Sometime ago, I promised to myself not to write about Russia's "democratic opposition." There are so many real things in the world. Why waste time on political egomaniacs whose major declared goal is to "dismantle the illegitimate Putin–Medvedev regime"?
Nemtsov was nominated by Solidarity, a three-month-old salad bowl of about a dozen of human rights and "liberal democratic" boutiques. Nemtsov co-chairs Solidarity with Garry Kasparov, the architect of a new strategy of fighting "the illegitimate Putin-Medvedev regime": by subway-hopping around Moscow (giving a new meaning to the term "underground movement") followed by a theatrical surrender to yawning police at a pre-determined point on the surface. Naturally, in front of foreign reporters' cameras.
Pointedly excluded from the leadership of Solidarity was Kasparov's best buddy, Eduard Limonov, the leader of the banned neo-fascist National Bolshevik Party. I suspect that as a proponent of violent clashes with the authorities, Limonov hasn't passed the muster of being a "liberal democrat."
Nemtsov was born in Sochi and now claims that he decided to run after receiving a petition from 400 Sochi residents urging him to do so. (Hmm, OK). It's still uncertain whether he'll be allowed to register as a candidate and even less certain whether he has any chance to win. Two more prominent carpetbaggers have descended upon the city: Andrei Lugovoi, whose murky association with the 2006 death, in London, of Alexander Litvinenko, has propelled him to the stardom of national politics; and banker Alexander Lebedev, who never misses a chance to remind Russia's political beaumonde that he's still around.
And then, there is acting Sochi mayor, Anatoly Pakhomov — a protege of the powerful Krasnodar Territory governor, Alexander Tkachev — who can count on the well-oiled election campaign machine owned by United Russia.
Given the circumstances, it's tempting to conclude that the whole story about Nemtsov's nomination is no more than a PR stunt orchestrated by him and his Solidarity friends. Denied registration or losing the vote, Nemtsov will get an opportunity to complain, for at least the next few years, about the lack of "free elections" in Russia — a song he's been singing since 2003, when his party, The Union of Right Forces(SPS), miserably lost the Duma election.
And yet, somehow I believe that Nemtsov is serious in his intention to run. Moreover, for some reason, I feel that he wants to win badly. Even more — and I realize that here, I'm speaking heresy – I suspect that he may turn out to be a quite decent mayor of Sochi.
Nemtsov used to be a real practicing politician: first, as a successful governor of Nizhny Novgorod and then, as first deputy prime minister. Even with his image tarnished by his chaotic personal life, Nemtsov's political stock had been rising to the extent that he was seriously considered, in 1997, as then-president Yeltsin's successor.
Nemtsov's career was derailed by the August 1998 financial crisis, and he was forced to resign from government. Later, Yeltsin had chosen Vladimir Putin as the next president of Russia. (So when Nemtsov calls Putin's regime "illegitimate," I can see his point.) Nemtsov had spent the next 10 years attempting to elevate his personal animosity for Putin into the rank of an "opposition" ideology.
Nemtsov, who is 49, is apparently going through what many men in this country call a "midlife crisis." A clever fellow as he is, he understands that he has a choice: to remain a political jerk for the rest of his life or to break away from senseless "protests" and to try do something meaningful for himself, his children, and the Russian people he's been neglecting for so long.
Undoubtedly, the example of Nemtsov's former SPS friend, Nikita Belykh, who recently became governor of the Kirov District, has had an impact on Nemtsov, too.
So, I have a dream. I have a dream that Nemtsov becomes mayor of Sochi and makes the 2014 Winter Olympics a blast — while transforming Sochi into the least corrupt city in the country.
I also have a dream that Kasparov, 45, will attend the next tournament in Linares and kick the shit out of youngsters who are unfamiliar with what genuine, competitive, chess is.
And Limonov, 66, will open his laptop and type in:
It's Me, Eddie. Thirty Years After.