Staunton, June 5 – In a lead article today, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say that the main reason Moscow has found it so easy to impose tight restrictions on political activity during the World Cup is not that the opposition is so weak but rather that in Russian political culture, “politics isn’t considered part of normal life.”
In other countries, they note, opposition groups often use the occasion of major international sporting events to demonstrate in order to attract the maximum attention to the issues of concern to them. But in the case of Russia, that is not currently the case (ng.ru/editorial/2018-06-05/2_7239_red.html).
“Not limited by a strong opposition, the authorities in Russia have completely different opportunities,” the editors say. “Moreover, they act within the framework of a different political culture and hierarchy of values.”
According to the paper, “the model of a contemporary state presupposes that politics is an inalienable part of daily life with its needs and not something extraordinary or uncomfortable. It is considered normal to make demands on the authorities and to do so publicly and regularly” to ensure that the voice of the people is heard.
Any limitation of this freedom, the editors say, under the pretext of an international sporting event, simply would not be understood.
“In Russia today, this model does not work either at the level of practice or at the level of values. Politics is not considered part of normal life. If an individual goes into the streets, takes part in meetings, or organizes a picket, this means that he is either a professional or semi-professional opposition figure or that something extraordinary has occurred.”
According to the paper, “in the hierarchy of values, security stands much higher than political rights. If for the limitation of security additional authority has to be given to siloviki or one’s own freedom has to be limited, then this is done with ease. Politics is thus viewed as a social luxury” which “the country sometimes can permit itself and sometimes not.”
Russia in fact, the editors say, “almost never can permit itself such a luxury.”
“In other words, the special regime of conducting political actions during the World Championship is hardly special. Rather, it is a legal fixing of habits of mind and action which have become the norm. The World Championship is a time when political demands are considered something excessive and a manifestation of egoism.”