Victor Rau: "Here we have become fascists.
Victor Rau is an activist and public figure from Barnaul. He ran for governor of the Altai Territory and was nominated to the State Duma. In 2021, he and his grandson left for Tbilisi after a criminal case was filed against him and his grandson was placed on the police register because of his opposition activities. Rau went out with posters on the central square of Barnaul together with other activists in support of the former governor of Khabarovsk region Sergey Furgal, at public rallies in defense of Alexei Navalny, and held a picket on the day Mikhail Mishustin came to town.
In 2019, Victor Rau received the Golos Medal of the Voter Rights Movement for finding 200 suspicious ballots in the 2018 presidential election in Barnaul. During the recount, OSCE observers found another 100 extra ballots "for" Vladimir Putin. We talked to Victor Rau in the Eyewitness Project about when the point of no return happened in Russia, how our country turned into a fascist state, and what needs to happen for society to wake up.
Tell us about yourself.
- I am from the city of Barnaul, Altai Krai, Siberia. I have been doing public work in Russia for more than 10 years. After I realized that Russia was going the wrong way, that an authoritarian regime was taking shape in our country, I started doing public work. I was a member of the Public Oversight Commission for Human Rights and tried to become a deputy several times. I ran for governor of the Altai Territory. So that is the kind of figure: visible to some, but invisible to others, from the Altai Territory.
Why did you leave Russia?
- We met Navalny. When they doused him with green, I was standing with my back to him, and the spray came flying at me. Maybe if I had been facing him, I would have caught up with him and caught him. And we took part in the rally. Well, how did we participate... I went to the rally, and then they put me in jail.
When I was in pretrial detention, I wrote about the second rally, that it would happen. And then I was accused of being the organizer of these rallies, calling for these rallies.
I went as a candidate for the State Duma from the "Yabloko" party, although I am not a member of this party myself. But I am for democratic principles. One deputy from the "Just Russia" submitted an application for me (Molotov there is such a thing). Such a surname coinciding with a certain Molotov, known since the Second World War, the Great Patriotic War - there was another weirdo. I was removed through the court, they accused me, although it was not officially recognized that I was a participant [in rallies] or assisted Navalny. Nevertheless, I was removed from the election. And in April a criminal case was opened against me, which, incidentally, was closed in January of this year. Because they couldn't prove anything. In short, they were making a mess of my brains, but there was nothing to pick on. The investigators were decent, so to speak.
The most important reason: my daughter died on November 11, 2012, she was in a car accident between Omsk and Novosibirsk. She had a four-month-old son, and I was his guardian. And I had this prospect - if they took me away, then, in principle, I thought it was possible to serve time. But for what? Sitting for what? For the truth, for the fact that they're just fostering? If they took me away, my grandson could be sent to an orphanage. I decided not to test my fate. That is practically because of him anymore. Although, in the main, maybe even if it were not for him, I probably would have made such a decision. There's no point. People are now mocking Navalny and Kara-Murza, and they are now mocking Ilya Yashin. I don't think this is a solution. But they are heroes. They're good, they're standing their ground. I'm more inclined to do what I can to help my country against this authoritarian regime, from the outside.
When did the point of no return happen in Russia?
- The point of no return is vague. In some places they were stifling, in some places they were making it look like everything was normal. It was gradually escalating on all sides. Authoritarianism has now slowly but surely turned into fascism. When Putin said: "Let's go! Ukrainians turned out to be Banderites. It turns out that everyone there is a Nazi." And there is already a portion of society that is screaming: "Yes, yes, kill, kill, hang, shoot them - and that's it." It was the same under Hitler in Germany, when people gradually went mad, and then part of the society couldn't get away from that Hitler for another 20 years. They still believed in Hitler. There is no one point like that. It somehow gradually formed, in different places. It went on and on and on, and at the end it turned into this situation, when the whole world is going crazy because of Putler and the Russian government. And the whole nation suffers.
What needs to happen for society to come to its senses?
- The idea shoots out. Everyone supported the idea that there is a war out there, somewhere in Ukraine, we have no war, thank God, no war. "Putin's detachments" broadcast: "We have no war, we have silence.
So in Syria the war, where our people were killed and where our people killed other people, civilians - that's normal. Now they went into Ukraine, started killing children, women, people, bombing cities - this is also normal. And now - once, they announced mobilization. As they said. "the time will come when the refrigerator will be empty, then people will start thinking."
Here - bang! It touched me personally. Many people did not want to go to war, as I read, 700 thousand people, according to various estimates, during this period, during those 10 days after September 21, left the country. This is it, this is the beginning of it, people are already rebuilding. Some ridiculous figures, such as the fact that over 80 percent supported Putin, and now 8 percent less - this is all, of course, ridiculous. But the fact that in society as a whole, such a revolution has begun and some trends have already started to develop - this is something else.
Your first thoughts and feelings on February 24?
- The thought was that we had become fascists, real fascists. In theory, we were, for example, Nazi Germany hated the Jews, and in theory, since 2014, we have been shouting that there are Banderites, there are Nazis. In principle, this is where the war already started.
At the time it was just so sluggish. But it continued. There was a war there. It was going on, but Europe did not notice it, did not want to notice it, the world did not want to notice it. Everyone was trying to please Putin to calm down. Because if anything, he would shout: "I have an atomic bomb!" He's got a truncheon. When there were these arguments, I said, no, Putin won't go for it, he's not crazy. I was wrong, he is crazy after all.
Will you return to Russia?
- Yes, I have plans. I understand that I am a Russian German. The easiest thing for me to do is to go to Germany. And there to my family, my children, my grandson to make a future for them. But I understand that I have to go back and help my homeland, where I was born. And something should be changed there. In particular, I don't want it to be like before: no matter what you do, communism will flourish anyway. Specific people always decide something. Not as it was before, that there is a task, an installation, an ideology, there will be an ideology to win. Not ideology, but concrete people decide something. So, of course, I think to go back and help on some level. To help my country.