Monday, August 19, 2019

Moscow, by Depriving Russians of Latest Form of Internal Emigration, Pushing Country toward the Brink, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 16 – Many have found it difficult to believe that the question of access to local elections in Moscow could lead to mass protests, Kseniya Kirillova says; but they forget the ways in which such access in the past and the simulation of local political action in the form of anti-corruption moves have represented the latest form of “internal emigration.”

            Faced with difficulties and repression in the past, the US-based Russian journalist says,  many Russians have withdrawn into what in Soviet times was called “internal emigration,” seeking out little islands of hope in a sea of despair (

            In the last five years, Russians have watched as their standard of living has declined and repression by the powers that be have increased. But many comforted themselves with the idea that at least they could play some limited role in local affairs even if that role too was constantly being reduced.

            “Local politics and the solution of local issues, including the struggle with corruption became a kind of ‘internal emigration,’ the last illusion of freedom which the active part of society had and which gave people the sense that they could do something and influence something,” Kirillova says.

            But now with its actions blocking opposition candidates from running for the Moscow city council, the Kremlin has shown that the rules of the game have changed yet again and that those Russians who had seen such local institutions as evidence that the people still mattered can no longer do so.

This latest “change of the rules” is something ever more Russians can’t tolerate because they see it not as just one restriction among any but as an existential threat.  And that has been heightened by the brutal behavior of the authorities who have made clear that the Russian people now face the risk of repression at any time.

In response to this shift in Russian attitudes, the powers that be have adopted an ever- harder line, one that is exacerbated by two other factors. On the one hand, Kirllova says, the Kremlin recognizes that it is not going to be able to get the Russian economy moving again and regain support of the kind it had in the years before 2008.

And on the other, she continues, ever more people in the Kremlin believe that they can survive only if they scramble the board internationally by securing some kind of new super-Crimean victory over the West, something that as other analysts have argued will require the use of nuclear blackmail.

And this “war party” in the Kremlin is convinced, the Russian journalist says, that it can and must crack down at home in order to pursue such a policy abroad, something it can do because in the view of its followers, “Trumpian America is not democratic and therefore it doesn’t need our democrats anymore” (

Given that both the population and the powers feel these ways, Kirillova concludes,  Russia is beyond doubt “moving toward a catastrophe,” one in which the people won’t be able to comfort themselves that they have anything but their lives left and in which the authorities think they have nothing to lose by repression and going to the brink of nuclear war.

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