My CentreForum Liberal Hero of the Week #90: Boris Nemtsov

by Stephen Tall on February 28, 2015

cf hero - boris nemtsov

Boris Nemtsov

Russian statesman and liberal politician
Reason: for standing up for the rule of law and against Putin’s regime.

“I’m afraid Putin will kill me.” That’s what Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov worried aloud a fortnight ago would happen.

Last night, he was shot four times in the back and killed by an anonymous attacker. On Sunday, he was due to help lead a march in Moscow against the war in Ukraine. The man he was afraid of has assumed “personal control” of the investigation into his murder, which must be of great comfort to his widow and four children.

I’ve visited Moscow only once, three years ago. What struck me was the quiet despair of the Russians I met — those working in its universities and civic society — at the state of their nation. When showing me the sights, they explained to me matter-of-factly they would need to bribe the police to ensure their car could be safely parked.

Boris Nemtsov stood out against the endemic corruption and brutality of Putin’s Russia. As James Oates writes of him:

Nemtsov spoke for the Western Russia, as opposed to the Scythian one of Stalin and Putin. He believed in rule of law and rule of the people and he held in contempt those who have subverted and stolen Russia for their own personal greed. Nemtsov was not merely a political critic of Vladmir Putin’s regime, he was a moral rebuke to it. His murder today is a tragedy for Russia. …

Shooting the only major Russian opposition leader still at liberty in the back is clearly intended to underline the danger that liberal, western minded people now face in the dark and paranoid political ghost train of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Those of us cosseted in Western Europe — grown complacent in our democracy — often describe as brave those who speak up for minority views against the consensus. Few if any of us, though, ever have to put our lives on the line. That’s true heroism.

* The ‘Liberal Heroes of the Week’ (and occasional ‘Liberal Villains’) is chosen by Stephen Tall, Research Associate at CentreForum. It showcases those who promote any of the four liberal tenets identified in The Orange Book — economic, personal, political and social liberalism — regardless of party affiliation and from beyond Westminster. If they stick up for liberalism in some way then they’re in contention. If they confound liberalism they may be named Villains. You can view our complete list of heroes and villains here. Nominations are welcome via email or Twitter.

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