We don’t think any country in the world has a right to lecture Russia on democracy
Pyotr Tolstoy – a famous Russian journalist, producer, show host on Channel One, and Deputy Chairman of the State Duma – told Capital Ideas how information about Russia is disseminated, and talked to us about national pride, the renovation program in Moscow, and the spirit of his great ancestor.
In the summer of 2018, Russia hosted the World Cup. During the events, and for sometime afterward, social media was filled with enthusiastic reviews from foreign fans. And all of this happened against the backdrop of never-ending sanctions, military operations in Syria, stories about the Skripal poisoning case, and so on. As a journalist and politician, what do you think about all of this?
You’re talking about two different information flows. The first one is about Russia as seen through the eyes of real people, and the second is a well-organized and coordinated information war, the goal of which is to depict Russia as an enemy nation, to discredit and weaken our country. What Russia actually is today doesn’t fall in line with the plans of our western colleagues.
The result is that Russia is stripped of its right to have a say on the international arena, the accepted standards and rules are ignored and trampled upon. The culmination of this was dragging the Church into dirty political games, which is outrageous, unacceptable and extremely dangerous! I’m talking about the discussion regarding the possibility of granting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church autocephaly, making it independent from the Moscow Patriarchate. This is another way to put pressure on Russia at the expense of the interests and fates of many Orthodox Christians. But it seems any tactic is acceptable now.
The main moderating force containing these attempts has always been international organizations that were initially created to keep peace on earth. Being a member of these organizations used to mean that nations were represented equally and there was an opportunity to voice one’s position on specific issues openly. But lately they’re nothing but tools in someone else’s game, and unprecedented pressure is put on Russia for reasons that are fabricated or can’t be backed with facts.
You head up the Russian delegation for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Do you think Russia should stay in the Council of Europe under these circumstances?
As of today, it is obvious that our European colleagues don’t have any independent political will, so all the prerequisites for Russia making the decision to leave the Council of Europe are there. I completely agree with the opinion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who said that “Russia wants to remain a part of the same Council of Europe that we joined in the first place, which has a charter that states that every country has equal rights in all structures within the organization.” How can you build a constructive dialogue with people who disregard international law and doesn’t play by the rules? We’ve said multiple times that we’re against double standards and hypocrisy, and don’t think that any country in the world has the right to lecture Russia on democracy or impose their values on us.
It would be good for our European colleagues to remember the circumstances under which the UN was established and for what purpose, why the OSCE was created, and why the Helsinki agreements were signed.
Some representatives of the so-called elite say that Russia must rejoin the Council of Europe as soon as possible. On the other hand, I constantly hear the opinions of my voters, who genuinely don’t understand why Russia voluntarily and publicly falls victim to arrogant and deceitful attacks across international platforms.
In this case, I fully agree with the “non-elites” and think that it’s time we stop having to justify ourselves. This situation should be seen as an opportunity to resolve internal issues and strengthen the national economy. With several centuries of history behind us, Russia still has an eternity ahead of us. We can afford to wait for mature, reasoned decisions from those who are truly interested in an open, honest, and constructive dialogue with our country.
Speaking of the eternal, I wanted to ask you about your famous great grandfather Leo Tolstoy, who is still very popular in the West…
He’s popular because Leo Tolstoy’s art is inextricably linked with the lives of ordinary people – their cares and joys, desires and worries. “War and Peace” or “Anna Karenina” are easy for every person to relate to and understand, regardless of their nationality, because these works are apolitical. All of his stories are based on his life experiences, his discussions and interactions.
Unfortunately, we still have this image of him as a “mirror of the Russian Revolution” and an eccentric landlord who walked around his land barefoot in a peasant’s coat. And he really did, but these coats were made to order by a French tailor in Moscow.
Leo Tolstoy was an extremely passionate man. He worked on educating peasant children, set up cantines for poor people, saved people from hunger, and was fond of theatre. And he was deeply involved in all of these things. I know almost all of Leo Tolstoy’s descendants, and I can say that all of them have similar personality traits – the passion, love for life, and the same fickle pull toward different kinds of occupations.
Let’s remember that you’re a deputy from the Lyublino District in Moscow. Do you manage to meet your voters’ needs?
My team and I try to pay attention to every request we get from residents in our district. Overall, I can say that we’re able to solve the vast majority of problems. The construction of a Church has started in Lyublino, there is a multifunctional center in Vykhino now, a day hospital at the clinic in Kapotnya, a dental clinic in Zhulebino, we’ve launched the so-called “medical bus route” that runs by the medical institutions in Marino and Kapotnya, resolved public transportation issues in Kapotnya, there are additional high-capacity metro cars on the Taganskaya-Krasnopresnenskaya line, and we’ve opened a center for large families in Kuzminki. We plan to launch a patriotic education program for young people in the capital’s South-Eastern district.
In your opinion, has Moscow changed over the past few years?
It’s obvious that the city has changed for the better. First, there have been major improvements to in the sphere of transportation – interchanges and tens of kilometers of new roads have been built, and this work is still underway. There are new metro stations, new routes for above-ground transportation, and new transport interchange hubs. Moscow has become more convenient for pedestrians as well. Just look at how much the city’s parks have transformed! As of today, almost all of the city’s embankments have been reconstructed and Muscovites now have access to well-kept green spaces for leisure. There are still problems in different districts and courtyards, but Moscow really has become a beautiful, flourishing, and modern city.
You curate renovations at the State Duma. How will this program impact the city and people who live here?
I often have appointments with people who ask me to include their house in the renovation program or to resettle them sooner because their buildings have been in disrepair for a long time and renovations won’t help them at this point. Khrushchyovkas have served their purpose, and it’s time to move on. I am confident that the opinions of residents will be taken into account with respect to specific projects. We’ll make sure that taller boxes don’t replace the old ones, that truly beautiful and convenient new buildings are erected in their place, and that these buildings transform the capital’s image. The best architects are working hard to make sure that the new residential districts fit into the city’s landscape harmoniously. To make sure all nuances and requests from Muscovites are taken into consideration, working groups for the protection of citizens’ rights and interests during the implementation of the renovations program take place every year under my supervision at the State Duma. If Moscow is able to successfully implement the program, I think we’ll be able to apply this experience to other Russian cities.
A few words about your own plans before we part ways. Why did you come back to television?
I feel the need to tell Moscow residents about what’s going on domestically and on the international arena, to analyze the actions of governments in Russia and the world, and to assess our work at the State Duma. I want to explain this to people in simple language that’s easy to understand. I’ll invite famous politicians, economists, and cultural figures to participate in the dialogue so we can talk openly about issues that truly concern people.
And I’m not leaving my job as a Deputy Chairman of the State Duma. The informational and analytical program “Tolstoy. Sunday” on Channel One is my creative Sunday project.