Garry Kasparov, a former chess great and now a tireless violator of public order, often complains that the mainstream Russia’s media outlets are closed to him, and his message to the Russian audience gets silenced. One would then expect him to use any opportunity to tap on the more hospitable Western sources to get this message through. True, very few Russians read regularly, say, The Wall Street Journal, of which Kasparov is a contributing editor, but this is still better than nothing. Besides, the WSJ is obviously scouted by some sophisticated members of the Russian business elite.
From this perspective, Kasparov’s latest WSJ article cannot help but surprise. Kasparov could use the provided space by presenting his vision of the current situation in Russia and the direction the country, in Kasparov’s opinion, should be heading. He could also explain his reasons for running for Russia’s presidency, however shortly, and present what might be viewed as an election platform.
Nothing of the sort. Kasparov begins his piece with a detailed discussion of the presidential election in the United States. For a resident of Moscow and St. Petersburg — this is how Kasparov is introduced — he demonstrates remarkable knowledge of the positions taken by the three major candidates. McCain is obviously his favorite ("the thought of him [McCain] in the White House strikes fear into authoritarian leaders everywhere"). He also appears sympathetic to Barack Obama ("…he has a history of compromise, of being willing to cross his own party and to cross the aisle"), but has no taste for Hillary Clinton whom Kasparov calls the favorite of "the Russian ruling elite."
Having done with the American election, Kasparov turns to his pet topic: blasting Western leaders, President Bush in particular, for being "soft" on Putin. As usual, Kasparov is urging the West to expel Russia from what he repeatedly calls G-7. A strange logic for a man who wanted to be Russia’s next president. Unless, of course, Kasparov believes that only with him at the helm does Russia have a place in the community of "G-7 nations."
Kasparov does mention his "home" country in passing by reminding that as a leader of The Other Russia — a non-existing coalition of non-existing political movements — he was taking part in a "March of Dissent" called to protest the results of the March 2 presidential election.
This event took place in St. Petersburg on March 3 and was remarkable only for the lack of anything remarkable. Even traditionally feisty "fighters" from Limonov’s National Bolshevik gang didn’t try to provoke the police. Perhaps, they were still hibernating after a long winter. Or, more likely, the organizers of the march have failed to ensure the presence of a sufficient number of Western journalists. And without a crowd, why bother to perform?
The only intrigue of the march was what kind of slogans the "protesters" would chant to keep themselves excited. In the past, the most popular has been "Russia without Putin", a call that recently has lost a good deal of its original appeal. (It’s only a question of time that the "protesters" will run out of other ideas and turn to "Russia without Medvedev").
The "protesters" haven’t disappointed: the chant of the day was "Russia is us." What a modest statement for a crowd of just a few hundred!
Yuri Shevchuk, the leader of the legendary rock group DDT attended the rally. At least, the frustration of Mr. Shevchuk with the results of the presidential election is easy to understand. It’s hard for a Russian musician to accept the fact that the next Russian president is a Deep Purple fan.