Saturday, February 28, 2015

28/2/15: A sad day for Russia.


Tonight, in Moscow, a gunman shot dead one of the most charismatic and experienced leaders of Russian liberal opposition, Boris Nemtsov.

Here is the best obituary I have read so far (in Russian) from any source: Western or Russian: http://kommersant.ru/doc/2677630

It sums up perfectly the vision of Nemtsov, the memory of his public life that I have in my own mind.

He was legendary as the Governor of Nizhniy Novgorod - both in his managerial and reformist roles and in his ability to speak openly about his views on Yeltsin Presidency. He was given a tough lot as a Deputy PM in 1997 and he did the job, honestly and to his best ability. He was relentless in trying to build a fully functional opposition within the liberal wing in Russian politics, and he never succeeded in doing that - not for the lack of trying or the lack of talent, but for the lack of liberal tradition and culture in Russia. Despite that, he and his fellow thinker, Garry Kasparov, remained and will remain respected by many, including those who did not support them.

There is a political 'weight' to every public intellectual and leader. Nemtsov had that. Nemtsov had huge public support in the 1990s, and despite the fact that he had little popular backing after 1997, he held high moral and intellectual ground and never traded away idealism of his opposition to President Putin for pragmatism of having a shot at gradual reforms. This waining of popular support for him and his causes is sad, because he was a talented, bright, experienced, hard working politician Russia needed and needs. And he brought into public ideas and ideals that Russia needed and needs - ideas and ideals of alternative, of functional opposition.

There is an 'integrity' weight to every public intellectual and leader too - a combination of honesty, openness, transparency and willingness to learn, accept and acknowledge mistake. In that currency, Nemtsov was pure gold. And that Russia will always have as a memory of him.

The White House statements - http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/27/statement-president-murder-boris-nemtsov - and I would say it is also pitch-perfect: "Nemtsov was a tireless advocate for his country, seeking for his fellow Russian citizens the rights to which all people are entitled.  I admired Nemtsov’s courageous dedication to the struggle against corruption in Russia... We offer our sincere condolences to Boris Efimovich’s family, and to the Russian people, who have lost one of the most dedicated and eloquent defenders of their rights."

Boris Nemtsov is survived by his four children, and his mother. May he rest in peace!

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