Staunton, July 2 – The post-Soviet world is entering its own version of 1968, Aleksandr Shmelyev says, “and everything which is taking place in Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Russia and so one can be conceived as a wave of ‘secondary anti-communist revolutions,’ as attempts to put the authorities under the control of society.”
In 1968, 23 years after the end of World War II, “a new generation of Europeans who were not satisfied with the post-war level of civil rights and freedoms appeared,” the Moscow commentator says. Now, 24 years after the end of the USSR, a new generation has appeared with the same anger and the same goal (slon.ru/posts/53358
According to Shmelyev, “the Internet is allowing those protesting from Mensk, Kyiv, Moscow, Yerevan and so on to be in constant contact with each other, to share experiences and to support one another.” In the post-Soviet space, this is facilitated by the fact that there is as yet no real language barrier: most of these communications are in Russian.
Consequently, “if one can speak about ‘a Russian spring’ in the social-political sense, then only in this context as a series of mass protests against post-communist authoritarian hybrid systems. Then, analogies with ‘the Arab spring’ appear completely logical,” the Moscow commentator says.
“No one knows,” he says, how the current round of events in Yerevan will end. “In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Ukraine, street protests grew into revolutions; in Thailand and Belarus, they were harshly suppressed … in Turkey and Russia, the brakes were applied and a reaction followed; and in Syria, things descended into a long civil war.”
But if one considers these phenomena from a global perspective and not from a conspiratorial geopolitical one, “it is almost obvious that the future of each of the post-Soviet republics lies with those who are now protesting in the streets.” They have the advantage over those in power generationally and in terms of education.
And consequently, Shmelyev says, “sooner or later, Lukashenka, Nazarbayev, Putin, Sargsyan, Aliyev, and Karimov will pass into history together with the systems they have created. The question involves only when and at what cost in victims.”
Second, those protesting are not supporters of any particular ideology. They may “advance some specific demands,” but “at a deeper level they are typically moved by a global dissatisfaction with the authorities whom they view as backward and out of date.”
And third, Shmelyev says, this means that “the occasion for mass civic protests in our time can be almost anything,” including what many might think are minor or marginal issues. That makes these protests “practically impossible” either to predict or prevent, and it also means there will continue to be more of them.