Staunton, August 12 – Now, as at least since 2005 when Russians went into the streets in opposition to their government’s monetarization of benefits, the Kremlin has sought to ignore such protests, believing them to be not the voice of the people but a problem for the regime, Boris Kagarlitsky says.
But such “ignoring of protests will lead to a political crisis” at some point, and the more protests there are and the more the Kremlin tries to ignore them, the sooner and greater this crisis is likely to be, the left-of-center sociologist and political commentator tells the Nakanune news agency (nakanune.ru/articles/115385/).
Despite that, Kagarlitsky says, the Kremlin continues to believe that ignoring protests at the political level or at least giving the impression that it is ignoring them even while it uses its police powers to repress those who go into the streets is its optimum political strategy. But ever more other Russians are seeing through this ruse.
According to a poll conducted by the Nakanune news agency, more than half of its self-selected sample of over 1600 people say that they are convinced that the protests in Moscow and other Russian cities are “evidence of a growing crisis of the political system” and not something that can continue to be ignored by the powers that be.
That suggests that Russians if not yet the Kremlin leadership recognizes that the current wave of protests is not about the single issue of registering opposition candidates for the elections to the Moscow city council but the result of growing dissatisfaction among Russians with their rulers.
The Kremlin’s effort to act as if the protesters are marginal and unworthy of its attention has been going on for more than 14 years, Kagarlitsky continues, since the monetarization of benefits fiasco of “distant 2005,” although the powers reacted more to demonstrations than they have more recently.
According to the commentator, protests are an objective reaction to objective changes in society. They “absolutely do not depend on the desire or lack of desire of the opposition.” That means they are a measure of what is going on that can be ignored only by those who foolishly believe they can ride anything out.
Indeed, he says, “protests are no more than a symptom of a major political and social illness which is a fatal one for the existing powers that be.” How quickly that disease will act on the body politic is uncertain, Kagarlitsky continues. But several things about this illness are already clear.
“The Moscow protests are not even the tip of the iceberg; they are a point on the tip of the iceberg because they are the result of growing anger throughout the country.” Acting as if this isn’t so and ignoring them will only “deepen” the crisis, “politicizing protest and transforming the social crisis into a political one.”