Staunton, April 7 – Moscow’s plans to dispose of trash from the capital in the northern portions of Russia have sparked protests across the region in recent weeks, a development that rose to a new high this weekend with demonstrations against these plans in Arkhangelsk, Vladimir, Kaluga, Pskov, and Sverdlovsk Oblasts and Komi Republic (protest704.ru/).
Not only are these protests becoming larger and occurring in more places, “the ecological slogans” that dominated at the start of this movement are increasingly being eclipsed by political demands and regionalist agendas, according to a report on the Tallinn-based Region.Expert portal (region.expert/actions0704/).
The authorities in many of these places are seeking to restrict where the demonstrations can take place and to limit the number of people taking part by harassing or arresting organizers and bringing trumped-up charges against them (7x7-journal.ru/anewsitem/119475 and sobkorr.org/news/5CA870FAC5AC9.html).
But at least in some places, these official actions are having exactly the opposite effect the authorities hope for. Instead of causing the protesters to back off, it has led those in Arkhangelskto decide to ignore the officials and to stake out even more radical positions (activatica.org/actions/view/id/885/title/arhangelsk-vyydet-na-jekoprotest-nesmotrya-na-zaprety-vlastey).
This is a tipping point. If the use of force does not intimidate people but infuriates them and makes them more political, the authorities have two choices, neither of which they are likely to find attractive. Either they will have to use even more repressive force in the hopes that will be sufficient or seek a compromise with the protesters.
The danger in the first case is that the powers that be might give an order that local police will not carry out, as has already happened in Ingushetia, a development that if it spread points toward a revolution; and the danger in the second is that the protesters having tasted victory will press even harder on more issues of concern to them.