Monday, February 18, 2019

Russians’ Reluctance to Protest won’t Save Putin, Agranovsky says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 17 – More than three out of four Russians say that they are not willing to go into the streets to protest the deteriorating economic conditions in which they live, an attitude that many believe means that the Putin regime will be able to ignore popular discontent for a long time to come.

            But Dmitry Agranovsky, a left-wing television commentator, tells Elena Rychkova of the Nakanune news agency that the current situation will not save the Putin regime not only because the number of people willing to protest will grow but also because this passive opposition will undermine his rule (

            Agranovsky recalls that in 1998, he spoke with General Rokhlin and asked him why soldiers commit suicide rather than use their weapons against those who have drive them to despair. Rokhlin replied with “two words: little organization.” Not surprisingly, they were not allowed on the air, but the general’s words explain a lot.

            Russians aren’t ready to take part in protests not only because they fear the consequences of doing so or because they believe that no protest will achieve its goals or because they have no tradition of going into the streets, he says. They also aren’t ready because there are no leaders who are prepared to lead them into the streets.

            That would seem to protect those in powers, but one must remember that if 77 percent say they aren’t ready to take part in demonstrations, 22 percent are – an enormous figure in the millions of the population of the country. If leaders appear to call them out to protest, the regime would be overwhelmed – and many beyond the 22 percent would join them.

            According to Agranovsky, “the pension ‘reform’ was a kind of Rubicon when it became clear that the state is not on the side of the people. For many, this was a discovery. The pension ‘reform’ inflicted a radical hit on the image of the powers that be. It became clear that there was no reason to expect anything good from them.”

            “The powers that be do not understand this; they calculate that the people has accepted this pension ‘reform,’ but what has happened is simply that the people have not gone into the streets to protest. They aren’t able, perhaps, but this dissatisfaction within is very strong,” Agranovsky continues.

            The Russian people aren’t just dissatisfied; they are offended. They didn’t expect this from Putin: they considered him to be on their side against the bureaucracy. But now that has changed. Tragically, neither Putin nor his regime understand this. They have destroyed what feedback loops existed as they have destroyed democracy. 

            The regime does not know what is going on in the country and thus is not capable of adjusting to new realities. And that in turn means that the dissatisfaction, anger, and offense will only grow, quite possibly beyond street protests into something more dangerous, a Russian rising that will sweep everything away.

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