Monday, October 31, 2016

In an Administered Democracy, Effective Protest Must be Administered as Well, Milshteyn Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – While many engage in protest less in hope of achieving something than in showing off, Ilya Milshteyn says, “responsible people … know that in an era of administered democracy, protest also must be administered;” that is, “those who protest must control themselves” and operate according to the rules of the game.

            They must carefully choose their targets lest in aiming too high they fail to achieve anything except their own repression, they must choose the issues they raise so that they are within limits recognized by the authorities, and they must choose their timing with particular care, the Moscow commentator says (

            A brilliant example of this kind of self-administered protest is the one Konstantin Raykin made at the congress of the Union of Theater Employees ( Indeed, Milshteyn suggests, one could call it “an ideal form of a demarche.”

                Raikin “called on his colleagues to display the solidarity of coworkers. He referred to a constitutional norm: the ban on censorship. He covered with shame extremist attitudes.” And he picked a target, the deputy minister of culture just low enough to allow those above him to sacrifice him in order to protect themselves.

            Because of his cleverness, Raikin attracted attention across the country and won entirely deserved laurels for his remarks. But even more important, “the shamed power in a worthy fashion awarded the artist for his talent and bravery” by recognizing what he said as in part true and taking certain steps.

            Raikin ended his speech with angry words, pointing out that Russians today are living through “very difficult times, very dangerous and very terrible ones, very much like…” But “happily, he immediately stopped himself, because had he gone further he would not have achieved anything but attracting the fire of the authorities onto himself.

            That this should be the case is of course unfortunate and evidence of just how bad things in Putin’s Russia have become, and it is evidence that “administered protest in an era of administered democracy is a very subtle thing: a step to the left or to the right and its administered nature is lost.” And those who engage in it become not protesters but enemies.”

            One would like to see a Russia where those limits did not exist, but clearly the best way for such a Russia to emerge out of the one that does is for people like Raikin to make use of the possibilities for administered protest rather than engaging in actions that will lead nowhere good and that may make the current arrangement even worse.

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