Saturday, May 28, 2005

Khordorkovsky on Freedom the Russian Way

In response to letters from the readers of the
Bolshoi Gorod magazine, Mikhail Khodorkovsky
talks about his own understanding of Russian
freedom – and why a revolution in Russia would be

Dear Friends!

I am glad that the events surrounding Yukos and
my imprisonment have given you an opportunity to
use another language and to talk, for once, about
something else.

I am grateful to prison because it has given me
a new understanding of freedom. That very freedom
that is inside a person. It’s not easy to acquire
this kind of freedom. Even prosecutors and police
are powerless against it. I am using the
understanding of human freedom as something that
does not depend on a diploma handed down by the
authorities. It is not a bank account, saved and
spent by its owner. Freedom is an indelible
aspect of a human being, a special aspect. It’s
either there, or it isn’t. If a person is
critically dependent on something beyond himself,
he is already not free. And this can be any
dependence: vodka, heroin, personal vanity, or
money. Once, I, just as a lot of my business
colleagues in the post-Soviet years, thought that
money emancipated its owner because it allowed
him to think of other things besides feeding
himself. In other words, that money significantly
widens the sphere of choices one has. Now I know
that there’s something very cunning about this
line of thinking. When you are forced to think
about the fate of your capital every waking day,
this is dependence, which means slavery.