8 January 2020

Free Exchange: Vera Kichanova on standing up to Putin


With the support of the Atlas Network, CapX is publishing a new series of essays and podcasts on the theme of Illiberalism in Europe, looking at the different threats to liberal economies and societies across the continent, from populism to protectionism, fake news and corruption.

Whether it’s interfering in Syria, Venezuela or Iran, Vladimir Putin is rarely out of the headlines. But what’s life like for the opposition activists trying to take the fight to the Russian president on his home turf.

To find out, our editor John Ashmore sat down with Vera Kichanova, who has the distinction of being the first libertarian ever elected to public office in Russia, in Moscow’s municipal elections back in 2012.

Vera Kichanova on…the strange alliances of Russia’s opposition movement

In authoritarian organisations the ideological differences do not matter that much. If you see these big rallies in Moscow you can see the libertarian flags next to the red flags next to the nationalists…because we are fighting for institutional change, so we’ll all benefit if we have a democratic society, free elections and a real Parliament. We would rather fight each other in Parliament than on Facebook!

On…defending freedom against communism

The most brave and dedicated fighters for liberty can be found in countries that lived under communist regimes. So there are a lot of us in Eastern Europe, a lot of us in Latin America. So, for example, I know quite a few Venezuelan activists and they are amongst some of the most the bravest people I’ve ever met.

On…the problem with talking about Russia

It’s good that everyone’s talking about Russia and acknowledges the problem. But on the other hand, that’s exactly what Putin wants because he loves when the world sees him as its biggest threat, as the kind of general of this army against what they would call the liberal order.

On…the trap Putin has set himself

Another thing that a lot of people in the West don’t really get is that nobody actually knows how high his rate of support is, including Putin himself because in an authoritarian country, when you destroy all the means of feedback, you kind of create a trap that you fall into yourself, because there’s no independent elections, there’s no independent media, and there’s no independent polling.

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John Ashmore is Editor of CapX