Monday, March 27, 2017

For Its Own Citizens, ‘Russia is Now an Occupied Country’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 27 – The vocabulary people use to describe a situation not only reflects but often intensifies the way in which they and others respond to it. Thus, Ronald Reagan’s most important ideological insight was to describe the Soviet Union as “the evil empire,” a term that not only delegitimated it but helped power the independence of parts of that state.

            Now, Moscow journalist Arkady Dubnov in  the wake of the protest marches in Russian cities yesterday says that Russia is “an occupied country,” on occupied not by some foreign government but rather by its own nominally “Russian” authorities, an “inadequate” and “cowardly” bunch (

            The Moscow mayor and his “sympathizers from Staraya Ploshchad and the Lubyanka simply do not understand” that all their talk about “an illegal march” is insulting at a time when officials are making decisions about people’s lives and homes without any consultation with them at all.

            If these people “suppose that they are discrediting Navalny by laying all the fault for mass detentions” on him, “then I suggest [they] are cruelly mistaken. The leadership position of Navalny will only strengthen after March 26, especially if you consider the dozens of Russian cities where people went into the streets to protest against the authorities’ corruption.”

            But strengthened even more, Dubnov says, is the sense that “the country is occupied” and that “the occupier is the powers that be.”  And as has been the case throughout history, no one wants to put up with an occupation: all honest citizens will seek to end it – and in this case, that means a change at the top.

            Not surprisingly in a time when such a definition can seem entirely plausible to the Russian people, others are talking about yesterday as “the beginning of a revolution” ( and as an attempted coup d’etat ( and saying things have passed “the point of no return” (

            There have been many thoughtful commentaries on the March 26 events in Russian cities, but one of the most thoughtful and comprehensive is offered by blogger Sergey Aleksashenko ( who suggests seven take-aways from the demonstrations:

1.      Aleksey Navalny by the successes of yesterday has become “a politician of the federal level; if you will, the only one who could assemble at the same moment meeetings under his slogans in a hundred cities of the country.”

2.      “The prohibition on meetings of opposition politicians with voters … is a powerful instrument of suppression and degradation of public opinion in Russia” and will be used now and in the future by the powers that be.

3.      “The OMON and the National Guard with their clubs … are the single real force which supports the political regime which exists in the country.” The demonstrations show the hollowness of claims that 86 percent of the population supports Vladimir Putin.

4.      “Talk about a political thaw … common several weeks ago” must be dismissed as so much hot air.

5.      The new boss in domestic policy, Sergey Kiriyenko, “either is indistinguishable from the old ones … or simply doesn’t have any real authority” to do anything significant.”

6.      “It is obvious that neither the powers that be, nor the Kremlin, nor Putin has any developed ideas which it could offer society, any answers to the challenges of the times, any desire to think about the future of the country and so something for the improvement of the lives of Russians.”

7.      And thus, “in Russia a new political season has begun. The scenarios for which are only beginning to be sketched out. But these scenarios depend on you and me and not on the Kremlin and its political technologists.”

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