Alexey Chaly resigned as Acting Governor of Sevastopol, spending only two weeks on the position. Then he was assigned to the Agency of Strategic Development, created by his own initiative. Commenting on the resignation request from Mr.Chaly, President Vladimir Putin said, “You are not a bureaucrat, you are a revolutionair.” Chaly decided to disagree with such a description, saying that “the revolution is over”, but now the city is having strategic challenges which are best solved not in the governor’s chair.
I find it difficult to judge was the request of Chaly voluntary in the strict sense of this word. It could be forced by the apparatchiks’ pressure, both from the top and bottom sides. Or it maybe could be forced by this silent resistance of those functionaries in the fields, for which he was, on one hand, too independent, and on the other, very honest leader. I don’t know how serious and really effective structure will his agency be, and with what issues it will deal.
I repeat, I don’t know all of that. However, I can say that it would be very hard to find a second person, combining such a different features as: sincere patriotism, integrity, unwillingness to fit in with some general standards of behavior and entrepreneurial thinking – definitly, Russia will hardly find such a man. In Chaly our country suddenly saw some long-cherished dream of us, in which we were afraid to admit – as it seemed like a pipe dream.
It seems to be, I first time saw Alexey Mikhailovich Chaly on TV on February 25 – they showed how he was reading the appeal to Sevastopol – already acting as a “people’s mayor”. It was during the most disgusting days which darkness was only slightly greased by the unexpected success of Russia at the Sochi Olympics. But besides the Olympics everything was shameful and disgraceful. “Right sector” trampled the agreement with the government with complete inaction of everyone who signed this agreement. Yanukovych escaped from Mezhyhirye with his bags of junk stuff. Wise experts quietly laughed on Russian policy in Ukraine, managed to make a bet on such heroes as Dopa and Hepa. Nobody was saying anything optimistic about the situation, only referring to the Crimean Tatar factor. Even in loyal circles they laughed over all who was never tired to talk about the mortal danger of Maidan victory.
And suddenly appears Chaly. He was not noticed at all. But at first glance, it can be seen, that on the stage – a completely new person. Actually, not so much new, more well forgotten old. Well forgotten old Soviet or, more precisely, Russian intellectual: the origin from a military family, education based on good Russian literature, higher technical degree and finally the ability to adapt to any kind of unfavorable situations not losing the intellectual shape and without loosing principles. Such an intellectual as they were described by Mikhail Bulgakov and Boris Pasternak. Alexei Turbin or Yuri Zhivago. We all still remember from our Soviet childhood that these people really were, that they really existed in our world – we communicated with them, we tried to be like them.
How did it happen that we were divided into West-oriented kreakli and sullen in servility so-called uralvagonzavod? How did we allow to kill the best thing in the USSR – this type of Russian intellectual, who is an intellectual, even if he is the hero of Alexei Batalov, employed as a mechanic, or if he is like a hero of Georgi Zhzhenov in his managing chair? It is not true that this kind of man was a myth created by Soviet art – they were real people: many of this living people are still alive, but time remains indifferent to them. Moral of this world says that these people, these men do not exist anymore and will never be. And at a critical moment, in a moment of national peril only one of them appeared on the political scene. And the country met him with all-absorbing love.
Now I don’t want to speak about this unfortunate jumper in which Chaly appeared during the ceremony of the entry of the Crimea and Sevastopol to Russia. I was struck by another – after seeing Chaly on TV I typed his name in YouTube and found the interview, which Chaly gave before all Kiev events. I was struck by how clearly and effectively, without the patriotic affect, Chaly explained why the residents of Sevastopol can’t accept the signing of an association agreement with the EU, why does Sevastopol can’t enter into any other civilization, except the Russian one.
On March 16, the day of the referendum, I managed to interview Alexei Mikhailovich for “Izvestia” – seems to be the first interview in Russian press. From this interview, it was clear that Chaly actually sees in Sevastopol events a chance to improve Russia itself. Obviously, around a man who – completely without any external PR – became the face of “Russian Spring” there should be a lot of different political activists that are hardly to be accepted by him – a person, who, in general, appeared in the center of some very vague public expectations by the accident.
Whatever the private political future of Chaly will be, he became one of the main characters of Russian politics in 2014. It would be wrong if we do not learn the main lesson of the last time – that in Russia and in the Russian world we should always bet on those people for whom personal independence and civil patriotism are absolutely identical things, the two parts of one whole. Because only they – at a crucial moment – will not run away from their post and will support us when others will fail and surrender. And there are such people, we only need to learn how to find them and not to give them at the mercy of greedy bureaucracy that nowadays quietly rejoices because of honest revolutionists’ dissapearence. Let’s hope that this joy is premature.