Staunton, March 26 – Protests by residents in Volokolamsk about a dump in their neighborhood and the reaction of the authorities to those protests provide like an x-ray a picture of the real as opposed to declarative nature of the Russian political system, according to the editor of Yekaterinburg’s PolitSovet news portal.
That picture shows, they say, that government agencies do not see themselves as representatives of the people to whom the population has delegated powers to act but rather as a kind of alien, occupying force that acts for itself and only under compulsion “negotiates” with the people (politsovet.ru/58449-kak-svalka-v-volokolamske-obnazhila-prirodu-rossiyskoy-vlasti.html).
Everyone has seen the pictures of the crowd attacking the local officials who it turned out did not initially find anything to say in response. “A few hours later,” the editors say, “the authorities all the same reacted to the protest,” first by firing the head of the district and then by forming “a social staff which will be involved in resolving the trash problems.”
That body – and it could have been called a committee or something else – includes representatives of the protesters, members of the Social Chamber, human rights activists, ecology ministry officials, and the governor’s special representative for ecological issues, they continue.
“And so what do we see? The authorities are creating a special organ … to which representatives of local residents who have certain demands are invited to take part.” In fine, the editors continue, what they have come up with is “something like a negotiating group between two sides in conflict.”
That points to two conclusions about “how the Russian authorities work and how they conceive themselves” and their relationship to the population.
On the one hand, “not one of the existing institutions which are supposed to allow for feedback between the authorities and the people works.” Not the parliament, not the social chamber, not anything. Instead, “at critical moments,” the powers that be have to come up with an “extraordinary” measure to do what the ordinary ones are not.
And on the other, all this shows that “the authorities from the outset do not consider themselves to be representatives of the people,” from whom their powers are supposed to derive. Instead, “they conduct themselves like external administrators who solve their own tasks and problems” instead of those of the people.
“When the subordinates suddenly refuse to be subordinate … then the authorities first fall into a stupor and begin to conduct themselves” not as representatives of the people but as “an alien force” which attempts to calm things down by conducting negotiations with those who oppose them.
As a result of this point of view, PolitSovet says, there is now “a negotiating group in which there are representatives of two alien and conflicting sides – the authorities and the people.” And that in turn, the editors suggest, creates problems “not only for the population but for the authorities.”
“The people need them so that the bureaucrats will know about the demands of the people and the authorities in turn need them so that in meeting with the people they will not be hit in the face. But in Russia,” unfortunately, “up to now the reverse is what is taking place.”