Staunton, January 29 – According to ODV-Info, approximately 2500 of the 4,000 demonstrators Russian police detained during and after the January 23rd Navalny protests were in the city of Moscow, but the impact of these arrests on anti-Kremlin activists may in fact be greater outside the capital than in because the numbers of activists there is so much smaller.
Moreover, officials in many regions typically operate below the radar screens of opposition publications in Moscow and thus can do things that such coverage in the capital largely precludes, including making lists of opposition figures and going after them even after the demonstrations ease.
And that may prove to be one of the most serious consequences of the widely noted growth of protest activity in the regions and republics (iarex.ru/articles/79476.html, a more serious crackdown against the emerging civil society in those places than even the repressive moves the regime is making in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The most well-documented of such regional crackdowns is in the Komi Republic, which has been roiled by protests in the past. There officials came up with a list of 100 activists, including journalists, and used the Navalny protest as the occasion to detain them (novayagazeta.ru/news/2021/01/28/167457-politsiya7x7-journal.ru/articles/2021/01/28/spisok-iz-100-kak-v-respublike-komi-zaderzhivayut-i-sudyat-aktivistov-za-uchastie-v-mitingah-23-yanvarya and thebarentsobserver.com/en/democracy-and-media/2021/01/police-squads-are-hunting-down-anti-putin-protesters-north-russian).
But it is unlikely that the Komi situation is unique. Instead, it is more probably the harbinger of a new trend, an effort to root out anti-Kremlin activists far from Moscow where they are still relatively few in number but already able to attract people to the streets. This is a danger that those who focus on Moscow alone must not forget.