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Dmitry Medvedev’s Laughable Call For Reform

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
So the president of Russia continues his effort to conquer the Internet space. Dmitry Medvedev's article "Russia, Forward!" which appeared on on September 10, is charming. Its charm is unqualified and unconditional -- I'd even say that it is absolute. At least it would be hard for me to imagine anything more charming.

My first reaction when I read the piece was a desire to copy it and rework it a bit. For example, maybe put it on a pink background and decorate it with flowers here and there. To mark out particular paragraphs with lipstick kisses and others with smiley faces.

After completing the article, my reaction was a feeling of discomfort. For myself mostly. (After all, he is writing to me! It says right there in the preface: "The article being published today was written to convey to you, to all citizens of Russia...") Why did I read it? Don't I have anything better to read? Why, for his sake, of course. After all, no grown-up, self-respecting person should appear so pathetic. They shouldn't so openly and publicly display their own helplessness.

On the other hand, people shouldn't so brazenly and with such open, unconcealed cynicism demonstrate their complete contempt and spite for the intellectual abilities of the population temporarily under their power. He isn't taking just me for an idiot, but everyone in the country. So I also felt discomfort on behalf of the country.

Playing For Laughs

As soon as I read it, I was asking myself: What is this? A cry of the soul? A suicide note? A letter to Vladimir Putin? To his wife? To posterity? To historians? No, no, my friends. This letter is addressed first and foremost to idiots. But you and I are not idiots. At least, not all of us.

That's why it's just funny for us to read: "The global economic crisis has shown that the situation here is far from ideal. Twenty years of stormy transformations have still not ridded our country of its humiliating dependence on natural resources." Was this really not obvious before the crisis?

That's why it's funny for us when we read: "Democratic institutions as a whole have been formed and stabilized, but their quality is far from ideal. Civil society is weak, and the level of self-organization and self-management is low." After all, isn't it you, Mr. President, and your team (which, of course, is not really yours but Putin's) who have been trampling those very "democratic institutions" and smashing into the asphalt the sprouts of our "civil society" all these last years? And now you act surprised that "their quality is far from ideal"?

That's why it's funny for us to read: "With each year, there are fewer of us." Indeed -- with each passing year there are more of YOU and fewer of US.

List Of Ills

That's why it's funny for us to read: "An ineffective economy, a semi-Soviet social sphere, an unformed democracy, negative demographic tendencies, an unstable Caucasus. These are very big problems, even for a state like Russia." And after this apocalyptic account, we hear the following darling phrase: "Of course, one shouldn't lay it on thick." But maybe we should lay it on thick? Maybe we should name those who are to blame for all these unexpected misfortunes raining down on our long-suffering country?

That's why it's funny for us to read: "Bribe taking, thievery, mental and spiritual laziness, drunkenness -- these are the vices that shame our traditions. We must rid ourselves of them using the most decisive means." To whom are you attributing these vices, which are so offensive to YOUR traditions? To you yourself? To your family? To your friends? Oh, I see, you are talking about us. Well, then, of course...

That's why it's funny for us to read: "We are living in a truly new time. And not only because it is moving forward, like time always does." I'm even embarrassed to explain why this is funny, but it had me laughing my ass off.

That's why it's funny for us to read: "We really are living in a unique time. We have a chance to build a new, free, prosperous, strong Russia." This is funny because we perfectly well understand that with you around there is no such chance – never has been and never will. Russia, probably, has a chance, but without you. Only without you.

That's why it's funny for us to read: "Talented people, striving for renewal, capable of creating something new and better are not going to fly down to us from some other planet. They are here, among us." Of course, they are here for now, among us, but they are in a plastic cage. And pretty soon they'll head back to their prison camp in Chita Oblast.

Who's Protecting Whom?

That's why it's funny for us to read: "The dissemination of modern information technologies, which we will do everything possible to facilitate, give us an unprecedented opportunity to realize such fundamental political liberties as freedom of speech and of assembly." Here we are simply laughing ourselves to death. One just wants to add one little detail to his amazing sentence. Something like, "the dissemination of modern information technologies among agents of the security services..."

That's why it's funny for us to read: "We must also rid ourselves of our contempt for law and the courts, which, as I have said many times, has become our sad ‘tradition.'" Here he is talking about HIS tradition. We haven't had the chance to despise our judges. Maybe if one were given a real prison term, then we'd be happy to despise him.

That's why it's funny for us to read: "Many times, it was Russia who extended protection to small nations who encountered threats of enslavement or destruction. This happened again quite recently, when the Saakashvili regime launched a criminal attack against South Ossetia. More than once the aggressive plans of those who sought to dominate the world were destroyed. Twice Russia was in the forefront of great coalitions -- in the 19th century, to stop Napoleon and in the 20th, to destroy the Nazis." But such things probably aren't funny to Putin. He probably isn't too happy that Medvedev put Saakashvili on a par with Napoleon, who -- if my memory serves me right -- Tsar Aleksandr I first promised to hang by the balls. (Calm down, committee on the falsification of history. That was just a joke.)

That's why it's funny for us to read: "I invite everyone who shares my convictions to cooperate. I invite those who do not agree with me, but who are sincere in their desire to change things for the better. Some people will try to hinder our work. Influential groups of corrupt officials and entrepreneurs who produce nothing. They have it good now. They have ‘everything.' They are content. They intend to live until the end of time by squeezing profits out of what is left of Soviet industry, by pillaging the natural riches that belong to all of us. They don't create anything new. They don't want to develop – they fear it. But the future does not belong to them. It belongs to us." Actually, this already isn't funny anymore. It is repulsive.

To be honest, I'm not very sorry for Medvedev. Because I don't believe for a second that he is sincere. He wants to "cooperate"? Then he can start by firing Putin, by dissolving the Duma, and then we'll see. He can't, you say? Then what is he pretending for? So that maybe someday something will happen? It would have been better to stick his letter into a time capsule and bury it under the biggest Kremlin tower than to humiliate himself like this in front of all honest people.

Aleksandr Ryklin is a Moscow-based commentator. The views expressed in this commentary, which originally appeared on the website "Yezhedenevny zhurnal," are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL