Thursday, February 11, 2021

Russian Oppositionists Upset by Navalny Because He’s Pursuing Power and They Aren’t, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 10 – Grigory Yavlinsky and some other “permitted” opposition figures are not surprisingly upset at Aleksey Navalny because he and his organization are fighting for power while they aren’t, Sergey Shelin says. In the past, they ignored this aspect of Navalny’s work, but now they can’t.

            The Rosbalt commentator says that the aging “opposition” figures who operate within the system know that they cannot pursue power lest they run afoul of the Kremlin, and they are understandably alarmed that someone like Navalny has emerged who not only is seeking power but using a variety of means to get it (

            Navalny is doing so because he recognizes that a real struggle for power is possible because there are many within the regime and more generally who want real change and that there are new mechanisms available for mobilizing them even if the Kremlin tries to block them, Shelin continues.

            The Kremlin is trying one thing after another to counter this new kind of threat, one it fundamentally doesn’t understand beyond recognizing that it is a threat. Most of the “opposition” figures it faced in the past weren’t really trying to gain power: they were rather seeking to shift the incumbent powers toward a new direction.

            According to the Rosbalt writer, “Navalny is much less naïve and much closer to our present nomenklatura,” something that opens him to criticism but also means that in the middle and lower ranks of that system, there are a large number of people who sympathize with him and are under certain circumstances ready to back him.

            Given that the population as a whole may not be ready or able to act, speaking for those in the pyramid of power may be a more effective move forward than issuing declarations of various kinds, Shelin suggests. But at the same time, Navalny understands that he now has a tool to reach the masses as well.

            “In the 1970s, people said that those who read the Gulag Archipelago lost their faith in the USSR.” But the number of such readers then “at a maximum” were a few hundred thousand. But now, with his film about Putin’s palace, Navalny has been able to reach tens of millions of Russians – and polls show many are changing their minds.

            The Kremlin is still trying to figure out how to respond, Shelin argues. That means in that in the near future, it will devote even more effort to driving “oppositionists” back to where it wants them, talking heads who aren’t really interested in seeking power. Unfortunately for them but fortunately for Russia, the regime won’t be able to divert Navalny from this path.

            And consequently, Putin’s attempts to “restore the Brezhnev-Andropov system” are going to fail” if not against Navalny then against the much larger number of people who are learning from what he has already done.

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