Sunday, May 21, 2017

Moscow Teaching Russians a Dangerous Lesson: People Can Defend Their Rights in the Streets

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 21 – By responding as they have to Moscow protests against the tearing down of the khrushchoby apartment blocks, Moscow city officials and federal politicians are teaching people there and more generally a lesson that poses a serious challenge to the authorities: Russians are learning they can “defend their rights in the streets.”

            After tracing the way the authorities have backed down after each round of protests, Znak’s Yekaterina Vinokurova draws that conclusion and then interviews two commentators about what is likely to come next for the people and the powers (

            Moscow political scientist Abbas Gallyamov says that both sides are coming out ahead. “Muscovites have gotten the authorities to listen to them and the draft law has been changed in correspondence with their demands. The mayor’s office has gotten what it cared most about: the program will be carried out,” albeit in a less radical form.

            He suggests that protests are unlikely to grow because “people will be satisfied by the fact that the authorities have listened to them.”  But the powers have taught the people a lesson that threatens the powers themselves:  going into the streets to defend their interests works and the authorities may back down.

            That means, Gallyamov says, that the next time a conflict arises, “people will joint protests more willingly than they did  before the meetings against the renovation project.”

            Aleksey Makarkin, the vice president of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies, says that the protests are likely to ebb this summer but that the experience of Muscovites with them will make them less likely to vote for the party of power in the Moscow municipal electios this fall. 

            And that carries with it a problem for Sobyanin’s team which had counted on winning with a low level of participation. Now, there are enough people opposed to him that more will come up to vote for the KPRF or Yabloko or even run themselves.  And that could mean that the election outcome is less certain.

            Moreover, as Vinokurova notes, at least one more major demonstration against the renovation program is scheduled to take place next Sunday. Its organizers are PARNAS and Yabloko.

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