Staunton, August 29 – Russian opposition candidates are winning support in places neither the Kremlin nor Moscow’s analysts expected: the numerous regions across the Russian Federation that the central government has neglected, according to a report by Germany’s Handelsblatt.
In an article entitled “The Russian Provinces Rise Against Putin,” the German business paper says in many places, local people are supporting Aleksey Navalny because of Moscow’s neglect (handelsblatt.com/politik/international/russland-die-provinz-probt-den-aufstand-gegen-putin/20238408.html; in Russian inopressa.ru/article/28Aug2017/handelsblatt/russia_oppozit_01.html).
A journalist from the paper visited Vyksa, a town of 60,000 in Nizhny Novgorod oblast about 300 kilometers east of Moscow. What it found were many local businessmen who are concerned that the Kremlin’s “aggressive foreign policy” is hurting their business and who are thus prepared to support Navalny against Putin despite all odds.
One of them has seen his business collapse since 2014 and blames Kremlin policies for that. He earlier served on the city council where he learned that Moscow takes all the money and decides everything. The businessman says that he now believes the country must decentralize if the economy is to grow again.
And he is doing more than complaining. Not only are he and some like-minded people distributing Navalny literature despite the opposition of the authorities, but they are using YouTube to produce Vyksa Live, a one-hour weekly program that reaches from 500,000 to a million people.
That broadcast talks almost exclusively about local problems and the need for local solutions, and officials have been forced to respond to its reportage, fixing some if not all of the problems the broadcast points to.
Obviously, supporting opposition figures is not career enhancing, the people of Vyksa say; but now at least businessmen fear that if they don’t support an alternative to the current regime, they will be left with nothing: “In 1991, all of us were equal and had nothing to lose,” one says. “But now I do have something to lose” – and thus something to defend.