Staunton, October 4 – The upsurge in protest activity among Russians has spread throughout the country with only two federal subjects, Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechnya and distant Chukotka, having escaped this trend, according to a new study by the Moscow Institute of Social and Labor Rights.
During the first half of 2019, Anna Ochkina, the author of the study, says, there were 863 protest actions across the country and that at current rates of increase there will be approximately 2000 this year, far more than the 1200 to 1500 that have been typical in the course of recent years (regions.ru/news/2627420/).
Those which were political or civic in character, she adds, numbered 130, while those growing out of labor activity totaled only 47. Moreover, of the 70 civic actions, 33 were protests against the actions of law enforcement personnel. But as Oleg Shein, a Just Russia Duma deputy, notes, many were regional or ethnic (regions.ru/news/2627420/).
As usual, the protests in Moscow received the most attention, he continues, but there were important regional actions in Arkhangelsk over trash, in Yekaterinburg over the location of a cathedral, and ethno-national protests in Ingushetia over the summer and Kalmykia and Buryatia now.
Indeed, these protests appear set to become even more numerous in the second half of 2019 when the Institute releases a follow-up report, suggesting that ethnic and regional issues could become the dominant focal points of protest in the Russian Federation, something that has not been the case since the early 1990s.
That trend has been obscured in many news reports which stress the absence of protests in two ethnic territories, Chechnya and Chukotka (cf. themoscowtimes.com/2019/10/04/russias-protest-movement-is-expanding-and-becoming-political-study-says-a67604). But Nikolay Arefyev, a KPRF Duma deputy, explains why those two haven’t been the scene of protest.
The first doesn’t have a government against which any protesters can hope to have an impact, and the second doesn’t have enough people – the autonomous district adjoining the Bering Straits has fewer than 50,000 people living dispersed throughout its territory – to have a chance to engage in demonstrations.
Arefyev adds that the overall reason for the rise in protest activity is this: the standard of living of the population has been declining for the last six years, and dissatisfaction with the situation, always present among the poor, has now reached into the middle class, whose members are more ready to take to the streets.