Kasparov on the future of Russian politics

4/4/2005 – This week on Sunday Profile, an Australian news program, Gary Kasparov was interviewed by Monica Attard, one of the country's most respected news and current affairs journalists. The subject: Kasparov's decision to leave the world of professional chess and enter into the fray of Russian politics, and the personal consequences that entails. Very powerful stuff.

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Sunday Profile Transcript (excerpts)

Click here to listen to the interview in Windows Media format or Real Media

April 3, 2005

  • I think we have very steady records of President Putin, who inherited the country with democratic values, with independent parliament, with independent media with elections of the government and other officials, and now all press is under his control, parliament is just another branch of executive office and direct elections of the governments is already cancelled.

  • Putin can’t afford to leave the office because he will be in real danger of being prosecuted for things he and his people did during their stay in power. So I think that it’s no longer a question about election or running or having campaign, it’s building mechanisms that will allow them to stay in power as long as they want... There are many indications, there are many facts showing that Putin’s people enriched themselves by using power mechanisms so that’s why for them losing power means losing their fortunes.

  • I’m not so naïve to ignore any potential threat to my well-being but at the same time if you make a decision to fight for future of your own country you have to consider all the consequences. It’s very clear that Putin and his people they well probably use any means to stay in power, but I don’t want to think about the worst scenario but I’m taking all the necessary precautions, as much as I can do under these circumstances. I have some security that could protect me against provocations but of course there are more terrible actions that could not be stopped by any security.

  • I think it will be more difficult to deal with me as Putin deals with Khordokovsky. It would more difficult to invent tales about my participation in a number of crimes that are being now allegedly thrown at Khordokovsky.

  • The stories about me in the Kremlin controlled press] are all negative. So far it’s just more of talking about my background and saying that I’m not prepared for that and they’re trying to ridicule my decision but at the end of the day I could expect other stories because the Kremlin controlled press never stops short of inventing stories about Putin’s political opponents.

  • I was born in Baku, and I am half Armenian half Jewish. But my native tongue is Russian, my culture is Russian, my education is Russian. At the end of the day Soviet Union was the success of Russian Empire which was multinational multi-confessional state, and as long as w live in the same state I’m part of this state as much as President Putin.

  • I think that my presence could make some difference, and that’s what I always believed in my life. I have some strategical vision, I could calculate some, few moves ahead, and I have an intellect that is badly missed in the country which is run by generals and colonels. Also I hope that my presence will help people to get united. It’s more of fighting for restoration of democracy rather than campaigning for any high office.

  • I think it’s probably premature to judge the form of democracy needed in Russia. I would rather to say it should look like French democracy in a presidential republic with a really strong parliament rather than British or German type. But Russians are dreaming about better living, and the fact that country’s getting richer with these high oil prices the living standards are deteriorating across our land. Those issues are far more important for ordinary man than the structure of the political system.

  • Ukraine had quite serious impact on the many Russians. They could see that ordinary people didn’t want to tolerate anymore the power abuse by Ukrainian officials, and they not only protested but they were successful. I think people in Russia are slowly recognising the power of protest, the power of street manifestations, the power of unity and they also recognise that at a certain point the government could crack under this pressure.

  • I think Russian people are learning that democracy is not an alien thing; it’s not a western invention. It’s probably the most affordable mechanism to solve problems inside the country, inside the society because Putin proved to all of us that the alternative is security forces and police and power abuse. That’s why I think eventually the people of Russia will embrace democracy as the least costly institution to help them to solve their daily problems.

  • Now with the 60th anniversary of D-Day Putin’s government is trying to restore the positive image of Stalin, and they’re trying to play with this nostalgia of the time when the Soviet Union was one of the two superpowers and the country looked very very strong. Unfortunately many people they tend to believe that there were many good things that were lost in the past while disregarding the terrible crimes committed by the Soviet regime. I think it will disappear with the new generation coming into the political scene in Russia but first we have to stop the propaganda, the shameful propaganda used by Kremlin to rehabilitate these old types.

  • Karpov and I, we have reasonable relations as two professional players but our political views are very different. Karpov was Communist Russian Nationalist and I belonged to an opposite part of political spectrum. We speak Russian both. That’s our common language; I don’t think we have anything else in common.

  • It’s quite difficult for me to imagine my life without chess. So I didn’t stop analysing games and following games of my colleagues (or ex-colleagues now), or working on my chess books. I will be keeping my ties with this game and I may play some exhibition games. So I don’t want to quit the game of chess completely. I just decided and it’s a firm decision not to play competitive chess anymore.

  • ‘Mental power waning?’ Maybe you’re right, but I’m still number one and I just recently won a major tournament ahead of my toughest rivals so I think I had a few years ahead of me if I had decided to stay. It was not about losing my mental power; it’s about not feeling good about my contribution to the game. I sense that my energy, my experience could be used somewhere else.

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