Political debates dominated the third day of the Valdai Discussion Club, with administration officials and opponents, including Ksenia Sobchak, getting a chance to speak.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Valdai Discussion Club. Photo: RIA Novosti
The third day of meetings at the 10th annual Valdai Discussion Club began with a talk entitled “The Future of Asia,” but the second session of the day, on the “disparity of values” attracted more attention. Several opposition figures took the stage, among them TV host Ksenia Sobchak.
Sobchak, for her part, called herself the voice of a “generation that no longer fears the powers-that-be and feels independent, having always been used to relying on no one but oneself.” She discussed other features of Russians between 20 and 45, saying “we do not suffer from the post-imperialist complex, and border issues and spheres of influence bore us to tears. Nor do we want Putin’s paternalism. Our interests are unrepresented in government.”
Sitting next to Sobchak was economist Mikhail Delyagin, who described his views on Russia’s current political establishment, calling it a “government of crooks – a machine for converting public property into private possessions for the benefit of a handful of elected representatives.” Delyagin claimed that the values that unite the Russians are “the propaganda of the state-owned television networks, a souvenir of the KGB, the ruble and the Russian language that has been caused to deteriorate by TV.”
Political analyst Nikolai Zlobin brought the discussion back to the subject of values by bringing up literature and philosophy. “Europe was shaped by great philosophy, whereas Russia had no philosophers but its values were shaped by the great writers of the 19th century,” Zlobin said. He added that Russia today lacks a system of values and that people need order, calling this need “precisely Putin’s objective for his third term of office.”
When it was his turn to speak, Ilya Ponomarev countered Sobchak’s comments, stressing that a large majority of the population was either apolitical or shared conservative values.
The next three sessions club meetings involved contributions by Sergei Ivanov, chief of staff of the presidential administration, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Vyacheslav Volodin, Ivanov’s deputy responsible for internal policy.
The great success of the Valdai Club has been to offer a forum for discussion between supporters of the opposition and the government. The third day showed that there is much to talk about.
This article first appeared in Russia Beyond The Headlines.