Monday, March 18, 2019

‘Fraternization of Democratic Opposition with Chauvinists in Russia Can’t End Well,’ Krasheninnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 18 – The collapse of the Russian protest movement in 2011-2012, a movement in which there were people of wildly different political positions who agreed only on the elections, offers an important lesson, Fedor Krasheninnikov says. “Any fraternization of the democratic opposition with chauvinists in Russia can’t end well.”

            It is especially important to recall this now, the Russian commentator says, because some are talking about reviving that movement on the same basis as the democrats and the chauvinists are both angry at Putin. But everyone must remember that they are angry for very different reasons (

            The democrats are angry at Putin’s repression and his anti-Western policies, while the chauvinists are upset that the Kremlin leader did not follow up annexation of Crimea with a drive to take Kyiv.  That difference makes not only makes them poor allies, Krasheninnikov says; but it opens the way to something dangerous.

            It is virtually a call for Putin to do what he did in 2014, to engage in additional aggression and ramp up anti-Western rhetoric, because by doing so he would bring any such internally divided opposition movement to its knees by underscoring how little agreement there would be among its members.

            That can be clearly seen, Krasheninnikov says, if one considers what happened between 2011-2012 when the protest movement was at its height and 2014 when it broke apart with the chauvinists deserting the democrats in droves to support Putin’s moves against Ukraine and the West.

            Initially, the chauvinists were prepared to go along with the liberals because they were both unhappy with the outcome of the elections, albeit for very different reasons. And in the absence of a clear delineation of the movement’s ideology beyond being anti-Putin and for honest elections, there was no requirement that the chauvinists had to show their hand.

            That should be common ground for everyone, he continues, but “the myth that the core of the protests of 2011-2012 were ‘pro-Western liberals’ and that all their participants supposed the same views on the world,” one promoted by the Kremlin in order to win support from the lower classes, has gotten in the way. The protests weren’t united, and they quickly came apart.

            “In point of fact,” Krasheninnikov argues, “neither the protesters nor their leaders in 2011-2012 had any common program or even common values.” And so what happened should have surprised no one: when the situation changed, each of the component groups went its own way.  

            Putin understood that and acted accordingly. “In the spring of 2014, Putin offered to Rusian society and the entire world a new model of his regime,” no longer “a provincial authoritarianism” but rather “a chauvinist dictatorship proud of its aggressiveness, afraid of no one, ready to send ‘polite people’ anywhere, to expand its borders in all directions and to threaten America with rockets.”

            For the chauvinists, this was enough to cause them to shift from the side of the protesters to that of the Kremlin.  At the same time, “one must not fail to stress that this was no so much their unqualified shift to the side of Putin.” Instead, Putin “in the search of new ideas and a means of saving his regime,” chose to make use of chauvinism.

            Those democrats thinking about forming a new alliance with chauvinists should remember how Putin played them last time – and how his search for support led him to be even more aggressive than might otherwise have been the case. 

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