Photo: Nina Haasw/DW
“As the founder of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation, I have to believe in the European future of our country because it’s a part of my father’s political legacy. If I had not believed in this democratic future, I would shut down the Foundation. So that’s why I think that it’s probably a remote perspective, I do not see it probably in any foreseeable future. It is still probable, I do not exclude it.
I think one of the mistakes made after the collapse of the Soviet Union was that the new political leadership neglected Russian society. They did not make enough efforts to support the Memorial and to broadly say to reeducate people, to explain to people what democracy means, one of the main concepts of democracy is why these institutions matter, and why you should be engaged in politics.
People in Russia have no idea about that and this is why they did not engage. Even after Putin announced the conscription on the 21st of September and people had a couple of chances to avoid conscription, they did not know about their rights. So they were called up and they were ready to sacrifice their lives. So that is why, how it works in the practical, this total reliance on the Russian state. So if we want to think about the democratic future, we should think about Russian society and how they understand democracy. Unfortunately, I have to admit that if we speak about the attitude toward the war in Ukraine, the majority of our people are neutral. They do not care about the war in Ukraine, they do not want to read about that, they think they cannot influence, they think and they believe this narrative of Putin that we will never know the truth and that’s why they give up. I`ve been thinking about what we can do because we as people who are in exile and safe, have to speak with Russians, and in my opinion, it’s our biggest mission. And I was thinking about how we can count this narrative, how we can probably slightly change public opinion toward the war in Ukraine as well which is the most important thing, so they start to make an effort to think about it and to reflect the atrocities committed in Ukraine by Russians troops.
I believe that rational arguments do not work in this situation, because people will simply deny the facts, and say that everything is not true. The only thing that might work is an emotional argument. I believe there should be people who are talking to Russians and appealing to their emotions. So they say “I like this person and I think she is right or he is right” that is how we can start to ensure any democratic transition. People are important and we have to work with our society inside our country now.”