Aitmatov did not believe in flawless state machines – not in totalitarian ones, not in democratic ones. He was more interested in his protagonists – homegrown philosophers who in their space stations turn out to be freer and more astute than some university professors. And this is the greater truth, once again demonstrated by the events of 2005 to 2010 in the writer’s native Kyrgyzstan. So, Askar Akaev was replaced with Kurmanbek Bakiev. So Bakiev will now be replaced by someone else. And this someone will also place their friends and relatives in lucrative jobs in “investment and innovation,” simultaneously putting their opponents in prison. And similarly they will take the percentage of their supporters in Parliament up to 100. This percentage, by the way, only gets bigger with every new revolution. In Bakiev’s time, the party of power took 79 percent – more than in Akaev’s. Looks ideal. But all of the sudden, there is a new revolution.
Meanwhile the United States, Russia and other countries keep trying to figure out which one of them financed the rebels. In reality, the rebels did not need any financing. Hunger and illiteracy worked much better than any foundations or spies. The illiteracy was caused by the collapse of the Soviet education system, and the hunger is a consequence of illiteracy. And right now the task at hand is to teach the Kyrgyz youth Russian and/or English, to give it a future. But this is not mentioned in newspapers or at summits. The topics of gas pipelines and external political “spheres of influence” are much more interesting.
Democracy is not a race car that can be imported from the United States or from Western Europe with a “quality assured” certificate from Freedom House. It is not a blissful nirvana and not even a procedure, as was thought in the 19th century. It is a search. It is the daily improvement of the quality of a person – their education, their sense of responsibility for the country and the family, their freedom from prejudices and sin. This is what should be done in Kyrgyzstan, in Russia and in Poland, not boasting of EU membership or of the “power vertical” at the same time as people are forgetting books and the habit of reading in general.
Having lived in the shadow of a very cruel political regime for 60 years, Aitmatov showed us that it is possible to be an utterly free person even in an authoritarian society. It was futile to build “Berlin Walls” to limit his freedom – it was the same as building ramparts against aviation. Thanks to his imagination, he easily flew over the bounds of censorship. This is how he became a free person, without Parliaments and national revolutions. Let’s learn from him today – in Russia, in Kyrgyzstan, and in Poland.
Friday, April 16, 2010
From Russia Profile (ht Johnson's Russia List):