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  • Rashid

Advice for the (united or not) Russian opposition

Updated: Apr 10

Yulia Navalnaya called on the collective West to be innovative and "not boring" in the approaches to battle putin's regime. I salute this! I would like to offer some tips for the Russian opposition forces (united or not) in being innovative and not boring.

You cannot battle the evil if you do not adopt decolonial approaches and tolerance. You must be different from the regime, and therefore you must go through healing and be the flagship of change.

Alexey Navalny evolved as a politician for the better. This is a rare quality. Usually, politicians evolve for the worse. If you vouch to continue Navalny's legacy - you must also constantly evolve and update.

It is so painful to see top editors of Russian opposition press insulting Kyrgyz citizens who demand that their country is spelt out as Kyrgyzstan and not as the colonial variation Kirgiziia. Even this logical and simple step seems to be unjustifiably difficult to take for them. What can we talk about in the broader picture then? Change must start with you. Heal and you will lead with credibility.

I was once at the table with prominent opposition leaders, when someone said "Belarusians acted too European, they should have been more Asian in their approaches". Struggling to make sense of the statements, I demanded clarifications. I tried a variety of approaches - asking questions, bringing examples, confronting essentialism and racism, and drawing parallels. Nothing worked, because people at the table could not understand the essence of wrongfulness of such a statement. Even with an Asian present at the table and presenting a plethora of counterarguments. Healing, healing, healing.

Chauvinism is deeply rooted in the Russian discourse. Perhaps it is not the people's fault, but it sure is a mistake not to do something about it. These are relatively innocent examples, as there are even more severe cases when one can oppose the war but call Central Asians 'churki', be racist towards ethnic and religious minorities within Russia, be against LGBTQ, be a misogynist etc., etc. Their typical response is "What does it have to do with any of this?" The answer is, "Everything".

You cannot be a racist pacifist. You cannot be a peaceful misogynist. You cannot be an agent of change if you have not changed yourself.

For the political and cultural elite that aims to battle the ultimate evil, it is essential to train itself not to be imperialist, chauvinist and racist. Bizarre that it has to be explained. Chauvinist speech is omnipresent as racism is domesticated in the everyday Russian language. Every nation has a nickname from 'pindosi' to 'zhydy' and everything in between. Be different, be innovative, be "not boring", and fight this racism.

In other examples, amid Navalny's murder, people on TV Rain and other public discussion sites were accusing putin of Shamanism. Sadly, they need to be explained why this is wrong. Don't be in denial. Heal. If people are raising these issues, it means that they are valid.

Be different from your enemies and listen.

Be different and change for the better.

Intuitively one might think, "But then the opposition will not have any supporters in Russia". Chasing public support through the culture of imperialism, division, hate, ethnic and religious superiority, etc., is not a noble cause. As recent events demonstrated, it can lead to severe disasters. Be different.

My advice to the opposition is simple. Heal and then you will have the credibility to lead. Your discourse must adopt values of tolerance and inclusion. It will prevent you from bein boring. It will prevent history from repeating itself.

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