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Coordination Board of the European Dialogue Expert Group

25 years ago Russia shrugged off the Soviet system in order to become part of the civilised world. Over this time the country saw some success: fragments of market economy emerged and we are now free to travel around the world no longer needing a special approval from authorities. However, each one of us who is not just paying a lip service to the need of change, but endeavours to make Russia a country, which is highly respected for the freedom of human growth, clearly sees now that we lost the way that had been picked back in 1991. Instead of opening itself up to the world our country sinks deeper into the abyss of isolationism, clericalism, and xenophobia. Paternalism and doublethink are in full blossom eclipsing a self-sufficient individuality. Instead of political competition for power we see an incredibly bloated state structure, which stability hinges on irremovability of the group that holds on to power. Brainwashing by state-controlled media is in full swing.

Betrayal of ideals, which formed the very foundation of the new Russia proclaimed 25 years ago could only have brought the country to a systemic crisis.

Problems are mounting up across the board in economy, social and political life. It is becoming clear that these long-lasting trends, which slowly but inevitably push Russia to a crash, can be only broken through a deep transformation. But before we understand where to start, we need to know who we – all the people living in this country – are. It has now become proper to link Russia’s future to some sort of a special, almost Eurasian, way of thinking and being, and a talk about spiritual bonds, which are intrinsic to us, is getting increasingly popular. However, no one has clarified yet the meaning of these fine words. One thing that is unambiguously implied in these talks is that we are not Europeans. We disagree with this position. Rejecting something, which has proved to be efficient, and choosing propagandistic eclecticism instead means being irresponsible in the context of the country’s future.

Indeed, the European civilisation spanning from North America across Europe to Japan, South Korea, Australia, and new Zealand is going through rather challenging times. The difficulties are building up: growing inequality gap, global financial crisis, strengthening right and left populism, terrorism. However, all these issues are heavily debated in society and among experts, and these discussions will bear fruit sooner or later. A civilisation that is resting upon democracy, rule of law, and market economy is here to stay. Moreover, the starting technological revolution creates all necessary conditions for this civilisation to continue.

And Russia, as long as it clings to its “distinctiveness”, will keep lagging behind the locomotive of progress and prosperity, moving down to the bottom of the world table of ranks and becoming a third world country that does not have respect of the others. Russia will remain of any interest to the world only as long as it has natural resources, which will be bought at rock-bottom prices, and spawns talented people, who emigrate elsewhere.

We are not satisfied with such humiliating perspective. We believe that Russia stands a chance to be one of the leading European i.e. leading world countries. For this to happen Russian experts must now join the debate on the future of the European civilisation that is currently underway in the West. The knowledge that we gain in the course of this discussion will be useful for our country as well. The essence of our work is to make modern Europeans in present-day Russia. Hereby we kick-off the project and we count on your support and understanding.