Blogging Jesenská: Oleksiy Radynski, Poland/Ukraine
We are all Russians now
“Putin Out,” protesters are chanting in the streets of Moscow. Thousands of Russians are defying the bitter cold to hold the biggest anti-government rallies since the fall of the Soviet Union. Are we now witnessing an Orange Revolution in Russia? As the arrests of hundreds of protesters show, the Kremlin seems to think so. Yet, the recent protests have less to do with the famous post-communist Colour Revolutions, and more to do with today’s Indignant Movement, which is spreading globally – and has finally reached Russia.
While following the events in Russia lately, what strikes me the most are lists of “most read articles” on Russian portals. For instance, on a popular left-liberal Russian websites, this is what such a list looks like:
Boris Akunin calls for the boycott of presidential elections. (In the same statement, one of Russia’s most popular writers suggested Putin resign from running in next year’s elections, “before it is too late”.)
Pianist Fyodor Amirov is under arrest. (Performer of experimental music, arrested during the demonstration against the allegedly stolen vote, is likely to miss his own concert.)
Activist of Voina group is declared wanted internationally. (Natalia Sokol, who is eight months pregnant, is accused of violence against the police.)
A journalist proposed his colleagues throw their professional awards into the dustbin. (Political commentator Stanislaw Kucher has stated that ignoring mass actions by leading Russian television channels is not a sign of censorship, but rather of unprofessionalism.)
Head of Hermitage museum resigned from his place on the list of the ruling party. (Although he did not do so for political reasons, but rather “according to the will of the collective”.)
For some time after reading this news, I was ready to resign with contempt for the Western stereotype entitled “Sooner or later Russia will get its own Colour Revolution”. The current events in Russia may really have looked like a repetition of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution at first. In response to surprisingly impertinent falsifications, a completely unexpected amount of people took to the streets. The government has been trying to intimidate people with the sight of a military presence in the streets. This approach only encourages those opponents who have been passive before. As a result of the brutality, more and more allied public figures are withdrawing their support. The system is beginning to decompose.
However, the situation is complicated. Arresting hundreds of peaceful Russian protesters means that Putin and Medvedev believe in the possibility of a Colour Revolution more stubbornly than any liberal think-tank. The mass arrests are a clear sign of the Russian government’s preoccupation with a completely outdated and impossible scenario.
What is a Colour Revolution in the Kremlin’s view? It is an assembly of deceived voters – more or less directly inspired by the evil West – who are trying to change the election results by occupying the central squares in the capital. In Russia, this demand would mean the inclusion of several small liberal and right-wing parties into the new parliament. Who would fight for something like that in the creeping cold of Moscow?
In fact, the recent events in Moscow have something in common with a different aspect of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. In the first round of Ukrainian presidential elections, violence and falsifications deployed by the government in large scale, resulted in the mobilisation of civil disobedience. The basic difference in the Russian case is that until the “second round” of elections (i.e. until Putin’s planned return to presidential office) there are still three months left – not three weeks, as was the case in Ukraine.
The Russian government, which is accustomed to ‘crisis management’ techniques, will definitely try to divert people’s attention from the current wave of protest. If I were a Russian oppositionist, it might be advisable to declare that I am not planning any explosions in Moscow’s sleeping districts and subway stations. It is very possible that in the near future Russian opposition could be accused of something like that.
Since the protests have started in Moscow, Russian television refers to the oppression in context of police attacks upon protesters in New York, London, Paris, Athens etc. The message is clear: the West, which tries to teach us about democracy, is as evil as we are. However, this perverse logic makes some sense: it localises the Russian protests in its natural context. They have much more in common with the Indignant Movement than with colour revolutions of any kind. Russians did not take to the streets because they wanted to change the balance of power in Parliament. Simply, they are taking to the streets because they are outraged at the lack of democratic procedures and corruption that has become a way of life – as well as an economic crisis that seems to never end.
In this sense, we are all Russians now.
Oleksiy Radynski is editor-in-chief of Krytyka Polityczna‘s Ukrainian edition and columnist for krytykapolityczna.pl as well as openspace.ru. From July to September 2011, he was a Milena Jesenská Fellow at the IWM in Vienna.
The Milena Jesenská Blog with all posts can be found here.
IWM, 2011. Copyright © 2011 by the author & the IWM. All rights reserved. This work may be used, with this header included, for noncommercial purposes. No copies of this work may be distributed electronically, in whole or in part, without written permission from the IWM.