«I hate stupidity and flattery...» Maxim Popov, his friends and enemies
Fergana.Ru asked one person who worked with Maxim Popov from 2003 — 2007 (let’s call him Ivan) to tell about Maxim.
I am a banker. I had my own business, and I often went around the republic, organizing visiting sessions of the credit committee, at which decisions were taken on the financing of various projects for small and medium enterprises. At one of these meetings, I met with activists from «IZIS,» who proposed collaboration with me. My opportunities in conjunction with their activity could provide good results in the prevention of drug abuse and the spread of AIDS, and I agreed, to which, to this day, I do not regret.
Maxim — is a tall guy, not athletically built, and with a fashionable haircut. He had the energy, the drive — and an easy sense of humor, and therefore he was the kind of person that people wanted to listen to. We went about our work and our collaboration lasted from 2003 to 2007.
I had an empty apartment, and at first I even offered to make it into the office for «IZIS,» but Maxim said that it was stupid to tie yourself to one address, even more so as the work of some staff members from «IZIS» took place in the district hospital, I conducted activities in sports facilities of several schools and colleges in Mirzo Ulugbek district of Tashkent. They did not provide us will space for free, and I paid for rental out of my own pocket. For those with whom I worked, activities, of course, were free.
We practiced the basics of martial arts: I was convinced that the Eastern philosophy, the wisdom of the Japanese warriors and teachers Morihei Ueshiba and Hideo Sudo could be of good help to so called «difficult teenagers,» who we are trying to engage with drug users to give up drugs, or to help HIV-positive people find their place in life understand its meaning .
One day, Maxim was summoned to the police, and he asked me to go with him.
— What are you scared of?
— The policeman spoke to me rudely — Maxim replied hesitatingly. — It’s okay, that’s pretty usual, but still I don’t want to go there alone.
We went. I prepared for a serious talk: Maxim — was young, easy to ruffle. But suddenly everything went differently than I had expected.
We were not even invited into the office, and at the doorway, we were ordered to draw up a list of all drug users who come to us for rehabilitation. I felt that Maxim collected himself, even seemed to become taller, and not waiting for my reaction, he replied:
-If your request is legal, I’ll do it. Only, show me the document, according to which you are demanding of me to violate confidentiality. But, in this case, I will challenge your decision.
Why is this? — said the startled policeman who was a loose, shapeless man.
— Yes, because all it is inhuman. These guys are sick, everyone fears them, and you continue to twist their arms. What’s the use of this list? You want to begin to threaten them? Again, they will close, and won’t become cured; most importantly, they’ll lose faith in our sincerity.
The policeman stood in silence and rubbed his eyes. . About «faith in the sincerity» he did not quite understand. And then Maxim added:
— And if they don’t get cured, then they, the unemployed, will need money for additional doses of drugs. They will rob and steal. And then you will find out that your actions frightened them when they wanted to heal themselves. You do not need all this. But their recovery will be a joint victory for YOU and ME. Choose.
Max paused, and I saw how small beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. The policeman moved his lips.
— Okay, work as you like. Tell all about all the successes you have.
Max nodded, and we left.
He was able to achieve his goals. He never held talks on prevention with people on the topic of «if you do not quit smoking- you’ll sit.» He gathered youth in sports clubs, invited to treatment and rehab all who wanted to change their lives. He didn’t abandon those who had doubts. He coaxed, begged, didn’t leave be anyone until they agreed to at least once visit the medical office and gym.
The offices for psychological assistance and rehabilitation in the polyclinics, at the gym, all worked at a full load. All grant amounts which were allocated to «IZIS» were spent for their intended purposes: we bought tools, sports equipment, printed advertisements and educational literature, paid a decent wage to employees. All of the charges of embezzlement by Maxim of grant funds are a complete farce. I for various reasons did not participate in the implementation of the last two projects «IZIS», and do not possess accurate financial information on the grants. But there were employees who can openly show that there had not been any theft. I could not understand — why are they silent? What are they afraid of? And then I realized. Our society is immersed in a contagious fear, which hampers any act of courage. In Uzbekistan today, to be honest sometimes takes courage.
We often held various educational sessions at colleges and schools: prevention of AIDS and drug addiction is impossible without raising awareness. Maxim was opposed to long boring lectures, said they did more harm than good. And our lectures turned into debates that allowed all to participate in the discussion of the topic and clarify many ambiguities.
Maxim called our sessions «actions.»
The gym is full of guys. Full of racket and yelling so that we cannot hear. We enter. They look at us, but the noises do not subside. Suddenly, Max changes his face, hunched, his legs give way — and he falls to the floor! All are shocked. Complete silence. I bent down to offer help, but he raised himself:
— Thanks, guys, for the silence. Now we can share with you some interesting knowledge about AIDS and drug addiction.
The room erupted with cries of «bravo.» For fifteen minutes we talk, then quickly pass the boys booklets and leaflets. While the participants will examine these materials, we take inventory of prizes in the room and begin the second part of the action. The noise dies down again. Over the course of the dialogue we find out who got what information, who was mistaken, what was in doubt, what was certain. The best answers were immediately rewarded with prizes (for this we specifically bought a lot of small and useful things), and then we began playing for super-prize (camera, audio player, discs). The guys were in a joyful and excited state.
Then we divide up into groups, for each of us — his own line of work (doctors, psychologists, sports coach). And no one left dissatisfied.
After such «actions» we would have no strength left, not even business cards for the next day. Additionally, we couldn’t even get home in time — the guys wouldn’t let us go, they all surrounded us with questions.
Soon all the teenagers in the city began to greet us.
As for me, I was completely free to walk down the street at any time of the day: in desperate need of the company was my student or someone who heard about my club. Teens even followed me home, like bodyguards. It was very nice. Actually, I’m a master of karate, but when teenagers — гроза района — turned out to be so attentive, I could not touch it, I valued this friendship and this trust.
I had 68 students (I physically could not handle more), and I was able to dial any of 68 phone numbers with the confidence that none of them would refuse any requests I might have.
Maxim had over two hundred of such numbers.
Our work was interesting and useful to people. The gym was full of guys (due to Maxim), in the medical offices, where our colleagues worked, it turned out that appointments were booked in advance. Everyone was satisfied with «IZIS», the guys, who became addicted to dope, but trying to get off of it, and HIV-infected and their close ones. They left us with feelings that we are doing truly needed and good work. In the time that I worked with Maxim at «IZIS,» over one thousand people benefited from our work, 326 people completely gave up drugs, and 407 people were on the road to full recovery from drug addiction.
But at the same time, there were enough enemies of Maxim and «IZIS.»
In Uzbekistan, there is an association of independent non-profit organizations whose purpose is to control the activities of all NGOs and management of financial flows, going to the accounts of these NGOs. Freely convertible currency is extremely valued in Uzbekistan, and to those who get it, will be eaten alive if he doesn’t have a reliable protector or «cover.» As subsequent events demonstrated, neither «IZIS» nor Popov had such protections. No one dared utter a word in his defense.
That spring, when the massive pressure by the state on all NGOs and everyone was being given the order to close «at their own request» Maxim and I were summoned to the Justice Department n Tashkent. I said that I would not voluntary close down, let them find a reason for us to close and close us down themselves, if they must do so. We cited regulations and laws. The official was furious and quietly threatened us. And then Maxim said.
— I understand that doing something stupid, but I’ll ask you to help us. I want for us to find an understanding with you, — he said suddenly. — Imagine what would happen to the guys who are putting their hope in us. Throw them out into the street — that means, to increase the number of street criminals, as they need a dose of drugs every day, so they’ll start to pick handbags off women, and steal mobile phones from passers-by. You are an intelligent man, and understand, that the decision imposed upon you from above will bring about a lot of troubles. Allow us to work on and I promise that we ourselves will go to your boss and also will explain this to him. You will not bear any responsibility for us. We only ask that you, an intelligent and experienced person, to tell us the words that we need to tell to your boss, so that he will receive us. Please...
The official listened, agreed with the fact that he is intelligent and experienced, and then waved his hand:
— Consider yourselves warned by me. Talk with the boss yourself. I will not stop you.
When we went out into the street, Maxim’s hands were trembling and smoked a cigarette and said to me:
— Brother, how I hate stupidity and flattery!..
The World Health Organization (WHO) proposed to send money to «IZIS» to implement one of its health projects. To whom of the officials — like parasites, that money should come out from the nose? Of course,
all of the resources of the state apparatus are employed to crush upstarts such as «IZIS.» Thus began a total investigation of activities, in a folder, they collected all which could be used to bring Maxim a prison sentence, and «IZIS» to its closure. Any act was interpreted in the favor of the prosecution, from any ant, they made an elephant, and it all took place with violations of the law and with the full knowledge of the people surrounding it.
I think that the liquidation of «IZIS» and the prosecutions of one of the few activists will have extremely negative consequences for Uzbekistan. People are afraid to be active fighters, they have no desire to live and work honestly. Western organizations are prepared to scrap their programs in Uzbekistan, to stop financing projects. With the full knowledge of the state and full on total ignorance may drastically increase the spread of AIDS and drug addiction. Who really wins? (And then only for a short time?) only officials who have received full control over the financing of projects related to health.
The Roman emperor Vespasian said that «money does not smell.» Yes, this is so. But in this case, officials earn them at the expense of the sickness, death, and misery of the people. God will not forgive this.
It was horrible to know that my friend Maxim Popov was convicted. It hurts that his creation — I cannot think of any other words right now — was not accepted by our common homeland. And I do not understand, what’s left of his beliefs after such injustice.
Recorded by Maria Yanovskaya (Fergana.Ru)