Monday, June 24, 2019

Shiyes Now ‘Clearest Measure’ of Putin’s Attitude toward Russian People and Their Attitude toward Him, Protest Leader Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 22 – Vladimir Putin did not deign to respond to a video appeal from people in the Russian North who do not want dumps constructed at Shiyes and other sites for Moscow trash and residents of that region who do not believe his regime’s promises to stop building the dumps will simply continue their protests, Oleg Borovikov says.

            “Shiyes, if you like,” an activist with the Pomorye is Not a Trash Can movement, “is today the clearest indicator of the attitude of society toward the powers that be and also of the attitude of the powers that be toward society” ( It reflects the lack of trust of the people in Putin and the fear Putin has of them as a result.

            Since the trash protests began last summer, Borovikov continues, officials have promised again and again that everything will be done according to the law, but “I like thousands of other residents of the region have completely lost any trust in the powers that be” because they have lied or not been responsive in other ways.

            Consequently, Putin’s failure to respond in his “direct line” program – on that, see also and – is no surprise. “It turns out that the president is afraid of his own people, the same ‘ordinary people’ on whom the Kremlin political technologists are always placing their bets on.”

            But that won’t keep people from continuing the protests: indeed, it may even add energy to their efforts. “Our people swallowed the raising of the pension age, but they can’t swallow train loads of Moscow trash.”

            Those who say that Moscow’s approach to the North in this case reflects a “colonial” attitude are “close to the truth,” Borovikov says.  Not just in the notion that the center can do what it likes but that it will employ force against any on the periphery who oppose what it wants to do.

            Asked about the appearance of regional flags at the protest, the activist says that the informal flag of the Komi Republic has been at the protests for a month, a flag that is popular because it was created two decades ago when that republic became part of the Russian Federation. There has thus been time enough for it to enter popular consciousness.

            The alternative flag for Arkhangelsk Oblast promoted by the Pomors, on the other hand, is something new and hasn’t yet had the same impact on people’s thinking.  But Borovikov adds, “I see in the Russian flag at demonstrations a symbol of real patriotism,” not loyalty to the Kremlin rulers but “a real readiness to stand up in defense of our lands.”

            “I would like to note the following,” he continues. “Our protest is formed horizontally and there does not exist any organ which has the right to prohibit people from coming out with symbols which express their ideas” – including communist ones, although Borovikov makes clear he doesn’t share those.

            Borovikov says that the powers that be in Moscow have driven themselves “into a dead end.” At present, there is no good way forward for them. If they proceed with what they want to do, they will be compelled to use more force against the population, sparking anger and more protests.

            But if the powers that be back down, he continues, many others will come out to protest what is being done to them and the protests will also spread and intensify. The likelihood is that the authorities will choose the first path but lie about it, fabricating cases against those who oppose them. 

            That too is a mistake for the regime, but Putin and his people have no other ideas on how to proceed. Unfortunately for it, Borovikov concludes, the Russian people see this as well and are already drawing conclusions. 

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