and I am a European. I want that my country keep its word… including to Ukraine, the security and freedom of which we promised. That means each of us. And we have not fulfilled this promise like liars or hypocrites.”
Finally, Krasovsky writes, “I am a Russian and I am a European, and I want that my president” also wears a button saying “Je suis Charlie because I am a Russian, I am a European and Je suis Charlie.”