Anchor: Alexander Isayevich, but the situation in the CIS countries, in the republics surrounding Russia is still more complicated. Perhaps this may account for the fact that Russia suddenly found itself ringed by "orange revolutions"? How do you account for this? Are these processes controlled from without? And there are some other who say that Russia is reaping the fruits of its own shortsighted policy in the Commonwealth countries?
Solzhenitsyn: There are two concepts involved, two questions, I'll stick to two, okay. The first question is the state of the CIS. I am not suggesting that things are better in the CIS. When they announced the creation of oriental dictatorships in the CIS, the West promptly wrote: democracy is assured. Central Asia and Kazakhstan are awash in democracy. Turkmenistan -- that's a democracy. Yes, they were in a hurry to recognize. Yes, the situation in the CIS countries is still more complex.
But it is no longer any of our business to educate the CIS countries. We have drifted apart, we are separate, we would be lucky if we manage to preserve a common economic space. I am sure that Ukraine will ruin the common economic space of the four countries. But let us try to preserve it if we can. For the rest, our relationships with the CIS should boil down to this: to be the best so that they should envy us. To run this country in a way that everybody would look at us and say: Ah, how wonderful, we wish we could learn from Russia.
As it is, who can respect Russia if they see that Russians can be trampled underfoot in any national republics without Russia ever stepping in to defend them. It fails to interfere, it provides no consular protection. That alone rules out any respect for Russia. Thinking about the relations with the CIS, I think we should first of all try to cure ourselves. And let the CIS cure itself. The common economic space may be saved. You speak about "orange revolutions". Strangely, I myself marveled when the orange revolution occurred. The methods are reminiscent of our revolution in February 1917.
It's difficult to imagine, it's a different era. But the methods are the same. Great rifts within society, the public is dead against the government. Secondly, discontent, economic discontent at the bottom. Third, the behavior of the educated classes. When Petersburg had no brown bread, but an abundance of white bread and the shops were chock-full of all sort of products, students and the bourgeois public took to the streets, surrounded public buildings and squares and shouted: "We want bread!" It was not bread that they wanted, they wanted more rioting.
Of course, disturbances on such a scale couldn't have started without financial assistance from abroad. There was assistance. Now at last we have dug up all these facts, everything is known. In fact, it has been known all along, but it finally sank in to our public. German money, German money went through Scandinavia reaching the Bolsheviks and not only them.
Those who staged demonstrations received money. But the opportunities then were limited. At that time money could be transferred in little suitcases and in small remittances. Now world financial channels are open to billions. There is mutual information through the Internet, all types of communications. You can ask for aid instantly and you will get what you need.
The "orange revolutions" do not represent any new discovery. Given internal discord, and contrast between the public and the authorities, if the opposition
gets help from outside, an orange revolution is sure to take place. And orange revolutions have happened everywhere, well, not yet everywhere, there are different versions in different places.
Anchor: So, there are two factors, you think, the internal and the external?
Solzhenitsyn: By all means, nothing can be accomplished without the internal factors. But if the internal factors are in place, they need money, they need help. The Ukrainian and Georgian revolutions got more than enough money. They got loads of money.
Johnson's Russia List 9174, #1. (It is supposed to be archived at www.fednews.ru but I can't find it there.)
Solzhenitsyn is a hero to a lot of Ukrainians. That might change.
Update: In case anyone might think differently, I have a great amount of respect for Solzhenitsyn. How could anyone not have based on his history and work? And I think he has diagnosed some of the problems of Russia today and all there would be better off to listen to him right about now.
But I do think he is wrong about what happened here. That though still leaves a very high batting average.