They?re Still Painting, and More: The Leipzig Art Scene

First a success, then a bubble: the hype surrounding the ?New Leipzig School? put the city on the map of the art world, but also blinkered its vision.... more more

GoetheInstitute

03/05/2007

Time to back the Other Russia

Andre Glucksmann asks Europe to think less opportunistically and act more decisively towards Russia

When the East Bloc tanks mowed down the Prague spring, there were nine of them on Red Square: nine dissidents, nine brave men and women who challenged the Soviet dictatorship. Only a few European intellectuals were impressed and arranged for these lone heroes to be liberated from the psychiatric facilities in which they were then detained by the political police.

And yet, 21 years later, the European chambers and general staffs are discovering to their astonishment that these featherweights - Solzhenizyn, Sakharov, Bukovsky and the nine on the Red Square – had in fact conquered the Soviet empire.

All the greats of this world are victims of the Stalin syndrome: "The Pope. How many divisions has he got?" But unfortunately, these despots correct their miscalculations faster than the democrats. The very secret service in which Putin did his primary education (before reaching the top of the KGB and the Russian state) tried to liquidate Johannes Paul II before Western governments had even begun to understand what an immense anti-totalitarian freedom fight Woytila symbolised.

The new dissidence that was recently manifested in Moscow failed to impress the moral and political authorities. Paris, Rome, London, Berlin turned away and came to their own conclusion: Putin, his oil and gas, his weapons of destruction and the weapons that he sells to the entire world weigh more than a few thousand demonstrators who are beaten, dispersed and arrested by security forces ten times stronger. Schröder pockets his dividends from Gazprom, Jacques Chirac goes into retirement without the slightest regret for the legion of honour that he stuck on Putin's back (more). And Romani Prodi seems to confuse Putin with Pushkin.

Anna Poltikovskaya
was murdered and has already been forgotten (more), together with dozens of other journalists who became the victims of fatal contracts. Journalists investigating the forces behind the building that was blown up in Moscow are eliminated. 300 people died in the explosion and it was used to justify the war in Chechnya. And Litvinenko was poisoned with Polonium (more).

Khodorkovsky
and Trepashkin are locked up in deepest Siberia. Every fourth or fifth Chechnen has lost his life. Gary Kasparov and his friends are receiving threats and being prevented from demonstrating with a rose in one hand and the Russian constitution in the other. How many heads have to roll, how many hopes destroyed before Europeans, those champions of human rights, finally react?

"For Europeans, 5 000 people on the street doesn't mean that much. But in a country in which taking part in a demonstration can have serious consequences, even 1000 people are a real success," explains the former chess player. Dear reader, understand the euphemism that hides in this sentence: because these demonstrators live in a place where "a bullet in the head is still the fastest way to solve a conflict" (as a prescient Anna Poltikowskaja wrote in 2003).

Careful! Don't think that this is just about idealism, morality and values. Don't think this is about good guys against reality, the ethic of conviction against that of responsibility.

Since when is is realistic and responsible to let an autocratic power grow on a sixth of the earth's surface - a power that nobody can control other than the masters in the Kremlin, his secret service, his police and army? Have we forgotten that Russia has the second largest atomic weapon arsenal in the world and an unparalleled ability to blackmail with oil and gas?

If censorship, corruption, beatings, threats and murder prevent all forms of criticism, and silence the opposition, then nobody will be left in Russian society to stand up for democracy, reason, responsibility, caution and human respect.

Have you learned nothing, you European greats? Do you think it's smart to watch all the internal opposition powers – the only ones that could possibly help reign in a unilateral power that seems, willingly or not, bent on destroying the world - be decimated?

It might be worth recalling the historical summary that Vladimir Putin delivered to the Duma in April 2005, in which he called the fall of the Soviet Union "the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the century." In the eyes of our great man, neither Auschwitz nor Hiroshima, neither of the two world wars not the millions who died in the Gulag compete for this title as the worst events in 20th century history.

The razing of Grosny, the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Chechen civilians, the decimation of the already diminished freedom of expression in Russia are evidence of the Kremlin's obsession: terror of any form of critical questioning.

It's time that the European Union stand up for the freedom that it has passionately defended since Greek antiquity. This passion can be attributed to its origins. It animated the anti-totalitarian revolts in Berlin (1953), Poland's awakening (1956), the uprisings in Budapest (1956), Prague, Warsaw and finally the fall of the Berlin Wall. And what resulted: from the student revolts against Milosevic in Belgrade to the Rose revolution in Tbilisi to the Kiev December in Orange. It's high time that we articulated clearly that the soul of Europe does not lie in a few divisions, but rather in the Other Russia and Gary Kasparov.


*

This text originally appeared in French in Figaro on April 25, 2007, then in Perlentaucher on May 3.
Andre Glucksmann is a French philosopher who was active in the protest movement of the 1960s and opposed the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. His most recent book is "Une rage d'enfant" (reviewed
here). Here some further features by Glucksmann.

Translation from the German: nb.

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles.
signandsight.com - let's talk european.

 
More articles

This kiss for the whole world

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who actually owns "intellectual property"?  The German media that defend the concept of intellectual property as "real" property are the first to appropriate such rights, and they are using this idea as a defensive weapon. With lawmakers extending copyright laws and new structures emerging on the internet, intellectual property poses a serious challenge to the public domain. A survey of the German media landscape by Thierry Chervel
read more

Suddenly we know we are many

Wednesday 4th January, 2012

Why the Russian youth have tolerated the political situation in their country for so long and why they are no longer tolerant. The poet Natalia Klyuchareva explains the background to the protests on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on December 10th. Image: Leonid Faerberg
read more

The Republic of Europe

Tuesday 20 December, 2011

Thanks to Radoslaw Sikorski's speech in Berlin, Poland has at last joined the big European debate about restructuring the EU in connection with the euro crisis. The "European Reformation" advocated by Germany does not mean that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation will be established in Europe, but instead – let us hope – the Republic of Europe. By Adam Krzeminski
read more

Brown is not red

Tuesday 13 December, 2011

TeaserPicFilmmaker and theatre director Andres Veiel disagrees with the parallels currently being drawn between left-wing and right-wing violence in Germany. The RAF is the wrong model for the Zwickau neo-Nazi group, the so-called "Brown Army Faction" responsible for a series of murders of Turkish small business owners. Unlike the RAF, this group never publicly claimed responsibility for their crimes. Veiel is emphatic - you have to look at the biographies of the perpetrators. An interview with Heike Karen Runge.
read more

Legacy of denial

Tuesday 29 November, 2011

TeaserPicGermany has been rocked by the disclosures surrounding the series of neo-Nazi murders of Turkish citizens. In the wake of these events, Former GDR dissident Freya Klier calls for an honest look at the xenophobia cultivated by the policies of the former East Germany, where the core of the so-called "Brown Army Faction" was based. And demands that East Germans finally confront a long-denied past. (Photo: © Nadja Klier)
read more

Nausea in Paris

Monday 14 November, 2011

TeaserPicIn response to the arson attack on the offices of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 2, Danish critic and semiotician Frederik Stjernfelt is nauseated by the opinions voiced against the publication, especially in the British and American media. Why don't they see that Islamism is right-wing extremism?
read more

Just one pyramid

Monday 10 October, 2011

Activist and author, Andri Snaer Magnason is among the Icelandic guests of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. His book and film "Dreamland" is both an ecological call to action and a polemic. "The politicians took one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland and offered it to unscrupulous companies," says the author in a critique of his native country. By Daniela Zinser
read more

Dark side of the light

Monday 3 October 2011

In their book "Lügendes Licht" (lying light) Thomas Worm and Claudia Karstedt explore the darker side of the EU ban on incandescent bulbs. From disposal issues to energy efficiency, the low-energy bulb is not necessarily a beacon of a greener future. By Brigitte Werneburg
read more

Lubricious puritanism

Tuesday 30 August, 2011

The malice of the American media in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a symptom of sexual uptightness that borders on the sinister, and the feminists have joined forces with the religious Right to see it through. We can learn much from America, but not when it comes to the art of love. By Pascal Bruckner
read more

Much ado about Sarrazin

Monday 22 August 2011

Published a year ago, the controversial book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany is doing away with itself) by former banker and Berlin Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin sparked intense discussion. Hamed Abdel-Samad asks: what has the Sarrazin debate achieved beyond polarisation and insult? And how can Germany avoid cultivating its own classes of "future foreigners"?
read more

Economic giant, political dwarf

Wednesday 3 August, 2011

Germany's growing imbalance between economic and political competence is worsening the European crisis and indeed the crisis of Nato. The country has ceased to make any political signals at all and demonstrates a conspicuous lack of responsibility for what takes place beyond its own borders. This smug isolationism is linked to strains of old anti-Western and anti-political, anti-parliamentarian sentiment that is pure provincialism. By Karl Heinz Bohrer
read more

Sound and fury

Monday 11 April 2011

Budapest is shimmering with culture but Hungary's nationalist government is throwing its weight about in cultural life, effecting censorship through budget cuts and putting its own people in the top-level cultural positions. Government tolerance of hate campaigns against Jews and gays has provoked the likes of Andras Schiff, Agnes Heller, Bela Tarr and Andre Fischer to raise their voices in defence of basic human rights. But a lot of people are simply scared. By Volker Hagedorn
read more

The self-determination delusion

Monday 28 March, 2011

TeaserPicA Dutch action group for free will wants to give all people the right to assisted suicide. But can this be achieved without us ending up somewhere we never wanted to go? Gerbert van Loenen has grave doubts.
read more

Revolution without guarantee

Monday 21 February, 2011

Saying revolution and freedom is not the same as saying democracy, respect for minorities, equal rights and good relations with neighbouring nations. All this has yet to be achieved. We welcome the Arab revolution and will continue to watch with our eyes open to the potential dangers. By Andre Glucksmann
read more

Pascal Bruckner and the reality disconnect

Friday 14 January, 2011

The French writer Pascal Bruckner wants to forbid a word. Which sounds more like a typically German obsession. But for Bruckner, "Islamophobia" is one of "those expressions which we dearly need to banish from our vocabulary". One asks oneself with some trepidation which other words we "dearly need" to get rid of: Right-wing populism? Racism? Relativism? By Alan Posener
read more