In open letter, Khodorkovsky calls for balancing stability, democracy

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former chief of YUKOS, has sent a message to the 'First-Person Speaking' forum of the Club of Regional Journalists now underway here. The forum is sponsored by Open Russia, which Khodorkovsky heads.

The letter states: 'We have made many mistakes, out of stupidity, out of ambition and out of a failure to understand, in all the complexity of social and regional realities, what was happening in the country-these were our mistakes and not the inevitable outcome of liberal-democratic reforms. Forgive us, if you can, allow us to make up for what we have done, which we know how to do, or if you cannot, then we must leave-that is, we individuals, not the ideals of freedom and democracy. This would still give new liberals almost four years to begin many things all over again.'

'I beg of you,' Khordorkovsky says, addressing the forum participants, 'not to make allowances for the conditions under which the article was written. Rather, it is prison that has given me the moral right to speak publicly and in all sincerity about things that I earlier discussed with colleagues. It is as hard for me, as for anyone, to say unpleasant things to friends, especially publicly. Nonetheless, I considered it necessary to speak out now, while there is still time before 2007.'

Khodorkovsky goes on: 'The country has just one authority that the people acknowledge-the president.' 'That is so,' the letter continues, 'in large part because of our mistakes, but we should be able to come to terms. This does not mean that we will stop being critical and certainly does not mean we will not create structures for a civil society. What it means is that we understand our responsibility for preserving the country's stability, a stability achieved with difficulty and by no means guaranteed historically or politically.' 'For people generally to endorse liberal-democratic values, a certain level of stability and security must be assured, there must be less poverty and young people must have a fair chance of access to education and employment and so on-these are very practical and manageable tasks, manageable given conditions of general stability in the country, given the continuance and widening of cooperation with the West, and given respect for our distinctive national character and interests,' the letter states.

'It is a mistake, I believe, to see any contradiction between developing the elements of a civil society, of democratic institutions, and the preservation of stability and consensus,' Khodorkovsky concludes. 'These are two mutually supporting, although sometimes conflicting, processes. It is the balance that is important. Think about this.'

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