Saturday, January 19, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Real Opposition to the Authorities is in the Provinces, Lipetsk Writer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – The “real opposition” to the powers that be is not in Moscow but in the provinces, a Lipetsk writer says, because in Moscow, opposition figures simply want to replace one ruler with another while in the provinces people want the authorities whoever they are to play an ever-smaller role in their lives.

            According to his post on the aggregator, Maksim Maksimovich says that people in Russia’s provinces now tell the following joke: Asked how many Muscovites it takes to change a light bulb, they answer that the minimum number is 500,000. They will march around until Putin sends them an electrician (

            Because they have lived through so few leadership changes, he says, Muscovites are still inclined to think that the arrival of a new leader on the scene will be a panacea.  But those in the regions as in Lipetsk where people have seen leaders come and go over the past two decades know in advance that a change at the top won’t lead to the solution of all problems.

            In this sense, the poster continues, “Muscovites lag behind the provinces in the development of their civic self-consciousness” by almost two decades. People in the provinces have learned what Muscovites still must: the situation will likely get worse with any change of leadership and in any case “not better.”

            “’Don’t be children,’” people in the regions want to tell the Moscow protesters.  The current authorities aren’t going to pay attention to you just as they don’t pay attention to us. Consequently, he says, ever more people recognize that they won’t get anything from the authorities and they need to resolve problems on their own, independent of who is in office.

            Such people are turning to private contractors to provide services, but they will pay for the services only if they are provided. And as a result, “the authorities are becoming less and less necessary” for the population.  And that is a real opposition,” opposition not to a particular leader but to “the authorities as such.”

            People in the provinces and in Moscow should start thinking about what this potentially “terrible” thing means. First of all, “no one will come to the meetings of the opposition” because “if you aren’t demanding anything from the authorities, then you don’t need its opponents.” That will disappoint the demonstration leaders but then it will disappoint the authorities as well.

            That is because it both reflects and promotes “disappointment in the very essence of the authorities” as a system of power. The state will remain as long as there is “a foreign threat,” but its significance for the people of Russia will be much less. And that will frighten the state even more than the population.

            The powers that be will recognize not just “’how far they are’” from the people, but more importantly “how little anyone needs them.” And to prevent that from happening, Maksim Maksimovich continues, they will do whatever they cannot to prevent “such a course of development” from taking place.

            But the view that the state is much less important to the people than the state thinks it is is spreading across the provinces, he concludes, and it is even possible that it will reach Moscow.  If that occurs, Maksim Maksimovich concludes, then it will truly be possible to say that “’there is nowhere to retreat beyond Moscow.’”

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