Friday, May 17, 2019

Putin’s Proferred ‘Referendum’ in Yekaterinburg May Be as Fake as Everything in His Russia but Potentially Far More Self-Destructive

Paul Goble
            Staunton, May 16 – Vladimir Putin’s proposal to conduct a survey of opinion in Yekaterinburg over controversial plans to build a cathedral in the middle of a park in that Urals city is both less and more than meets the eye, commentators are already suggesting.

            It is less, as Tatyana Vintsevskaya points out on the Region.Expert portal, because the authorities will decide how to conduct it, who will be able to take part, when it will occur, how much discussion about it will be allowed, and, most important, who will determine who wins, thus limiting its importance (

            But it is more, she and others are suggesting, because it is a concession by the Kremlin leader extracted by popular protests, an indication that the regime can be forced to change its policies if people go into the street in large numbers and refuse to back down when the authorities initially dig in and even use force (

            Indeed, MGIMO professor and commentator Valery Solovey says, the Kremlin’s response to the Yekaterinburg protests could become a precedent for everywhere the Russian people find themselves locked in conflict with the powers that be, including but not limited to in Arkhangelsk over trash, in Ingushetia over borders, and in Moscow over metro lines. 

            To the extent that happens, any victory Putin wins in Yekaterinburg by using this offer to calm the situation there could prove Pyrrhic indeed, a victory that comes at a cost that those who “win” it can ill afford and that carries within it the seeds of their own subsequent and much more serious defeats. 

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