Russian student blogger Yegor Zhukov has confronted the Kremlin and won. Facing up to 8 years in a Russian penal colony for the crime of consistently protesting against Russian autocracy and corruption, the state arrested Zhukov during the recent anti-government rallies and prosecutors pushed for a lengthy sentence.
Zhukov, 21, was one of about a dozen people placed in pre-trial detention as part of a criminal case opened over the July 27 protest in Moscow. Zhukov’s classmates at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics say he was targeted for openly discussing his political opinions on his YouTube channel, which has more than 100,000 subscribers, reported The Moscow Times.
Students and high-profile Russian artists rallied to his defense. Below is a transcript of Yegor Zhukov’s final statement at his recent trial. It is beautifully written.
The trial, which is taking place now, is devoted first of all, to the words and their meaning. We discussed specific phrases, nuances of formulations, methods of interpretation, and I hope we were able to prove to a respected court that I am not an extremist – both from the point of view of linguistics and from the point of view of common sense.
Now I want to touch on things more fundamental than the meaning of words. I want to talk about the motives of my actions, since the expert also spoke about them. The motives are genuine and deep. Those that make me go in for politics. Motives, following which I including, recorded a video for the channel “Zhukov’s Blog.”
And this is where I want to start. The Russian state today positions itself as the last defender of traditional values. Much attention we are told is given to the institution of the family and patriotism. A key traditional value is called the Christian faith. Your honor, it seems to me, maybe this is even good. Christian ethics includes two values that are truly close to me. First, it is a responsibility. At the heart of Christianity lies the story of a man who decided to put the suffering of the whole world on his shoulders. The story is about a man who took responsibility in the maximum possible sense of the word. In essence, the central idea of the entire Christian religion is the idea of personal responsibility.
Secondly, love. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the main phrase of the Christian religion. Love is trust, compassion, humanism, mutual assistance and care. A society built on such love is a strong society, and perhaps the most powerful of all, in principle, possible.
But in order to understand the motives of my activity, it is enough to look at how the current Russian state – proudly exposing itself as the defender of Christianity, and therefore these values - actually protects them. Before talking about responsibility, you first need to answer the question of what is the ethics of a responsible person, what words he utters to himself throughout his life. It seems to me, these: “Remember, your whole path will be filled with difficulties, sometimes unbearable. All your loved ones will die. All your plans are broken. You will be deceived and abandoned. And you will not run away from death anywhere. Life is suffering. Deal with it. But reconciled with this, resigned to the inevitability of suffering, they still took their cross on their shoulders and follow their dreams, because otherwise everything will only get worse. Be an example, become the one you can rely on. Do not obey despots, fight for the freedom of body and spirit, and the structure of the country in which your children can become happy.
Are we taught this? Is such an ethics adopted by children in schools? Are we honoring such heroes? Not. The current situation in the country destroys any opportunities for human prosperity. 10% of the wealthiest Russians concentrated in their hands 90% of the country’s prosperity. Among them, of course, there are very worthy citizens, but the bulk of this wealth was obtained not by honest labor for the benefit of people, but by banal corruption.
Our society is divided into two levels by an impenetrable barrier. All money is concentrated from above and nobody will give it back from there. From below – without exaggeration – there was only hopelessness. Realizing that they have nothing to rely on, realizing that no matter how hard they try, they cannot bring happiness to themselves or their family, Russian men take out all the anger on their wives, either get drunk or hang themselves. Russia is the first country in the world in the number of male suicides per hundred thousand people. As a result, a third of all families in Russia are single mothers with children. This is we, I want to ask, do we defend the traditional institution of the family?
Miron Fedorov [rapper Oksimiron], who came to my meetings more than once, very correctly and fairly noted: our alcohol is cheaper than a textbook. The state creates all conditions so that between responsibility and irresponsibility a Russian always chooses the second.
And now about love. Love is impossible without trust. Real trust arises during joint activities. First, joint activity is a rare occurrence in a country in which responsibility is not developed. And secondly, if the joint activity still appears somewhere, then it immediately begins to be perceived by the guards as a threat. And it does not matter what you do: whether you help prisoners, if you advocate for human rights, whether you protect nature, sooner or later you will be overtaken with either the status of a “foreign agent” or you’ll be simply locked up.The state (the country) makes it clear: “Guys, wander around your minks and don’t interact with each other. You can’t gather more than two on the street; we’ll put him in a rally. It is impossible to work together on the social agenda, we will give the status of a “foreign agent” ”. Where in such an environment comes trust and, as a result, love? Not romantic, but humanistic love of man for man.
The only social policy that the Russian state has consistently pursued is disunity. So the state mankills us in the eyes of each other. In his eyes, we have long been humanized. How else to explain such a barbaric attitude towards people on his part? The attitude that every day is emphasized by beatings with batons, torture in the colonies, ignoring the HIV epidemic, closing schools and hospitals and so on.
Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror. What have we become, allowing us to do this? We have become a nation that has forgotten how to take responsibility. We have become a nation that has forgotten how to love. More than 200 years ago, Alexander Radishchev, traveling between St. Petersburg and Moscow, wrote: “I looked around me – my soul became wounded by human suffering. “I turned my gaze into my innards – and saw that the calamities of man come from man.” Where are these people today? People whose soul hurts just as badly for what is happening in their native country. Why are there almost none left?
The thing is that in fact it turns out: the only traditional institution that truly honors and strengthens the current Russian state is autocracy. Autocracy, which strives to break the life of anyone who sincerely wants good for their homeland, who is not shy about loving and taking responsibility. As a result, our long-suffering citizens had to learn that the initiative is punishable, that the bosses are always right, simply because they are bosses, that happiness may be possible, but not for them. And having learned this, they began to gradually disappear. According to statistics from Rosstat, Russia is gradually disappearing at an average rate of minus 400 thousand people a year. No statistics are visible behind the statistics. So see them! It’s drunk from impotence, it’s freezing in cold hospitals, it’s killed by someone, it’s killed by itself … people. The same as we are.
Probably, by this moment the motives of my activity became clear. I really want to see these two qualities in my citizens – responsibility and love. Responsibility for oneself, for those who are nearby, for the whole country. Love for the weak, for the neighbor, for humanity. This is my desire – another reason, your honor, why I could not call for violence. Violence unties the hands, leads to impunity, and hence to irresponsibility. Violence also does not lead to love. And yet, despite all the obstacles, I have no doubt for a second that my desire will come true. I look forward – beyond the horizon of years – and I see Russia, filled with responsible and loving people. It will be a truly happy place. Let everyone imagine such a Russia. And let this image guide you in your activity in the same way that it guides me.
Facing additional civil unrest, the Kremlin relented and handed him a three year suspended sentence. This development is thundering across the Russian political landscape.
We at CD Media are reminded of what Steve Jobs so famously said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.“
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