And on the other, the Kremlin has worked hard not only to define any political figure who does get involved with protests as a parasite trying to exploit rather than lead any protest but also to block the kind of local and regional political arenas in which it would be entirely natural for political figures and social protesters to work together.
“In Russia, the creation of regional parties is prohibited,” Yakovenko points out; and this means that local and regional politics from the outset must either become part of federal politics,” subordinating itself to how political life is defined in Moscow “or mimic that by presenting itself as non-political protest.”
Moreover, the authorities have made clear that any efforts to politicize civic protest will make it impossible for those behind it to get any concessions from the powers that be, a major reason besides fear of repression that keeps those engaged in civic protests from being willing to cooperate with anyone in the political sphere.
Indeed, in the current situation, that is a rational choice for those who want their problems solved; and Moscow wants to keep things that way.
In Russia today, Yakovenko continues, “there is not a single politician who has ‘grown’ to the federal level by solving the problems of his region or the specific problems raised by civic protest. Such politicians have not appeared from among the environmental activists, the long-haul truckers or from the milieu of the deceived depositors.”
The Kremlin has done everything it can to block that possibility, by banning regional political parties and promoting the notion among political figures in Moscow that what goes on in the regions and localities must be subordinated to “commands from the center” rather than the other way around.
The country suffers from “a deficit of politicians who have a clear understanding of the extent of problems raised by the protest movement and who are capable of offering society a road map for the resolution of these problems,” Yakovenko says. “It is possible that this is the main problem” of Russia now.