May the smoke of the Fatherland be sweet and dear to us

On an autumn day in 1492, one of the native inhabitants of an island in the Bahamas archipelago ran to his tribe with shocking news: the water near the horizon was seething and foaming, as if it were being cut by a giant oar apart from there was no oar! People believed the witness of an unprecedented phenomenon. The whole tribe rushed to the seashore to see the miracle.

Among the onlookers was a shaman of the tribe. He knew for sure that as there is no smoke without fire, so the water will not boil by itself. For a long time the shaman peered into the horizon, where the water behaved so wrongly, and little by little, he saw the sides and sails of the squadron of Christopher Columbus. He told his fellow citizens that the water was bubbling under unusually large pirogues and then everyone saw the Spaniards’ ships.
In the 19th century, commander Karl von Clausewitz realized that by using smoke as a hoax one can achieve his goals without sacrificing the lives of soldiers and officers, without forcing ones country into heavy expenses. He even claimed that using smoke and mirrors, one can achieve his goal even faster than in a bloody massacre against an armed enemy.
In the 20th century, newspapers, radio, and later television and the Internet took on the role that smoke and mirrors used to play earlier. However, the Soviet agitprop couldn’t compete with its Western colleagues. The USSR fell apart not because of economic or political problems (although they were in abundance), but because most of its citizens believed in the legend of a beautiful life in a market economy.
I recall with bitterness 1991, when we lost a huge country with great economic potential. We believed then that this was our own choice. Only a few knew that destroying a country for the sake of an economic amendment was like treating a headache with amputation.


In just two and a half years, another crisis flared up in Russia. Disagreements between the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation and the executive branch led nearly to a civil war on the streets of Moscow in the autumn of 1993. I was a direct witness and participant in those events. Along with the President of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev, I tried, alas to no avail, to resolve the conflict into a peaceful discussion. The first shots have already sounded, the first victims have appeared. Aushev and I, under a white flag, went to the White House to meet with Alexander Rutskoy and Ruslan Khasbulatov. Rutskoy reported then that the Minister of the Interior Yerin, had been instructed not to take anyone alive.

Despite the white flag, we had to wait for 20 minutes for the shooting to cease in order to get to the White House. We managed to get women and children out of the White House and then army units launched an assault. The upper floors caught fire from salvos of tank guns. I will never forget the terrible black smoke rising above the White House.
We may not learn about the role played by representatives of Western special services in those events. They openly worked in the Russian government under the guise of advisers and consultants. So far, one thing is clear: these events allowed the government to continue to pursue a failed economic policy, helped strengthen the executive branch to the detriment of all its other branches, increased corruption, stratified society and so on. I’m not sure that we have overcome all the consequences of that autumn by now.
And then there is almost daily bad news, which, like pungent suffocating smoke, is alarming, corroding eyes, blocking the sky and the sun. In July of this year, when the taiga was burning, people who found themselves in smoky territories wrote on social networks: "We lost the sun." Photographs of children wearing gauze facemasks in smoky streets published on social networks caused a petition demanding to introduce an emergency regime throughout Siberia. This appeal gathered more than a million signatures in a few days. People sympathized with those who were in trouble. Even we were ready to assist in extinguishing fires. However, we were not prepared to hear from government that putting out fires was "not economically viable." Naturally, the reaction to such words was extremely negative. For it is impossible to measure in money the cost of destroyed taiga, killed animals and the health of children suffocating from smoke!
Just think about it: it will take 100 years to restore Siberian forests. Fires destroy the entire forest ecosystem. And Siberia is not just a geographical concept, but also much more. It maintains an ecological balance throughout our planet. Air quality in Europe, productivity in China, and the general climate on Earth depend on Siberian forests. Violation of the ecosystem of the Siberian region poses a threat to the entire planet, to all of humanity, to each of us. The smoke from the forest fires went north and soot settled on the Arctic. The ice covered with soot turned dark and began to melt many times faster. As a result, global climate change is accelerating and becoming increasingly unpredictable and dangerous. Everything is interconnected.
Yes, everything is interconnected in our life, although at first glance this is not always obvious. Each event is explained by previous events that became its cause. “There is no smoke without fire,” they say. True, but fires are different. Some warms, the other burns everything to the ground. Fire escaping from control is extremely dangerous for everyone. And no one can breathe the smoke it produces.
In February this year, Russia Public Opinion Research Centre conducted surveys that included questions about what qualities Russians value most in people and social leaders, and what rights and freedoms Russians consider to be priority. Most of the respondents agreed that honesty is the most important quality. Today, the demand for “fair elections” is increasingly coming to the fore, but elections are only part of the relationship between society and government. Honesty should be the foundation of our state, permeate all the components of the state system. We need not only fair elections, but also an honest court, honest information and an honest and open conversation between the government and its citizens.
The answers to the second question of the survey about the rights and freedoms proclaimed by the Constitution, showed that most of all people in Russia value health protection, the right to housing and the right to life.
The right to life, in my opinion, is the most important of human rights. It appears simultaneously with the birth of a man, and no one has the right to deprive him of it. But for this right to be fully realized and not turned into smoke, society and the state must take join action. The right to life includes many components: good job with decent salary, good health care, good housing, personal and public safety, as well as clean water, healthy food and fresh air. Speaking of the right to life, we mean the right to a better life, to a decent future for us and, most importantly, for our children. It is important to understand that our future depends on decisions that we make today.
Then nothing will burn, and the road will become even and smooth, and the very smoke of the Fatherland will again be sweet and dear to us.