Monday, March 27, 2017

New Russian Protesters: Younger, Broader Social Base, and Against Someone Rather than For Something

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 27 – The tens of thousands of Russians who marched in the anti-corruption demonstrations, both officially permitted and not, yesterday were very different in three ways than their predecessors who took to the streets in 2011-2012; and these differences should give the Putin regime pause about the future.

            First of all, the protesters were far younger yesterday than those of 2011-2012 ( and far more likely to be people who had not taken part in protests before or been among the “celebrity” demonstrators such marches have often attracted ( and

            That change suggests not only that the protest potential in Russia has broadened but is likely to grow over time, and it is thus no accident that the Kremlin suggested some young people had been paid to march and that some United Russia representatives in St. Petersburg called for raising the minimum age to protest ( 27/v_kremle_schitayut_chto_podrostkam_platili_za_uchastie_v_mitingah_protiv_korrupcii).

            Second, the protesters are far angrier than they were and far more likely to be against something such as the political system and its corruption as a whole than for anything in particular be it a politician like Aleksey Navalny or a non-Russian cause ( and
            From the point of view of the regime, the fact that the protesters were primarily against something rather than for has a mixed meaning. On the one hand, it gives the Kremlin the opportunity to deflect protest by sacrificing or attacking a subordinate official. And on the other, it means that the protesters seem less willing to coalesce around alternative people or programs.

            And third – and this reflects both the first and the second – protesters were far more apocalyptic in their views, talking about their sense of hopeless about the future and the notion that there is no way out if the current system is not radically transformed (, and

            That apocalypticism, typical of young people and of those who have not had experience with protests earlier, may play into the hands of the Kremlin: it can portray the Navalny movement as “extremist” at least for the majority of Russians. But it also means that there is an energy behind the protests that likely means there will be more not future of them in the future.

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