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Сhange of Power in Russia Will Look A Lot Like My Arrest
A Letter from Yegor Zhukov
The Here We Stand initiative was conceived on the 3rd of August 2019 - the day of Yegor Zhukov's arrest. Yegor, aged 21, is a Russian student of Political Science. He is currently facing up to 8 years in prison.

Today, we publish a letter Yegor has written from the remand prison he is currently held in.
What was considered impossible will happen. And in retrospect, it will seem inevitable
Yegor Zhukov
PolSci Student, Prisoner
It's difficult, almost impossible to calculate how many times during discussions about my country I've heard the phrase: "Nothing will change here". Our people, who have changed the political system at least three times in the last century, are now perceived as a passive mass incapable of doing anything. From everywhere I hear: "You see, our mentality is like that, a slave mentality. Yes, in the world, here and there, people are standing up against injustice, but in Russia, this will certainly not happen. There will be no democracy in Russia. Putin will never leave. Russia will not become free!".

And then suddenly it will.
The change of power in Russia will look a lot like my arrest.

When the longest day of my life was finally over and on the night of August 2-3, I layed down on the hard bunk bed of a temporary detention facility, and the similarity of these phenomena suddenly became crystal clear to me. And while my cellmates, a young guy and a middle-aged man at risk of being jailed for robbery, were probably sleeping, my tired brain was drawing and drawing parallels.

No matter how repressive the regime is, no matter how much lawlessness is going on around you, you never think you'll be the one who gets arrested. People tend to believe that a car will hit someone else, a brick will fall on somebody else's head, and that the police will come to someone else's place. Our whole lives we chase away the unpleasant thoughts hoping for a happy outcome. Certainly, at first, the news about each new arrest on the July 27 case caused fear in me. But the next second, I would immediately begin to calm myself down:

"Ah, well, he touched a policeman. I didn't touch the policemen";

"Ah, well, he holds an important position in the headquarters of an independent candidate. I do not hold any positions";

"Ah, well, they found a hammer in his backpack. I did not have any hammers";

"Yes, none of those arrested in this case is guilty, because on 27 July there were no mass riots. But at least there was something about these people to pick on," I thought.

And then "the rumble of a doorbell", as I - unfortunately - prophetically said in my last video, divided my life into "before" and "after". Well, the power in Russia will change exactly the same way. It's difficult, almost impossible to calculate how many times during discussions about my country I've heard the phrase: "Nothing will change here". Our people, who have changed the political system at least three times in the last century, are now perceived as a passive mass incapable of doing anything. From everywhere I hear: "You see, our mentality is like that, a slave mentality. Yes, in the world, here and there, people are standing up against injustice, but in Russia, this will certainly not happen. There will be no democracy in Russia. Putin will never leave. Russia will not become free!".

And then suddenly it will. And I mean it, it will happen suddenly, unexpectedly. Just as suddenly, as the policemen in civilian clothes show up at one's doorstep. What was considered impossible will happen. And in retrospect, it will seem inevitable.
After the authorities entered my apartment, the events started to unfold very quickly. Around 10 men took to studying the insides of cabinets, shelves, drawers. While the investigator in the other room was refusing me the right to call a lawyer until I signed some papers, the other two policemen who were reeking of alcohol were discussing possible ways to intimidate me. While the police in one room were complaining to each other that they couldn't get enough sleep today, the others were bringing in witnesses from across the hall. Every minute the situation was changing. What happened afterwards? The events were unfolding even faster: interrogation, bringing the charges, further interrogation, 40 minutes of sleep in the temporary detention facility, court, and again in the temporary detention facility. And I am omitting so many details now!

In such a situation, it is important to focus, to use all your resources to prevent the situation from getting out of control completely:

Make sure that the policemen don't plant anything on you;

Carefully read every piece of paper you sign;

Keep an eye on what you are saying during questioning.

And if you are strong enough, you can even convince a few police officers that you are not an agent of the US State Department and are doing everything you do sincerely.

But isn't that also the case when the moment of critical change will come [in Russia]? Decisions will have to be made quickly. Every small mistake will have a butterfly effect on the future of the country. Many people will want to stop us and bury our dreams. It will be important not only to defeat authoritarianism but also to consolidate our success.

August 2 is over, but my journey within the Russian prison system has just begun. I've been following it for almost a month now. What do I see? Another resemblance, another parallel.

To be honest, it's not easy for me.I realized how fragile human life is, how little it takes for the state to break it down. It only became more obvious to me that Homo Sapiens has no worse enemies than those of its own kind. The world around me now exists only for the sake of one thing: to dehumanize a person. It's all true. But actually, so what? It does not take much intelligence to notice all this. Pitying oneself is also quite easy. But if you stop whining, change your perspective and understand the opportunities behind these difficulties, being in a pre-trial detention facility becomes an amazing experience.

When and where else can I develop interpersonal communication skills like this? When and where else can I learn not to be afraid of constant changes: a change of cell three times in two days (four times, if I think about moving from a one pretrial detention facility to another), uncertainty about my own future, new details of the case, and more and more new people around me... Having experienced such a situation in such a short period of time, you just get tired of being afraid. In the end, when and where would it become so obvious to me that Putin has no popular support? And from both sides! Both, the prisoners sending "the Tsar" very far away, and the employees of the Federal Service for the Execution of Penalties and the police who complain about the absence of fair elections in Russia, are parts of the same trend. That is the trend leading us to a result that will be very similar to my time in a pre-trial detention facility. The result, which will be a difficult test for the country, but which will also open up many amazing opportunities.

I will not get tired of repeating: the Russian government is the most effective opposition figure. Wishing to intimidate society, the authorities only make it more angry. Wishing to reduce the protest with the help of illegal cases, they only increase its scope. Wishing to restrict me in prison, the authorities only prepared me for the change of power.

And yet I really want to be free. Not because I am feeling sorry for myself. It's because I want to join you. You, standing in solitary pickets and participating in numerous rallies; and you, fighting for the release of political prisoners and the liberation of our country.

I want to go free. Because I sincerely miss you.

Yours respectfully,

the prisoner Yegor.