This weeks Russia! Magazine column, “The Russian Opposition: Between Despair and Vanguard,”
Earlier this month, Sergei Shelin wrote that a “perfect storm” threatens Russia. If that storm hits, he argued, it would bring the Putin system to suspension. Whether Shelin’s doomsday forecast has any merit demands the powers of soothsayers and palm readers. Political science is, in many ways, as prescient as meteorology. Still, amid the Kremlin bulldog fights, economic jitters, and provincial grumbling, Shelin carves out a slight role for the Russia population in this impending drama. “The election day in September,” he writes, “will be a landmark of discontent, whichever way we get to it. But this discontent by itself will hardly be strong enough to seriously shake [the system’s] foundations. Maybe it will stir it a little.” A little. Maybe. But if a stirring is in store, then at what state do we find the Russian protest movement? If “The Dynamics of Protest Activity: 2012-2013,” a new report from Olga Kryshtanovskaya’s sociological laboratory, is even half correct, any stir might inject some much needed new blood into the Russian opposition. A lot has happened in two years. The movement that exploded into the streets of Moscow in winter and spring 2011 has mutated. Pessimism and apathy may have thinned its ranks, but standing firm is a smaller, more dedicated and determined core.
You Might also like
By Sean — 3 months ago
Guest: Shaun Walker on The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past published by Oxford University Press.
By Sean — 8 years ago
I have little love for Russian liberals. Readers of this blog probably know that well. Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov in particular, as one can sense from my take down of their 2008 anti-Putin screed for the now defunct and sorely missed The eXile. I even giggled when Nashi threw piss in Nemtsov’s face.
The dynamic duo is back with a new Putin obsessed treatise, elegantly entitled Putin. The Results. Ten Years. So much for creativity. It is sure to get more media attention than it deserves. I have yet to read it, and probably won’t. I’m sure my eXile piece applies just as well to this one. According to reports in the Russian media, the text evaluates Putin’s decade long run and the tandem’s two year performance. Vedomosti writes that Nemtsov characterized the text this way on his blog:
In Russian society there are persistent myths imposed by official propaganda. There are many: the myth that Putin pacified the Caucuses and defeated terrorism, the myth about the increased birth and decreased mortality rates, the myth that he defeated the oligarchs and successfully solved the social problems of society. In our report all of these false claims are debunked with figures and facts from available sources.
Boring. Somehow I can’t help thinking that I’ve heard this song before. But, hey, I’ll let you be the judge. A million copies have been printed up and shipped off to Moscow and Petersburg.
Well, make that 900,000 copies. The Russian news is reporting that police seized a shipment of 100,000 copies in a traffic stop in St. Petersburg, for, get this “irregularities in the documentation for cargo.” Reports Gazeta, citing the police:
A truck with the MAN make with Smolensk plates was stopped by traffic police at 9:30 am on Shpalernaya Street (a Yabloko branch office is located there). The cop issued a ticket for the violation of the article 16.12 of the Administrative Code (the violation of traffic signals or road markings): Heavy vehicles are prohibited from entering the center of St. Petersburg without the proper permits,” the police department stated. “When the inspector went to check the load, it became clear that the invoice on the copies stated a Smolensk printing press, while the publishers imprint on the actual books was a the Moscow press. The goods will be temporarily detained and checked.
Not sure why the discrepancy between the invoice and the copies matters. Nevertheless, it was enough for the cops to pinch it. I can see tomorrow’s headlines: “Putin Impounds Critics.” Yep, because no one gets pulled over for traffic violations in Russia. Or harassed for not have the million stamps and forms needed to do anything. And, well, opportunists always have their shit together because they are, like, honest and principled just like us in America. One would think they would have their papers in order considering the big target Russian liberals have on their back. They do, after all, live in Russia. Despite how silly all of this sounds, we should score one for Nemstov and Milov. The cops just gave them the best advertising in town: claims of repression.
It’s funny how things become clearer in just a few hours. Now Gazeta.ru is reporting that the cops have finished their check of the 100,000 copies of Putin. The Results. Ten Years and dutifully shipped them off to the MVD’s Center “E” for inspection. For those who don’t know, Center “E” is the outfit devoted to combating “extremism.” Nemtsov and Milov may be a lot of things, but being extremists is definitely not one of them.
This means that my above cynicism is now dashed, making me actually think that something is indeed rotten in St. Petersburg. I hate it when the Russian authorities’ sheer idiocy and paranoia make me sympathize with the liberals. I just hate it.
And if you need more proof that this seizure is convenient, not to mention downright suspicious, check this out: It comes a mere day before the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Over the next few days, Medvedev is set to hobnob with businessmen from around the world to ensure them that Russia is worth their bucks. Apparently the chance that one of Nemtsov and Milov’s pamphlets falls into an unsuspecting businessman’s hands and they learn there’s mass corruption (shock!) in Russia is just too risky. As Dr. Smith used to say in Lost in Space, “Oh the pain. The pain.”
This whole incident also proves that Nemtsov can be right every once in a while. “In his opinion,” says Gazeta, “now the report will be read by more than a million people.” All too true. Score: Team Solidarity 2 : 0 Putin.Post Views: 857
By Sean — 5 years ago
My new Russia Magazine column, “Happy Birthday Foreign Agents!” Given that Ukraine is all the rage, I managed to make some Ukrainian connection.
“The events in Ukraine are more like a riot than a revolution,” says Vladimir Putin about the protests that have thrown his western neighbor into political crisis. “What is happening now suggests that these are, apparently, well-prepared actions, and, in my opinion, these actions have not been prepared for today’s events, they have been prepared for the presidential campaign in the spring of 2015.” Veiled in these comments is the suggestion that the protests against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich were orchestrated from abroad. The idea that political machinations are the fruits of foreign plotting is tried and true Putin. He thought similar the last time Ukraine was rocked by revolution nine years ago. When protests hit his own country in the winter of 2011-2012, he reiterated the belief that foreigners—particularly the US State Department—were behind them. A political chill descended upon Russia in the aftermath of each. Pushback against the Orange menace and the Russian protests are hallmarks of Putin’s second and third presidential term.
If the present political chill in Russia will become a full blown political freeze in the wake of Ukraine remains to be seen. It all depends, I think, on whether Yanokovich survives and in what shape. Either way, Putin already has a number of tools at his disposal to further tighten the screws on Russian civil society. Principle among them is the infamous foreign agents law. The law had its one year birthday two weeks ago. So given the current situation in Ukraine and what it might portend for Russia, I thought I’d give an update on its impact on Russian civil society.
“On Introducing Changes to Certain Pieces of Legislation of the Russian Federation as Regards Regulation of Activities of Non-Commercial Organizations Performing the Functions of Foreign Agents,” or simply the foreign agents law, was enacted on 21 November 2012. In a nutshell, the law requires any non-governmental organizations operating in the Russian Federation to register as a “foreign agent” if it receives funding from abroad and engages in “political” activities. Organizations deemed “foreign agents” that fail to register are subject to fines (up to 500,000 rubles or $16000 for organizations and 300,000 rubles or about $10,000 for individuals) and, if they continue to resist, closure. As Putin likes to point out, other countries have similar laws, including his favorite example, the United States, which enacted the Foreign Agents Registration Act in 1938. I leave the reader to decide the virtuousness of both the American and Russian version. I only want to note that in Russia the label “foreign agent” has a sordid history that recalls the dark days of Stalinism. The term essentially demonizes these organizations as spies and traitors. For this reason, Russian NGOs roundly reject the idea that grants from abroad makes them an agent of a foreign government. To date, not a single organization has complied with the law.
Image: RidusPost Views: 1,511