Tuesday, October 25, 2022

No One Should Expect Anti-War Protests to Grow Rapidly But Grow They Will, Rogov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 17 – In the course of an extensive interview with the Meduza news agency, Russian political analyst Kirill Rogov makes an enormous number of intriguing points. But perhaps the most important are those about the nature of anti-war protest in Russia today, why it has grown slowly and why what Putin is doing will ensure its growth in the future.

            Rogov points out that “the first protests after mobilization were of two kinds and that it is very important to distinguish them. In the activist actions in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other big cities, convinced opponents of the war were the ones who took part” (meduza.io/feature/2022/10/17/v-nachale-voyny-putin-sobiralsya-kospleit-1945-god-teper-1941-y).

            “But in Daghestan, Tyva, Sakha and other regions, those who took part in the protests were the relatives of those who had been called up.” They were thus protesting about the impact of the war on their relatives and friends and not about the war as such. Until they were touched by it directly, they were not anti-war. Anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken.

            Rogov’s second key observation is that anti-war movements do not grow quickly even in democratic societies. Initially, in the United States, opposition to the Vietnam war was limited. Only with time did it grow. In authoritarian societies, it grows more slowly both because of government repression and control of the media.

            That doesn’t mean that opposition to the Russian war in Ukraine won’t grow but only that to expect it to have exploded into a mass movement so quickly, even after mobilization touched many in society who had up to then viewed the special military operation in Ukraine as a TV war. Such expectations have spawned criticism of Russians which is unjustified.

            And his third key observation is this: that is especially likely because the recent failures of Russian forces in Ukraine strike at the two key foundations of Putin’s support among both elites and masses, the perception that he is always right and competent and the belief that however dark things may look he will always be victorious.

            Unless Putin can come up with something that looks more like a turning of the tide toward victory, he will find that the intensity of his support will decline and criticism of the war will mount. That doesn’t mean that mass protests are about to begin. Putin will do everything he can to prevent them. It does mean they are ahead unless he changes Russian perceptions soon.

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