To Keep Control, Moscow Raising Costs to Russians of All Forms of Protests, Karyagin Says
November 18 – The social and economic situation in Russia continues to
deteriorate and the level of pessimism about the future is now at the highest
level in eight years, but this has not translated into mass protests of any
kind because the government has raised the price of taking part in such
protests and Russians are behaving rationally in not doing so.
negative stimuli” Russians have experienced “should have provoked a certain response,”
he says.But the explanation for why
they haven’t done so more vigorously and dramatically is that they see the
instruments available to them as fewer and more expensive just as the regime
hopes they would.
of all the outlets people in most countries have to protest to the government
about their situation, Russians have only one that is more or less just as
available now as it was a year or two ago – and that is voting. But voting by
its nature is an episodic event, and if the regime schedules unpopular actions,
many Russians may forget that by the time of the next election day.
anger was expressed in the September elections, and it is possible it will last
until another round of regional elections next summer or even until 2021 when
there will be a vote on the Duma members, Karyagin says. There are few signs
things are going to get better, and so that is at least possible.
for other protest channels, he continues, “one must admit that in recent times,
they have become ever fewer. Changes in the rules for holding meetings, mass
arrests of participants, serious fines, and sometimes real jail sentences have
significantly increased the cost of this instrument for citizens.”
reality was shown at the time of pension reform. Polls showed that 90 percent
of Russians were against the plan to raise retirement ages, “but only a few
thousand went into the streets.”For
most, this was a rational choice rather than something determined by culture –
and the Kremlin was counting on that.
the Internet for protests has also become more expensive given the cases brought
against an increasing number of people for posts, reposts and likes.And using the regular media is almost
impossible: most is tightly controlled, and the small part which isn’t isn’t
accessible to many.
of the most free spheres” of public life in which protest is possible, the
political scientist says, is art.The
powers that be do on occasion ban performances or exhibits, but they find it
more difficult to control this segment than others. Consequently, “political
figures are becoming ever more numerous in creative activities.”
big question now, however, Karyagin says, is whether Russian popular anger will
grow faster than the regime increases the price for protests. If it does,
Russians like anyone else will go into the streets.If it doesn’t, then the current pattern of
sullen but unexpressed anger will likely continue for some time.