Medvedev Offers Sign Of Hope and Glasnost
- By Andreas Umland
- Feb. 03 2009 00:00
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While the question of Medvedev's actual power remains open, his meeting on Thursday with Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of the country's largest opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, gives reason for hope. Medvedev invited Muratov and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a Novaya Gazeta co-owner, to the Kremlin after the killing of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Novaya Gazeta freelance correspondent Anastasia Baburova.
The meeting between Medvedev, Muratov and Gorbachev in itself is remarkable. In a best-case scenario, this could have far-reaching consequences for Russia's domestic and foreign policies.
Although the meeting was closed to the media, Muratov was given permission to report on their conversation. Muratov reportedly complained to Medvedev that the remnants of the democratic movement are regularly attacked in mass media. Medvedev also spoke out, as he had done before, in favor of reforming of the notoriously corrupt legal system. When Muratov complained about the partial rehabilitation of Stalin in the country's public discourse, Medvedev agreed that "it is necessary that the people understand and research the period" of Stalin's rule.
Most important, Muratov was left with a positive impression of Medvedev and pleasantly surprised by the president's knowledge of Russia's ailments and his ability to listen.
This meeting could one day be seen as a symbolic and consequential event in Russia's post-Soviet history. Twenty years ago, General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev initiated a similar rapprochement with Moscow's liberal intellectuals, ushering in the democratization of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War. Medvedev's demonstrative support for Novaya Gazeta could be a starting point for a similar transformation.
Andreas Umland is editor of the book series "Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society."