Vladimir Milov has enjoyed a great deal of limelight over the past couple of weeks as Boris Nemtsov’s co-author of “Putin. Itogi. 10 let,” a 48-page anti-Putin book that’s caused something of a media storm. In the Russia-Blogger Anglosphere, Sean Guillory and Anatoly Karlin have already dedicated entire posts to the content and public reception of this political text, but no one seems to have noticed that, in a series of open letters and blog posts, Mr. Milov has produced another altogether different political exposé … this time aimed squarely at the heart of contemporary Russian liberalism itself: Solidarnost’.
Four days ago, Vladimir Milov fully canceled his membership in Solidarnost’, capping a protest that began in April, when he removed himself from all responsibilities except those included in his position on the Politsovet (Political Council). Milov has now resigned from this position, as well. He’s gone “for good,” he says.
He accuses the movement’s national congress system of violating “all imaginable democratic norms” and argues that internal votes were fixed to deny his allies key positions in Solidarnost’s hierarchy. (He singles out the targeting of Sergei Zhavoronkov, actually comparing his failure to reach the Politsovet to the Bolsheviks’ persecution of Bukharin and Rykov in 1937.) Milov describes Garry Kasparov as Solidarnost’s biggest problem, calling him “hysterical” and “a coward” who refuses to turn the movement into an official party capable of fielding candidates in elections. (Milov wanted to run Solidarnost’ members for the 2011 parliamentary elections and a presidential nominee in 2012.) Zhavoronkov took it one step further, telling Kommersant, “[In the Politsovet], they use the same methods the VKPB did in 1937. If Kasparov, God forbid, ever became president, he’d start having his opponents shot.”
Milov offers the following summary of the Solidarnost’ movement: “Borya Nemtsov got it right when he said yesterday that scrubby little opposition organizations have no future. In the two years of its existence, Solidarnost’ couldn’t get more than four thousand members. In fact, after recent events, people have been leaving the movement en masse.”
As it turns out, Milov has already identified the appropriate successor to Solidarnost’s liberal momentum: the “Demvybor” (Democratic Election) — and he just happens to be the organization’s president. Indeed, Milov concludes his LiveJournal announcement about leaving Solidarnost’ with a plug for his own project, which he describes elsewhere as “an unprecedented representative forum of deserving [dostoinye] people.” He hopes to take the movement to the general elections and is confident that he’s located “the future” of Russian liberalism.
Milov’s falling out with Solidarnost’ last week, however, wasn’t his first conflict within the movement. Roughly one year ago, he was involved in a controversy online in Solidarnost’s LiveJournal community (ru-solidarnost). In June 2009, Sergei Zhavoronkov, then a moderator of the forum, banned three users for comments advocating gay rights. He then disabled all new posts, temporarily closing down the entire forum. Separately, Zhavoronkov publicly insulted fellow moderator and Solidarnost’ Politsovet member Anna Karetnikova for poorly managing the LJ community. Within days, ru-solidarnost’ members initiated a vote of no-confidence against Zhavoronkov, which passed by 75%, repealing his moderator status. It was at this point that Vladimir Milov came to the aid of his deposed friend. Milov explained that ru-solidarnost had become a place for fierce debate about the rights of gays and lesbians and the need to make it Solidarnost’s campaign. “Because of this,” he said, “the forum has become a cesspool [pomoika] and a crowd of faggots [pidarasy].”
Mirroring their creation of Demvybor a year later, Milov and Zhavoronkov left ru-soldiarnost and established a separate LJ community (dem-solidarnost), where they exercised greater censorship over the comments.
Milov does a masterful job revealing the flaws and defects in Solidarnost’, though I’m sure it’s not in the way he thinks. While his voiced criticisms of the movement are worth considering (why, after all, are leaders like Kasparov so afraid of running for office?), the most devastating evidence against taking the official liberal opposition seriously are individuals like Vladimir Milov himself. Outrageously egotistical, laughably hyperbolic, and deaf to the concerns of truly powerless Russian citizens, Mr. Milov demonstrates all the characteristics of someone you’d never want to have over for dinner, much less entrust with your political fate.
An unpleasant man, to put it mildly, Vladimir Milov is a living analysis of Solidarnost’ to-date — a walking book whose title would be “Solidarnost’. Itogi. 2 goda.”
Update (6/23/2010): Yesterday on Эхо Москвы’s show “Клинч,” Vladimir Milov and Ilya Yashin debated whether or not Solidarnost’ and the liberal opposition should form a registered political party — that is, whether or not they should “play by the Kremlin’s rules,” as the question was phrased. They debated for about 45 minutes, and the issue was then put to listeners for a vote. 76% sided with Yashin, saying the opposition should not form an official political party. Yashin, however, says he doesn’t feel victorious, giving six reasons for why there’s nothing to celebrate.