Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Russia Today Resembles July Days of 1917, Khabarovsk Professor Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – More than almost any other country, Russia is one where current events are typically discussed in terms of those in the past, with commentators relating what Vladimir Putin is doing to Stalin’s tactics and problems in the republics and regions leading many to draw parallels with the end of Soviet times.

            Now, a Khabarovsk-based scholar has drawn another one, this time between the continuing protests in that Far Eastern city and the notorious July Days of 1917, in which the Bolsheviks first opposed and then supported a spontaneous rising in Petrograd and lost support when the Provisional Government said Lenin’s party was being financed by the Germans.

            Obviously, this parallel has its limits; but it is intriguing, especially because it is offered by someone on the scene, Ildus Yarulin, a professor at Russia’s Pacific State University who lives in Khabarovsk, who is not predicting revolution now but suggesting one is likely if the powers don’t change their approach (

                In July 1917, there was a spontaneous rising of the population which the Bolsheviks first opposed and then decided they had not choice but to support, much as in Khabarovsk now where the systemic parties stood aside and only later some of them, the LDPR and KPRF in particular, got involved.

            In response to the July days in 1917, the Provision Government recognized it needed a new way to interact with the masses who were clearly in a revolutionary mood and took two steps: naming Aleksandr Kerensky who knew how to speak with them and attacking Lenin and the Bolsheviks as German agents.

            Today, the situation in Khabarovsk shows that the population is sufficiently angry that it must be addressed in new ways. Sergey Furgal understood that and it was that new style of sincerity that won him support and caused tens of thousands of people to go into the streets initially in his defense but then to make larger demands.

            The powers that be now are edging their way to a similar new sincerity, not crushing the demonstrations by force out of concern that such moves would only intensify popular opposition but choosing instead to deal with the crowds in a more open way. Furgal’s successor in many ways appears to be trying Furgal’s style.

            There are no Sisson documents, but it is entirely possible that the Kremlin will seek to crush the LDPR given that its leader is aging and its composition is so diverse. But if it does so, it may find just as the Provisional Government did in July 1917, that it had inflicted a serious wound on its elite opponents but failed to address the people in the streets.

            Those people in 1917 were the ones who took power in Russia; the same thing can happen again, Yarulin suggests, if the Kremlin thinks that playing games with the elites is enough and the population can be safely ignored. That approach failed a century ago. It can fail again unless the Kremlin learns the real lessons of Khabarovsk.

            Power ultimately rests with the population; and in this sense, the Khabarovsk protests have redrawn the political map of the Russian Federation, the scholar concludes. 

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