A Russian proverb summarizes it into a simple picture: you cannot draw clean water from a well that you yourself have been spitting into for years. In the last few years of the Soviet Union, the shadow economy called „na levo“ was a necessary survival practice in a collapsing system. But in the post-Soviet chaos the freedom to spit everywhere was almost unlimited.
During this time, when not law but Fortuna was governing, two young, ambitious men worked their way up. When the leader of the oligarch pack, Khodorkovsky, and Putin, the newly elected president, met at the top, not only two powerful men were standing in each others way, but also the two principles of power they represented - the power of money and the power of politics.
Mikhail Borisovich had been in prison for ten years and there was no telling if he would ever leave it alive. But he was not absent. I followed his public correspondence with Lyudmila Ulitzkaja and his other writings from custody. I was impressed by the polite and careful tone of the letters - the letters show a man who realizes his own mistakes. 20 years of uncontrolled capitalism and liberalism had destroyed civil society and poisoned the wells.
He changed his mind, he thinks ahead. A strong and open civil society (with clean wells) is a country's greatest wealth and strength and the only way to guarantee security.
Democracy never follows a revolution. Revolutionary forces are too rough for something so fragile. It is a long and effortful process to balance democracy - an exhausting and endless process of mistakes, of rethinking and giving in. Not only in Russia there is a need to think about history and learn from it but everywhere.