Staunton, June 6 – A significant part of the Russian political elite is very well aware that the protests spreading across Russia have objective causes and are not the work of outside agitators as the regime’s ideologists insist, Fyodor Krasheninnikov says. But there are three compelling reasons why they won’t dispute the regime’s insistence otherwise.
First, the Yekaterinburg commentator says, they would be put themselves at risk of losing their positions if they did. Second, they might prompt their bosses to take truly extreme actions against the protesters. And third, they most seriously would be casting doubt on Kremlin policy (echo.msk.ru/blog/openmedia/2440091-echo/).
Consequently, even though protests have spread and are likely to continue to do so, he argues, the Kremlin won’t respond not just because it does not want to appear weak but rather because it has so isolated itself from the population that it can’t face reality and instead prefers to live in its own dream world, one those around it are not going to question.
That creates a truly dangerous situation in which protests are likely to continue to increase in size and number even as the regime insists that they can be ignored because they are the work of outside agitators, domestic or foreign.
All this, Krasheninnikov says, reflects some fundamental changes in Russian society and politics over the last five years. “The powers that be are losing their popularity in the eyes of citizens and they no longer are prepared to quietly accept all the decisions of those above on the principle that ‘things are clearer t the bosses.’”
The latter have failed to provide either obvious successes or a clear program for leading the country forward, and ever more of the Russian people can see that. And that is true not only of the powers that be in and around the Kremlin but in the regions and municipalities as well, the Yekaterinburg commentator says.
What has accelerated this change is “the constant growth in the popularity and accessibility of social networks and the Internet in general, which allows citizens to obtain an unlimited amount of alternative information about life in the country and in their locality” and, more important, to come to recognize that others share their views and plan to act.
That explains the trajectory of protests and official responses in Yekaterinburg and in Shiyes, he says, although the latter has been somewhat less intense because the density of population in the Russian north is far lower than in the Urals city – and has taken off largely because Muscovites have become involved.
“Moscow is not only the administrative but the intellectual and communications center of Russia; therefore, the involvement of part of Muscovite society in the situation in the north of Russia significantly intensifies dissatisfaction and anger of the residents of the region. Some protest, others watch, learn and get ready.”
But people in both places and elsewhere, the commentator says, are acting because of their own concerns. Moscow, however, refuses to see this. Every time there is a demonstration, those at the center insist that it is “organized and provoked artificially” by those outside and does not reflect the real feelings of the population, it and its media insist.
This “search for outside organizers and participants in any local action of protest is the clearest indication of the broadening gap between the authorities and society,” Krasheninnikov continues. It shows that the powers that be are acting like a drunk who thinks that the little green men are real and that their excessive consumption of alcohol is irrelevant.
“Putin and his entourage, judging from everything, sincerely supposes themselves to be loved” by the population, “and if reality contradicts their conviction, then they prefer to deny reality.” In other political systems, those near the top might seek to correct them, but in Putin’s, such people are afraid to try.
The longer this attitude survives at and near the top, he concludes, “the more frequent and more widespread will be new protests because the true provocateur, guilty party and organizer of protests in Russia today is the regime itself, which does not leave citizens any other opportunities to defend their rights and their land.”