Viktor Malikov (Living Ring), 1995

Living Ring, Viktor Malikov, one of the main “ideological” figures. Approx. 45-48, slim, jeans, glasses. Speaks in a mild, quiet manner.
Interviewer — Julia Kalinina, on behalf of Metta Spencer
Bruce Jenkins, the assistant of Gene Sharp, mentions in our interview their having met with the Living Ring.

[The Living Ring] organisation was established immediately after the 1991 coup. On the 31st of August we hold our first conference where we declared that Living Ring is a non-violent organisation for those who are eager to defend democracy. Democracy was associated with Yeltsin, certainly. At the same conference a very sharp contradiction between participants became evident. One part wanted to create a national guard that will possess weapons (guard must consist of Living Ring members) and another part wanted to create a purely non-violent organisation that will actively participate in the social and political life. Firstly we oriented only at the social activity but later we shifted to socio-political goals.

At some point we had an intention to become a political party but we rejected the idea. Members of our Council of Representatives include some prominent figures from “Choice of Russia” and “Democratic Russia” parties. Also Kamshylov who heads the headquarters of Cossacks in Russia. Our “social base” is pretty wide.

Immediately we started to establish contacts with foreign non-violent organisations from US, Canada, European countries.

Certainly we experienced lots of difficulties. A lot of our members turned out to be adventurers and psychopaths.(Seems, they suffered a lot from these psychopaths. Malikov refered to them at least five times in this interview).

Now we have three thousand members in Moscow and something like 500 in the other cities.We don’t obtain any finances from the state and now our main problem is money. Every summer in August we organise a holiday in memory of August, ’91. It’s expensive.

We don’t communicate a lot with our members. We have a telephone list and once a year (preferably on the 22nd of August) we held an all-members conference.

Another part of our members (those who stood for violence) joined the Party of Rutskoj.

We are organised on the principle of interests — Company of doctors, Company of businessmen, Company of officers. We work with other organisations of military men.

One of the most terrible consequences of that August defence — several dozens of defenders felt the scare of death. That’s a ceratin “drug”. I know that afterwards they just couldn’t stop. They participated as volunteers in the wars in Moldova, Abkhazia and even now — in Chechnya. But mainly they joined the Cossacks.

Why non-violent behaviour was chosen in 1991?

First of all — the most part of those who gathered around the White House were representatives of intelligentsia. Officers — a lot. 200 or 300. Now we have 50 officers. People were without weapons. In the White House there was a great amount of weapons. 5 thousands machine guns. But we didn’t distribute it to the people. 40 per cent were women.

Other reason of non-violence — the soldiers that entered Moscow were not going to shoot. It was evident that they will not shoot and the resistance must be also non-violent.

Any theoretical base? Any examples that pursued people to defend White House non-violently?

I think, no. Sub-consciously people were ready for it.

Technology of organisation? Who and how cared about it?

On the very first day it was all spontaneous. People were disorganised. But later they started to gather in groups, in every group a leader appeared. On the next day two headquarters in the White House building were organised and they guided those detachments that located just around the building. But mainly it was all self-organisation.

Ex-militarymen were organisers. One was a specialist, he delivered lectures on the “war actions in the city”. So we leaned on his knowledge.

Outside the building there were three circles of defence. As soon as a certain structure was created it immediately was filled with volunteers. Then partisan groups started to emerge. But what concerned the area close to the White House, all the defence was controlled and guided, supported by headquarters.

Any instructions? Certainly. Don’t participate in the fights. If they start to shoot — lie down. Don’t block tank’s movement. But if that happened I think that people wouldn’t follow that instructions. But later some persons on their own initiative started to prepare Molotov-cocktail bottles. Some brought weapons.

There were probably 500 guns. Also gas-pistols. Commercial structures (Konstantin Borovoj) started to organise the delivery of weapons from Tula. Two or three days later we would have weapons.

In October,93, I was organising the people’s resistance around the Mossoviet [MS: Moscow Soviet, which is the city council.]We had the weapons but didn’t distribute it waiting for the “last moment”. That time defenders just demanded weapons though in August, 91 they practically didn’t.

Are you still staying on non-violence (despite of October coup)?

Certainly. Any problem should be solved by negotiations.

Any attempts to put in the Constitution the possibility not to obey unlawful orders?

An idea existed. Probably it was even discussed in Public Chamber. It was discusssed at the wide public meetings which were devoted to the working out of a new Constitution. But without any results.

Did you have any contacts with foreign non-violent organisations?

Yes, we had lots of guests. They provided us with all kinds of useful literature etc. But the difference between our societies is so great that we pracically can’t use their experience. What suits them — doesn’t suit us. All these sitting strikes, hunger strikes — it doesn’t work here. What is important in our case — careful organisation of a meeting. Actually we use only meetings as a method of protest.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books