Despite some reforms, Russia still faces many serious problems, a former aide to Mikhail Gorbachev said Tuesday in Lawrence.
Russia will not have a stable society until the rule of law is established and until the country's economy begins to grow, the architect of Soviet reform said Tuesday night at Kansas University.
"There can be no significant reform in Russia until land is given to the peasants," said Alexander Yakovlev, an adviser under former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and architect of perestroika, or restructuring, in the former Soviet Union.
"Surely as the economy begins to grow somewhat, society will become more stable," he said. "Russia needs to be great, not in a military power, threatening the world, but in the dignity of its people."
Yakovlev made the remarks through an interpreter before a crowd of about 160 people in the Big 12 Room of the Kansas Union.
His talk was sponsored by KU's Office of International Programs, Office of the Provost and Center for Russian and East European Studies.
Russia, he said, is beset by many serious problems, including corruption, a complex and overpowering state bureaucracy that stifles private business, and no viable legal system.
"For 1,000 years, Russia has been governed by people and not by laws," he said. "We have learned from bitter experience that tens of millions of lives have been wasted for nothing.
"Russians love to feel sorry for themselves, but we must not wallow in self-pity."
Despite the problems, Yakovlev said he was optimistic about Russia's future.
"I am convinced Russia's future is worthy and great," he said, but added: "The state is still above the individual. Until the individual rises above the state, it will not be possible to have any form of democracy."
Yakovlev encouraged Gorbachev to promote the campaigns of glasnost and perestroika that hastened the fall of Soviet communism.
He served in the Red Army in World War II and was an exchange student at Columbia University in New York from 1957 to 1958.
He also served as ambassador to Canada from 1973 to 1982.
From 1985 to 1986 he was director of the Institute of World Economics and International Relations in Moscow. In 1985, he was invited by Gorbachev to work in the Communist Party's powerful Central Committee, where he championed Gorbachev's reform policies.
In 1987, he was elected to the Politburo.
In July 1991, Yakovlev signed the declaration establishing the movement of democratic reforms in the U.S.S.R. This action prompted his expulsion from the Communist Party the following month.
During the abortive coup of 1991, he joined President Boris Yeltsin in defense of the Russian House of Soviets.
He was appointed in December 1992 to head the Commission for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, a body empowered to investigate and publicize the mass murders of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's regime.
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