Thursday, April 29, 2021

‘Russian Political Opposition Can Be Real or Legal But Not Both at Once,’ Savvin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 27 – Dimitry Savvin, editor of the conservative Russian Harbin portal that is based in Riga, specializes in delivering harsh truths that many do not want to recognize. In a new commentary, he argues that “the political opposition in the Russian Federation will be either real or legal” but can’t be both at the same time.

            “The real extra-systemic opposition in Russia is now focused on the personality of Aleksey Navalny and the organization of his supporters, the staffs,” Savvin writes. But today Navalny is in prison, and his staffs are being banned as “extremists, that is, outlawed” (

            The fundamental problem of Navalny and his movement like the extra-systemic opposition in Russia in general is its schizophrenia. “On the one hand … [it declares that] the Putin regime is a dictatorship, totalitarian and that Putin himself as president has already been illegitimate for some time.”

            But “on the other, the very same people who talk about totalitarianism and death camps … continue to take part in elections and to discuss the prospects for the registration of their own parties.” Such confusion might have been justified in 2006 or even 2010 but now there is no excuse.

            Why then is it happening? “Because today the leaders of the extra-systemic opposition of the Russian Federation do not know what to do” and so they continue as they have in the past, like prisoners of a cargo cult, acting as if their behavior will by itself lead to the transformation of the system.

            That isn’t going to happen, Savvin says. “Any real opposition is viewed as the agents of a foreign enemy which must be eliminated by repressive means, which in fact is being done.” Expecting otherwise given the nature of the Putin regime as the leaders of the extra-systemic opposition describe it is a fool’s errand.

            “The variants of legal resistance to the dictatorship no longer remain,” he continues. And that means that “the only path is illegal resistance,” by force in the form of some partisan movement. History suggests that there is no other way. But that would require fundamental changes in the opposition and in the Russian people.

            The opposition doesn’t have a military wing, and the Russian people aren’t prepared to provide it with the rear that any militant group needs. Recognizing this in turn requires that “the opposition out of the sphere of the genuinely political needs to shift to the moral-ideological sphere.” That is, it must take the form of dissidents.

            Those in the opposition must recognize that “Putin neo-Sovietism has no intention of stopping with what it has achieved. “Its wannabe-totalitarian attack will continue. And the persecution of dissidents will be more systematic and institutionalized.” Consequently, even moral resistance will become “absolutely illegal” and those who engage in it will be punished.

            “Let us be honest,” Savvin continues. “This is a dead end. And we stand in this dead end in large measure because many do not even want to look for a way out.” They have various reasons for taking that position. But to make progress, one must first admit what the situation really is rather than try to live in one of one’s own imagining.

            It further means that the opposition itself must clarify things to the point that those who are really committed to change are separated from those who are only playing at it and are prepared to collaborate with the regime. That will also be hard, but it is absolutely necessary not only for the future of the opposition but for the future of Russia.

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