Sunday, August 11, 2019

To Cope with Growing Protests, Moscow Siloviki Forced to Bring in Reserves from Regions, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 9 – At the end of Soviet times, the interior ministry often brought in militiamen from outside Moscow to counter protests in the capital. Most assumed that they did so because the regional police could be counted on to treat protesters with less deference than would their Moscow counterparts.

            That may still be true, but a special on political psychology who earlier served as an advisor to a CPSU Central Committee secretary,  speaking to Snob on condition of anonymity, says that there are at least two other reasons that the powers that be are bringing in police from the hinterlands (

            “First of all,” he says, “there is a need to provide instruction for the provincial structures: if where they serve is quiet, this means that they need to be trained in a place where it isn’t.” That certainly describes Moscow today.  And it is also likely, he suggests, Moscow forces are overstretched and don’t have enough cadres. So they bring in people from the regions.

            The political psychology expert expressed his opinion about a variety of other questions as well. He suggested that the protests taking place now are a trial run for both the opposition and the authorities in anticipation of what may happen in the runup to the 2021 Duma vote and the 2024 presidential elections. 

            As to why Russians are coming out to the protests now, he continued, there are three categories of people at the meetings and a fourth that should be but isn’t. The first wants the adrenalin rush of taking part in a mass meeting, the second seeks to be involved in whatever is going no, and the third comes out of pure curiosity.

            According to the expert, there should be a fourth category but so far there isn’t. This would include those who have made a conscious choice to take part in support of “a definite political line.” The problem is “not in people, but in the absence of such a line.” The issue of registering candidates can’t be that: it will be irrelevant after September 8.

            The siloviki are using force as part of “a reconnaissance by force” of what they may be up against in 2021 or 2024 as well as because different segments of the force structures are in competition with each other and officers within any one service are seeking the approval and preferment from their superiors. 

            In another comment, the expert says that there are several reasons why the siloviki go after journalists. “Frightening journalists is never harmful,” he begins.  Some who are frightened won’t come to future protests and that will limit the coverage such actions get.  Moreover, going after one journalist may be a test of where his support lies.

            And sometimes, he says, “the purely personal” may play a role.  “It is possible that a specific journalist may have crossed the line of one of the siloviki and an order ‘from above’ is given to arrest him.” Or the whole thing may be “more prosaic: a policeman dispersing the meeting may simply not like a particular correspondent.”

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