Can Russia protests lead to genuine movement?


The people who came out to protest corruption in Russia this week “still represent only a tiny fraction of the population; in the absence of independent media and with civil society in shambles, they are unlikely to turn themselves into a durable political movement,” notes analyst Masha Gessen, author of the forthcoming book, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Claimed Russia.

Nor is protest a potential instrument of change in a country that has no politicians or political parties, judiciary, or media that act independently of the Kremlin, she writes for The NY Review of Books. But as long as some Russians, including some very young ones, are willing to brave streets filled with riot police, they keep an unreasonable hope alive, and they increase the chances that Alexei Navalny will survive and stay out of prison. That’s not nothing. RTWT

With mass protests becoming Russia’s political reality again, the president cannot feel completely secure, Mikhail Fishman writes for The Moscow Times:

These rallies — and their spread across the country — show that, for millions of young Russians, there is something wrong with the political system. As the election approaches, the protests will most likely radicalize in the fall, predicts political analyst Valery Solovei.

Current Russian opposition groups and their leaders don’t seem to hold much attraction for the protesters, said Masha Lipman, an independent Moscow-based political analyst. Navalny may have galvanized the protest, but the slogans mostly targeted Putin and government corruption, with only a fraction expressing support for Navalny.

Putin’s popularity is explained by the eminent sociologist’s Yuri Levada and Lev Gudkov who describe how Homo Sovieticus “splits his consciousness into a kind of public identity and a kind of private identity,” she tells Slate’s Isaac Chotiner.

“Not to say that the private one is true and the public one is untrue: They are both equally valid and equally a part of what this person is. But in one’s public identity, it is very important for people to identify with a strong state and a great empire. And that’s what Putin has tapped into ever since he started waging wars.”

While not a campaign with specific goals, they could be laying the groundwork to tap into large-scale discontent, AP reports.

“I wouldn’t talk of a movement — I think it’s a preparation stage since society is getting more political,” says Alexei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technologies. “Navalny’s branches in the regions are building the infrastructure of protest.”

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