Saturday, July 25, 2020

Where Will the Next Khabarovsk Break Out? Experts Divided on Possibilities and Prospects

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – While some analysts are saying that Khabarovsk is the beginning of a revolutionary wave that will sweep across Russia (, more are asking to which cities and regions the kind of protests taking place in the Russian Far East are likely to spread and considering how Moscow’s response to Khabarovsk will affect that.

            Leonid Smirnov of the Rosbalt news agency spoke with four Moscow political analysts. They provide different perspectives on both what may lead other cities to protest and how Moscow will likely react especially in the period between now and the September elections (

            Aleksey Makarkin, vice president of the Center for Political Technologies, says that in many ways Khabarovsk was unique because of Furgal and the way he was viewed locally and in Moscow. But there is anger elsewhere and people may come into the streets not to support their governor but to have him ousted. 

            Pavel Kudyukin, vice president of the University Solidarity union and an instructor at the Higher School of Economics, says that when tensions are as high as they are now, the only thing needed is a trigger; but predicting what those might be and when and where they will occur is extremely difficult.

            With regard to the Far East, he says, China plays a contradictory role: On the one hand, residents of the Russian Far East see neighboring Chinese regions doing very well. And on the other, especially in Khabarovsk, they fear that Beijing is too interested in expanding its influence in border regions of Russia.

            But the Far East is the most likely candidate for new protests now. People there don’t have the background of serfdom and more given to taking independent action as shown by the fact that people there were behind protests in the past including anti-Bolshevik risings during the Civil War.

            Boris Kagarlitsky, head of the Institute on Globalization and Social Movements, says there may either be specific risings or a more general wave of protest and that both may affect where the next Khabarovsk occurs.  But few have recognized that a major reason people in Khabarovsk have acted as they are lies in recent developments.

            The kray like other places in the Russian Far East is far more urbanized than many other parts of Russia and its people are in fact the second, third or “even the fourth” generation to live in major cities. That predisposes them to actions.  Rural Russians even in the Far East are far less likely to demonstrate.

            Kagarlitsky says that there are unlikely to be any new risings like the one in Khabarovsk until after the September elections because Moscow will want to avoid triggering anything that could make its electoral changes even worse than they now are. But because they are bad, the center may engage in massive falsification and that could drive more people into the streets.

            Irkutsk is one candidate for that, the analyst says; but an even better one may be Arkhangelsk because the governor is unpopular, there is the tradition of Shiyes protest, and the potentially explosive issue, given the protest voting in Nenets AD, of the possible amalgamation of the two federal subjects.

            And Ilya Grashchenkov, head of the Center for the Development of Regional Policies, agrees but adds additional possible sites , including Novosibirsk.  It will largely depend on Moscow’s response and whether it can find a way to negotiate with regional groups rather than remain trapped in the idea that repression is the only way forward.

            In the current environment, massive repression almost certainly will prove counterproductive.

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