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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Democracy Suffers From 'Democrats'

Gathered together on Friday's "Vox Populi" show, hosted on TV6 by Svetlana Sorokina, some of Russia's best-known journalists -- Sergei Dorenko, Pavel Gusev, Viktor Shenderovich and Genrikh Borovik -- got down to a bit of soul-searching in front of millions of viewers.

"Our profession is in ruins. We are stupid, mercenary and the people don't trust us," the famous journalists said, referring to their colleagues.

"You are stupid and mercenary and we don't trust you," the studio audience was happy to confirm.

I must confess that this motley gathering failed to fill me with revulsion for my profession because on the same day I picked up a copy of a book by Dmitry Furman, a journalist who is neither stupid nor mercenary. The Letny Sad publishing house has released a collection of his articles that were published from 1991 to 2001 in Obshchaya Gazeta and a number of other publications. The title is simply, "Our Ten Years." First and foremost he deals with the establishment of democracy in our country.

Furman's basic premise can be pieced together from articles published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta in the autumn of 1991, at the peak of democratic euphoria following the defeat of the putsch.

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"Democracy is not the supremacy of a party of 'democrats,' and all the more so not of our so-called democrats. Democracy is about the fight between political parties within the framework of the law. At the moment, the democrats stand virtually unopposed because the Communist Party has collapsed. However, while the democrats don't need an opposition, democracy itself needs it just as we need oxygen. ... We need criticism of our particular strain of democracy, in which the ideas of democracy are more and more being replaced by the idea of a great Russia under Yeltsin. ... And the coming authoritarianism will be our punishment ... for our willingness to elect as a deputy any rascal who declares himself a democrat and an anti-communist."

These ideas would seem to be pretty basic. However, these apparently self-evident views have been pushed onto the fringes of our, and Western, mainstream discussions of democracy in Russia.

Now it is possible to assess who was right. The views of the mainstream have led to a series of crimes and misdemeanors by the so-called democrats and the "democratic" press against true democracy. On this long list are: the shelling of a legally elected parliament in 1993, the embarassment of the 1996 presidential elections, the collapse in August 1998 of so-called reform policies in whose name all these sins were committed, the periodical outburst of debate in the West about "who lost Russia" and a situation in which our incumbent president is more appointed than elected.

The rituals of repentance that our media occasionally go through are also to a considerable degree rooted in these mainstream ideas. By recognizing the bankruptcy of one group of idols, one can find new ones. And once again you're set to trample on elementary democratic rules and procedures.

So what about the "marginal" Dmitry Furman? In the early 1990s, the writer and dissident Andrei Sinyavsky founded the Cassandra Prize. To date, Furman is its one and only laureate. If you read through his articles of the past 10 years you can see how many of his apparently fantastical predictions have come true. And his predictions for the future also make for interesting reading.

This is a man who has nothing for which to repent.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals (www.internews.ru/sreda)