Staunton, February 17 – The latest wave of mass protests in Russia, Vitaly Kamyshev says, are less the harbinger of a revolution than the appearance of flash mobs of people who are angry but not yet conscious of their interests up against a regime which is united and knows exactly what it wants.
The Moscow political scientist tells the Rosbalt Political Club’s latest meeting that the only real indication of development in the protest meeting is its spread outward from the capitals to some 200 cities around the country. But that alone doesn’t dispel the sense that the protesters are at a dead end (rosbalt.ru/russia/2021/02/17/1888112.html).
Those who took part in the three Navalny protests did so “for freedom in the abstract,” while their opponents, the regime based on those who privatized state property and are now wealthy, know exactly what they want, what their interests are and what they are prepared to do to defend them, Kamyshev says.
A second participant in the discussion, economist Marina Shapovalova agrees in part. She says that the geographic spread of the protest does represent “a qualitative change” but not one toward a revolution like in Ukraine in 2013-2014 but rather more like the political crisis in Venezuela although not entirely.
In Ukraine, there were oligarchs on the side of the population; and Ukrainians had a much clearer idea what they wanted. The opposition in Venezuela is less well defined in its goals but unlike in Russia it is represented in the parliament and its leader has even been allowed to run for president.
And a third participant in the roundtable, Nikolay Petrov argued that “when we talk about protests, the context is more important than the text.” The head of the Moscow Center for Political and Geographic Research says that in his view, “the Kremlin has demonstrated greater understanding of what has taken place than we sometimes see in expert analyses.”
It “first of all tried first of all to hardly break the wave of protests, second, it immediately reduced quarantine restrictions [thus removing one source of anger] and third, it is now prepared to hand out enormous sums of money to the population,” all of which Petrov says will limit the growth of protests.
But the Putin regime’s decision to arrest so many – 12,000 people in all – may prove counterproductive because it has exposed such a large group to the illegal and arbitrary actions of the regime and thus make them, their families and friends more likely to come out into the streets against the Kremlin.