Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Letter from Siberia

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed and exiled "oligarch" now serving a nine-year sentence in a labour camp in Chita, Siberia, has sent a letter to a Russian woman, Irina, in the United States who had written to him expressing her fears for the future of society in Russia. In particular, she drew attention to the widespread political indifference and lethargy in Russia as a whole, and to the fact that now almost the only alternative to the present party in power is the far-right National Bolshevik Party, with the danger of a lurch towards fascism and totalitarianism.

In his letter, Khodorkovsky writes that it is precisely this political passivity and indifference that he is trying to combat, and that his primary aim is to encourage the development of a normal civil society.

It seems that private correspondence is the only way in which Khodorkovsky is able to communicate with the outside world - while only some of his letters (which are censored) reach their destinations, they do at least in some small part lift the information blockade that has been built around him by the prison authorities and the Russian government.

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