What to do with Russia? Many articles have been published in which some authors compare the current situation with the bloody years of the Stalin regime while others think that the Russian government is trying, although slowly, to normalize the situation. Those who know how life was under Stalin will never accept this comparison with the Russia of Vladimir Putin. The Goulag no longer exists and one of Putin’s main adversaries, Kodorkovsky, has the chance to write political articles from prison and to have vast support. The truth about the war in Chechnya is available to those who want to know what is happening there.
The problem is not the result of Putin’s authoritarianism but to the fact that the Russian society is in crisis and does not want to reconsider its current positions.
New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof sees in Russian the premises of a fascist evolution of the type of Franco’s Spain or Salazar’s Portugal. I think that the comparison with post-war Turkey would be fairer. Turkey - which had lost the war and was living in chaos - saw an authoritarian leader, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), implement radical reforms and build, with Turkish nationalism as its foundation, a led democracy that is already several generations old.
The army has protected the State when it has been threatened by Islamism (mainly Kurdish), separatism and radical leftist movements. Freedom of speech continues to be a problem. The power holds the direction of the economy, as Putin currently does, and it is not solving the Kurdish problem.
Turkey, like Russia, faces problems inherited from the past such as the Armenian genocide that is not acknowledged by society. Germany, for its part, has analyzed its past but Japan has not and the former colonial powers have not apologized in that sense either. That is the case of Belgium and the issue of the massacres perpetrated in Congo during the rule of King Leopold II. Turkey is a loyal partner of Europe; it stopped the USSR and helped in stabilizing the Middle East; and it has a lot of natural resources.
For these reasons, the democratic West has not been able to have a significant influence over Turkey. The recent events are the result of Turkey’s desire to become a full member of the European Union.
The emergence of a semi-authoritarian regime, based on personality cult (Putin or anyone else), is inevitable in the current historic circumstances. We should not expect or demand a complete democratization of Russia or a radical revision of its past but it does not mean that we have to stop urging Russia to respect civil liberties. The only way to achieve it is strengthening our friendship ties with Moscow and to understand that time is the best ally in the democratization of a former empire. The process in Russia can take years.

Inosmi.ru (Russia)

Россия напоминает Турцию после Первой мировой”, by Jaan Kaplinski, Inosmi.ru, April 5, 2005. This text has been adapted from a Russian translation of an article published in the Finnish daily Turun Sanomat.