Staunton, May 6 – Almost certainly no country on earth commemorates as many anniversaries as does Russia, and beyond any doubt no other country has as many which are contested, that is, which split its people between those who regret what happened on a particulate date in the past and those who want to celebrate it.
Last Sunday, Russians marked May Daywith demonstrations that highlighted divisions in Russia; and now the country is preparing for Victory Day next Monday, a holiday intended to celebrate national unity but that also divides Russians today -- albeit less by what it marks than by how the powers that be are exploiting history (zhartun.me/2015/05/victory.html).
But if some anniversaries are boosted by all the power of the Kremlin and the state-controlled media, others are not, even if and perhaps especially if they say more about Russia and Russia’s future than do those marked with pomp. One of these significant anniversaries takes place today.
Four years ago today, tens of thousands of Russians in what was one of the largest demonstrations in Moscow since Vladimir Putin came to power. They demanded that Russia allow honest elections in which all candidates would have a chance in place of “the managed democracy” the Kremlin had offered.
The police alleged that they were involved in a riot and had directed violence against the authorities. Many were arrested. The residences of opposition figures were searched. And charges were brought against 28 of the participants. But the case has not been closed and reportedly 80 more demonstrators from 2012 remain under investigation (bolotnoedelo.info/en/).
Recalling this event now, the editors of the Grani portal argue that “the consequences” of that 2012 event “are being felt ever more strongly. Of course,” they add, “Putinism was born not in 2012, but the events of May 2 became the beginning of a sharp turn in social live and hitherto unseen advances of reaction” (grani.ru/tags/may6/m.251166.html).
For some time after the Bolotnoye events, the editors continue, “democratic forces still tried to resist,” but the regime’s increasing repression at home and the popularity of its aggressive actions abroad have had the effect of reducing the number of people prepared to protest and demand honest elections.
Now, Russia has entered another electoral cycle, one in which the powers that be seem committed to even more dishonest elections than in the past. Consequently, it is important as Grani says that all people of good will remember the 2012 events and recognize that the reaction of the Kremlin to them reflected not the strength of those in power but their fears of the people.