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Reason: Have you found a receptive audience when you advocate for libertarianism?
Kichanova: It depends with whom we are talking. We are trying to the appropriate approach to every audience. For example, if we are discussing army reform, we invite draftees and soldiers' mothers. If we have an event devoted to freedom of speech, we invite journalists. The problem is that several years ago, even the word “libertarian” was very unfamiliar for Russians in politics. Our main achievement is that we made it familiar. Now, we have to take another step, because most people think libertarianism is anarchy for rich people, that we advocate for the rights of big business, that we stand for some oligarchs. We keep explaining that we protect the rights of every single person, that liberty is not about wealth but the ability to use your own property and labor no matter how much you have.
Reason: What do Russians think of capitalism?
Kichanova: Their idea of capitalism was compromised in the '90s during the market reforms after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The majority of people were very unhappy about how the reforms were enacted. These reforms were in favor of oligarchs The most difficult task for us is to explain that oligarchy is not about the free market, but about government invasion of the market.
Reason: You have mentioned your admiration for the reforms in Georgia, and in other interviews, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. What is that appeals to you about these?
Kichanova: Their examples show us that there is a possibility to change regimes without blood or civil war. Everyone that is advocating for Putin's regime are saying that all of the protests will lead to blood in the streets and the death of many people. Today's most important event – Navalny's sentencing – is unfortunate, but the good thing is that people went out into the streets without any permission. I think it's strange and absurd that we ask the government's permission to protest. You have to get an official paper from the city administration if you are organizing a rally. Today, people asked for no permission. I think that's the way it should have happened years ago. Then, we would not have Navalny sentenced, Pussy Riot sentenced, and many restrictive laws.
Reason: What is censorship in the media like?
Kichanova: We have some free media in Russia, but if you remember the stories of Putin's crusade against free media, the first thing he did when he came to power was to close NTV. It was the most popular TV station in the '90s. There were big protests. I did not participate myself, but my father took me to put down my signature. I was nine. It was my first civil action. They said NTV was closed for economic reasons, and that's what they're doing now. There is no direct censorship, but the journalists who criticize the government too much, it becomes more and more difficult for them to find jobs. Everyone knows, though it's not open, that the owners of the media get some orders from the presidential administration.
It's not an everyday practice, but there is a growing list of media closed and journalists fired. Several of them have emigrated, like Oleg Kashin, who was dangerously beaten three years ago. We still have free media, but they are online. So the citizens of big cities can read them and get information from the internet, but the majority of Russians get news from TV, where there is massive propaganda. There are regions where there are only government media and no private media at all. When some new authoritarian laws are passed, they show propaganda to prepare the public opinion. But, since they passed the so-called “anti-gay law,” we cannot write about gays and lesbians in a positive way, or else it's considered propaganda to harm children. There are very big fines. So, a week before that, they show films that say there is a big, dangerous gay lobby all around the world corrupting traditional values.
Reason: I read an article that said you were arrested once and detained fives times for your activism. Have you been arrested since you got elected?
Reason: Is that because you are not doing as much activism?
Kichanova: I work at Slon.ru, which is one of the free media, I usually go the rallies as a journalist, so I have a press card.
Reason: When you were speaking with Andrei Illarionov, Putin's former chief economic adviser, he said that working in Russian politics can be very dangerous. Do you think that's accurate? If so, how do you feel about working in a dangerous job?
Kichanova: There was a rally last year the day before the inauguration of Putin. After that, 27 people were detained and accused of spreading mass riots. They weren't all detained on the same day. They were absolutely random people, not leaders, not even participants in some party, just ordinary citizens. So, it was done to make everybody understand that anyone can put in jail for just peaceful activism. It put everyone in fear, because you never know who is next. They did it every Wednesday for two months. You're just opening your twitter feed, and one of your friends is typing that the investigators are calling into their home and want search your house. So, one more person you know will go to jail.
Reason: What can you accomplish as a member of the municipal council?
Kichanova: I can do almost nothing, because the governing system of Moscow is very centralized. We deputies are elected, but do not have real authority. All of the main decisions, including the spending of peoples' money, are made by those appointed by the city administration. We have a network of independent deputies and we have very different political views, but we have one thing in common. We want the system to be decentralized. We want more authority to be given to the elected people. So, the main thing I can do is make the work of this council more transparent, like by writing blogs and inviting journalists to council meetings.