Monday, July 27, 2020

Russians Projecting Their Own Fantasies on Khabarovsk Events, Psychologist There Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – Khabarovsk has become a kind of screen on which many Russians are projecting their own expectations and fantasies, frequently assuming that everyone in the streets of that Far Eastern city is there for the same reason and has the same convictions Russians elsewhere want to see or fear, Ilya Latypov says.

            But in reality, the Khabarovsk psychologist points out, “people of a wide range of views” have joined the protests. Many oppose Putin but some support him, and there are some who are ready to get rid of both liberals and conservatives alike. When Russians elsewhere see this, they are inclined to turn away from the Khabarovsk protesters (

            Many Russians elsewhere want the Khabarovsk action to be the precursor of a revolution or pogroms, especially if the Khabarovsk people can bring about the changes without those who project that image on them doing anything. Others fear what is happening in the city as a harbinger of a return to the 1990s.

            Perhaps the largest group of Russians elsewhere, “formally support the residents of the city and kray who have gone into the streets but in essence are projecting with all possible force on us their own impotence.”  They sympathize but think that the people of Khabarovsk are being played by someone outside and will ultimately be suppressed.

            That view, of course, justifies the inaction of other Russians, Latypov points out.

            The powers that be in Moscow and their media are promoting such dismissive attitudes because they do not want to try to understand the underlying causes for the protests, causes much deeper and more widely held than they can admit.  In this, the regime and its media display “a total lack of respect to people who have decided to actively protest.”

            “I don’t know how all this will end,” the psychologist says. It may be that none of the protesters’ demands will be met. Even with the support the city has had from elsewhere in the Russian Far East, it is still isolated.  However, Khabarovsk residents are experiencing what it is to think for themselves and organize their own actions, and that won’t be easily lost.

            And in the process, they are learning something else, to divide the world between “their own” and “the alien” in new ways. ”Their own” are those who are furious about the arrest of Furgal and welcome any protest, “the larger the better,” and they don’t care what political views those willing to come into the street have.

            “The alien,” on the other hand, are those who oppose the meetings, including Moscow and local officials.  “This polarization is intensifying, and now, it is my sense,” Latypov continues, “the alien” includes anything connected with Moscow, while the regional identity of Khabarovsk residents is becoming ever more strongly held.

            Ever more demonstrators are carrying the Khabarovsk regional flag, although many continue to fly the Russian flag, not because as some imagine, residents are identifying with the country as a whole, but rather because people understand that “the roof of their problems is in the federal center and Khabarovsk by itself can’t solve them.”

            The arrival of the new governor infuriated people not because of his own sometimes “extravagant” statements but simply because he is “an outsider” and was appointed by “alien Moscow,” the psychologist continues. 

            Several days ago protesters began talking about the need for a regional party, only to find out that in Russia, the formation of such parties is illegal; and that led many to recognize that today “Russia is not a federation but a unitary country,” where governors can be fired if they lose the trust of a single individual in the Moscow Kremlin.

            But one thing is certain, Latypov suggests by way of conclusion, the demands of people in Khabarovsk for democracy and respect for regions “is not separatism but rather an effort to promote the real federalization of the country.”  Moscow doesn’t want that, they see; and so they will remain in the streets.

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