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Sergey Naryshkin: Russia wasn't the one who started it all

June 01, 2015, 8:00 UTC+3
The speaker of Russia’s State Duma in TASS special project Top Officials
5 pages in this article
© Anna Isakova/Russian State Duma's press service/TASS

 

In TASS special project Top Officials, Speaker of the Russian State Duma Sergey Naryshkin speaks about Crimea's reunification with Russia and the sanctions that followed, answers questions about his past and familly and shares his opinion on the pension reform in Russia.

 

About extravagant ideas, foreign sponsors and private cars

 

- You are on friendly terms with swimming, aren’t you?

- I’d led the swimming federation until just recently. When I am in Moscow and have no urgent duties to attend, I try to start my day with a swim in the pool. It helps keep up spirits and gives you the energy for the whole day.

- Do you prefer to swim downstream or upstream?

- In swimming pools there are no streams, unless they are equipped with special counter-current devices. But that’s just a figure of speech. I have no pre-written scenarios. It remains to be seen what kind of current is this, where it may take me, and whether it agrees with my own tasks, goals, interests and convictions… It all depends on a plurality of factors and circumstances.

- Let’s talk about that. How do you feel when you hear people say the State Duma is called a ‘mad printer’ that rubber-stamps laws on orders from on high? Such comparisons can hardly be to your liking.

Never yield to provocations. That’s my steadfast rule!

- You’ve got to understand who says such things and why. Never yield to provocations. That’s my steadfast rule! What if that’s precisely the kind of reaction the critics are expecting, what if they wish to see you lose self-control? Uttering insults in retaliation is the worst respons possible. Thinking up sticky labels is not so difficult, I guess. But does it make sense? Before starting this ‘mad printer’ and ‘orders from on high’ talk it is worth taking a closer look at how the State Duma works at least to understand the way the law-making process proceeds and what the relationships between different branches of state power in our country are based on…

- Could you please take us on a tour?

- … The simplest advice to begin with is this: start with reading Russia’s Constitution attentively enough, where everything is explained clearly and in great detail.

- But what’s your own vision?

Some of our public critics are being very cunning, and others use the talents they possess in exchange for the money they are paid for discrediting Russia’s bodies of state power

- I have very big doubts the people who so easily accuse the State Duma of dependence and low effectiveness really wish to understand the essence of the lawmaking process. I am certain that some of our public critics are being very cunning, and others use the talents they possess in exchange for the money they are paid for discrediting Russia’s bodies of state power.

- Do you believe this is the real reason why society has a mixed attitude towards the activity of ‘people’s proxies’?

- Is Russia an exception in this respect? Parliaments in many other countries come under the fire of criticism now and then. From the opposition and from other bodies of power. Some rebukes are well-founded, and many others, demagogical. Such things are to be taken calmly. That’s what politics is about. The price to be paid for publicity.

- In the end the greatest response is drawn by very extravagant ideas some legislators come up with from time to time. For instance, a ban on the use of the dollar in Russia, demands for more indemnities from Germany, or permitted pubic hair styles…

Making a thorough, in-depth analysis of legal initiatives is a far more complex task than blowing a brightly-packaged sensation out of proportion knowing it will surely garner more likes and tweets in the social networks

- Several factors are to be borne in mind, including the mentality of our people and, let us be frank, not very high level of their legal competence and culture. Sometimes it is far more lucrative to pick a hot theme than to delve into the legislators’ daily routine. This is true of both media people and bloggers. Making a thorough, in-depth analysis of legal initiatives is a far more complex task than blowing a brightly-packaged sensation out of proportion knowing it will surely garner more likes and tweets in the social networks.

- But you will agree that some of your fellow lawmakers never miss a chance for self-advertising, for which they propose wittingly unrealistic bills. A rise to fame sometimes takes a lot of shame, you know. The bill will surely be turned down, but before that the author will make media headlines and trigger a debate in Facebook.

- Under the Russian Constitution about 720 entities and individuals, including State Duma members, have the power to propose laws. I cannot rule out that some of them may be using their opportunities to spark a row to take center stage. How ethical such behavior may look is a different question. In this case something else is really important. Such exotic ideas fail to become laws; they are barred from the State Duma’s full-scale meetings to be rejected during discussions within the committees concerned and within the community of experts. And still, let me say it again, the media are talking and writing about them most of all. One can merely regret this.

- By the way, the media have also noticed that the income you declared in 2014 was thrice that you had in the previous year…

- Starting from the late 1990s I had been investing part of my earnings into mutual funds. Last year I sold some assets. Hence the extra incomes I declared just as the rules require.

- For many years you have declared two car parking slots, although you have no car of your own.

- The office car I am entitled to by virtue of my position is quite enough. I do like driving myself, but for now I cannot afford it for obvious reasons. Security rules leave no chance.

- My wife and I do have a car, a Ford Focus. We bought it at the end of 2004, shortly after we moved to Moscow. After some time we took it back to St. Petersburg. When my wife and daughter go there, they use it for rides around the city. True, it’s an oldie, but it is also quite reliable and safe.

About retiring at 65, a high-nitrate pear and government resignation

About causes and consequences, personal sanctions and the order of the Legion of Honor

About family roots,  Naryshkin Baroque, transience of time and mother of Peter the Great

About golf, handicaps, a fellow-student-turned-dear-spouse and swimming with champs against the clock

 

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