The West bears some responsibility for the ongoing War in Ukraine, Russian dissident Mikhail Shishkin says, thanks to its corrupt banking system and bent lawyers, once the matter of substantial funds is introduced into the mix.
Shishkin was in Tallinn last week for the HeadRead literary festival; one of his latest works, "War or Peace", has become somewhat of a primer for those wanting to understand how Russia and the Russian people reached the point at which they now find themselves.
Speaking to ETV foreign affairs show "Välisilm", Shishkin said: "First of all, glory to Ukraine. This war will undoubtedly end in Ukrainian victory. Unfortunately, the West committed an error back in the 1990s, when it was still possible to help the fledgling democracy in Russia, to help it get back on its feet. This could have been achieved in one simple way – by demonstrating how the rule of law works."
"I was working as a translator at that time, and I saw how the huge outflows of dirty money from Russia was going. The West demonstrated that, when it comes to big money, the rule of law reaches its limits, and thanks to those people who understood very well in the West – ie. lawyers – they were aware that they were breaking the law, thanks to those people, thanks to those banks, and the corrupt politicians in the West, this criminal dictatorship arose in Russia."
"However, a dictatorship by its very nature requires the existence of enemies and of conflict. So now we are in this war. Ergo, politicians in the West must now correct the mistakes they made before, and aid Ukraine with weapons, in order to nullify this Putinist dictatorship," Shishkin went on.
A further challenge arises now from apparent war fatigue in Europe, Shishkin said.
"This can be easily observed in Switzerland (where Shishkin resides-ed.), for example. When 70,000 refugees from Ukraine arrived there, naturally primarily women and children, there was a huge wave of solidarity and a willingness to help. Now a year has passed by, everyone is already fatigued with this, and everyone wants peace restored, they want cheap natural gas, cheap gasoline again ... This is a replay of when Hitler came to power. When Hitler had already gone to war, but voters in France and England thought we'd better appease, to overcome Hitler. We all know how that panned out. With a Hitler or a Putin, winning is only viable via force, military force," he went on.
Head of the notorious Wagner Group of mercenaries, the malodorous Yevgeny Prigozhin, is currently one of the most visible figures from the Russian side in the conflict. So could he become Russia's next leader, Shishkin was asked.
"Russia is a bit of a Disney Land. Anything can happen there. It is already clear to all that Putin is now a weak Tsar. The only legitimization of power [in Russia] comes not via the ballot box, but via strength. Putin will be gone sooner or later, be it within two weeks, two months, or a year, then the struggle for power will begin after that. What Prigozhin is doing now already signifies that power struggle. But we don't know who will win out in this power struggle," Shishkin commented.
"I foresee that the 'Russian Empire' will continue to disintegrate. The process of disintegration is underway at an accelerated pace. The Russian Federation is 'pregnant' with new states, just as it was before the collapse of the Soviet Union. I sincerely doubt that these new states will become democratic in the coming years. Rather, they will spawn new Putinlings. Then the West will say, 'hello'; the future Macron will say 'hello' to the future Putin. Why? Because this Putin of the future will allow the Macron of the future to monitor these rusting nuclear weapons. And Russian history will once again bite itself in its own tail."
And again, the ensuing anarchy and chaos will require a firm hand.
"What leads to the start of a new dictatorship? It's not the case of a dictator arriving and saying 'I'm your new dictator, do what I say'. Dictatorship begins with a cry for order. 'We' saw that in Germany in the 1920s, and we saw it with Russia in the 1990s," he went on.
"Valisilm" also looked at how Russian literature and culture is forged in all of this.
Vladimir Putin has said: "Culture and art are spheres created to unite people. Today, they lie at the epicenter of geopolitical confrontation. They are trying to nullify everything related to Russia, to erase it from the heritage of civilization. But in so doing, such characters are first and foremost punishing themselves, depriving their people of the opportunity to become part of our of masterpieces."
Commenting on this, Shishkin said: "How can Russian culture exist at all? All my life I have felt very firm ground under my feet. This was Russian culture. Right now, over this last year, however, I have felt a void under my feet. What kind of culture can we be talking about when the entire nation, almost the entire population, supported this war. War criminals have become teachers, directors of museums, artistic directors of theaters, and who all signed a paper stating we support a 'special military operation.'"
According to Shishkin, Russian history has been shaped by the Russian being in thrall.
"The main survival strategy in Russia has always been on of silence. Pushkin has the last phrase in his history play 'Boriss Godunov', he accurately stated that it is a silent nation, but the only thing that can be opposed to this silence is words."
"This means the word has always been more than just a word, in Russia; literature, more than literature. Can Russian culture survive in exile? We have 100 years of experience. From the emigration that took place after the 1917 revolutions, we saw that the first generation was quite normal; Bunin won a Nobel Prize. The second generation had already started to disappear, and the third generation did disappear, so far as Russian culture is concerned," Shishkin went on.
Nonetheless, Shishkin remains optimistic. Russians who are currently emigrees have the Internet, and virtual opportunities.
"Nowadays, you can be traveling by train in Africa, but if you have WiFi and you are pitched into Russian culture, you are a consumer, a bearer, a creator of Russian culture. Now we have an opportunity to create a 'virtual land' for Russian culture, which will finally be freed from this cursed territory: Russian culture, but without without this Russian state," he concluded.
Shishkin also gave a presentation to the Open Estonia foundation, which can be viewed here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael