This testimony – “Why I’m Voting Pirate” – was published by Leila Borg, a person who grew up in the Soviet Union but moved to Sweden after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It has been translated to English and reposted here for a wider audience.
Act 1. Two-bedroom apartment in Moscow. Mother/daughter.
I was ten years old, and suddenly accused of having smoked in secret. My mother had found a cigarette butt floating in the toilet. It wasn’t me, and after discussing for some time, I managed to convince my mother of this fact. At that point, she got scared, and ran out to the drawers with our important papers and our money. I remember the composure she tried so hard to put up. All the money was there, but some private letters were in a slightly different position than how they were usually arranged.
Many years later, I learned that this only meant one thing: our home was being searched by the KGB. It wasn’t the first time, and every single trace left behind was deliberate. Somebody was “nice” and gave us a sign to be extra careful. For years, my mother carried the burden alone. Violated, disgusted, scared. She didn’t even dare tell her closest friends.
Act 2. Schools and streets in Moscow. Two friends.
The year was 1987. Two schoolgirls were rummaging through all the newspapers, watched all the newscasts. The words perestroika, glasnost, and freedom inspired and we were as happy as only twelve-year-olds can be. We tried to re-educate our teachers and make them read Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn, we planned our future and founded our own political party. Every day after school, we climbed onto the garage roof nearby and wrote flyers. “Get RID of the communists!!!”, “Get rid of the KGB!!”, “Yes to reforms!”, “Party rule no, Real democracy yes!”, “Yes to FREEDOM!!”. It was still somewhat dangerous, and therefore all the more appealing. We swapped jackets with each other to be harder to recognize, tiptoed about, kept watch, and glued, glued our flyers everywhere. Every time people gathered around our calls and talked about them, we felt exhilarated. I was flying with hope. I miss that time now, that spirit. Freedom felt so close!
Act 3. Moscow, 1990s.
Rallies and protests had turned into pointless gatherings. Glasnost was miscredited, with EVERY newspaper being owned by ONE oligarch. Economic reforms led to a select few people becoming disgustingly rich at the expense of the whole population. Freedom had turned into corruption. “Democracy” appeared to mean that you were allowed to open fire at the wrong parliament and burn it to the ground. Friendships with Western democracies led to national debt, dumping of surplus production, and robber-baron deals. Protests against propaganda led, among other things, to an extreme repression of women. In 1992, I moved to the democratic Sweden.
Act 4. Stockholm, 2014. Quadruple-election year.
Start of the new Cold War. Being Russian today means having to always defend Russia against everybody confusing Putin with the 200 million other people in the country. Are we freer in Sweden? Nobody is rummaging through my drawers (I think)… but my phone may be wiretapped, my mail might be read, my Google searches could be logged. I choose to be relatively open on my blog. That’s a choice I make. What’s being done to safeguard my privacy, when I choose to not be open?
A man presents evidence of a foreign power collecting the private data of Swedish citizens, and after after a few compulsory groans, nobody reacts any longer. What does the apathy say about our society? I don’t see any difference between the KGB who searched our apartment and the NSA searching my electronic life.
My mother had nothing to hide, I have nothing to hide. That still gives nobody the right to search through our private files.
Therefore, I vote for the only political party that considers this apathy to be a problem for democracy as such, that wants to shine light on shady power dealings, and keeps fighting an uphill battle for our right to privacy.