Staunton, January 24 – Moscow has paid enormous attention to the size and spread of the pro-Navalny demonstrations across Russia, but, according to Vladimir Pastukhov, the Kremlin should be more concerned with the attitudes of those who did not take part, attitudes which were either “neutral or sympathetic.”
This shift from support to neutrality or even sympathy for the protesters is “a more serious signal for the regime than the growth in the number of active opponents who are prepared to take part in protest actions, despite the unprecedented campaign to frighten people away, the London-based Russian analyst says (mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/23-electorat/).
It represents, Pastukhov says, a reserve of “unlimited potential for a future revolution.” Earlier these people were “the most important cementing segment of the well-known ‘Putin electorate,’” but “now they have become political transgenders and are rapidly showing signs of ‘secondary protest’ inclinations.”
The analyst points to nine reasons for drawing this conclusion:
1. “The rising revolutionary tide which began in the summer of 2019 with protests against the falsification of elections to the Moscow Duma have not gone away.” In fact, despite the pandemic, they have intensified.
2. “The center of gravity of protest has sharply shifted to the regions,” where officials are likely to engage in the kind of excesses that will only lead to the multiplication of protests.
3. The spread of protests across the country created “large logistical complexities” for the regime in trying to decide how to use its forces to oppose them.
4. The Kremlin failed in frightening young people away from the protests.
5. Putin is beginning to resemble Belarus’ Alyaksandr Lukashenka by assuming a defensive position rather than defining the national agenda.
6. Navalny’s return “revolutionized the situation in Russia and has far from exhausted its potential” in that direction.
7. Those who evaluate protests only by their size miss the point when the protesters are speaking for many more who for various reasons do not take part.
8. The Kremlin has to fight both those who protest and now those who sympathize but don’t protest with the near certainty that efforts in one direction will prove counterproductive in the other.
9. Russia is now on the way to regime change but this will not happen immediately but rather will involve more repression by the regime “and then the former Putin electorate will find itself a new leader and everything will happen quite quickly.
In short, by returning to Russia, “Navalny broke the existing pattern” in the country. “The only adequate response would be for a response that did the same thing. But this is the only thing which the Kremlin cannot permit itself.” As a result, the Putin regime has fallen into a trap of its own making.
This trap, like the Gelendzhik palace, is “a fairly spacious one.” Putin may be able to sit in it “for a long time;” but when the people come for him, they will be able to “clean it out with a brush.”