Those who went into Red Square in 1968 were protesting Moscow’s claim under “the Brezhnev doctrine,” that it had right to send troops into a Warsaw Pact country to suppress moves toward democracy and freedom. Now, those who did so were protesting the idea that Moscow has the right to invade former Soviet republics who distance themselves from Russia.
This new-old doctrine should perhaps be labelled “the Putin doctrine.” But not that much has changed in one important sense: The response of the authorities also has remained the same: the organs, then Soviet, now Russian, moved in to arrest those taking part; and the regimes tried to ensure that no one would ever hear what the protesters said.
But there is an important difference, Daniel tells Moscow journalist Zoya Svetova. “Then in 1968, it was not important how many people went out – seven, eight or eleven … Today it is important. It seems to me that those who take part in any actions now and those who went out then are moved by approximately the same notives.”
“Both then and now, people go to meetings and pickets understanding that nothing will change as a result. For example, when people now go out to defend Sentsov, the majority of them understand that Sentsov will be released if he is not because of their pickets. But they go out because a feeling of their own dignity requires this.”
“This was true in the Soviet past as well,” Daniel says. “There was, it’s true, a short period in between when people went out to meetings, marches and demonstrations hoping to really change the situation. It seemed to them that this was possible, and perhaps it was in certain specific situations.”
But “several years ago, the situation changed, and the former Soviet feeling of the impossibility of changing or influencing anything returned,” the historian says.
“The distinction between Soviet times and the present ones is very simple: when people went to the demonstration in 1968, they more or less understood that all or the majority of them would end in jail. But now, despite everything, that is not 100 percent obvious. The situation, of course, is getting worst, and this difference is being reduced to nothing.”
“Several years ago, those taking part in a protest might be fined or held briefly, but now, they can be arrested and condemned. But people all the same come out even now, just as they came out then.”