The Corner


A Noble Goal: No More Czars

Mikhail Khodorkovsky in London, August 2018 (Dylan Martinez / Reuters)

In the ’90s, some of us said that there were so many scandals coming out of the Clinton administration, you could not keep track of them all, or concentrate on them all, which benefited the administration. “They just like to pick on us,” the administration could say. We see some of that in Washington now, too.

Putin’s Kremlin commits so many outrages, some are quickly forgotten, if they ever register at all. Do you remember the shootdown of the civilian airliner in the summer of 2014? It killed almost 300 people. Yesterday, RFE/RL published an excellent, disturbing piece on the matter. (Those initials, as you know, stand for “Radio Free Europe” and “Radio Liberty.” Last year, I wrote a piece on the organization, which, far from a Cold War relic, is newly vital.)

On the homepage today, we publish the second in my two-part series on Mikhail Khodorkovsky: the richest man in Russia who became a political prisoner for ten years and now, in exile, devotes himself to human rights and the rule of law in his native country. Let me paste the final two paragraphs of the piece:

What does he want to accomplish with his Open Russia movement? He does not want “to accelerate Putin’s departure,” he says. Putin will eventually go, one way or another. “The key question is, What’s going to happen after his departure? We have a quite unpleasant tradition in Russia of getting rid of one czar, only to see him replaced by another. So what I want to do is try to change that tradition.”

In the eyes of many of us, this is a noble way to spend one’s time — and money — after 17 years in business (so brief a career) and another ten in Russian prisons. At this stage, Khodorkovsky could be putting his feet up, perhaps on a Caribbean island. No one would blame him. Instead, he is in the trenches, on the battlefield. He has his critics, who don’t do half as much good, or who, more likely, do none at all.

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