Below I present the abridged version of an interview that I conducted with Andrei Tsiganov in St. Petersburg on March 30th.
Mr. Tsiganov is a political activist in Russia. You may not have heard of him personally, but it far more likely that you have heard of some of the activity that he and his organization have been engaged in. In his own words, Mr. Tsiganov is engaged in a lawfare campaign against Liberal forces in Russia and while there are other conservatives operating in Russia, his organization appears to be the largest and most effective, with some actual victories to their name. The much-derided (in the West) anti-LGBT propaganda law passed in Russia was largely the work of him and his organization and the work of Duma Deputy Vitaly Milonov, who became the face of the law. You may or may not remember the British homosexual comedian Stephan Fry coming to Russia to give the Russian people a stern talking to about the values of tolerance and inclusion.
Recently, Tsiganov was active in the fight against the COVID clampdown in Russia, filing lawsuits and providing an alternative perspective to the WEF with the help of his media resource “Katyusha”, which is quite popular in Russia. As an aside, the Covid hysteria has largely been dropped in Russia as a result of the military operation in Ukraine and Mr. Tsiganov has much to say on this topic, so I hope that we can revisit it with him in depth in the future. This time though, we spoke mostly about the state of the Russian government and the media situation in Russia and the sweeping changes that are occurring in civil society. Tsiganov and his people are a fairly good representative of the views and positions of the large patriotic bloc in Russia, which generally wants the government to adopt a more conservative, sovereign position in its national policies, foreign policy and cultural program.
I hope you enjoy it.
Me: Mr. Tsiganov, what is happening within Russia? The shakeups that we have seen in the last weeks are historic, no? Is Russia finally fed up with Liberalism?
Tsiganov: First and foremost, it is important to understand that there is a stark difference between the “deep nation” and the traitor class — the usurpers of Russia’s financial system, its media, and its culture-creators. Many of these traitors have left the country in recent weeks. True patriots don’t abandon their country. We can also refer to these people as “foam” — the foam on the top of the water. In other words, the foam is leaving the country. Alternatively, these people can be thought of as the sores on the Russian body. Many of them are non-Russians, but all of them are people who do not identify with Russia at all. They just used Russia to earn some money, temporarily. This is a positive cleansing process that is occurring now. We should be very thankful for it. Things would have been better had the West imposed sanctions on Russia earlier.
Take Anatoly Chubais as an example. He was one of the most prominent Liberal western agents. It’s a very good sign that he left. He was part of the pro-Western cultural elite in Russia. However, I hesitate to even use such words to describe him because neither he nor the people like him can be considered “elite” or particularly cultured for that matter. Unfortunately, we have to consider the possibility that some of them have may come back. For example, Vladimir Pozner [Channel 1 TV presenter] returned and thinks that he will be able to adjust to the new reality. His show is back on the air. Ivan Urgent [late night show entertainer who fled to Israel] also said that he might come back.
In the meantime, Konstantin Ernst [Channel 1 CEO] has had charges brought up on him. You have to understand, Channel 1 was pushing anti-Russian news on a state channel.
Me: How so?
Tsiganov: Well, they invited many liberal people, people from the pro-West camp, onto their shows and PR’d them. Take Morgenshtern, as an example. This is an entertainer that popularizes drug use to the youth. The government recently kicked him out of the country.
Me: So the poster stunt on Channel 1. Are you saying it was staged?
Tsiganov: It was a deliberate provocation by Ernst. He refused to apologize. It was done to send a message to Putin. The audience for this was the West — the message was written in English, after all. Western media jumped on it. The woman with the sign had a lawyer sitting by ready. It was also a shot fired off Putin’s bow to demonstrate that Ernst and his operation did not approve of his actions in Ukraine.
Me: I see. What changes would you like to see occur within Russia?
Tsiganov: Well, in the constitution it says that ideology as such is banned. Modern Russia was created as a post-ideological country by the West. But the Russian people need an idea and there is now an attempt to create something new. The closest that we have to this is the National Safety Plan put together by the military where a first attempt was made. Several theses were voiced such as the necessity of defending the traditional view of family and fighting back against the anti-Russian historical narrative that is being promulgated in our schools. A second such document came out recently as well: the Project for the Defense of Traditional Values. This document provides guidelines for what projects are allowed to be funded with government money and what people can be allowed to sit in the government by proposing a loyalty test for ministers and bureaucrats. Much is still in the air and depends on the concepts, programs, and ideas that are eventually adopted. But the key point here is that nothing has been adopted yet because of the chinovniks (bureaucrats) refusal to implement it. Take, for example, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. This is a Western creature through and through. His whole mindset is Western. He uses neoliberal models in his policies and programs. The entire government is in panic because of this; they don’t know how to do things outside the liberal operating protocol, which is being jettisoned now.
Over the last 2 years, Mishustin has been instrumental in pushing for and implementing the “cyber gulag” and for increasing the cooperation of the Russian government with the World Economic Forum. Mishustin went so far as to open the Center For the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Mishistin’s entire operation is staffed by graduates of the Higher Economic School and employees of Sberbank. [NOTE: The Higher Economic Schools is one of the pre-eminent forces within Russia pushing for neoliberal reforms since the 90s.] These people are Western-educated and, more importantly, they believe in the Western consensus on everything from governmental policy, economic policy, and social issues. Mishustin and his cronies have formed what they themselves refer to as the “cyber spetznaz” and have passed all these laws without the consent of the Russian people. Our Minister of Digital Transformation says that robots make the best administrators — this is the mentality of the man who wants to totally reform our system of governance. Strange as it may sound, Europe and America have better cyber protection laws on their books. No such protections exist in Russia. Luckily, Mishustin and his people have failed to realize their plans because of the war.
Me: Pardon me for the direct question: is the current situation good for you and people who support your position?
Tsiganov: This is a war against the West and Western values. Furthermore, Russians are unlike many other peoples because they are pro-big state. The Russian people hope that the government will go to war for them against the Liberal class. People with our values are to be found in the military and the ranks of the FSB [Federal Security Service]. There are lots of patriots in the administration of the president as well. The war has shown us who is who. People in the government thought that it was possible to come to a compromise with the U.S. And now this has changed. This has created more room for internal maneuver for Putin and his allies.
Me: Why did it take Russia so long to do something about Western propaganda on the internet? Pro-Russian content is routinely banned off all social media sites, and it is impossible to put a pro-Russian narrative out on the internet. What was the plan? At least they’re talking about “cyber sovereignty” on the state channels now.
Tsiganov: First and foremost it is necessary to understand that Russia has no plans — only the Soviet Union had plans. [NOTE: Here he means the Soviet 5-year national plans and such.] That being said, Putin tried to create a “Runet” [a program aimed at furthering Russian sovereignty over the internet in Russia]. But the money was diverted and squandered on the digitization plan promoted by Mishustin and his so-called cyber spetznaz. 150 billion dollars were allocated from the budget and only 11 billion went to internet sovereignty projects. The rest went to various digitization schemes based on Western models.
Another silver lining to the current situation: Kaspersky has come out and said that Russia has lost 200,000 programmers. [NOTE: I am not sure that this number is accurate, but scores of big city dwellers have indeed fled Russia. Programmers who have stayed have been discussing the phenomenon on their channels. I personally know several that moved to Poland and Latvia for what it’s worth.] This means that Mishustin’s cyber gulag plan will fall through — he no longer has the political cachet or the cadres to pull it off. That being said, Russia could still create a sovereign internet if the political will was there. We have the talent and resources to do so.
Now, the US considers the internet its sovereign territory and treats it as such. It is part of the US cyber-strategy plan. There is no such thing as a free and universal internet. Do you know who actually does have a sovereign internet?
Tsiganov: Yes, China. Only China has developed a sovereign internet. The project was completed in the fall of last year thanks to a law on servers which effectively banned the transfer of data across borders. This is the way to do it. The Russian government needs to undertake big projects, like China does, not rely on the so-called invisible hand. Sergei Glazyev talks about this — the Minister of Eurasian Integration. But the people who ran Russia relied on the Liberal way of doing things — allowing private, foreign capital decide what gets invested into and how for the last 30 years. As you know, many of these people have fled the country now. Consider the absurdity of the situation: the Alphabet company controls a large part of Sber [an important bank]. And Alphabet runs Google. We can’t have this. We can’t have our enemies controlling our internet.
Me: What will happen next? What measures do you expect in the coming weeks and months?
Tsiganov: The government will now be forced to lean on the patriotic base in the country because the Yeltsin-era people and the various Western-educated technocrats can’t be trusted. They can’t even mobilize the country should Russia need to transition to a war economy. I expect Youtube to be closed down soon. We have the necessary resources and professionals to implement a sovereign “Runet.” All that we lacked was the political will. I hope that we now have a chance to do what should have been done years ago. People with our values and positions finally have a chance of rising up into government positions that will be vacated as as the cleanings continue in the government, media.