Staunton, December 2 – As the economic crisis in Russia has deepened and the West has shown itself less than committed to coming to Ukraine’s aid, many Ukrainians are hoping that the Russian people will go into the streets and force Vladimir Putin to change course; but such hopes, Dmitry Oreshkin says, are without foundation.
Mass street protests in any country become possible, the Russian commentator argues, only when there is a split in the elites. That does not yet exist in Russia. Instead, “Putin very hardly controls that which Gleb Pavlovsky has called ‘the Putin consensus of elites.’ They are still held in his fist” (apostrophe.ua/article/world/ex-ussr/2018-12-02/rossiya-idet-po-doroge-kotoroy-net/22183).
“It seems to me,” Oreshkin continues, “that those who say that the [Russian] people will come into the streets and begin a revolution are deceiving themselves.” This is not the first time those who face Putin’s repression and aggression have taken solace in this false vision of a Russian future. It was widespread among Russians commentators in 2012 and 2013.
But “today there is no basis for saying that people will come into the streets and pull down the powers that be. There are neither demographic nor socio-cultural resources for this.” Ukrainians should recall that their Maidan occurred only because there were many within the Kyiv elite who were on their side.
That divided the security services in Ukraine and had the effect of restricting what the powers that be at that time could do. As a result, a space was opened for the mass public protests that overturned the pro-Moscow regime. But “in Russia now, there will not be such a split in the siloviki elites.”
If Putin gives the order to suppress street protests, they will obey and do it “quite quickly.” And Russians know that, Oreshkin suggests.
To the extent that one can judge, the Russian analyst continues, “Ukrainian society like Russian society in the 1990s overrates its role. People are terribly proud of the Maidan just as in Russia, people were terribly proud of the fact that in 1991 hundreds of thousands of people went into the streets and said ‘we’ve had enough of the Soviet Union.’”
Russians went into the streets then “but no one shot at them because the siloviki themselves were not certain that this model was something they needed. Instead, the chekists sat in the Lubyanka, kept quiet and allowed Feliks Dzerzhinsky to be pulled down. They had weapons, but they didn’t have the conviction that then was the time to shoot at the people.”
Now, however, Oreshkin says, they have this conviction. Thus, Russians won’t behave as they did in 1991 or as Ukrainians did in the Maidan. Expecting them to is expecting them to engage in a suicidal adventure.
“If at the end of the 1980s, Stanislav Govorukhin made a film entitled ‘We Mustn’t Live Like That’ about Soviet reality … people in [Putin’s] circle consider that it is quite possible for them to live as they do now. As a result, there will not be any street protests, and there is no reason to keep talking as if that were a real possibility.”