Monday, October 1, 2018

Russian Liberals No Longer Afraid of Victories by Red and Brown Candidates, Zharkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 1 – Elections in Russia’s regions are interesting not because a few representatives of systemic opposition parties entirely loyal to the Kremlin won out and thus made the Russian political system more open and competitive, Vasily Zharkov argues, suggesting that such talks is at a minimum premature.

            Rather the voting is intriguing for another reason, the Moscow political analyst says; and it is this: many Russian liberals showed that they have “ceased to fear a victory in elections of ‘the red-browns,’” the communists and nationalists they’ve long anathematized (

            “For the first time since 1992, that is, for almost our entire post-Soviet political history, the possibility of victory by KPRF and LDPR was viewed in the liberal camp not so much as a threat but instead more as a chance” for a change in the political landscape even if those who won were not the liberals themselves.

            Just how radical a change that is, Zharkov continues, is the contrast it represents from October 1993 when in the name of defeating communists and nationalists, Russian liberals almost unanimously supported Boris Yeltsin’s use of brutal police force against the Supreme Soviet as the only way forward even at the cost of sacrificing democratic values.

            Of course, as people who came out of the Soviet past, liberals in 1993 asked themselves who would become the agents of repression and backed those who at least claimed to be for democracy against those who seemed to be otherwise, thus tying themselves to the Yeltsin regime and its successor. 

September’s elections suggest a new generation of liberals may be detaching themselves from this kind of thinking, Zharkov continues. 

Over the last quarter century, “neither the reds not the browns have come to power,” he points out. But “on the other hand, the power itself having changed only according to the monarchical principle of transferring the throne to ‘a successor’ rather than as a result of competitive political struggle” has become the problem.

And that in turn means this: the liberals are no longer afraid of the reds and the browns coming to power: they are frightened by the prospect that the regime they helped give birth to 25 years ago will remain in power and continue to oppress them and everyone else. The elections are an indication of that important shift in their assessments. 

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