13.12.2002 | Inna Sukhorukova, Kharkov

Human rights in the post-totalitarian society


Ten-year existence of our state convincingly showed that our 10-year-old child is obviously retarded in all structural indices.

In words we are continuing to declare our love to the European values and to build an open society, where human rights must be observed and free market must exist. In the actual fact we see a semi-authoritarian regime, semi-freedom of the press and semi-market-semi-criminal economy.

This leads to the gloomy trampling of the society on the spot, while loosing that small degree of passionarity, which was appeared in the early 90s in the West Ukraine. The desperate economic crisis, partly connected with the political invalidity of the state structures, weakness of the civil society, absence of the middle class and, what is the most principal, absence of the will of the most of the society to live in the world built after the Western pattern, leads to the entire depression of the society, to the passivity and to the exclusion of the overwhelming majority of the Ukrainian population from any political processes. At the same time the Baltic republics (especially Estonia), where the Soviet power ruled 30 years less, are getting out of the crisis incomparably faster and effectively. It is surprising, but the Middle Asia countries: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, where the regimes extremely distant from democracy came to power, also develop economically much fast and easily – the authoritarianism appeared to be more favorable for the economy than our semi- authoritarianism and semi-chaos. The traditional for the Asian republics social ties are must more steady conditions for business and foreign investments than games without rules of the corrupted state officers and businessmen unable to self-defense in Ukraine. Similar processes also occur in Russia, with the correction that Russia abounds in raw materials and other resources, so in many regions of Russia the economy develops much fasted and stable than in Ukraine. However, some other regions are hopelessly lagging behind. Besides, Russia remains an empire, continues to wage imperial wars inside the country and actively meddles to domestic affairs of neighboring countries forming influence zones. For this Russia naturally needs money and resources. Belarus represents a relict model of the Soviet society, where the autarchy is not supported by traditional and religious ties, like in the Middle Asia, but as if hangs in the air. The brittle and weak economic stability in this country is greatly provided for by its parasitizing on the Russian economy. Russia stands for it, although it is obviously unprofitable, because of the empire syndrome fast developed lately.

What happens with our countries, what happens with Ukraine, which is potentially richer than, say, the Baltic countries? The reason is that in Our countries – Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – totalitarianism existed one generation longer that in the Warsaw Pact countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Here it was established on the personal, so to say molecular level. Thus, here we have not just a reforming of the political, economic and social systems, but a complete change of the stereotypes of pour citizens, which, certainly, demands decades. Especially if there is no external assistance. We do not speak about the financial support from the USA, Council of Europe countries and International Money Fund. It is impossible to control the efficiency of using this financial aid in our country with semi-legal business and non-transparent power structures. Our Western partners disappoint and become impatient; investment flow, small as it is, decreases. That is the difference of the victory in the cold war and the victory in the WW2, when the defeated countries were proposed the famous Marshall’s plan, which led to their fast and efficient development. Ukraine, Russia and Belarus also needed a similar plan, but it had to start with the exchange of power elite, which did not happened. Our state officers did not change and remained such as they had been 10, 15 and 20 years ago, only names of their positions changed. The former party and administrative nomenclature rules in Ukraine. This means that, beside the free market and attempts to construct the open society, we have in Ukraine distinct quasi-feudal relations, which were the base of the totalitarian regime.

In a totalitarian state relations of conditional vassal-senior relations develop, when personal ties and personal devotion to the boss are more important than professional qualities of a subordinate. There existed an informal rule among the communist elite: if a party bureaucrat was not liked by his bosses or they learned about some his sins, the sinner was transferred to the trade union or administrative work and thus changed the field of his ruling activities. Only after this he might be completely removed down. The exceptions were extremely rare. Let us call this phenomenon ’the law of preservation of party substance’. We mean the after-Stalin period, since at the top of totalitarianism it was the bureaucratic apparatus which the first to be repressed, but observing the principle: together with a boss his faithful subordinates were repressed too. It is not needed to be very observable to notice the principle of vassality in our power structures: as a rule, every new governor changes all the team, even if his predecessor did not belong to opposition. If his predecessor belonged to opposition, then sometimes the followers of the former governor are persecuted in court. And their guilt becomes obvious for law-enforcing organs miraculously only after their dismissal. A system of political ’hostages’ is widely spread, when a member of the opposition has relatives or businessmen, who render the material support to the opposition. Very often criminal cases are opened against them, they are detained and their rights are rudely violated. All this happens rather massively, which permits us to draw a conclusion: we deal with a well-expressed totalitarian relict, when the conditions, under which business must work, forces businessmen to violate laws from the very start, and they become guilty or now dependently of their loyalty to power structures. All this happens on the background of the almost complete equanimity of the public, without any mass protests and sometimes even with the complete approval of citizens, as it was in the case of Lazarenko. The public continues to be suspicious to business and businessmen, being deceived during any election, especially in the majority electoral districts, by small tips and promises from the future, obviously not poor, deputies. So, the power, preserving semi-feudal ties inside the bureaucratic apparatus, acts usually freely and with impunity.

Another demonstration of the post-totalitarian syndrome is also despicable servility of the majority of Ukrainian citizens, who permit the authorities to widely use the so-called ’administrative resource’. This is an euphemism for the blackmail and coercion on the side of the local authorities, mainly concerning the budget-paid voters: medical personnel, teachers and communal workers, as well as students and pupils (or rather their parents) during elections, referendums, organized meetings of home and foreign top state officials. Doctors made to influence their patients, teacher – the parents of their pupils, to make them vote as ordered. Similar methods were applied during the all-Ukrainian referendum of 2000, when employees of various establishments had to bring certificates from the voting stations that they voted before the term and, what the most essential, that, in spite of the obvious illegality of such demands, voting stations issued such certificates and citizens obediently brought these documents to the bosses. It is interesting that mostly no measures of punishment were applied to those, who refused to play these administrative games, so the disobedient citizens did not risk.

Servility is a residual feature of totalitarianism, a syndrome of civil inability, when a person does not feel oneself as a free member of society, reckoning that the state has the right to make him execute any stupid actions, actions contradicting his convictions, etc.

Although, in contrast to the Soviet times, many people are not afraid to criticize loudly the authorities, from the President down to the petty local administrators, but only few of them may go against the will of their direct chiefs. Thus, the quasi-feudal relations not disappear, but become more shaped and structured. This situation shows that it is not sufficient just to change the power system at this stage. Such people should come to power, who understand that they deal with a still unripe society, which they must build on the principles contradictory to the current social relations. Otherwise any minute the power may encounter the problems even more serious than ’the cassette scandal’, which in a way showed how chaotic and boneless is a post-totalitarian state. The victory of the power and the seeming defeat of the opposition are explained by the post-totalitarian syndromes of estrangement and passivity. But these syndromes, if a charismatic leader, especially if he is offended by power, appears, easily become aggressive. However, the opposition could not find such a leader in 2000 and the beginning of 2001.

All these are not just insignificant details. On the post-totalitarian space of the former USSR, especially in the Slavonic countries, the society is formed with such difficulties that it may be compared with a building mass, where a substance retarding congelation. The declarations of some rights and freedoms and mechanisms of realizing these rights, even legally confirmed (the Ukrainian legislation lags behind the obligations of Ukrainian before international organizations) are related closely to the inverse ratio: the more fundamental the right is, the fewer mechanism of its realization exist. Let us consider as an example one of the fundamental human rights – the right for life. Ukraine abolished the death penalty, thus fulfilling her obligations before the Council of Europe. However, many people were tortured to death during interrogations and preliminary investigations, died because they were not rendered elementary medical aid, perished of the dedovshchina in the army. That is the post-totalitarian society does not demonstrate the Orwell’s double-thinking, when, for example, a citizens theoretically understands that he must not a spy, but the blind force of the state makes him do the opposite. The double-thinking smoothly changed into the social infantilism, when both the power and citizens know what must be pretended (or said, or written) before ’uncle Sam’ or some other ’uncle’. Unfortunately, we do not se today any force capable of creating our own ’Marshall’s plan’, that would be a plan of structural rebuilding of the entire society, and without such a plan no jumps and lip-service will bring any positive results.

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