Friday, January 29, 2021

‘An Anti-Putin Majority has Taken Shape in Russia,’ Zhelenin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 28 – An anti-Putin majority has taken shape in the Russian population, the result of the bestial treatment of Aleksey Navalny before, during and after his time in Germany and the Kremlin’s loss of control over the sources of information Russians rely on to get their news and shape their opinions, Aleksandr Zhelenin says.

            For many Russians, the Rosbalt commentator says, Navalny is only “a trigger,” an occasion “to say ‘no’ to a leader” who has been in office too long and who plans to remain for the rest of his life. Having watched what the Kremlin has done to Navalny and its lame attempt to explain away the Putin palace they have seen on Youtube, a majority have become “conscious opponents of the current power” (

            “For almost 100 million people, the never-ending tale about the good tsar and the bad boyars is over,” Zhelenin says. The question now is “whether this majority will be able of recognizing his real power and begin to organize itself” and thus sweep away the various former “political projects” Putin and company have offered.

            The commentator begins by declaring that recent events show that “the Kremlin has lost its information monopoly in the struggle for the hearts and minds of citizens.” It is acting as if nothing has changed and that it can continue to lie to the Russian people. But “in fact, ‘the palaces’ are shaking.”

            Many have talked about how large and widespread Saturday’s protests were, but they would have been larger and more widespread had they not been about the specific issue of seeking Navalny’s release, Zhelenin continues. “If the occasion was more general, then more people would have come out.

            Polls show that “more than half” of Muscovites believe the country is going in the wrong direction. But almost 100 million Russians have watched the Navalny film on Youtube about Putin’s palace. And that is the clearest indication yet that “the system is breaking down. Of course, it isn’t completely destroyed, but the cracks are widening.”

                “The meetings in support of Navalny, the audience of his film, and the polls just cited speak about two most important changes which have taken place in Russia society in recent years,” Zhelenin argues. The more important is that television which the regime controls and has used “has lost its monopoly” as the force shaping Russian opinion.

            The government no longer has an information monopoly and thus “there is no Putin majority” anymore. It disappeared with the end of that monopoly. The decay of the regime’s control of the agenda has been taking place over several years. But the regime hasn’t paid attention to what that means.

            And that is what constitutes the second change: Putin acts as if he can and say whatever he wants and the Russians will swallow it now as they did earlier. But his actions like raising the pension age or closing hospitals and his feeble denials when he is caught out as with this palace no longer are accepted.

            Russians are angry and they are angry at him. They have taken to the streets in Khabarovsk and now in more than 100 other cities. As a result, Zhelenin says, Putin has to recognize that he no longer controls the majority the way he did; and that means he can no longer act in the same ways he has with impunity. 

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