I see that Kasparov held another rally in Moscow. Nothing extraordinary seemed to have happened. Kasparov addressed the crowd with his usual “we need a different Russia” message. The crowd of 2000 chanted their usual slogans–“Russia without Putin!” Yawn.
It also seems that the Russian police have learned something. According to the report in the LA Times, “Monday’s atmosphere was less tense as the demonstration got under way, with the square surrounded by troops without helmets or visible batons, instead of helmeted riot police.” And the dwindling attendance also seems to be taking a toll. Kasparov addressed it directly saying, “It is not important how many people decided to come today. We are concerned about our future, about the future of Russia.” Sorry Garry but given the nature of your “movement” numbers kinda are important. Since you aren’t part of the electoral process, the only way to measure your appeal is by how many people bother to attend your rallies.
It appears that the most exciting part of the day came not from the protesters, but from protesters of the protest. Reports the LA Times:
A white truck repeatedly drove by the square blaring maniacal laughter that sometimes drowned out those addressing the crowd. At one point, people on a nearby rooftop unfurled a banner labeling the demonstrators “paid prostitutes” — echoing authorities’ claims that opponents pay people to protest and that Kremlin critics have support from the West.
I smell Nashi. I imagine the white truck looking like an ice cream truck with a giant clown head on it. Something like the ice cream truck in Nice Dreams.
One things for sure. No worry about the speakers not being heard. Whatever the “maniacal laughter” downed out, I’m sure repeat attendees to Other Russia’s rallies had heard it all before anyway.
Since it is clear that Other Russia’s rallies increasingly lack purpose, I can’t help wonder how the LA Times can justify this opening paragraph:
Chess champion Garry Kasparov and allies in Russia’s most vocal opposition movement held their latest showdown today with President Vladimir Putin’s government, keeping up their frequent protests with a demonstration in central Moscow.
I boldfaced the hyperbole in question. Two questions. Does Other Russia really represent a movement? My leftist American friends talk about the “movement” too but I see hide nor hair of it. Let alone it moving anywhere except for maybe further irrelevancy. Yes, Other Russia is vocal, but there seems to be a much larger opposition in the form of the KPRF.
I’m struck by the use of phrase “latest showdown.” Isn’t calling yet another Other Russia rally the “latest showdown” imply that they actually matter in some real political sense? I don’t know, but it seems to me that the LA Times description has more to do with its own fantasies that Russian political realities.
You Might also like
By Sean — 8 years ago
Solidarity may be band of “scrubby little opposition organizations [that] have no future,” but if things keep going the way their going, Boris Nemtsov will be wining and dining on American think tank honorariums, hobnobbing with US politicos, and testifying in front of Congress for years to come. Wait, haven’t they done a bit of this already?
Well, let’s just say that Nemtsov’s future is looking a bit brighter thanks to his efforts to paint himself as a repressed dissident. On Tuesday, Nemtsov reported that the cops seized another 100,000 copies of Putin. The Result. Ten Years. in Smolensk. I’ve already noted how the cops seized 100,000 copies of the Nemtsov and Milov report last week in St. Petersburg. The act was clearly a way to prevent activists from distributing the screed to potential investors at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. A few activists from United Civil Front did worm their way into the forum, but were promptly arrested.
In inquiring about the report, the Smolensk authorities explained that they were just doing their St. Petersburg colleagues a solid, but denied taking any copies. “After the detention of copies in St. Petersburg, our Petersburg colleagues asked for us to check whether the publisher’s seal was from Smolensk though the report’s publisher is from Moscow. We asked the head of the printing press [about this],” said Nikolai Turbovets, First Lieutenant of the Smolensk police. But apparently, unlike their Petersburg counterparts, the Smolensk authorities just did an inquiry. “No copies were confiscated and no one was arrested,” an employee of the Smolensk press told Kommersant. However, the source thinks that this was only the beginning. “I think that the copies will be seized after the hoopla dies down. We will be connected with the publisher in the next few days.” The unnamed employee went on to add: “There is a general feeling that now without these copies Boris Nemtsov will receive some excellent PR.”
Given this, it is no surprise that Nemtsov has exaggerated with how things went down. Nemtsov insists that the copies were indeed taken and not returned, while Olga Shorina, Solidarity’s press secretary, says that the copies are at the Smolensk printing press’ offices but they have been “sealed” by the cops thereby preventing their distribution.
Confiscated or not confiscated. Sealed or unsealed. The fact is that the authorities are playing right into Nemtsov’s hands by giving him far more PR than his little “report” deserves. And he’s lapping it all up as people bum-rush him for his autograph. Another Russian oppositionist with the rock star looks without the rock star talent. Oh well, it’s not like talent matters anyway.
The thing I can never wrap my head around is why the police care about people like Nemtsov. Are they really that paranoid? Do they think that they are scoring brownie points with their superiors? Or are they just flat out stupid? Now granted, there is no contradiction between any of these. If anything is to be learned is that paranoia, sycophancy, and stupidity go hand in hand.
True, after a few weeks or so all of this will die down even if the cops declare Nemstov’s “report” to be extremist. Just how soon, though, will depend on Nemtsov himself. Being the slick willy that he is, I’m sure he’ll have no problem finding the gumption to parlay this into at least a few American taxpayer funded first class transatlantic flights, black tie dinners, photo-ops, and speeches detailing the gruesomeness of the Putin regime. If the FSB really puts the screws to him, maybe he can even get a movie option or two so he could tell his “story” in celluloid fashion. George Clooney as Nemtsov? I could see it. And if all goes really well, Borya will be able to dethrone Khodorkovsky as the reincarnation of Sakharov. We all know how Americans like “freedom fighters.” After all, the Russian authorities have provided him a trough full of greasy, scandal laden vittles. All Nemtsov has to do is bury his snout in it and start slurping.
With all this said, I can’t help wondering if the real loser in all this is Nemtsov’s co-author, Vladimir Milov. He basically shot himself in the foot by announcing his departure from Solidarity a day after the cops seized his report. I mean, didn’t Russian Dissident School teach him that you don’t take a principled stand on anything unless it boosts your public profile? Sure Solidarity may be filled with egomaniacs, but said egomaniacs command the flashbulbs of Western correspondents. Now poor Milov doesn’t have a pot to piss in, let alone a platform from which to piss in it.Post Views: 673
By Sean — 11 years ago
T-minus five days and counting. Here’s today’s roundup. The Christian Science Monitor, which I heard was once known for its objectivity, has apparently dumped it. In an editorial titled “Putin’s Potemkin Election,” CSM states that the Duma elections signal the end of Russia’s multi-party system. “In reality Russia is becoming a one-party state. One need only examine the coming parliamentary elections to see how this tragedy is happening.” Only two parties will remain in the Duma–United Russia and the Communists. Changes to the electoral law has made it “harder to run for elections.” In 2004, the law was changed to say that a political party must have a membership of 50,000 (up from 10,000) to register and 200,000 signatures to be on the ballot. This and other changes are what makes the Duma election “Potemkin.”
This is really funny, especially when you consider electoral law in California. For a new political party to get registered in the Golden State, it must have 88,991 people (or one percent of the state electorate) complete “an affidavit of registration, on which they have written in the proposed party name as the party they affiliate with.” To get on the California ballot, a party must have 889,991 signatures (or ten percent of the state electorate) from California alone. Strangely, I don’t recall any articles about California elections being referred to as “Potemkin.”
Such pontificating and hypocrisy are expected from the West. In addition to noting the obvious facade of the Duma elections, Western governments are continuing to line up to condemn the arrests of participants in anti-Putin protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. To think President Bush had to nerve to throw his two cents in. “I am deeply concerned about the detention of numerous human rights activists and political leaders who participated in peaceful rallies in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Nazran this weekend,” he said. “I am particularly troubled by the use of force by law enforcement authorities to stop these peaceful activities and to prevent some journalists and human rights activists from covering them.” You gotta be kidding me. I don’t recall any statement when the NYPD locked up 1000 people protesting the RNC Convention in 2004 in what became known as “Guantanamo on the Hudson.”
It should come as no surprise that Moscow’s Meshchansky Court upheld Kasparov’s arrest.
Sure it’s easy to point to the hypocrisy. But I have one more. Or really it’s a request. Can anyone explain to me what Anne Applebaum’s point is in her column on Slate called “The New Dissidents“? Among other things like comparing Other Russia to Soviet dissidents of yore, she writes, “Odder still is the fact that we hear anything about [Other Russia] at all.” What!? When is the last time she’s done a Google News or Yandex News search? Apparently she’s the only one that finds the voluminous amount of reporting in English and Russian on Kasparov et al. as “odd” I mean Kasparov is a contributing editor of the Wall Street Journal of all things.
The Russian Duma elections will not be fair or perfect by any standards. Sure Putin’s United Russia is popular and would win even if they had one hand behind their back. Even so, that doesn’t mean that in some nefarious ballot stuffing won’t take place in Russia’s nether regions. The election might be a hark back to the days of Stakhanovism when competitions between factories pushed productivity quotas beyond capacity. I’m sure no regional governor is going to let the other eclipse his own sycophantic pandering to the center. No one seems to deny this. A senior election official quoted in the Moscow Times says that “have been ordered to make sure that United Russia collects double the number of votes it is expected to win in State Duma elections on Sunday — even if they have to falsify the results.” How would this be done? The best way according to this unnamed official is to change the polling station’s protocol, that is the record of how many people vote and how many votes go to a party. “During past Duma elections this was the most common way to falsify the results,” he told the Times. “We would do it in front of foreign observers because they didn’t understand anything on what was going on.” If this is true, I sure hope that whatever elections monitors arrive, they aren’t as stupid as the last ones.
I assume this how election monitors from Nashi will spend their time. According to Lentna.ru, Nashi, along with VTsIOM and FOM, will be conducting exit polls. Exit poll monitoring will be one of the ways “Our Elections,” a coalition of Nashi, Young Guard, and Young Russia, will ensure that the ballots don’t get hijacked by colored revolutionary wreckers and saboteurs–all of which they label one kind of fascist or another. One wonders if they will do something like posing as “vampires” of votes, rather than vampires of blood like they did in an action to get Muscovites to donate blood in September. I can see it now. Nashisty running around saying “I’ve cum to suck yur votes!”
The Kremlin appears ready to fight election fraud of its own. Election Commissioner Vladimir Churov called upon voters to “not subvert” the elections by drawing “smiley faces, horns, or any other drawings” on or next to parties on ballots. Voters are also urged to not make the ballot an editorial. So, he warned, no one is to write “this party is the worst of all” next to the party of their choosing. Also, election workers are to avoid engaging in “boisterous discussions” with voters who share different opinion. Man, Churov is taking all the fun out of voting!
And by far the best election story of the day comes from Dagestan. There, Nukh Nukhov, a candidate for SPS, has been charged with “hooliganism,” “causing bodily harm,” and “illegal possession of weapons.” According to Lenta.ru, the story began way back in March this year. On 11 March, during the regional Dagestani elections, a “skirmish” broke out between Nukhov, who was then standing for reelection, and four of his people with Mohammed Aliev, who is the head of Dakhadaevksii district and United Russia, and his brothers. When the smoke cleared two of Nukhov men were killed and two, including Nukhov, were wounded. Aliev and his men fled the scene but a subsequent investigation landed his brothers in jail. Nukhov is said to have “fled with help of his contacts with security organs.”
Nukhov has been in hiding all this time. Or so says the Dagestani prosecutor. But Nukhov dutifully showed up to the court to answer for his behavior. There was even a 200 person strong protest calling for his immediate release. OMON quickly showed up and cordoned off the square.
The Nukhov-Aliev brawl makes me wonder. How much of this election is really about politics and ideology? Perhaps, especially in the localities, it is about clans from the top of the power vertical to the bottom securing their continued right to plunder. If this is the case, perhaps it’s time to dump all the finger wagging about “democracy” and see Russian politics for what it is, rather than what we want it to be.Post Views: 574
By Sean — 11 years ago
Responses to the Dissenter’s March continues. The Nation’s Katrina Vanden Huevel calls for a fight to press freedom in Russia. This comes amid news that Russian authorities shut down the Samara branch of Novaya gazeta two weeks ago. The police charged Novaya editors with using pirated software. You gotta love it when copyright infringement becomes a weapon of political repression.
Jonas Bernstein gives a tacit “yes” to the question of whether Sunday’s “crackdown” represents a wider wave of repression. Closing down newspapers, arresting and harassing political opposition–specifically SPS, Other Russia and Yabloko–are all part of something larger. But those in a real pinch according to Bernstein might just be Russia’s regional governors. The regions have taken Putin’s mixed message that United Russia needs to show leadership at the same time “all kinds of crooks” have wormed their way into its ranks, have taken this as a hint to ratchet “up pressure on the opposition” and “to secure a strong turnout for United Russia in order to ensure their own futures.” This engenders the question of whether “repression” is more fueled by centripetal paranoia over their own local power base. Kinda of reminds me of when Stalin told his regional secretaries that there would be free and open elections in 1936, and in response they bombarded the vodzh’ with reports about kulaks and priests making a possible electoral coup.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t signals emanating from the center. Bernstein likens Putin’s linking of the “opposition” with the West as a possible sign of more repression to come.
Bernstein’s words come on the cusp of Putin launching more salvos against the West, specifically the United States. Today he announced that he has “information” that OSCE’s pullout was at the behest of the US State Department as a means to “delegitimize” the elections. “We will take this into account in our relations with that country,” Putin told the Russian press. The State Department has denied any such thing but I’m sure the Kremlin counted on that. The Russian state media got its sound bite, which was probably the point anyway.
Still, rhetoric against the Western bogeyman has been ratcheted up of late. But I suspect it’s all show for domestic consumption. If the airbrushed images that don websites like Za Putina are any indication, this election like so many others around the world is more about image rather than substance. If Putin looks strong, Russia is strong. The Tsar-President, if the effort from “below” to make him a “national leader” has any real substance, is one with the narod. One should remember that the possible real target of the Kremlin’s “pressure” is not so much the “opposition” but United Russia’s middle management. Populist appeals as a means to squeeze regional chieftains are an tried and true form of Russian rule. Basically, Putin is telling them, “I am everything, you are nothing. You need me more than I need you.” Whether this is true or not remains to be seen.
What is amazing about all this is that it seems that the Kremlin clans have circled the wagons. The talk about clan warfare that hit the press weeks ago has fallen silent. It seems that the siloviki and the business elite have made a tacit peace around their mutual interests of plunder, power, and prestige. The Russian centers of power are standing firm, while the regions scramble to secure their piece of the post-electoral pie. Smacking down “opposition” in the provinces make for good demonstrations of loyalty.
Where does all this leave Russia real opposition, the Communist Party? A few days ago the Guardian’s Luke Harding bravely stated that the KPRF might be Russia’s last “democratic option.” Gensek Zyuganov has been traveling the country speaking to Russia’s downtrodden about the real social-economic issues. “When Putin came to power there were seven oligarchs. Now there are 61,” he reminded a crowd in Moscow suburb Korolyov. He even displayed some political anekdoty to charm the crowd.
Zyuganov tells a Roman Abramovich joke. Roman arrives in heaven only to find his way blocked by St Paul. St Paul asks Abramovich: “Do you own Chelsea, five yachts and a 5km stretch of beach in the south of France?” Abramovich replies: “Yes.” St Paul replies: “I’m not sure you’re going to like it in here.”
The KPRF’s message: they are the only ones keeping Russia from slipping into a completely corrupt morass. One only hopes that they aren’t too late. Still despite what some may think, the KPRF can bank on this statement by the Levanda Center’s Leonid Sedov: “The others have been excluded from the parliamentary sphere. The Communists will be the only oppositional force. This means voters who want to retain opposition in any form have to vote for the Communists.” Oh, the historical irony.
You wouldn’t known the Communist were in contention if you rely on English media for your electoral news. Kasparov must roll off the English tongue better than Zyuganov. The Communist Party seems more often mentioned to paint United Russia as a CPSU redux, rather than a party running for election in their own right. The KPRF is currently polling way behind United Russia. VTsIOM gives them 6 percent to United Russia’s 55, and Levada honors them with 14 percent to UR’s 67. Whatever the hard numbers, United Russia holds a 49 to 53 point margin. However distance the KPRF may be numerically, maybe its time to face reality and see them as the only real potential political bulwark to United Russia’s dominance.Post Views: 555