Svetlana Alexievich interviewed a number of Russian people both after the fall of the Soviet Union and at the start of this century.  One of them, Aleksander Laskovich, she interviewed periodically when he was between the age of 21 and 30.  This revealing and thought-provoking comment was made during a conversation in Chicago, regarding freedom and democracy and the time needed to build social and institutional frameworks.

The thing is, you can’t buy democracy with oil and gas; you can’t import it like bananas or Swiss chocolate.  A presidential decree won’t institute it … You need free people, and we didn’t have them.  And they still don’t have them there (ie Russia).  In Europe, they’ve been tending to democracy for the past two hundred years with the same kind of care they devote to their lawns. 

Source: Aleksander Laskovich, in Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time: The last of the Soviets, trans. by Bela Shayevich (New York: Random House, 2017), pp. 384-85

Photo credit:  EME at pixabay


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