Staunton, October 26 – Protests in Moscow have quieted down to the point of non-existence, but in three non-Russian republics – Buryatia, Kalmykia and Sakha – they have broken out with greater force, in each case providing evidence that “loyalty [to Moscow] has gone out of fashion,” three experts with whom The New Times spoke say.
In Kalmykia, people are protesting Moscow’s imposition as Elista mayor of a Russian who earlier headed the self-proclaimed DNR in Ukraine. In Buryatia, they are continuing to protest dishonest elections. And in Sakha, they are showing their support for the shaman whom the authorities arrested after he declared he would go to Moscow and “expel” Putin.
The first expert, Aleksey Makarkin, suggests that the protests in Sakha are small and insignificant and that those in Buryatia are larger but of a piece of complaints about how elections are managed, but that the Kalmyk ones are more serious because they reflect how angry many people are to have outsiders imposed on them (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/186929?fcc ).
The second, Abbas Galyamov, says that these three protests are “nothing sensational” in themselves but important as an indication of trends which began more than a year ago. “Protest attitudes are growing, loyalty is passing out of fashion, the number of conflicts has increased, and ever more regions are involved.”
This development “does not mean that the regime will collapse tomorrow, he continues. “No, it still has reserves of strength,” but the powers that be already now cannot fail to notice or stop “the erosion of their social base.” As a result, Galyamov continues, they have shifted from playing offense to playing defense.
And the third, Dmitry Oreshkin, says that one must make a distinction between two kinds of protest, those involving legal issues taken up by those who are better off and typically very small; and those reflecting the views of a far broader swath of the population that take the form of “us” versus “them” thinking.
What people across the Russian Federation are angry about, he suggests, varies little from place to place, but the constructions people place on these things depends importantly on ethnicity. “In the national republics, whatever occurs is viewed through the prism of ethnic protest” something that doesn’t exist in the case of Moscow.
“For Russia and for the federal authorities, protests of the second type are a very serioius problem,” Oreshkin says, “because Russia is a multi-national country and certain nations live in very much consolidated groups.” And when protests occur in these areas, they involve not just the educated elite but the masses.
“Ethnic protest,” he continues, “is more primitive: it is like class protests in 1917, because it often attracts people who are told that all their problems are the result of the fact that someone is exploiting them. For example, Muscovites or the capitalists. And they can kill” as a result.