“The Russian ruling group,” Tetyokin says, “instead of curing the illnesses [of society] s trying to eliminate their symptoms. Any doctor will say that this is not simply useless but in fact harmful for the patient. But good sense is not the strongest characteristic of the ruling group” which has failed to recognize that its own policies are generating popular dissatisfaction.
“The incomes of the population have been falling for more than four years in a row,” he continues. “Prices for products and medicines and the costs of communal services go up almost every day. There are more than 20 million living in poverty, and more than half of the population is poor.”
Expecting people driven into this situation by government policies to be supportive is “at a minimum not very far-sighted,” Tetyokin continues. In fact, as the case of South Africa’s apartheid government shows, it is an approach that will lead to a dead end and the end of the regime.
The apartheid rulers “acted harshly,” killing dozens of demonstrators, imprisoning thousands, kidnapping opponents, and “’disappearing’” them. That kept the regime in office longer than would otherwise have been the case, the African specialist says; but ultimately, these measures could do nothing in the face of the worsening of the situation of the people.
The same will be true in Russia, he argues. Moreover, Russia’s rulers are behaving now in ways that resemble the actions of the apartheid rulers of South Africa in the past. On the one hand, they say they are promoting a middle class even as they make its life more difficult. And on the other, they blame all opposition of foreign influences and try to shut them out.
But “the main source of protest” in South Africa in the past and in Russia today is “the continuing worsening of life” of the populations under their respective control. “The most ‘revolutionary’ factor was in my view [then and now] he socio-economic policy of the authorities … People were driven to despair” and “radicalized.”
The lesson of South Africa is clear, even if it is one Russia’s current rulers haven’t learned, Tetyokin continues. Intensifying repression is not going to work: Instead, “it will inevitably lead to a social explosion.” And “if the people begin to move – and the results of the recent elections in Russia suggest this is happening – then now power will be able to hold them off.”.