Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Window on Eurasia: A Russian Maidan Could Take Place Outside of Moscow

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 11 – The Russian political system is so hyper-centralized and Russian political culture is so Moscow-centric that almost all discussions about radical change in that country focus on the capital city and its residents rather than on the rest of what remains the largest country on earth.


            But there have been occasions when transformative change came in the first instance not from the center but from the periphery – as happened in the case of the collapse of the USSR 23 years ago – and now one Moscow political analyst has suggested that Russia might experience something few have considered: a Maidan outside of Moscow.


            In an interview with “Novaya Gazeta,” Aleksey Venediktov says that the Russian government’s failure to address the real problems of the country and to take into consideration the rise of aggressiveness among the population is making this a real possibility (novayagazeta.ru/politics/66010.html and joinfo.ua/politic/1048912_Aleksey-Venediktov-Maydan-Rossii-obyazatelno.html).


            According to Vendiktov, Russian officials are engaging in an extremely risk course. “These people are destroying the country by setting one part of the population against another, against any minority. And it is not important which one it is: ethnic, sexual or ideological. What is important is that within society civic resistance.”


            That in turn can lead to the formation of a Maidan-like rising, he continues, and despite what many assume, such a rising “need not necessarily be in Moscow. It could,” for instance, “take place in the [non-Russian] republics.” And that possibility has become more likely, Vendiktov suggests, as a result of the events in Ukraine.


            “When Putin says, ‘I will not permit a Maidan,’” the Russian commentator continues, the Kremlin leader “has in mind not really a Maidan, but the consequences of the pulling down of a legitimate authority and the disintegration of the country by means of civil war. He wants to stop this scenario by any way possible.


            Venediktov says that he does not know what is going to happen, but he says that a year ago, no one could have predicted what has taken place in Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.  And consequently, no one should dismiss out of hand what now seems not just improbable but impossible.


            Both the Russian government and the Russian opposition appear to be more sensitive to the possibility that there could be a Maidan outside of Moscow than do many others.   On the one hand, Russian officials are cracking down even harder on activism beyond the ring road. And on the other, opposition figures are focusing their attention precisely there.


            Yesterday, for example, a deputy in the Karelian parliament demanded that the authorities block the “Stop the Occupation of Karelia” website (occupacii-karelii.net/) lest it destabilize the situation in that republic with its talk of genocide and independence (karelnovosti.ru/policy/v-karelskom-parlamente-budut-borotsya-s-karelskimi-separatistami/ and nazaccent.ru/content/13814-deputat-zaksobraniya-karelii-poprosil-zablokirovat-sajt.html).


            And also yesterday, opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky announced plans to create an information portal to feature weekly news summaries about the situation in Russia’s regions. The new effort will be headed by Renad Davletgildeyev, the former chief editor of Dozhd television (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5460F869CDCA3).



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