In order to best understand the underpinnings of the gestating “Snow Revolution” (sometimes called the “White Revolution”), we’re going to have to retrace our steps a little.
Like most societies that regularly draw on their past for inspiration, western societies are fond of parables. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” used to be a favourite, although its meaning has been largely lost in the brave new generation of empire and being “history’s actors” rather than simply studying what happened after the fact. It inspires simple nostalgia for the dual personalities in Charles Kingsley’s “The Water Babies”, a book I loved as a child; Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby was kind and gentle, coaxing the stubborn to mend their ways while time to do so remained, but Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid was the grim avenger whose appearance heralded yet another fool stepping across the line that can never be recrossed. Atonement would not be far behind.
The English, too, are fond of such distilled life lessons – “a stitch in time saves nine”, and “procrastination is the thief of time” suggest that a timely effort now will save much more difficult work later.
Within this list, an emerging favourite should take its rightful place: “There’s always money for regime change”.
Leaning on the horn and pressing the pedal of the Disastermobile to the floormat, Ruin Consultant Masha Gessen waxes lyrical in the increasingly conservative Washington Post as she invites the reader to dream a little dream about what Russia would be like today had Vladimir Putin never been elected President, in “Imagining a World Without Vladimir Putin“. This comes on the heels of her “Fed Up With Putin” for the New York Times just a couple of days ago. Castigation-of-Putin material seems to be hot right now, and a little extra money for Christmas shopping always comes in handy. I hope all the “How much is the Kremlin/FSB paying you?” crowd who regularly try to change the subject in comment threads by implying those arguing for Russia are paid shills will take note that Masha Gessen – not to mention her democracy-can-fix-that brother, Keith Gessen – is well paid for simply writing her opinion on how the world order should shake out.
Putin’s grip on the regime is loosening, Masha tells us (harmonizing with the symphony of Putin-is-weak-strike-now rhapsodies coming out of Washington in the past week), and although he foolishly presumes he’s going to be elected in March, her tea leaves tell her his dictatorship will fall before then or soon after. Spoken like someone who knows a secret. She is joined in this belief, she tells us, by “many Russians”. Uh huh. I’ll bet. Anyway, never mind that, she says. Putin’s goose is cooked. Instead of pondering if he’s going to be president, let’s move on to how Russia will look after he’s gone, because his gone-ness is guaranteed. This sounds a lot like the west’s inflexibility on Gaddafi, who in fact was gone not long after, to the visible joy of somewhat-porky hawk Hillary Clinton. Never mind that an al Qaeda-sympathetic fundamentalist government took up the reins of power – what happens after the goal is achieved is less important. In that spirit, Russia may as well start preparing now for “rebuilding media, reconstructing the electoral process, re-creating political institutions and inventing a political culture virtually from scratch.”
Well, she certainly talks a good game. How’s her track record? Let’s take a look at her pre-game hype from what I believe was a blueprint for things to come in Russia – Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution.
Boy, Masha was all over that. I think it would be fair to say she was a little hyperbolic: Nationalism, she tells us, “…always the easiest and most obvious choice of ideology for
uniting people behind you, actually has a chance of being progressive
and even enlightened” in places like Ukraine. Presumably that does not include Russia, where nationalism is a dirty word. Ukrainians, she says, “felt invincible”. In a piece for Slate, she professes a liking for rap music (a bit quirky for someone born in 1967), and exults over the revolutionary example of schoolchildren who sang Ukraine’s new “fight song” as they forced a teacher to amend a schedule change that “wasn’t to their liking”. Yes, that is cute, Masha, but how long do you suppose it will be until they’re singing arm-in-arm as they decide not to bother with school at all? Little anarchists have a way of turning into big anarchists, and it’s surprising how quickly they get a taste for overturning rules, including yours. What a welcome addition to that euphoric, giddy gathering Georgia’s revolutionary president, Mikheil Saakashvili, must have been as everyone danced and frolicked – the crowd, Masha reports, “went wild” when Saakashvili congratulated them on their “great President”. Yes, everyone was high on revolution as they screamed a metaphoric “Fuck You!!” to Moscow. Oh, Masha – I love it when you talk dirty.
As it turned out, Masha and Misha got a little carried away in the excitement of the moment. Because although the alliance of banker Yushchenko and energy oligarch Yulia Tymoschenko sounded like a western wet dream, Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency was a revolving disaster for Ukraine, from the standpoint that it was a disaster from any angle you chose to look at it. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the go-to barometer of national well-being for the west, fell sharply just about the time Yushchenko laid his hands on the wheel of Ukraine’s destiny. In 2009, as the smoldering wreck of Yushchenko’s presidency shuddered to a halt, Ukraine stood just above Zimbabwe on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, measurably more corrupt than such vibrant market democracies as Botswana, Tunisia and Burkina Faso (usually in the economic basement as the world’s poorest country), far, far below Greece – whose economy would implode twice in the years to come – and below Libya, Syria and Egypt, all western targets of regime change.
Come 2010, the heady impetuosity of the Orange Revolution had been stripped away by cynicism, and Ukrainians were sadder but wiser. As an unknown philosopher once pointed out, the trouble with using experience as a guide is that the final exam often comes first, and then the lesson. Viktor Yanukovych was elected with a margin of victory virtually identical to that he secured in the first election run-off in 2004, although on that occasion it tipped the country into revolution, while in 2010 the election – possibly in hopes that something, anything would arrest Ukraine’s slide into the abyss – was pronounced free and fair by international observers. So far as I know, Masha and Misha skipped the victory celebrations, and orange scarves were not much in evidence.
That’s all interesting. But more interesting to me is what and who was behind these “colour revolutions”. Because a common factor seems to be emerging as the trigger for having elections overturned and re-run, especially when the vote is relatively close – exit polls. When Saakashvili and his United Nationalists went up against Schevardnadze’s party in parliamentary elections, what precipitated cries that the election was rigged when Saakashvili didn’t win? Exit polls. Curiously, the Bush administration had only that summer sent former Secretary of State James Baker III to Georgia to secure Shevardnadze’s agreement to allow international observers (Global Strategy Group) to conduct exit polls and parallel vote counts. The exit polls allegedly revealed fraud in favour of Shevardnadze, which “lent legitimacy” to the popular rebellion. In an eerie parallel with what would later happen in Ukraine, Saakashvili talked a great game and drew all sorts of western approbation, but failed to keep almost all his promises, and Georgia is far today from the bustling, prosperous democracy that danced like visions of sugarplums in the heads of the revolutionaries.
As well as conducting research and monitoring of exit polls, Global Strategy Group specializes in “grassroots organizing, marketing and branding”. The Youth Movement Kmara, formed in Tbilisi state university in 2000, was stood up by the NGO Liberty Institute, most of whose founders were elected to the Georgian Parliament following the revolution. Liberty Institute and Kmara were active in all demonstrations, including those that toppled the government. Trained by OTPOR and CANVAS (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies), Kmara is funded by Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, the European Union, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the OSCE, USAID and the Council of Europe. Many of these were recently cited as supporting organizations for Russian election-monitoring NGO Golos.
In Ukraine in 2004, what triggered the explosion of protest and demonstrations which resulted in anullment of the election results and – ultimately – Yushchenko’s victory? The exit polls. Although the official election results in the run-off recorded that Yanukovych had won by about 3%, exit polls suggested an 11% lead for Yushchenko.
Boris Berezovsky was accused of financing Yushchenko’s campaign, and documentation recording transfers of funds between companies controlled by Brezovsky and Yushchenko’s backers was produced; Berezovsky confirmed the transfers had occurred, but refused to specify what the funds were used for. Financing of election campaigns by foreigners is illegal under Ukrainian law. Berezovsky also claimed to have spent millions keeping the demonstrations going. The part played by Kmara in the Georgian revolution was taken up in Ukraine by Pora, a nearly identical youth activist group. In fact, a former member of the Liberty Institute and some of Kmara‘s senior leadership were in Ukraine for the Orange Revolution, advising and coaching Ukrainian opposition leaders. Backing Pora was the same alphabet soup of western democracy-advocacy agencies; among them, the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute are known fronts created by the Reagan administration for the diffusing of CIA money. Between 2002 and 2004, the Bush administration is alleged to have poured more than $65 million into the Ukrainian opposition, most of it in support of Yushchenko. Yushchenko’s American wife, Katya, is a longtime conservative activist who worked in the Reagan White House and for the State Department, and was the creator and president of the US-Ukraine Foundation, financed by – you guessed it – USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy. With all the money and powerful backers in Yushchenko’s corner, it’s almost a shame he was such a failure.
Bishop Peter Jesep, Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of North America Sobornopravna (Holy Trinity), appealed to the Ukrainian diaspora to put their shoulders to the wheel of regime change as well; “Ukraine“, he told them, “is the second largest and potentially one of the richest nations in Europe. It is not in America’s national security [interests] to see Russia exploit such a resource. Once that case is made, fellow citizens who would not normally care about a situation far removed from their families begin to listen. The Ukrainian cause must be made into their cause.” Drawing on his previous professional experience as – wouldn’t you know it – a strategic media planner, he went on to offer a list of suggestions for how the Ukrainian diaspora could support Yushchenko, including quickly countering “Russified” pieces by “experts” in the New York Times and on PBS by way of a press release to national media, establishing teams of professionals to guide editorial boards of major newspapers away from “the filter of 300 years of Russian exploitation ” and passing along tips to American journalists from family and friends in the ancestral motherland. He closes with a personal recipe for success – “Diaspora organizations need to be less romantic and a lot more Machiavellian.” Many diaspora Ukrainians were involved in election monitoring and the conduct of exit polls during the Orange Revolution. That Machiavellian enough for you, Brother Jesep?
Peter Savodnik, in one of the few attempts to continue American support beyond the wild party of the Orange Revolution, counseled the Bush government to lift the restrictive Jackson-Vanik Amendment for Ukraine, but not for Russia. “…There’s little doubt that graduating Ukraine from Jackson-Vanik while leaving Russia behind will roil U.S.-Russian relations” he suggested, ” but the facts on the ground have changed, and U.S. policy should reflect that. Russia is deeply ambivalent about democracy, while Ukraine has embraced it.” The Bush administration thought that was a good idea, and Jackson-Vanik was dropped for Ukraine but not Russia.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, journalism has something in common with meteorology, in that you can be wrong over and over again, and people still listen to you like you know what you’re talking about and you still have a job. Willingness to acknowledge the Orange Revolution as detrimental to Ukraine, for the cluster-bomb of incompetence and petty infighting it was, is noticeably absent among the giddy western celebrators of 2004. Your friend and mine, Eugene Ivanov, did a fine takedown of Keith Gessen’s revisionist view of the revolution, published in the New Yorker last year; Eugene summarizes the abbreviated version with a pungent phrase that I will probably borrow just as soon as you’ve forgotten where it came from – “why waterboard your readers with details?”
For her part, sister Masha just brushes off comparisons. The Orange Revolution, she assesses, “fails as a model” for the street protests the west is trying to turn into the White Revolution; “The stand-off between street protesters and the government was resolved by the Supreme Court, which ordered a revote. Russia has no independent justice system, and election laws have been rigged in favor of Kremlin-sanction parties.” Backing away a little from her assurance that the Putin regime will fall before the end of March, she analyzes, “The more hot air the regime pumped into the bubble in which it lived, the more vulnerable it became to pressure from the outside. That is what is happening now. It may take months or it may take a few years, but the Putin bubble will burst.”
Masha should hope she’s right. If Vladimir Putin is elected president again for at least a first term in 2012, I’d be surprised not to see his attitude harden against the west and westerners who worked so single-mindedly and manipulated facts so shamelessly toward the goal of protest achieving critical mass, and bringing down the government. And there’s still the matter of the familiar trigger for demonstrations to consider – the exit polls.
Can you rig exit polls? Sure. An easy way, and one which would even show suspicious official results, would be for a significant number of people – presumably democracy activists – to vote for United Russia but report in the exit poll that they had voted for the KPRF, or Yabloko. This would have the effect of skewing the poll in favour of the party you wish to discredit. But as detractors of such conspiracies have suggested, you’d never be able to keep something like that quiet. Somebody would talk, and the whole scheme would be exposed.
However, there’s no need for a real manipulation of the vote to be present at all. As I discussed, the exit polls in Georgia for the Rose Revolution were conducted by a western market-research and grassroots organization agency. In Ukraine in 2004, exit polling was done by a combination of international observers which included many members of the western Ukrainian diaspora, who were exhorted by their religious leader to be as Machiavellian as necessary to ensure Yushchenko was victorious. In Russia in 2011, exit polling was again carried out by international observers, including the now famous Golos.
Pay attention, Russia. Remember what we learned about the drawbacks of using experience as a guide. The final exam comes first, and the lesson comes later.
Here is an interesting comment from the Runet. Edited Google translation from http://www.politonline.ru/ventilyator/10055.html#comments
@kievite: Thanks for article, is interesting. Boy, those google translations are hard to read, though. Syntax is all over the place, it is like reading the thoughts of a demented person whose synapses are firing randomly.
(A) valid argument(-s).
So, Mark – what do “we” do?
” Authoritarian Governor: Alex, I’m thinking about an amendment to the municipal bylaw on panhandlers. I think I’ll make it a felony to give them money, because it encourages indigence. What do you think?
Did you recognise it? And the “Uhhhhh…” was “…I am worried that it will be impossible to effectively defend the country like Russia without a broad (and genuine) popular support of the Government – or more precisely, broad support of the “ideology” the Government and the “ruling” party represents. (see my Moral Code of The Builder of Capitalism) Eg. I myself would not go out and try to defend property of someone, which property I believe had been stolen from me. ..” (from my comment at “our friend Eugene” http://theivanovreport.com/2011/12/19/the-price-of-one-percent/#comments )
Hi, Alex! Ha, ha..yes, I recognize it. And like most situations, there is indeed more to the protests than meets the eye. I understand that people feel discontent because their lives are not perfect. However, I maintain that stability should look pretty attractive considering the broad financial uncertainty verging on panic that prevails around the globe. You can tell ignorant people that investment in Russia will falter with Putin in power, but only ignorant people will believe it because it was only a couple of months ago that pundits were telling us investment in Russia was weak because of uncertainty regarding who would stand for president. Investment will go wherever it can make money, and doesn’t care if the leader is a serial rapist with two heads. A stable economy in a sea of unstable economies is attractive, since an unstable economy is only a good bet if you are sure it will recover, and quickly.
What I often admired about Russians is their pragmatism and their resistance to being led here and there by the nose by western manipulators with their clever narratives and reality-shaping. There is no reason to believe the electorate will be convinced it needs to throw out the government that brought it prosperity in favour of a group that is unproven and might be a disaster like Yushchenko – a simple formula is, the leader the west picks for you and the leader you pick for yourself had better not be the same person, because they never have been yet. If it turns out that at bottom they are just like everyone else and can be stampeded into a yelling mob by western propaganda, then they’re not the people I think they are. And if that turns out to be the case, they certainly don’t need me in their corner; I have plenty to do to keep me busy if I am not blogging.
You might like this about the general public “attitude” – don;t miss. Akunin
Great blog, Mark. Everybody should read it over and over until your words are imprinted into their subconscious. To think that Orange Revolution was only 7 years ago, and already some people have forgotten (like “Short-Term Memory Man”) and are falling for same tired old bag of imperialist tricks. This exit-poll scam — I think you are really onto something.
Extry! Extry! Secret tapes of Boris Nemtsov and his closest confidantes ! Warning to children and proper ladies: “non-normative lexicon employed” (= Boris swears a lot!)
Борис Немцов обсуждает с соратниками ситуацию с митингами, делит власть на будущих собраниях, щеголяет своей сексуальностью и дает оценку простым людям, пришедшим на Болотную площадь.
“Boris Nemtsov discusses the situation with the meetings, assigns roles for future gatherings, flaunts his sexuality….” What the ***!!! [Mark, I thought you would get a kick out of that, since you are so obsessed with Borya’s muscular torso….]
If you click on each play-line below the picture of Boris, you can hear excerpt from the secret tapes. For example, he calls Chirikova a lot of non-normative names, he doesn’t seem to like her very much. Maybe because she is dating Navalny?
Procedural note: Boris is upset and threatens to sue portal for secretly taping him. Portal shrugs and says, okay, go ahead and sue us, we are reputable journalists and cannot divulge our sources…. Obviously somebody deep in Boris camp is not completely loyal to him…
That’s funny. If sensible people selected their leader based on what a hunk he is, Fabio would be president until he begins to lose his muscle tone. The more I see of Malibu Boris, the less I like him. When he gets passed over – again – for the opportunity to stand for office, he becomes petulant, blames everyone but himself and you can almost see him looking around for a dog to kick.
He’s had so many chances to change his game. If he were balked and instead of pouting, he appeared ruefully reflective and calmly set about doing whatever the government said he had to do to qualify – even if it were hopeless – he would gain sympathy and eventually respect. Does he think he’s winning respect by leading ragtag street demonstrations and waving a sign? Who does he think he is; Che Guevera? He just looks like a Beverly Hills millionaire trying to build “street cred” overnight. If he didn’t make the cut and he just shrugged and said, “I’m really sorry for all the people who put their faith in me, because I genuinely felt they deserved fair representation and I was prepared to do my best to see they got it. Maybe next time.” But no; when he loses, it’s all about him and he falls back on playground insults like who has the biggest balls. I can just see Russian voters imagining that spoiled rich boy representing their nation among the gilded leadership of the free world.
It’s not too late, Boris. Re-invent yourself, because the rowdy rebel look is so not working for you.
I listened to more of the tapes. I hope one of the internet sites will provide transcripts, because I can’t always tell who is talking or what the context is. I can tell Nemtsov’s voice, because he is a growly bass. Some of the tapes sound like somebody tapped his phone.
P.S. I think Fabio would make a better president than Nemtsov.
Who is this Fabio? I did a google search, but Fabio is a common Italian name, so I got thousands of results with actors, politicians, singers, common people and all the important members of the gens Fabia (for ancient Romans we use “italianised” versions, so Quintus Fabius Maximus become Quinto Fabio Massimo).
You’re kidding me. You’ve never hear of The Sexiest Man In The World? Actually, I have no idea what his last name is – he’s always just been called Fabio. I remember his name because we used to have a Combat Officer on the old ANNAPOLIS; he was often referred to as “Fabio”, but it stood for “Fat-Assed-Bastard-In-Operations”. He most definitely did not look like this Fabio.
I don’t even know what this guy does; I think maybe he’s an author or something. But he’s got his act down pat – when he appears on TV, he’s always very humble and simple, says at heart he’s just a regular guy looking for the right girl, and the women just scream themselves hoarse.
He might not even be Italian, but I suspect he is, and Fabio is probably even his real name.
Thank you for all of this.
It has been difficult for someone like me who does not understand Russian to grasp the full significance of the Nemtsov tapes. Needlless to say they have gone practically unreported here in Britain. With the lead you have given I have now been able to get some idea of the sort of things he said and of their significance.
What I think is really interesting is the contempt Nemtsov and Navalny have for the Russian people and in particular the people who turn up to the demonstrations they claim to lead. It was from you that I learnt that Navalny called the demonstrators at the 5th December 2011 rally “cattle”. As I understand it Nemtsov was equally uncomplimentary about most of the demonstrators at the 10th December 2011, who he called “vegetables”. To my mind these sort of comments show that Nemtsov and Navalny are not democrats but simply unprincipled populists and demagogues.
Thanks, alexander. Back on December 5 the word that Navalny actually used was “baran”, which is a male sheep, which I believe in English is called a “ram”. However, the word “ram” is not a good fit, because in English that is a positive word that denotes a strong and virile male animal. So, “cattle” is actually a better translation, even if technically incorrect.
The insult that Navalny hurled at the demonstrators who refused to follow him over the barricade was: “You are all sheeps being fucked in the mouth.” I had never heard that particular expression before, in any language, and was not even aware that sheeps were willing to perform oral sex. And who would want to do such a thing with them? I mean, those animals may be vegetarians, but they do have teeth, right?
Frankly no, I’ve never heard of this guy. Going back to the Nemtsov’s phone talks, has Chirikova commented about them? You know, hell has no fury…
If he cannot get along with anyone, maybe HE is the problem.
Yeah, Chirikova has gotten herself all puffed up believing SHE is the new messiah (along with Navalny); and now to be dissed so crudely like that by Nemtsov, I would guess she is pretty upset. She probably goes running sobbing to Hillary Clinton: “Ah, Boris is being so mean to me, please cut off his funding!”
This is very reminiscent of the Yushchenko-Timoshenko feud in Ukraine, except that they waited until AFTER they had seized power to start going at each other.
Mark: your combat officer who was called “Fabio” – that is hysterically funny! I hope he doesn’t read your blog, now he knows what you really think of him. All that time he thought you were admiring his bicepts and long flowing golden locks of hair! 🙂
Ha, ha! Actually, he was awarded that name by another department who did not like him, and who seldom worked in the Operations Room. I kind of liked him, because although he was often rude and abrasive, he was that way to everyone including those who outranked him. And nobody except the girls has long flowing golden locks in the Navy; we have to keep our hair short and neat. The only Navy I’ve ever worked with that allows men to wear their hair long is the Dutch, and that’s because they are a union. If they have to stay at sea beyond a certain period they are paid overtime, and although they must wear uniform, they have considerable more exercise of free will than most military forces. But for all of that, it does not seem to hurt their professionalism; they are a very capable navy with some of the world’s most modern equipment.
I’m not a big fan of Nemtsov (a big surprise to all of you, I am sure) but in this case I find myself slightly sympathizing with him. If all our personal phone conversations came out into the open like that I’m sure most of our closets will spill a skeleton or two.
It is also interesting that many of the comments on that site expressed sympathy and even admiration for Nemtsov: “Wow, the guy is a straight talker, a real man” (nastoyashi muzhik) etc…” Paradoxically, Nemtsov probably has more fans now than he did before.
The untold story is how his phone was tapped and whether there will be any legal ramifications. Similar thing happened in Ukraine during Yushchenko presidency: Yush and Yulia were constantly tapping each others phone and leaking “kompromat” on each other.
Yes, this is the other big factor, of course. Tapping people’s phones isn’t cool and so far as I know illegal.
I understand a criminal investigation into the phone tapping has now been launched.
I would just say that if the same were to happen in Britain a newspaper that taped and published Nemtsov’s comments would have a strong defence that doing so was in the public interest.
Well, that didn’t work out so great for Rupert Murdoch in the recent lawsuits against his paper for hacking people’s phones, including the cell phone account of a murdered teen (which caused her parents to believe she might still be alive). Phone hacking is illegal.
What I don’t get is why beneficiaries of that kind of intelligence always leak what they know. If they kept their mouths shut, they’d be able to anticipate Nemtsov’s every move, and there would be an embarrassment of riches in the form of opportunities to make him look a fool without tipping him off as to how they were doing it. Hacking phone accounts is actually fairly easy. But it is illegal.
Well, the elephant in the room is that everybody assumes the FSB did the phone tapping. And their goal would NOT have been to anticipate Nemtsov’s every move — I am sure they have better ways to do that — but to drive a wedge in opposition and try to discredit them before 12/24 rally. By revealing to public how much these oppositionists despise each other.
Whether or not tactic was successful or backfired will become apparent on 12/24. Opposition is promising 30,000 people again. Chirikova and Nemtsov have publicly stated that they forgive each other and want to try for united front. If they can actually attract 30,000 people, then Kremlin’s phone tapping tactic would have backfired. Well, we shall see.
There are two different things in this story and countless other phone-tappings (more generally, private comms tappings) that went public. The tapping itself, which is a criminal offence, and the publishing of these by media outlets which is legal in most countries, or is illegal but is a minor crime or just an administrative violation. It may also happen that the tapping is legal, it can be authorised by a judge, but then releasing the results to the media or anyone that has no clearance to get them is illegal.
The problem with the investigation is that the media that publishes the phone-tappings regularly refuses to disclose the source, it’s their right. So, nothing comes out from the investigations that stop at the first stage.
The Murdoch lawsuit is different because it was his group that organised the tappings, they can’t say “someone gave away these phone-tappings” as life.ru can do. The same applies to the Golos emails case.
What did for Murdoch is that his newspapers hacked mobile phones on spec. In Britain if a newspaper tapes someone’s phone in pursuit of a specific story that is of public importance it can rely on the public interest defence. Murdoch’s newspapers were simply hacking phones in case something turned up. That is clearly illegal and there is no defence to it.
Great to live in a free society, isn’t it? The papers are free to snoop on your private conversations in the public interest, and you’re free to spend your life’s savings on lawyers, taking them to court. Sorry if I sound cynical, but generally I don’t care for the press: there are some things we’d never find out without their persistence, and they’ve definitely broken some major stories that bring well-deserved credit for their diligence. But generally speaking they are vampires, and I’ve known them to destroy someone who had some pathetic little secret we’d all have been better off not knowing, just because it had been a slow week and they needed to keep their circulation figures up.
Still, that’s a subtle distinction that I understand better as a result of your explanation, so thanks for it.
I remember the colour revolutions in the Ukraine and Georgia very well. I also remember the colour revolution in Kyrghyzia and also in Serbia.
Let me say again that there is NO possibility of a colour revolution in Russia and the political situation in Russia is absolutely not conducive to such a revolution. That does not mean that there are not people actively trying to foment one but the election results and the subsequent demonstrations show why they have absolutely no chance of success.
Let me say again that I do think we are in serious danger of getting carried away over a few small incidents that are no more than symptoms of normal political life.
There was an election that exposed a totally predictable decline in the popularity of the ruling party, which would have been astonishing if it had not happened given the very high level of support it achieved in 2007. There were the usual complaints about fraud that are routinely and ritually made after every election. There were a few small demonstrations and one fair sized (but not very large) one involving mainly young people of the sort that happens in almost every country around the world that is not a dictatorship. There have been no other symptoms of serious dissatisfaction or unrest such as strikes or lock outs. In fact I have read somewhere that the Russian index of social attitudes showed national optimism peaked in November at the highest level since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008.
What I suspect is making people nervous is not these events themselves but three factors:
1. The extreme degree of consensus that existed in Russia through Putin’s and Medvedev’s Presidency. This was a reaction to the chaos of the previous decade. That has worn off a little, which let me say is inevitable and healthy.
2. The ludicrous coverage of these events by the western media, which is unnerving to read and hear even though it is entirely detached from reality.
3. The fear of colour revolutions caused by events in other places and of a return to the nightmare of the 1990s even in a situation where as I have said this fear is unwarranted.
On the last point I would add that though some (though not all) the young people who demonstrated on 10th December 2011 do not remember the 1990s, the great majority of Russians do and if there is any risk of the present stability being threatened they will certainly rally behind the government in order to protect it. As it happens I think that there is nothing to fear from the young people, who are fully aware of what happened to Russia in the 1990s and who anyway judging by the results of such things as student council elections support political parties that do not want or support colour revolutions.
Roosevelt who along with Lincoln is the greatest US President once famously said that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. That is exactly the situation that Russia now finds itself in.
Thanks for that astute and very bracing analysis, Alex; I’m sure you’re right, and panic and confusion are exactly the sort of reactions the western narrative seeks to provoke. What i find most frustrating about western kingmaking efforts is that they never acknowledge failure or confess to motives that were not in the best interests of the country. The Orange Revolution did absolutely nothing good for Ukraine, and a great deal of harm from which they are still recovering. But all you hear is how corrupt Yanukovich is, what a criminal. Look at the position he’s starting from, compared with the position he could have been starting from had he won the first time around (which he probably did). The west just skips gaily past the wreckage it helped create, and moves on to the next objective. If Russia attempted to meddle in western elections, insisting the results would not be legitimate without Russian observers and Russian supervision of exit polls, and used a broadly influential press to steer the process toward Russian-favoured candidates while libeling those it didn’t care for, NATO would be threatening to impose a no-fly zone and an embargo before you could say “who do you think you are?”
Thanks again for your cool-headed reasoning.
I remember the color revolutions in the Ukraine and Georgia very well. I also remember the color revolution in Kyrghyzia and also in Serbia.
Let me say again that there is NO possibility of a color revolution in Russia and the political situation in Russia is absolutely not conducive to such a revolution.
I respectfully disagree. I also remember “Orange Revolution” quite well. And I do not share your optimism for several reasons:
1. West is a really powerful force and has both the brainpower and money. Like Ukraine, Russia is an oligarchic republic that is by definition susceptible to this type of coup d’état. There is always a level of discontent that can be exploited to topple local oligarchy in any (I mean ANY) weaker oligarchic republic by stronger oligarchic republic without direct army conflict just by using fifth column and money. With Putin charismatic leadership Russia is rather strange oligarchic republic, much less hostile to common people, then others. And people appreciate that. But still it is an oligarchic republic, not that different from the USA or GB only much more poor with lower standard of living. Putin’s aberration from “historical norm” can’t last forever. As sad as it was, the economic rape of Russia under Yeltsin was more of a norm then exception. In other words as Mark aptly observed the meme is “There’s always money for regime change”. This is very true because those investments can produce the best return of capital possible. Moreover acting this way is the most logical for the USA as this is the least costly way to achieve its security goals in this part of the globe. So they will never stop, just regroup and try again. In way this is a Trotsky’s dream of “permanent revolution” which come true in a very perverted form. Judging from Ukraine experience those guys who are doing “color revolution” staff for living have brainpower and money to adapt so you never be sure what will be next trick and from which direction it will hit you. This story with Yushchenko poisoning was a thing of beauty of Machiavellian politics, is not it? In Russia they are trying to spread rumors about Putin hidden billions and palaces, but so far not with much success. They will find something else soon. BTW the fact that Medevedev awarded Gorbachov the highest medal (Order of St. Andrew) on his 80th birthday, despite the fact the Putin called dissolution of the USSR the largest socio-political catastrophe is a kick in the face of any real Russian patriot and does not inspire too much trust in the regime.
2. The claim of “democratization” and usage of election hijacking as the mean of “regime change” suppresses the “natural immune response” of the state to the foreign invasion. Like AIDS it is difficult to treat once you get infected. And this suppression of immune response is very real in this case. For example, absence of requirements to publish exist polls results only with all necessary information about size of the sample, the questions used (this is very important) and financial backers of the efforts, etc is the blunder that Russian authorities committed. That either suggests that they never learned anything from Orange revolution or were afraid to act decisively. IMHO iron control of NGO related to interpretation of election results is a must if the current regime wants to survive. That should include iron rules for publication of exit polls results which should be controlled by Central Election Commission or similar authority with criminal penalty for violations. I think in view of consequences of Orange Revolution for Ukraine an article about “misinterpretation” of exit polls should be in criminal code because it is just a form of sedition. Otherwise their is no defense against claims like recent Levada center NGO (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levada_Center) claim of 15% vote fraud in Moscow — direct replica of tricks Orange revolution organizers played with impunity. And I probably am not alone seeing a strong analogy of falsification of exit pools results with sedition. From Wikipedia:
3. Russian government was/is completely beaten/outmaneuvered in the battle for internet media. Facebook and Twitter are channels that they can’t control and those are huge help for “color revolution” organizers. Help which in a way replaces old-fashioned role of newspapers. And we all know about the important with which Bolsheviks treated newspapers a century ago as an instrument for regime change. In case of Russia like was the case in Ukraine opposition also can rely on at least one TV channel (Dozhd’). So the situation with media looks an exact replica of Ukrainian scenario. That means that an important precondition for color revolution is met: “fake violations amplifier” mechanism is in place.
4. Authorities look passive and brain-dead in the key issue of “falsification of falsification” trick with exit polls. Looks like they never read the book: The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls. With the notable exception of Putin’s brave four hour counterattack there was no efforts to counter the “falsifications of falsifications” and explain who they are and what interests they support with exit pools “falsifications of falsifications”. But even he did not stress the key mechanism of generating discontent. There was some weak noise about “three card monte sociologists” from Central Election Commission (http://www.electorat.info/blog/5989.html), but it was after the fact when all the initiative was completely lost. Nothing or very little was done preemptively. Authorities got into trap of reacting for claims about violations. And Putin’s suggestion to put camera is IMHO questionable as it belongs to this line of thinking. In Reality, cameras are needed to control how exit pools are conducted much more that in the polling stations. Again the real issue here is the control of exit polls by NGOs. This is a huge black mark for Medvedev. Was it so difficult to publish “rules of the game for exit polls” before that elections? And inspect such NGO’s as Levada center for violation of rules about financing before elections to make some heads a little bit cooler and some money not available? That again proved that he is a very weak politician as the key for politician is to sniff where the danger to his power comes from and preemptively react to it. As a result, some level of destabilization was actually achieved because there was no clear and well articulation message about exit polls as the key mechanism for manipulating public opinion about elections. If we in this blog can figure this out, why not those who are responsible for such things in Russian government? This brain-dead treatment of the key mechanism of Orange revolution is inexcusable and suggests that repetition of “color revolution” is not unfeasible.
5. Oligarchic republic self-generates the “fifth column” of compradors who are more tied to the West then to the native country. Russia in not an exception. Compradors by definition are mainly enriching some foreign entity taking a cut for themselves so they are already pre-existing element of the “regime change”. And fifth column is usually more pronounced in capitals where the “color revolution” take place as the capital usually has stronger ties with the West. In Russia the fifth column is weaker then in Ukraine were the county is essentially split between Western and Eastern parts, but still it exists and is growing. Especially because international finance will plays more important role in Russian economy after joining WTO (althouth the USA and Russia agreed not to use WTO terms in mutual trade at least for now). I suspect that financial oligarchy by definition represents fifth column (Khodorvoski after all was a prominent “Komsomol banker”, the owner of Menatep bank). If this is true, then growth of power of local financial oligarchy (is not Kudrin the best friend of Putin?) and high level of interconnection between Russia financial system and global financial system increases chances for the “regime change”. Also the essence of neo-colonialism is financial dependency (debt slavery) so any efforts to increase Russia external debt can also be instrumental in regime change (the USSR scenario). Also credit default swaps and other derivatives represent certain danger and probably can be used as supplementary instruments supporting the regime change. See http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/ML14Dj02.html
6. Oil represents now a strategic resource. As such all countries with this resource are marks. And no matter what Russia do, my impression is that the West is not inclined to offer Russia an equal treatment. There is a strong, persistent, strategic determination to convert Russia to the banana republic status of supplier of cheap oil and gas, Russian population be damned, and the work is under way and money are allocated to achieve this goal one way or another. The USSR went into a trap of excessive military spending that ruined the economy and put millions into abject poverty after its collapse. There is no guarantee that Russia will not get in some other trap.
Very interesting and detailed response. In my opinion, the strongest argument against any kind of colour revolution taking hold in Russia is the absence of a youth activist movement. The western media has tried to substitute for it, but without very much success. There are a few angry young people trying to keep the momentum going, but again, it’s not working very well and the west just looks foolish by trying to play it up like this big groundswell of fury. In both the Rose Revolution and the Orange Revolution, the youth movements played a huge role. Although Internet penetration is huge in Russia and growing fast, social networking is still not proportionally that strong, and a lot of people claim to stay away from politics in their use of it.
I think a lot of people come out for demonstrations who have no particular agenda or stake in them – they just want to be part of something big and unusual, and maybe some of them are hoping they’ll see a fight or a riot or things getting broken. But they’re invariably portrayed as a a great collective expression of will speaking with one voice and inspired by one mind. I’d bet it’s almost never like that.
The lesson, though, of Libya and places like it is that the west can take a proportionally very small group and turn it into a monster rebellion in no time. A lot of that exists only in western minds, and even then, only for those who believe what they’re told, but that doesn’t matter too much when the rebels are loose in the capital and in charge of the whole show a few days later. I agree Putin would be wise to watch his back, because the stakes here are much higher than in Libya. They don’t really have a government-in-waiting to take over, and the Communists have signaled no interest in being part of a colour revolution even if it put them in power, but support could coalesce quickly around some previously unknown “leader”, or even that toad Nemtsov. He’d do almost anything for power.
The first order of business for Putin and United Russia should be a careful review of the Orange Revolution and the part played in it by NGO’s. Some serious though has to be given to the role of international observers and election-monitoring NGO’s for the Russian presidential elections, and in no way should either be allowed to conduct exit polling unless each individual is partnered with an English-speaking Russian who is recording everything.
Russia put out a call for diaspora Russians living abroad who speak other languages to return for the Olympics, to act as volunteers and help ease the language barrier, for a better tourist experience. It might be a good idea to put out a similar call for foreign-language-capable Russians living abroad to assist with election monitoring. And I’d send that call out now, offer to put them up in accommodations or whatever, maybe cut-rate airfare or free on Aeroflot, because they need to be training and learning right after Christmas. It’s hard to inject purposeful falsification into anything if you have witnesses that speak the language and who are recording everything you do.
I think it is theoretically possible (albeit more difficult) to launch a colour revolution without a youth movement. If no youth movement, then use “surrogate youth”, for example, some dissatisfied ethnic group, or something like that. In Libya, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, there was no pro-democracy youth movement per se. So West cobbled something together from a combination of Al Qaeda ruffians and oppressed Berber minority.
I suppose….but again, Russia is better than 80% ethnic Russian. The west has been trying to get something going out of the Caucasus for years, but that doesn’t have much potential, and it cannot openly ally itself with the “Caucasian Emirate”. There’s no other real identifiable group of any size. Also, if it were going to exercise the military option to “protect civilians” (hardly likely in view of inevitable clashes with Russian forces, which would flare into a general war nobody wants or is prepared for), it would need a nearby friendly country to stage out of. Who’s going to do that? Saakashvili? Poland?
Actually….Maybe I am more cynical than you, but I totally CAN envision West welcoming a Caucasian Emirate. After watching them welcome an openly Al Qaeda government in Benghazi, Libya, nothing surprises me any more. Of course, Western media would not call it a Caucasian Emirate. They would call it a “fledgling democracy”. Al Jazeera would be cheering them on and publishing warm-hearted “human interest” stories about the newly liberated peoples, so happy now (making V-sign to photographers and shooting kalashnikovs into air) to be free from totalitarian Russians. And yes, Poland and Gruzia would totally agree to be staging areas for American troops. Why not?
The only ace that Russia holds now and which prevents her from being declared “rogue state” is UN veto. Without that veto in her pocket, Russia would be completely vulnerable, and you can bet UN would allow NATO to attack Russia, since UN Secretary General (Ban Ki Moon) is basically an American puppet.
Well, maybe; you were right, after all, about the west attempting its “colour revolution” highjinks in Russia. But the Caucasus has had a strong Muslim element for years, it’s generally well-known; the character and makeup of the Benghazi rebels was more or less news to most, and they didn’t obviously “come out” for al Qaeda until the day after the big victory celebration. You notice talk about Libya has died right down; nobody gives a rip about democracy in Libya now; it’s all about maneuvering to see who will control the oilfields in the Sirte Basin. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that the west would not be able to act surprised that it had enabled another Islamic fundamentalist government in the Caucasus, because as dumb as people are, the Chechen wars taught a western audience the Caucasians contain a lot of Muslims.
The west has shown itself before to be unconcerned about the permanence of alliances as long as the reformed alliance goes along with its ambitions; I can see them simply banding together to push Russia out of the UN – highly unlikely under current circumstances, I just wanted to make the point that UN membership would mean diddly if that’s all that was holding back an attack. But I maintain China will never allow the west to militarily interfere with its energy supply.
Poland and Georgia are under the coverage of the Russian Air Force, and it would be hard for western Air Forces to effect the needed buildup of their own planes under those conditions; surely Russia and China would not just sit there and wait until such a buildup was complete, knowing Russia was going to be attacked. Anyway, I’m sure that’s not going to happen. But it would be well to remember American forces are out of Iraq, and once rested and resupplied, the government might well be looking for a new mission.
kievite, those are good points.
I think both you and alex are right in a sense; a colour revolution is possible as you have indicated but for the reasons outlined by alex, it is unlikely.
An important difference is that the situation in Russia is so different that any “colour revolution” seems more likely to be a Red Revolution rather than a White one. Even then a lot of people just don’t seem to be outraged at the election result. We’ve seen a number of demonstrations ranging from a few hundred to a few thousands until the large one over a week ago. The best summary of the numbers I’ve seen for the Moscow protests on the 10th was that at its peak there were 30-35,000 protesters at any one time but that people apparently came and went for the demonstration and that probably about 50,000 participated throughout the day. When the other cities are taken into account the number of persons who participated has been estimated at the high end to be about 60-70,000. Compare those figures to what happened in Georgia where there were at least 100,000 protesters in Tbilisi alone and in Ukraine where there were reportedly 500,000 protesters in Kiev. Serbia also saw reportedly several hundred thousand protesters from all across the country converging in Belgrade. In Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia not only were the numbers much larger but the protesters stayed in place for several days. In Russia the protests have been mainly weekend protests (December 10, 17 and one planned for the 24th as opposed to smaller rallies on December 4, 5, 6, 7 and 18), with protests that occur outside of the weekend being a lot smaller. Thus it appears that in Russia, most people would still feel that getting on with their daily routine has a higher priority than the results of the election which was certainly not the case in Serbia, Ukraine or Georgia. The protests in those 3 countries also accounted for a much larger percentage of the countries’ populations and the populations of their capital cities. In Georgia there were at least 100,000 protesters in a country of about 4.6 or 4.7 million with Tbilisi having a population of about 1.5 million. Ukraine saw 500,000 persons in Kiev (in freezing weather!) alone in a country with a population of 46 million (Kiev’s population is about 2.6 million). Serbia saw several hundred thousand in a country of 7-8 million (Belgrade’s population is 1.6 million). In all of those countries we generally saw 1-2% of the country’s entire population gathered together in a single protest with the protesters converging in numbers that would represent 6-19% of the population of the capital city.
Similar figures in Russia would require that between 1.4 million to 2.8 million protested at any given time across the country and that we see protesters in Moscow numbering 766,000 (equivalent to Georgia’s protests) to 2.18 million (equivalent to Ukraine’s protests). If hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians could stand around in November weather on week days (some of the largest protests occurred on November 22 and 23 which were a Monday and Tuesday) there is no reason similar numbers could not do the same in Russia. That they didn’t is probably an indication of the difference in the situations.
I said earlier that any colour revolution is more likely to be a Red one rather than a White one and this is another major difference between Russia in 2011 and Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine between 2000 and 2004. In Russia the communists have always managed to gain between 11% and 22% in Duma elections and between 14% and 32% in presidential elections. In Serbia the successor to the communists gained similar or greater percentages of the vote before 2000 (with the help of some very obvious fraud in 2000) but since then have struggled to poll 10% in legislative elections and now have to form a coaltion with the very parties which got them kicked out of government in 2000. In Ukraine the communists used to be in a similar position as the communists in Russia (19-24% of the parliamentary vote from 1994-2002 and 13-22% of the presidential vote from 1994-1999), but their support collapsed before the Orange Revolution as a result of the Party of Regions becoming leftist and stealing the communists’ voter base in southeastern Ukraine (during the 2004 election the communist candidate polled just under 5% in the first round and since then they have only polled 3-5% in parliamentary and presidential elections). In Georgia the communists were weak from the very start after independence and made no appearance at all it seems in 2003/04. In those 3 countries a strong right-wing opposition had developed by the time of the revolutions. Note that in Ukraine the “Our Ukraine” group had been formed in 2001 and won a plurality in the 2002 parliamentary elections (the first time the communists hadn’t won a plurality). “Our Ukraine” had won 23% of the vote in 2002. Yulia Tymoshenko’s group had won about 7% in 2002 and then skilfully allied itself with “Our Ukraine” in 2004 and as a result of Yushchenko’s craziness they managed capture many of the “Our Ukraine” voters such that by the time of the 2006 parliamentary election the situation was reversed with Tymoshenko’s bloc getting 22% of the vote and “Our Ukraine” getting 14%. It only got worse from there with the 2007 elections seeing Tymoshenko’s bloc getting 30% of the vote to Our Ukraine’s 14% and the 2010 presidential elections saw Tymoshenko getting 25% in the first round and 45% in the second round while Yushchenko got just under 6%. In Russia the equivalent party to either Our Ukrain or Tymoshenko’s bloc struggles to get 7% of the vote and unlike in Ukraine they have no strong non-left party to link themselves to and to possibly steal support from other than United Russia (which they resolutely oppose) or Zhirinovsky’s bloc. We would need for United Russia and Zhirinovsky to both carry out stupidity of monumental proportions to see Yabloko and Right Cause pull a Tymoshenko and move from 7% to 45% support in a few years. I can’t see either of those parties pissing off voters that much which means Yabloko and Right Cause will have to work hard for the votes they want as opposed to having the votes be handed to them as happened for Tymoshenko in Ukraine as a result of Yushchenko and Our Ukraine committing political suicide. “Our Ukraine” was able to make the Orange Revolution a success because it was founded upon widespread support (23% support in 2002 which rose to 40+% support by 2004). A White Revolution in Russia would have to be a White Coup because it would be starting from a much, much smaller support base (7% at most unless Zhirinovsky and A Just Russia support the White Ribbon symbol – does anyone know if they do? I know someone else posted either here or at AK’s blog some link showing that the Communists reject the white ribbon so right away we are looking at the communist and united Russia supporters (numbering in total AT LEAST 35% of the electorate and more likely 50-60% of the electorate) not supporting the white ribbon).
With the communists and A Just Russia having far more support it is more likely it seems that any Revolution in politics in Russia would see Russia shifting more to the left if there was a coalition of the communists and A Just Russia with United Russia shifting to the more to the left of centre.
I tend to agree with you both that (1) a colour revolution is unlikely to succeed in Russia and (2) amazingly, the west actually is trying it. A sobering and interesting take on the concept, though, is available here. Although it appears to have been run through an electronic translator or for some other reason is somewhat disrupted for easy readability, its thrust is clear enough.
The author offers a realistic appraisal of just how disproportionately difficult it is to resist an effort like the modern colour revolutions, because they play out almost exclusively in the forum of collective consciousness. As mentioned, modern social networking allows a small protest to look like a big one, and continuous repetition of a catchphrase like “the party of thieves and swindlers” kindles the apprehension that this is what everyone believes. The colour revolution concept assumes the appearance of unstoppable momentum, no matter how it may be hitching and jerking along in reality.
A good counter to it thus far was the vigorous and generally well-circulated pushback to Fox News’ ridiculous misrepresentation of the “Moscow riots”, in which video of the much more violent action in Greece was used instead to shape public perception. But that gets harder to do as more media networks simply refuse to carry any exposure of the falsehoods. In this instance, it’s good that Russian TV is still largely sympathetic to the government’s position rather than promoting fiction. Realistic coverage clearly documenting attempts to whip up hysteria (such as the difference seen, classically, in the original coverage of the tearing down of Saddam’s statue, made to look like a furious mob, but when shown from further away was revealed as only a couple of hundred people at most) can be very effective, and people still tend to trust what they can see, having little grasp of how easy imagery is to manipulate. Exposing attempts to steer the narrative, especially if done mockingly and contemptuously, should prevent the birth of a mob mentality. Once people feel that they have to get out into the streets, even if it’s just to see what’s going on, it’s game over.
Interestingly, the author also details how this is less an actual reaction to the Duma elections than it is a preemptive attempt to de-legitimize Putin and either prevent him from running or dramatically weaken him. The Duma is not the real target at all, and never was. It only provided the opportunity.
On “media manipulation of imagery”, the Fox/Greek footage was pretty egregious. But Al Jazeera takes the cake: Their faking of the “Tripoli invasion” during Libya war has become legendary example of media deception. Basically, what happened is that one day BEFORE Tripoli fell, Al Jazeera faked a “Tripoli has fallen” story, which they filmed in their own sound studio in Doha, Qatar. They built a model of Tripoli’s Green Square in their sound-studio, hired actors to be the victorious mob, and beamed out to the world. The purpose: to demoralize Gaddafy troops into thinking Tripoli had already fallen (so they better retreat quickly) and also to disguise the REAL invasion, which came the following day partly from sea (British/American/Qatari marines/special ops etc.) There are many examples on youtube exposing the fake (because Al Jazeera made a couple of technical errors in their construction of the set), unfortunately very few with English or Russian narration, here is just one short example with no narration:
“Real and Fake Tripli Green Square”
Thanks, @hunter, excellent analysis. Just to add to your point about the “numbers game”: Yulia Timoshenko recognized early on that the game of “peaceful colour revolution” lay in the numbers of people who were willing to camp in tents in the square. Below a certain number = no re-do of the vote. She called this magical number her biomass which alludes to the minimal number of human molecules that needed to be in the square at any one time. To this end she worked tirelessly, bringing hot soup to cold tent dwellers and encouraging them to stay camping out indefinitely. She basically made the Orange Revolution single-handedly, while Yushchenko was just a figurehead who ended up taking the credit and all the glory.
In comparison, Boris Nemtsov and his gang only attracted weekend warriors, and while their numbers were impressive, the total “biomass” was not adequate to force a re-do of the Duma vote.
In summary, some genius in American State Department tried to replicate Orange Revolution in Moscow, but this time with white ribbons. Okay, so maybe it did not pan out.
However (I warn in sinister tone), West will not give up, they will simply change tactics.
if I remember correctly, the various color revolutions have had, at some point, the support of some “regime insider” or some “elite insider”. In Ukraine these were evident from the start, a gas baroness and an ex-PM and ex-president of the Central Bank.
IMO, an eventual “Winter Revolution” in Russia lacks such insiders. Perhaps there was the hope, on the part of Western agitators, that Medvedev’s liberals could play such role, but it turned out to be a delusional hope.
I have the impression that Medvedev is furious with the West for being tricked on Libya. A blunder that may have costed him the second presidential term.
Yes, that’s true that a particularly charismatic western-oriented “reformer” was a feature of both the Rose and the Orange revolutions. I always thought, judging by the western media coverage, that the west hoped it would be somebody like Nemtsov or Kasparov (although the latter is about as charismatic as Ozzy Osborne, minus the interesting craziness), a returning expatriate like Boris Berezovsky or a released and politically revitalized Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Nemtsov and Kasparov not only lack the following they’d need, a decided majority is actively opposed to either holding any sort of political power. If I am any judge, a strong majority of Russians also actively dislikes runaway oligarch and general meddler Berezovsky as well – certainly the idea of Russia embracing him as a political leader is pretty farfetched. And Khodorkovsky is similarly a non-starter in Russia, particularly if his candidacy were to be backed by western democracy-advocacy professionals. And right now, of course, there’s the added inconvenience of his being a convicted and imprisoned felon.
If Medvedev was fooled by NATO’s dipping its toe into Libyan waters, he’s a lot dumber than I gave him credit for. The ambition’s identity as regime change was pretty plain from the outset, despite knee-jerk western denials.
Saakashvili was also a former insider as well. He used to be in Shevardnadze’s government.
http://www.lenta.ru/news/2011/12/20/cancel1/. Slightly edited Google translation:
That’s actually a pretty interesting fact about “an intraframe and interframe editing” in more then half of election violation clips on YouTube.
Yes, that is interesting. I don’t know that it is particularly surprising, because edited video done skillfully is a powerful convincer, and western contentions of massive (massive!!!) fraud relied heavily on video. Also interesting is the reaction of annulling the entire vote at certain polling stations – that should serve as an unambiguous warning to stop messing in other people’s business, because there is nothing stopping the governing party from annulling the results at polling stations known to favour the opposition, on the grounds that fraud was observed. The west would not have a leg to stand on, because the government taking action against fraud is what they have been screaming for. It will be interesting to see who benefits from the re-tabulated result, because there are no reasons to imagine other parties would not stoop to election trickery, and those who saw big gains would be prime suspects, although everyone was focused on United Russia.
To the best of my understanding, many of the complaints about observers being removed from the polling station was nothing of the kind, but relocation of observers from positions where they were satisfied they could see everything, but from which they were impeding the access of voters or their vantage point compromised a voter’s privacy. But if you asked an observer to move a little bit, then you were obviously up to something dishonest, and a complaint resulted.
Your referrals on this have consistently been ahead of the curve; you’d make a good reporter.
You are absolutely right about western refusal to admit error or to recognise that their policies have repeatedly been a disaster for those on whom they have been inflicted. I am totally amazed for example at how often I have to read or hear claims about how full of hope the 1990s for Russia and how sad it is that those hopes have been disappointed. I have for example come across this comment within the last few weeks in a ghastly book about Russia written by the former BBC correspondent Jonathan Dimbleby and in a horrible lecture about Russia I attended by another former BBC correspondent and Blairite hatchet man Martin Sixsmith to publicise his equally horrible book about Russia.
Remember though that in the not so long run the west also suffers from the results of its own mistakes. In my lifetime I would identify the four biggest mistakes or miscalculations made by the US and the west as:
1. The reason the US and the west opened up to China in such a big way was because in the 1970s they thought they could exploit the Sino Soviet split to play China off against Russia. I am probably one of the few people who write on this blog who can remember hearing US diplomats and journalists chortlng gleefully to themselves about the US’s success in playing the “China card”. Who hears that expression today? I can remember how it used to appear in western newspapers around say 1980 every day. In the end as we all know China that gained far more from the US than the US ever did from China and China is now not only the US’s biggest international challenger and competitor but also Russia’s friend.
2. The US sponsorship of the international Islamic jihadist movement in the 1980s in order to wage its undeclared war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s with the results that we all know.
3. The US’s total mishandling of its relations with Russia in the crucial period between 1985 to 1995.
4. The belief in the 1990s encouraged by post Cold War euphoria that the US had discovered for its economy a “new paradigm” and could look forward to a period of indefinite growth.
There has been no real admission or acknowledgement in the west of any of these mistakes. No lessons are therefore ever learnt. The result is that the same policies endlessly repeat themselves however often they fail and the same people remain in place to implement them.
Yes…the China card. It’s funny you should mention that, because the U.S. seems to be realizing it may be a little overextended where China is concerned – what’s the term? Oh, yes: imperial overreach.
Even in view of its dramatic turnabout in loyalty, I still regard Al Jazeera’s coverage of U.S. intentions cautiously, but I’m disposed to believe this because it’s impossible the U.S. could go on forever with its head in the sand regarding China. Before the Communist revolution, the west treated China as a rich colony and the Chinese as colonists who were too backward and timid to govern themselves. But it’s been quite a few years now that Chinese students came here to study, but returned home after completing their education rather than applying for residency as westerners as accustomed themselves to, because opportunities in China were greater. Few seemed to take any notice, but that was a paradigm shift, right there. Striking, too, is China”s smooth adaptation to the techniques of soft power rather than bluster and rhetoric. Now the United States is mortgaged to China, and in a very poor position indeed to dictate terms or impose its will.
I’m not sure how serious the current U.S. administration is about beefing up its military presence in Asia, but it might find that more difficult than it appears to think. I don’t know how tolerant Japan might be of a further buildup of U.S. forces in the home islands, but Americans currently there are careful to avoid offending the Japanese and the relationship is sometimes a little tense. We’ve already discussed the Kuriles to death, and Japan doesn’t own them. Vietnam? I can’t see that happening, I’m afraid. Singapore and Thailand are unlikely to be receptive to hosting large American military facilities as long as they will be insufficient to protect those countries from Chinese displeasure. What looks more likely is more frequent and aggressive patrols and show-the-flag deployments by the USN’s forward-based Carrier group in Yokosuka, maybe some augmentation of it as well. But China has little to fear from America in the way of sea-based assault, and does not need an enormous military because it has no interest in attacking the USA. Why would it attack its biggest market? China’s main interest in developing state-of-the-art military aviation and missile technology is less for self-defense than it is for export. And China itself is not at great risk of land attack; moreover, it has ready access to fuel while an attacker would have to either first secure Russia and its pipelines, or run a long logistics chain for resupply. China is in an enviable self-defense position, and has had plenty of time to build itself up since western narcissism resulted in blindness to China’s progress while it considered China mostly a market for western goods. Also, the USA owes China a lot of money. Meanwhile, the redistribution of energy resources seems to have undergone somewhat of a paradigm shift itself.
Indeed, as the last reference suggests in its closing line; “The matter is of profound consequence to the US global strategy.”
Also, the USA owes China a lot of money.
I think we are talking about two trillion dollars here. The quote “If you owe someone a thousand pounds, you’ve got a problem. If you owe someone a million pounds, he’s got a problem.” is fully applicable in this situation. So this is a huge problem for China but not so much for the USA. IMHO China has no way of staking its claim and interest rate for 10 year Treasures is below inflation. Now what? Also should the US default on a payment, they can hardly repossess California. The question is: what they can do with this debt other then keep it indefinitely?
Things are pretty interesting and counterintuitive you are simultaneously huge debtor and the owner of the reserve currency in which the debt is issued. You can print money and people will give you goods. Then you print more money and the situation does not change. Actually this is problem is applicable to Russia too. I think at one point Putin called Bernanke a “hooligan”. I think he has had a good point :-).
Good point. This is reason why USA freaks out every time a “rogue nation” (e.g., Iraq, Libya) attempts to go off the dollar for trading oil.
China may not have an interest in attacking the USA, but it has been shaping its military towards the roles of self-defence and limited war (over Taiwan) as shown in the following:
http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2009/RAND_MG888.pdf (found through AK’s blog)
As a result it has been developing weapons and capabilities to be able to handle the US in a head to head conflict in East Asia but certainly isn’t developing any capability to challenge the US globally.
China has learned a lot – probably from watching the way the USA used to do things before it became fascinated with military intervention – about the application of soft power. The easing of travel restrictions by common agreement resulted in over a hundred weekly flights between China and Taiwan, both for passengers and cargo, since 2008. The barriers to Taiwanese reintegration are coming down, and realistically, it is a part of China. I believe Taiwan has been offered an arrangement similar to that between Hong Kong and mainland China, whereby it would be a “special” economic and commercial zone with its own local government and flag and a considerable degree of autonomy. Given the way China’s economy is going as compared with the western economies, it seems daily to be a simpler choice, especially given Taiwan’s cultural bonds with China.
Naturally the USA would be unwilling to relinquish so strategically-placed an ally, especially in view of its renewed interest in the region as its ardor for Middle Eastern domination cools slightly. But a regional confrontation would have all the wind taken out of its sails if Taiwan sheepishly announced the completion of its seduction rather than screaming for help. I believe western gearing-up for a battle in the Straits might be averted by a fait-accompli.
I am not sure who is behind the European Council of Foreign Relations, but they seem to be trying to push the phrase “post-BRIC Russia”. I found one of the original articles here:
Here is a nice endorsement from hater, Edward Lucas:
“A well-researched and panoramic survey of the Russian regime’s stagnant, self-destructive and malignant approach at home and abroad. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Russia, and impatient for a more robust EU policy to its eastern neighbours.”
A summary if you do not want to read the whole report:
Of course Russia’s economy is more robust than they would ever give it credit for, since GDP growth was 5% (not “measly” 4%), and inflation was kept lower than the target 7% this year:
Note this important line about post-BRIC Russia:
“Russia’s GDP is growing faster than Brazil’s, one of the big four emerging markets.”
India’s economy has slowed considerably, and China’s manufacturing has fallen off quite a bit. They must be post-BRIC as well. The lesson is not to look at the short term too much before making such grand pronouncements.
I’m really starting to develop a dislike of Lucas. Why is he wasting his life obsessing about a country he plainly hates? Especially when he knows nothing about it?
That is his professional mask. I think he had a pseudonym at a London paper’s forums where he let his true feelings be known. Another poster gave away where he worked, and I could not find anyone from the Economist under that pseud’s name. I think the first name was Alex.
Edward Lucas is another of these strange people we have in Britain who seems to find his vocation in bashing Russia and writing scare stories about it and who seems to believe that Russia is simultaneously collapsing and plottting to conquer at least Europe if not the world. For his dismal record as a prophet about Russia see Eric Krauss.
On the subject of Russia’s membership of the BRICS, this has been challenged from the moment the concept of the BRICS was first formulated but O’Neill, the economist who created the concept, has recently and strongly reaffirmed that Russia is and remains one of the BRICS.
By the way I have noticed that when listing the BRICS in terms of their interaction with the western economies British newspapers and journalists far more often than not omit Russia.
It’s funny to see someone describe Russia’s policies as “stagnant and malignant” when he comes from a country which just imposed its harshest austerity budget since World War II owing to the spendthrift and irresponsible practices of successive governments, while Russia bounced back from the global financial crisis faster than any other country but Canada.
I’m thinking about making him the subject of my next post, if something better doesn’t come along in the meantime – thanks for the tip, Cartman.
Is there a link to that forum and “Alex”‘s posts? Might make for a good scoop.
I think it was the Times of London paper, but you have to pay to see anything past the front page. I don’t think they have a comments section anymore.
Nico (or Nicu) Popescu, who authored that EHCR report, also appears from time to time at Open Democracy Russia. It wouldn’t require much training in psychology to be able to guess where his sympathies lie.
Further evidence today that Medvedev’s attempts to reach out to the liberals have been wholly self defeating. His own Human Rights Council has now published a report that damns the second Khodorkovsky trial and which calls for an amnesty for all those persons convicted of economic crimes. This is the same Human Rights Council which back in the summer misreported Medvedev as saying he wanted to order an amnesty for all those convicted of economic crimes.
I have only been able to read extracts of the report as these have been published in Russian newsagencies but as a former lawyer I have already spotted an obvious flaw in that it apparently claims that a sale (in this case of oil) at an undervalue is something unknown to economics. Whether it is unknown to economics is neither here nor there since Khodorkovsky’s trial was about law not economics. A sale at an undervalue is most certainly fraudulent if done with the intention of cheating shareholders, which is the crime Khodorkovsky was of course accused of. Since one of the persons named in producing the report is said to be a former Constitutional Court Judge I cannot imagine she does not understand this and the fact that she is quoted as making this legally absurd comment to my mind shows that the report was written without any true intention of exploring the issues of the case but is a purely political document intended to discredit the trial. Incidentally a little known fact is that one of the Wikileaks cables shows that the representative of the International Bar Association who attended the second Khodorkovsky trial advised the US Embassy in Moscow that the much maligned Judge Danilin who presided over the case was going out of his way to be fair to the defence.
On the subject of the apparently total amnesty for economic crimes the idea is of course absurd. It would presumably mean that fraudsters and tax evaders would walk away free. Wouldn’t Bernie Madoff and the guys from Enron be pleased with that.
PS: I always find it interesting that agencies that claim to care about human rights show so much more interest with the rights of elite individuals, in this case a corrupt billionaire and assorted fraudsters. Scarcely anything is ever said for examptly about employee rights. I once dabbled briefly in human rights law in Britain. It was discovering that which disillusioned me quickly with the whole business.
I always find it interesting that agencies that claim to care about human rights show so much more interest with the rights of elite individuals, in this case a corrupt billionaire and assorted fraudsters.
Can’t agree more.
In fact, in the piece that was the subject of the post, Gessen blabbered on about Khodorkovsky; not only about the desirability of his release, but for a future political role for him as well. Obviously it’s not criminality that bothers the west about Russian politics, but the degree to which they can empathize with and understand the individual’s crimes – he’s a rich guy who got thrown in jail for tax evasion? Welcome, brother.
I suspect a good deal of Gessen’s approbation for Khodorkovsky springs from their common heritage as Ashkenazi Jews. I’m reluctant to get into that in any depth because people always want to know why you even brought it up if you’re not an anti-Semite. Actually, Gessen brings it up herself.
It’s amazing to me the number of human-rights groups that are swayed by Khodorkovsky’s gentle appearance – those granny glasses are real heart-melters, I guess – and infer that he must be a soft-hearted, sensitive guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. That being assumed, he must be in jail simply because he’s rich. This is Catherine Fitzpatrick’s position on the issue, among others. Maybe if he had an unkempt beard and yellow fangs, they could see him for what he is.
My usual recommendation to those people is, Khodorkovsky can be released as long as he’s extradited to your country and never allowed in Russia again. Help him start up a business in the USA or UK, and let him run it his way. See how you like him in a couple of years. Strangely enough, the business elite with whom he was not in direct competition probably would like and admire him. It’s the human-rights shouters who would find themselves a little disillusioned.
Tell me about it. At home in the West Indies a number of “human rights” organizations seem far more concerned with the rights of rich people and criminals caught or killed by the police but are usually really silent when it comes policemen being injured/losing their lives or regular folk being abused by other regular folk (for instance I once remember an incident where a little girl was abused and nearly murdered by a taxi driver but the human rights organizations never so much as figured in the media – they may have said or done something, but they certainly give the impression that they say and do far more once you are: (a) rich or (b) on the receiving end of police action). In the Caribbean and much of the Third World, human rights organizations seem more like “anti-State” organizations.
I’m sure in the beginning human rights organizations started off as really being about human rights but have since been corrupted.
I have just had a somewhat bizarre experience as a result of watching for the first time this evening the Bourne Supremacy, an American blockbuster action film released in 2004 but presumably made in 2003.
Has anybody ever said that the supervillain in the film is none other than Khodorkovsky? To be precise he is a Russian oligarch who gains control of the Russian oil industry with help from rogue elements in the CIA. Not only does he look remarkably like Khodorkovsky and use hitmen to bump off his rivals like Khodorkovsy is supposed to have done but his company is called “Pagos”, which of course sounds like, and is surely intended to sound like, Yukos.
The film was obviously conceived and written before Khodorkovsky was arrested by the Russian government transforming him instantly from a sinister criminal to a hero and martyr.
I did a Google search with the movie title and Yukos, and surely a lot of peoples noticed the same thing. The first search result is a Yahoo answer from 5 years ago link. Interestingly enough the answer include the Wikipedia entry for this movie and there was a reference to both Yukos and Khodorkovsky
The fictional petroleum company mentioned in the film, PEKOS, is a reference to real-life Russian petroleum concern YUKOS and its controversial acquisition of Russian petroleum rights after the perestroika period in 1993.
The character of Yuri Gretkov was probably based on real-life YUKOS founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
But there is no mention of either Yukos or Khodorkovsky in today’s entry.
Interesting. Thank you Giuseppe. Also interesting that the Wikipedia entry on the film has changed.
I see that hot on the heels of its report discrediting the second Khodorkovsky trial and its demand for an amnesty for prisoners of economic crimes Medvedev’s Human Rights Council is now joining opposition calls for the Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission to be sacked. I presume that it was Medvedev who either set up this Council or packed it with liberals. Either way more fool he. As I said before these guys take no prisoners.
Very interesting. The connection seems to have been expunged. No mention of it even at Wiki’s discussion page.
BTW. Another related (if whimsically so) movie is The Bulletproof Monk, where Nazis use a human rights organization as a front for their dastardly plots.
More on secret taping of Boris Nemtsov: The internet tabloid (Life News) which apparently tapped Nemtsov’s phone (some say this tabloid has connections to FSB, and I am guessing they would not be wrong) say they have in total 6 hours of tapes, of which they have published only a fragment so far. They have insinuated they might put out more tape later.
Opposition responded very vigorously in the last couple of days, with professionally-designed media offensive and world-class damage control, including Nemtsov and Chirikova publicly embracing and forgiving each other, as detailed in this propaganda piece from “Radio Liberty” . The piece is entitled Boris Nemtsov has repented and is victorious That has a very American ring to it: the notion that you could be a total bastard and hurt everyone around you, but then repent with a few words of apology and still emerge victorious over your enemies. If he was American, Boris would have “found Jesus” as well. In any case, Boris and Chirikova both insist that the “incident is closed”. It was a tempest in a teapot.
Note: just to avoid confusion, the picture of these two handsome people embracing is from back in July, as is obvious from the T-shirts, but apparently they embraced again yesterday, and Chirikova says she totally forgives Boris all the mean things he said about her on the tapes, including, just to name a few:
“Чирикова – мразь, ни хуя не слышит, сука, сучка редкая, тварь охуевшая, крыса, идиотка, абсолютная пиарщица, ей все по хую, хочет быть политзаключенной.”
Apparently, from listening to tape fragments, Boris greatest beef against Chirikova is that she kept demanding money from him to stage her demonstrations. Apparently Boris has a direct pipeline to serious money, and Chirikova must go through him for her financing. This also explains why Chirikova willing to forgive Boris for his impressive insults.
Note: This “Radio Svoboda” piece was picked up by INOSMI , why? I have no idea, since both are in Russian. That translator had a very easy day’s work, was able to take long lunch break. I recommend INOSMI version, because comments are funnier.
Thanks for the update Yalensis,
the bit about financing is interesting. It would be even more interesting to know from where Nemtsov gets the money.
That’s pretty funny. Repentance is a strong motivator in the west, and particularly in regions of the United States that contain large numbers of evangelical Christians, although in general the USA is more religious than most western countries. There’s an abundance of examples in which politicians caught red-handed in lies (usually about extramarital affairs or homosexual experiments) will burst into tears on international TV and have a very dramatic breakdown, asking God and their families to forgive them. This is merely playing to a perceived weakness in Christianity which holds the decent thing to do is forgive them and move on without further comment – obvious by the fact that more often than not, the sinners are completely unrepentant and back to their old tricks as soon as the cameras are pointed elsewhere. Whether the scandal goes anywhere after that often depends on whether the perpetrator was a Democrat or a Republican. Republicans generally emerge from such scandals with even stronger support, because Republican audiences love to see one of their own break down and confess before The Lord; it reaffirms the perpetrator’s essential humanity, plus gives him lots of press he might otherwise not have gotten – see Sanford, Mark.
The FSB might well be involved with the tapping of Nemtsov’s phone – since he plainly is an enemy of the state, by virtue of his arguing in foreign countries for the government in his own country to be brought down – but I emphasize that such eavesdropping is by no means such a work of technical complexity that it would require the cooperation of a full-size intelligence-gathering agency to carry out. A relatively small newspaper with the budget for mischief is perfectly capable of doing it unassisted outside paid technical assistance, and plenty of modest hackers have the know-how.
Good point about phone hacking being really easy now. Back in the old days of Cold War (like in a John Le Carre novel), with analog phones, you needed somebody to sneak into the target’s flat and place a device inside the phone. Nowadays, all phone conversations are digital and many are stored on a server somewhere. So any good hacker can obtain them. LIke you say, doesn’t even need KGB technology. In fact, the “right to privacy” barely even exists any more in the digital age. Tabloid could argue in court that if Nemtsov expected privacy on his iPhone, then he should have used a scrambler.
Well, according to the Mail, only State Security and its “commercial cousins” have the capability to hack a phone account. So I guess Murdoch’s outfit were in tight with MI5 or something. I can only expect that investigation will widen now that we know that. Or perhaps it will just be abruptly shut down, so the British intelligence services’ part in tabloid journalism will remain a secret.
Even in the John le Carre days, telephone service went through an exchange, and a phone tap could be (and often was) installed there completely without the line owner’s knowledge provided you could isolate the right line. And even garden-variety police can listen in on your spoken conversations from a considerable distance – say, across the street – using a parabolic microphone provided ambient noise is not too much of an interference, although good technicians can filter a lot of that out.
What interests me is that reporting on the issue mostly concentrates on Nemtsov’s insults against Chirikova, an issue which the media suggests has been all patched up between them. Most sources have stayed right away from the insults Nemtsov leveled against his own supporters; “office plankton”. “Chemical internet types”. Nice, Boris. But he seems to think those remarks didn’t do any damage. And he may be right, if they don’t get any coverage. Wake up, Russian internet – do I have to think of everything? Boris says his supporters will so sympathize with the violation of his privacy that even more people will come out. We’ll see. If I were the Kremlin, I’d be playing those derogatory remarks on every medium non-stop for the next couple of days. Who cares what he thinks of Chirikova? Aside from having a considerably more uncivil mouth than he displays in his smarmy public appearances, his remarks against her are of no interest whatever. The real meat is what he says about his supporters. And he probably thinks he has that covered, too, where he says some parts of the conversations are “falsified”. That’s fast becoming his favourite word. You and I know that if a secretly-recorded conversation featuring Putin referring to United Russia voters as “cattle” or “unsuspecting fools” were obtained and broadcast, the western media (including The Power Vertical) would be all over it like Rush Limbaugh on a dropped hamburger. And would Putin’s subsequent apology be framed so as to increase his appeal rather than diminish it, as is being done with Nemtsov? I daresay not. The issue of his privacy being violated would, I also daresay, be rejected scornfully.
A interesting point was also raised in the discussion, inadvertently, by none other than La Russophobe. While she seems biting mad about the demonstrations, her fury is mostly reserved (astonishingly!!) for how weak and ineffectual they are. Anyway, in researching a response for her silly caterwauling (which may or may not be published; it seems to take almost a day for The Power Vertical to get new comments up, and Mr. Whitmore is a little annoyed with me for drawing comparisons with the USA. In fact, he went so far as to fall back on the “this is a blog about Russia” defense, a la La Russophobe herself) about internet penetration rates, I learned that while Russia’s is actually pretty good, its penetration rate for social media is comparatively very low – only about 4,648,080 Facebook users, or about 3.4%. A lot of people use the internet for other purposes than social networking, but social networking rates are what determines a country’s vulnerability to spreading dissent, as in colour revolutions, and mobilizing large numbers of protesters. So that may well be another reason the Pumpkin Sherbet Revolution is off to a stodgy start.
Not really. Vkontakte is substantially more popular in Russia than Facebook. Facebook is however more prominent now because most liberals use it.
Yes, I suppose I should have thought of Vkontakte; I get a few referrals from them. But I imagine the organizers are more comfortable in English, although of course the west can call on its expatriate rabble-rousers in any language.
Anyway, even if Vkontakte is twice as big as Facebook in Russia, that still amounts to something less than 10% penetration. Throw in Twitter, and figure 15% – not enough.
We’ll see if Mr. Nemtsov is right, and can command huge numbers to turn out because they feel sorry that he has been done an injustice. I’m betting he will not. And I think that if the numbers this time are disappointing, it’s unlikely further events will be scheduled, since the protests are already suffering diminishing returns. It’s just a pity that those who go into the streets just because they want a little excitement are counted as if they were rabidly anti-government for the purposes of western interventionism.
Even if the protests die out, though, the effort to de-legitimize Putin and the presidential elections is bound to pick up rather than relax.
Come on, don’t start throwing around imaginary numbers Nemtsov-style. You are better than that.
There are certainly much more than 10 million Vkontakte-users in Russia. The exact number is hard to tell, because they have a problem with fake accounts (maybe someone made a poll?), but although things are rapidly changing, Vkontakte is still MUCH bigger than Facebook and most people seem to have an account. That’s at least the impression I have after spending a lot of time in Russia and Ukraine lately.
You’re right – I really haven’t any idea at all what the penetration rate of Vkontakte is, I don’t know much about it. But if it is extremely widespread and well established, it should have been included in the overall social-networking penetration rate. To do otherwise is misleading. But that’s not an excuse.
Re. Popularity of Facebook among “liberasti” and scandal of Nemtsov tapes: I noticed a new Russian adjective coined online that I had not seen before: фейсбучная as in фейсбучная толпа (“facebook crowd”).
I noticed that too, yalensis.
Note how the numbers “attending” the 24th protest is 3x-4x higher on Facebook than on Vkontakte, even though Vkontake has three or more times as many Russian users.
There is an interesting tidbit in the article that is probably difficult to understand for non native speakers:
Пытаюсь поставить себя на его место – а как бы я себя вела в подобной ситуации? Офигительно легко сказать “Борис, ты не прав!”. (I am trying to put myself in his shoes. How would I behave in a similar situation? It’s way too easy to say, “Boris, you’re wrong !”).
“Boris you are wrong!” is a Russian bon mot which plays on a contrast of innocent sounding phase and grave meaning it carries. In reality the meaning is something like “you are fired” or “You are a political cadaver now” or “You made a huge, inexcusable and unforgivable blunder that ends your career as such”. It’s origin is in the exact phase said by Ligachov to Yeltsin during the Congress of People’s Deputies in early Gorbachov’s “perestroika” years. Yeltsin was kicked out from members of Politburo for his speech the next day or so. Another bon mot with similar meaning is “Comrade does not understand” (“Товарищ не понимает”).
Thanks for context, kievite, that is awesome.
Another bon mot is in the final paragraph: инцидент исчерпан (“the incident is closed”), there is also a long history behind that quote, including Mayakovsky’s pun on it in his suicide note.
In this particular context, Radio Liberty is desperately scrambling to do damage control and try to make people believe that Opposition leaders (Nemtsov, Chirikova, Navalny) are truly united and solid, and that any differences between them are minor and have been overcome. I imagine Nemtsov got a huge spanking from American State Department, thus he was forced to apologize to a young narcissistic woman whom he truly despises. Fact is, Americans are stuck with these clowns, just like they were stuck with Yushchenko and Timoshenko in their day, not enough time to re-cast the expensive blockbuster between now and March.
The true test will come on December 24 (day after tomorrow), we have to wait and see if Nemtsov can bring out the numbers they have promised. Pessimistically, I wonder if a lot of young people will show up just out of curiosity, to see what Nemtsov looks like.
Depending on outcome and the amount of people who show up (what Timoshenko used to call the “biomass”), the phone-tap thing was either a brilliant tactic, or was a really stupid idea that backfired. We shall see….
In a recent comment I think on this blog I said that the organisers of the protests appear to be making one mistake after another. They have just made what I am sure is another mistake, which is to invite Gorbachev to address the rally they are going to hold tomorrow.
Not only is Gorbachev a totally unacceptable figure to the Communists but his presence will only remind the vast majority of Russians who will not be at the rally of the chaos of the 1980s and 1990s that they associate with him and which it must now seem to them that the rally organisers now support.
The decision to invite Gorbachev to address the rally suggests to me that its organisers are already slipping into the perennial Russian liberal oppositionist trap of addressing themselves not to the Russian people but to opinion in the west where Gorbachev remains a hero.
PS: I write this as someone who has more time for Gorbachev than I suspect do most people who write and comment on this blog, There is for me a big irony about Gorbachev now making common cause with the liberals given what I remember the liberals used to say about him back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was the country’s President, “Gorbachev is a fascist: Do you agree?”, was one of the politer comments.
“The decision to invite Gorbachev to address the rally suggests to me that its organisers are already slipping into the perennial Russian liberal oppositionist trap of addressing themselves not to the Russian people but to opinion in the west where Gorbachev remains a hero.”
Brother, you said it all there. I once though Gorbachev was a great leader, too – back in the late 80’s, when he still was the leader. And that’s because every word I read about him – since I didn’t know anything about Russia other than that they were the enemy and we might have to fight them some day – was in English and printed in a western source. The west loved Gorbachev and Yeltsin, and still does, although it considers them opposite sides of the same coin; Gorbachev the cerebral statesman with his amazing conceptual grasp, and Yeltsin the rough-and-tumble but loveable reformer. Coincidentally, Gorbachev and my mother-in-law are from the same place: Stavropol.
You’re right that Gorbachev was a poor choice, and you’re also right that the choice was made to appeal to a western audience rather than a domestic one. I can only guess the reasoning behind it is that it will keep the news cycle in the west focused on Russia and the protests, as well as the hope that curiosity will bring out bigger numbers that can be sold as swelling anger and discontent. But the aim will be to get the protesters fired up on western dreams of great jobs, fat paycheques and easy living. It worked for the Orange Revolution. Inspiring dreams is easy. Delivering on them is hard, as the Orange Revolution proved.
Gorbachev now and Gorbachev then…
According to the Defense Minister, Gorbachev called him in November 1991 to suggest that the military take over in a coup (he refused). “I’m not proposing anything to you. I’m just laying out possibilities, thinking out loud,” he retreated.
Now he celebrates his birthdays in London with his fellow limousine liberals and champagne socialist admirers, and playing the anti-Putin spiel to massage his own traumatized ego under the guise of caring about ordinary Russia.
Continuing the thread on Nemtsov/Chirikova relationship:
The reason why I think this relationship is important and why their American handlers insisted that they kiss and make up is because they have been apparently designated (by Central Casting) as the new royal couple of the Opposition. It’s sort of like an arranged marriage (similar to Yushchenko/Timoshenko in Orange Revolution): they don’t have to like each other, but they DO have to get along, at least in front of the cameras. They have 3 months in front of them, and a very tough assignment, almost suicide mission, from State Department. Their assignment, should they choose to accept it: “Get rid of that dictator Putin once and for all. Make sure he does not win the Presidential election.”
Their designation as joint leaders of Opposition is at the expense of Navalny, who is more of a generational peer to Chirikova and is the ideological leader of the internet “hamsters”, but whom Western handlers have apparently decided is not ready for prime time. So, now it is all down to Boris and his child bride.
I listened to more of Nemtsov’s tapes, and I cannot believe I am saying this, but I am actually starting to like the guy. He is a highly likable scoundrel. These tapes were made in the thick of organizing this big demonstration, and Boris had a lot on his plate. Sure, he is an unprincipled rogue, but his assessments of the other oppositionists are right on target: Chirikova DOES try to mooch money off him. Bozhena Rynska IS a slutty narcissist. The celebrity speakers they booked WERE acting like prima donnas. Navalny DID want to incite violence. The thing I like best about Boris is that in all his conversations he consistently argues for a peaceful demonstration: He is quite clear all along that he wants to lead the troops in and out with everybody safe and nobody getting any bruises. And to do this he has to fight the “firebrands” of the younger generation: Navalny wants to see blood flowing, and Chirikova wants to become a martyr. I think Boris just wants to put in a day’s work and collect his paycheck. He swears like a sailor, but he does not have a violent bone in his body.
Delightful! I wonder what Mrs. Nemtsov III thinks of all this.
The serious Russophobes have indeed been bemoaning the fact that there is not a charismatic figure for the opposition to coalesce around. Nemtsov on his own is just not making it – but who doesn’t love romance? for her part, Chirikova has never had so much attention and appears to revel in it. We’ll see if you’re right, and talk of Nemtsov/Chirikova as an “Opposition Power Couple” begins to pick up. If so, the rebranding effort will start in earnest.
I’m afraid I can’t share your esteem for Nemtsov. There are a million nice guys in the world (maybe more!!), but Nemtsov loves himself to death and fancies himself a tough guy. If he were actually elected, his vanity and his inner marshmallow would make him easy meat for outside manipulation.
Oh, I don’t really esteem Nemtsov, I just find him amusing. He is like a rascally little boy. His taped conversation with dissident journalist Sergei Parkhomenko (“Who has not f*cked Bozhena Rynska”) is especially classic. Right towards the end of the tape, about 11 minutes in, Nemtsov and Parkhomenko crack themselves up and giggle like schoolboys.
To be honest, I had never heard of Bozhena Rynska before, I had to google her, apparently she is some kind of celebrity who is famous for being famous. Sort of like the Russian Kim Kardashian, I guess. Her official title is “socialite”, whatever that means. She is good looking, in a dark, exotic fashion.
Interestingly, Nemtsov evaded the question during his “Dozhd” interview with Chirikova when the moderator asked him if Bozhena had forgiven him as Chirikova did. If she is the kind of firebrand they portray her, somehow I doubt if she will be forgiving bad-boy Boris any time soon.
Ha, ha; okay, just for a minute there I liked him, too. Yes, she is very attractive; she doesn’t even look Russian, really, more like a Tatar or something. According to the text accompanying her photo she is a journalist. Mentioning her in the same breath as Masha Lipman of the Moscow Carnegie Center suggests she is a liberal activist as well, but she would fit perfectly into the “Limousine Liberal” mold if her lifestyle is any indication.
It seems Nemtsov can barely keep Mr. Happy in his pants when he’s only a liberal scribbler – can you imagine what he’d be like as President?
Not to change the subject or anything, but for a comic update on Yulia Tymoschenko’s latest antics, check out OdessaBlog’s latest post. Includes Tymoschenko dropping her appeal of her conviction, because Yanukoych suggested he might be sympathetic to granting it, and she doesn’t want any favours from him. No, she wants to go straight to the ECHR, and stay in jail at least a year before they even open the envelope. To add a fillip of whipped cream to this bizarre treat, her conviction was upheld on the original charges, the day after she dropped her appeal. When you live in the funny pages, the laughs just never stop.
How much do you want to bet that if even by some miracle she was to end up in prison, her stint in jail would be the most comfortable and non-restrictive in the history of incarcerations… and will be portrayed as a time of endless suffering and torture of a “courageous champion of freedom” by the evil Putin’s stooge Yanukovitch ?
Mmmmm….I’m suspicious of those of those odds – it sounds too much like a sure thing.
I can’t recall exactly where she’s being held now, but it can’t be too bad if she volunteered to stay there at least an extra year. Not unless she hopes to shame the government into simply saying, “Oh, hell: we never had a reason to jail her at all; it was just politics, and not only did she do nothing wrong, she’s actually a hero. Release her at once!!!” Yes, what a lovely dream. I say again, the people of Ukraine should thank whatever Gods may be that she was never the elected leader. Anyone that stubborn and self-righteous would be a menace, especially since she considered she held unlimited power when she was only Yushchenko’s Prime Minister.
Anyway I remember that fiasco when she demanded to be seen by her personal doctor, and that the trial be suspended until this could happen, although she was offered a doctor’s services and her symptoms only suggested she was tired. She was in pretrial detention at that point because she refused to acknowledge the court’s authority. If she’s in the same confinement, it seemed to be okay, although I’m sure it’s well below the service she’s accustomed to.
This Czech website published this video showing Timoshenko inside her jail cell. It doesn’t look too bad, she has a flat-screen TV, a mini-fridge and a nice bathroom. Kind of like a nice hotel room, except the guards have a peephole and can barge in at any time.
Leaving aside the somewhat monochromatic colour scheme and, obviously, the smaller square footage, it compares not unreasonably to 18 Deribasovskaya St. in Odessa, shown here. Rugs on the floors. Air conditioning. Private shower. TV. A shelf of cosmetics in the bathroom. I wonder if she has high-speed wireless for her ubiquitous laptop. I never got a look inside “Camp Cupcake”, where Martha Stewart did her stretch in the joint for insider trading, but I imagine it as being something like the inoSMI video shows. Jail in Ukraine looks pretty soft. The folks next door in Georgia must be green with envy; this is what their cells look like. Look for a crime wave in Ukraine next week, which will be found to be comprised almost entirely of recently-released Georgians.
Having the guards hanging about would be a downer, obviously. I know a group that would gladly change places with them, though – the people responsible for the searches like “Tymoshenko hot” and “Tymoshenko ass” and Tymoshenko butt” that show up regularly (and I mean like every other day) among my search terms.
Well, we have our answer about whether or not the Moscow demo would be affected by Nemtsov tapes “kompromat”. Looks like Nemtsov/Chirikova “damage control” tactic was successful. Their American advisors are experts and literally wrote the book when it comes to “Damage Control” methods.
In other words, most reports say the demo was slightly larger than the last one, maybe up to 30,000 people, which was around the same number that pledged on “Facebook” to attend. Still not enough “biomass” to overthrow the government, but maybe enough to force Putin into concessions. I said before I thought Putin should go ahead and fire (Head of Central Election Commission) Churov and make him the scapegoat of any irregularities. That is one of the protesters’ demands. They could also recount Moscow polling stations and make some adjustments in seats, like give a few more to Just Russia. But they must draw the line there. No re-do of the vote, that would lead to chaos and complete de-legitimization of the current government, which is the aim of the revolutionaries. According to reports, Nemtsov is playing a moderating role in the movement, he is saying things like “We shall wait to see if the government carries out the reforms they have promised” whereas the younger radicals like Navalny are still calling for bloody revolution and storming the Kremlin.
Here is short article from my favorite paper ROSBALT summarizing demonstration, I did very quick translation into English for those who do not read Russian:
Moscow 24 December
The meeting “For honest elections” on Sakharov Avenue has concluded. Vladimir Ryzhkov, who organized the meeting, estimated that around 130,000 people attended, the entire avenue was filled to capacity, according to Rosbalt’s correspondent. Ryzhkov said he had asked the police to move back the metal detector stations, in order to accommodate more people.
Official numbers [only] gave 29,000 people.
Right now the demonstrators are departing in various directions – to the metro stations “Red Gates” and “Komsomolskaya”. Everything is happening in a peaceful, orderly fashion.
As Ryzhkov stated, not one of the demands has been met of the resolutions taken at the previous demonstration on Bolotnaya. The new resolution [approved at Sakharov demo] includes the same demands plus two more: First, to create a Moscow organization of voters which will control all upcoming elections; and second, an address to the citizens of the Russian Federation to make sure to attend presidential elections in March 2012 and not give one single vote to Vladimir Putin. Both of these demands, of course, are directed not at the authorities, but directly to the people.
Most noteworthy of the speeches was that of former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, which came as a surprise to many of the attendees. Kudrin supported the call for the firing of of the leadership of the Central Election Commission headed by Vladimir Churov; and also called for new elections to the Duma. He also proposed forming a coordinating group which could conduct constructive negotiations between the authorities and the opposition. Kudrin also said that the country is entering into a new economic crisis and is in [desperate] need of a functioning parliament.
Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov agreed with Kudrin theses and also added one more important demand: to move back the date of the presidential elections at least until the end of April, because otherwise it will be impossible [there will not be enough time] to organize honest elections.
At the demonstration the nationalists made themselves known with their rowdy behavior, to the point that Vladimir Ryzhkov called on the police to remove some of them who were [behaving like hooligans]. After this, one of the leaders of the nationalists, Konstantin Krylov, called his supporters to order, reminding them that everybody there stood for “peace and freedom”.
Another nationalist leader, Vladimir Tor, who spoke right after Alexei Kudrin, remarked in a very unfriendly tone that such [men] as Roman Abramovich and Anatoly Chubais, should also be present on the tribune – to repent for their anti-people [past] actions.
On concluding the meeting, its organizer Vladimir Ryzhkov assured [everyone] that the protesters would surely meet again in even greater numbers, however he did not give a specific date for the [next] meeting. “We will greet the New Year, and then come again,” said Ryzhkov.
He also read a greeting from Mikhail Gorbachov, remarking that Mikhail Sergeevich is old and ill now [so he could not attend in person], but still is with the demonstrators with all his heart and soul.
As I wrote a short time ago on Sublime Oblivion, it seems that the protesters have to pass through metal detectors, which enables the authorities to keep an accurate headcount. This was apparently also the case at the rally two weeks ago. Given that visual impressions of that rally roughly corresponded with the police’s figures there is no reason to think the police are lying when they say that the number that attended today’s rallly is 29,000.
I would just like to make a few points:
1. I was a member of the student council at my university longer ago than I can remember and was involved in the anti nuclear protests of the 1980s, I also had to deal with police reports of demonstrations when I was a court official. I have some experience therefore of demonstrations both from the perspective of the organisers and that of the authorities. Obviously my experiences concern Britain and I accept that things may be different in Russia but I doubt that the differences are very great.
2. The way demonstrations work is that the number builds up rapidly and then peaks as most of the people who want to attend come. During the build up the number of demonstrators who leave tends to be very small. The peak is reached when the great bulk of the protesters are present with relatively few people coming or going. When people start to leave some time after the peak the numbers peel off rapidly and the decline is as rapid or even more rapid than the build up.
3. In other words it is a misconception that people come and go at an even rate during a demonstration and the number of protesters present at the peak is usually not far off the total number who attend.
4, The police put the number of protesters at the peak of today’s rally at 29,000, which is more than their figure of 25,000 for the rally two weeks ago. Of course the organisers have had much longer to organise this rally so the somewhat higher number is not surprising. I would add though that the photographs suggest that the venue for today’s rally is rather more controlled than at the rally two weeks ago, when the police had to make estimates of the people outside the immediate area, which does not seem to have been the case this time. It may therefore be that the higher number simply reflects a more accurate count.
5. In any event the numbers claimed by the protest organisers (ranging from 150,000 to 200,000) are obviously impossible.
In other words the demonstration has attracted roughly the same number of people as the demonstration two weeks ago (perhaps slightly more) suggesting that it is basically the same people who have attended both. The only major difference is that part of the crowd seems to have been rather more aggressive towards some of the speakers present than was the case two weeks ago, with Nemtsov, Kudrin and Ksenia Sobchak apparently all being booed and Kudrin struggling to complete his speech. There were apparently even some calls for people like Chubais and Nemtsov to be expelled given what they did to the country in the 1990s. Needless to say the British media are reporting these calls and the booing as the work of ultra nationalists, which may in this case be true. Novosti (which is becoming increasingly exposed as the most liberal oriented of the Russian news agencies) attributes the booing to “nationailsts and Communists” This somewhat rough reception may have deterred some people such as Prokhorov from speaking. There were even apparently fears (surely alarmist) that the platform might be stormed with the organisers at one point even asking the police to “control the hotheads”.
Outside Moscow the number of people who have protested seems to be substantially down on the already low numbers of two weeks ago. This suggests that the protest movement such as it is is largely restricted to people within the Garden Ring.
Hi, alexander, you mentioned that police metal detectors would be able to keep a count of participants. I am not familiar with this technology. Is the metal detector connected to a computer that would actually keep a count of how many people scanned? Is it possible for people to be scanned and pass through without a counter being incremented?
It varies from place to place but it is certainly possible to keep a count of people who pass through metal detectors. Obviously there is some margin for error but the extennt would be small. As I am not technically minded I do not know how it is done but when I worked at the High Court in London we had metal detectors that did just that because we needed to know roughly how many people were in the building at any one time. I cannot see what would be the problem about wiring the system up to a single computer to keep a count. Our metal detectors were connected to the security control room in the basement.
I ought to say that after I wrote the above comment I read on Itar Tass reports that the police are actually saying that they are sure about the numbers precisely because they could keep count via the metal detectors.
I would add that quite a lot of people also weren’t able to make it past the metal detectors as the police started blocking access once the 30k was reached.
Overall, as I can see, most reasonable estimates seem to be converging to around 50,000-75,000.
I haven’t seen any photos of the demonstration at its height; the photos included in links others have posted here show a much smaller crowd, probably no more than 10,000. But, as I said, I have no way of knowing at what point in the demonstration they were taken.
The Interior Ministry has denied this.
Thanks for the translation Yalensis. I’ve read on an Italian newspaper (La Repubblica) that Kudrin was booed while addressing the crowd, but there is no trace of these in other media.
After reading about the Nemtsov tapes and this second demonstration, I’m even more convinced that the “opening” of the political system envisioned by Medvedev and to a lesser extent Putin, will make life no more difficult for UR. Easing the parties registration rules will result in more liberal (in the sense of liberasti) parties competing for the same small amount of votes, without hopes of entering the Duma as long as an electoral threshold is in force.
There is no doubt at all that Kudrin was booed and apparently struggled to finish his speech. This has been confirmed by the British press. Others who were also apparently booed included Nemtsov, Kasyanov and Ksenia Sobchak.
For those who are interested here are the estimates of the numbers present:
1. The official estimate – 29,000 at the peak. See my comments above.
2. Vladimir Ryzhkov – 60,000.
3. KPRF – 70,000
4. Boris Nemtsov – 150,000
4. Navalny – 200,000
The KPRF confirms on its website that its people were there and the photos confirm it. It is crowing that the reason the “undertaker” Gorbachev did not attend (after saying that he would) is because he would have been booed as well.
I would advice not to be naive. The meeting was a success and did what was needed for the next step in Orange revolution scenario. Here is a view on this meeting
That correlates with the estimate 30K people.
And 30K is a lot. It is a statement in itself and enough to fuel the “orange campaign” for a while. It’s clear that in Moscow they can recruit 30K on sustainable basis. Now orange TV channels and Internet publication got the necessary fuel. Which is all that is needed. So the producer of this color revolution can legitimatly check this item in the spreadsheet :-). Well done.
This is the same circus of “do osnovanya, a zatem” — “destroy to the fundaments, do not think about what will be built instead” that was played in Kiev. The key theme: “power that be” are “thieves and criminals” and opposition is the only paragon of honesty. That’s one-to-one copy of the key message from Maydan and was very effective in de-legitimizing Yanukovich and paralyzing his government. And what is interesting is that change after Chibaytic privatization if formally true about any government in power. The same weakness that was used so affectively during Orange Revolution.
Something is deeply wrong with the establishment. Looks like it is demoralized and split. Some people might start betting of the other horse like was the case during Orange Revolution (rat jump from sinking ship):
Something is deeply wrong with the establishment. Looks like it is already split.
1. Medvedev’s recent legislative initiatives has distinct smell of bad timing and looks like an attempt to position himself slightly differently then Putin. Which suggest that tandem has problems. It might be that Putin’s comments bout Kudrin as his best friends were not that appropriate and backfired. Medvedev’s “Presidential commission about right of the people” puts knife after knife in his back with impunity. And he remains silent. That’s very humiliating. I am not sure that his recent idea about legalizing small parities is something that Putin actually supports. Timing is definitely wrong.
2. The best friend of Putin, Mr. Kudrin looks like a turncoat. Please remember that Yutchshenko was a minister of finance as well. So combination Kudrin-Navalni would be an interesting analog to Orange revolution. It looks like Kudrin now has political ambitions. If so, that might be the next logical move.
3. De-legitimization of Putin is performed using the same scenario as de-ligitimation of Yanukovich. This is a well coordinated, professionally managed campaign. Which are using well paid in hard currency players who depend on the establishment to continue their professional activity. Here is example of speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1oh2tJQR7g
Looks like Fox News has their people on the ground ;-).
They simply have to get a better method for estimating numbers, because there’s obviously a huge gap between official numbers and Navalny’s barking-mad estimates. Like a difference of at least 150,000. How could somebody who’s supposedly the great God of anticorruption be so bad at math?
I haven’t looked anywhere else yet, but I imagine the western sites are spinning that the higher numbers really are accurate. But realistically, 30,000 is not a large number at all. It’s nowhere close to “biomass”, as Tymoshenko was fond of calling it.
Kiev drew something like a half-million at its peak. The total population of Ukraine is less than a third that of Russia. Moscow has better than 10 times the population of Kiev. Getting the same 30,000 or so, even if it is sustainable (and it probably is not) is not symbolic of explosive growth of the “movement” as it needs to be. The government needs to be literally blown off its feet by the momentum of the forces arrayed against it, to be terrified by the snowballing of protest. Nothing like that, I’m afraid.
Let’s put it in perspective; Monsters of Rock in 1991, held on Tushino Airfield in Moscow, drew well over a million people – the biggest Monsters of Rock audience ever (the concerts have been held fairly regularly since 1980).
The one thing the government must not do is keep upping its offers to make concessions. That was the kiss of death for Shevardnadze in Georgia, and for Yanukovich in Ukraine. The protesters – and their increasingly-excited western backers – must be made to see that this is the line in the sand; pumping up the numbers (if they could do it) is not going to bring more and more concessions or even offers to form a coalition government. That would benefit nobody but the west, as the entire Russian political system would collapse. And this is the goal; let’s not forget that. The west would offer to “help” get Russia on the road to democracy, but if Russia cannot be made a reliable vassal, it must be destroyed.
This is exactly why I bet on Putin for the leadership of Russia – because he won’t crack. Medvedev is probably in hysterical tears by now, and the best thing they could do would be to keep him out of sight. Putin is doing exactly the right thing by saying nothing, because the whole world wants to hear him say something and at least half of it is waiting to spin whatever he says as desperation and fright. They have to say whatever it takes to get momentum, because that’s the one thing they need and the one thing they don’t have yet. The protests have to get bigger, and they’re not. And you can bet the efforts to increase turnout are enormous.
The protesters have a direct example to refer to – the Orange Revolution. It was later revealed to have been largely inspired and maintained to success by NGO’s backed and financed by the west; they were quite smug about it and stopped trying to conceal it because it was such a huge success. But it wasn’t a success. It nearly wrecked Ukraine, and Russia should be able to see that. There is no government waiting in the wings to assume power, and if this government were toppled the result would be chaos rather than unity.
As I’ve said before, I’m banking on the common sense and reality awareness of the Russian people. If they don’t have as much of that as I think they have and they allow themselves to be panicked into a colour revolution which results in a milktoast liberal government – or even a technocrat/psycho mix like Kudrin/Navalny, that’s the first time I’ve heard that one – then they deserve what happens to them. But if Russia makes another mistake like it did in the 90’s, it won’t survive it. It won’t be allowed to. In the guise of “helping”, the west will push its head under until it stops breathing. And hey; that won’t affect me. A world dominated by the United States would be nothing but good for loyal ally Canada. So hang tight, Putin. Stop letting yourselves be herded, Russians. You’re not cattle, and the people who are cracking the whips don’t want what’s best for you.
I completely agree with every point you have made including the inadvisability of further concessions. As I say again, these guys take no prisoners.
By the way I should add to the roster of speakers who were booed Kasparov and the rock music critic Artemy Troitsky.
Yes, Troitsky is the guy in the video supplied above by @kievite. The guy sounds like a real tool – literally — he actually appeared in a condom suit!
Does anybody know whose flag is the (top to bottom) black-yellow-white?
Nationalists, carrying the old Russian Imperial flag; here’s a site that has some nice shots.
Oh, that is just perfect. Why don’t we just restore the Romanov dynasty and get it over with? Anybody know which inbred hemophilac idiot is next in line to the throne?
Oops, I just remembered: On my father’s mother’s side of the family tree, there was a Romanov. So maybe I am next in line?
All hail Tsar Yalensis!!
I will be a cruel Tsar.
Cruel but fair…
That’s the spirit!
Где двухглавый герб с чела Москвы
Бунтарей лишает головы.
Где нельзя быть добреньким царём,
Где с тобою мы живём!
I actually like black/yellow/white more than the current one. It was, strictly speaking, an Imperial flag used for celebrations; not directly associated with the Romanovs. I think it looks much better than the copycat white/blue/red and it’s a pity that nationalists and monarchists have monopolized it.
Should the Eurasian Union begin developing the characteristics of a supra-national state, I would push for them to adopt this flag. The red flag obviously won’t work, because of its divisiveness, and ripping off the EU/the US by adding stars would just be lame. But the Russian Empire itself isn’t nowadays controversial anywhere.
I agree white-blue-red flag is really lame. I hate it.
That’s the spirit!
Где двухглавый герб с чела Москвы
Бунтарей лишает головы.
Где нельзя быть добреньким царём,
Где с тобою мы живём!
Erm, ignore above. Replied to the wrong comment.
Yes, but you are a Red. 😉 Me, I like it. More Slav countries should fly the pan-Slav colors.
They are pan-Slav colors? I figured it was just copied from French flag.
Yep they are.
And Russia’s tricolour certainly isn’t copied off the French flag. The current French tricolour was adopted in 1792. The Russian tricolour had been in use since the 1600s and may either have been influenced by the Dutch flag or the colours on the arms of Moscow.
Thanks, Jon. Educational for me.
The black-gold-white flag was used in times when Russia was ascendant, while the current flag was used only during really difficult times for the country.
But I guess – like the German flag – both would be indistinct if printed in black & white:
Thanks, cartman, I needed a good laugh. I am kind of slow today and I had to stare at it for a minute before I realized what the problem was with the German flag!
Wow. Bet somebody from that factory’s design team was looking for a new job the next day.
Kudrin Orange Manifesto about Honesty (edited Google translation):
Honesty is a non-political category. It is distinct and different from the approach by the goverements, for which staying in power is often in itself the main policy objective. No acting government will expose themselves to any serious risk of “fair elections” at their own initiatives, without serious incentives. In societies with a well developed political system function “of stimulating honesty” is implemented via the framework of political competition. If there is no such competition, this function can take only civil society. Directly.
For me the meeting held on December 10 on Bolotni Square was just such an attempt of civil society to communicate to the authorities its rejection of the results of parliamentary elections. Directly. without intermediaries in the face of parliament parties as well as opposition: institutionalized or not.
People who cane to this meeting (including, by the way, and employees of numerous government companies and institutions) I think wanted to say the following: “Dear government: Many of us came here for the first time, with full awareness and completely independently. We have things to lose. We are for stability, so we more or less calmly accepts the rules of election set by you: banning of a single-mandate districts, the 7% percent, only seven registered political parties and so on. But breach of your own rules, and this is how we perceive the reports of massive fraud and violation of statistical regularities this is an overkill. Even for us, because we – for the stability with a perspective, stability that can maintain economic progress. So our respected “power that be” please listed to what we want to tell you, or, even better, let’s discuss together our “stable perspective”.
“Power that be” did heard something — in favor of this suggests at least some of the recent initiatives of Dmitry Medvedev, outlined in his annual address. But so far it does not want to talk: protesters for her are so far a “foam” if not “provocateurs,”. And public television is easier to proclaim than to allow normal public debate in the media, and the decentralization with the total cost of 1 trillion. rub. per year (1.5-2% of GDP) for regions is easy to promise. And this along with planned rise of defense spending and the budget deficit. More then that potential political reform proposed by the president, the next day appears in the Duma in the form of bills which never have has any public or professional discussion. But “fast reaction” is almost never means “effectively and safely!”
So the government must “talk” to people. I think her inner readiness to do so is growing. And create a platform for open discussion between the public and government about the really important, the real agenda – this is most important, most meaningful result, which movement ( that I would like to call “December 10th Movement” ) could come in the neat future. In this venue I would like to state the following …
First, I agree with your negative emotions on the outcome of parliamentary elections in our country.
Secondly, I believe in the possibility of successful implementation of the script a quiet, non-violent transformation of our political system and the entire state. Dynamic, but not revolutionary. Where the quality of the transition is more important than speed. Proof of this can and should become a future presidential election whose results will be accepted by society. Judging by the initiative of Vladimir Putin regarding the installation of cameras at polling stations (no matter how difficult this will be to implement), he is ready.
Third, when you create an institutional framework for the site “society / government” we can use the mechanism of social networks, as was the case with the rating of desired speakers at the rally on December 24 in Facebook. (A minor clarification based on my own preferences: the greater will be the number in the movement of credible new faces, and the less of the professional politicians and retired officials, the better. For “professionals” the process is more important than the result.)
And, fourth, as both my heart and my thinking suggest to me I am ready to support the project of organizing this meaningful dialogue between society and government. I hope that in this role I can be useful.
The fundamental problem with this analysis is that from every account of the demonstration I have read Kudrin received a largely hostile reception. Far from being welcomed by the protesters or being listened to respectfully he had to face a barrage of boos and whistles and apparently struggled to finish his speech. Bluntly the idea that Kudrin could be a convincing leader of a mass popular movement simply does not seem credible to me. The KPRF for example, which let us not forget polled more votes in the election than all the other opposition parties combined, absolutely loathes him.
As for the demonstration itself I have not called it a failure, All I have said is that the number of protesters given by the police is most likely the most accurate and the information you have provided (for which by the way thanks) appears to confirm this.
PS: I would like to write a response at some point to your discussion of the prospects of a colour revolution in Russia but because of family commitments (it is Christmas here) and a bad cold I cannot for the moment do so. My disagreement with you by the way is not that an Orange revolution scenario is not being attempted. It is just that I do not think there is any chance it will succeed.
I agree the prospects of a colour revolution in Russia are dim, and quite a few constants of past colour revolutions (strong youth movement financed by westerners, provisional government ready to go) are absent. I don’t think a colour revolution is the aim here, although the west would probably take it if it looked to be shaping up that way. This looks like simple destabilization, with the added sweetener of weakening Putin ahead of presidential elections.
So far the biggest stick the protesters have is the western media; flattering them that their power is awe-inspiring, cajoling and prodding them to bigger efforts and inflating their impact. There has to be a way to counter that, and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – the Russian government must get better at image management and message control.
Anyway, let’s leave all that aside for a moment; to all, friend and foe alike, a very merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy New Year!!! May your families and friends during this happy time be a shield against discontent and upset in the world, and may you have peace and contentment!!
A very happy Christmas to you also.
Thanks, Mark. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too, and to your family!
Spare me, Kudrin. The goal of each and every government, from the most brutal dictatorship to the most wide open can’t-we-just-get-along liberal model, is to remain in power. The first thing any first-term president thinks about is his or her second term. The reasoning behind that is simple – you don’t get to do anything when you’re in opposition. That might be fine for those who stood for public office just so they could pick up a paycheque for doing nothing, or for the novelty value of being in government (like Verkhovna Rada deputy and Tymoshenko Bloc billionaire Kostyantin Zhevago, who did not attend a single Verkhovna Rada session in all of 2010). But most people got into government wanting to make things happen – that’s what power is for, surely? In opposition, the best you can make happen is to fuck things up so badly for the government in power that it can’t get anything done (see “Republican Party, United States of America”), and hope it’s driven from office at the end of its term. You can’t get anything positive done in opposition without it reflecting positively on the present government, which only helps its chance of re-election. So enough of the blubbering about how “some governments” don’t think about anything except holding onto power. A Kudrin government would be exactly the same in that respect.
Having established that, and it is a fact, honesty in government is no way to stay in power. The first time something goes wrong and you as president take personal responsibility for it, you make your electorate wonder what the hell they elected a dummy like you for. Oh, I know everybody says, “if government could just be honest with us”, and on rare occasions executives have said “that was my mistake” and gotten admiration for it. Look at Republican House Speaker John Boehner – he cries in public at the drop of a hat, and his supporters say it just makes them all think how human he is, how warm and humble. Let me advise you now, if you’re thinking of going into politics – don’t base your act on his model. That said, there are ways and ways of taking responsibility for mistakes. You can say, “as President, I was wrong; I trusted (members of the opposition, secretary of whatever, insert title of entity you wish to blame here), and they betrayed my trust as well as yours”. See? Isn’t that neat? You apologized, but blamed somebody else for whatever went wrong! As they say, it’s not rocket science.
People put you in power to make things all right while they go about their jobs, because they don’t have the time or, in most cases, the skills to run the country themselves. As soon as you let them know you’re making a pig’s ear of it, they want you gone. Then you’re in opposition – refer to paragraph one. I’d be the first to say it’s sad that you can’t be honest in politics. But that’s not your fault – it’s the electorate’s fault. They’re the ones who will turn on you in the blink of an eye if you can’t perform magic. What occasionally happens is that things get completely out of hand while you’re stalling and trying to find someone who can do magic. When that happens, like it did in Greece and a few other places, see paragraph two.
A Kudrin government would differ from the government currently in power in no significant way. It would rely on oil and gas revenues to support its financial ambitions for the country and implementation of its policies. It might lower the threshold for political parties, but as soon as it perceived any of those parties becoming a genuine threat to its longevity, it would take steps to hobble them. It would do everything within reason and quite a few things that appeared unreasonable to stay in power. As soon as a Kudrin government tried to get away from an energy economy, and the standard of living became insupportable, it would say “Hey – I guess we really didn’t think this through. Now people will be pissed at us because there’s no growth, and we might not get re-elected.” The only way out of that is the western way; gradually relax the state’s hold on its energy industry in favour of western multinationals who will run your energy industry for you, and pay you a lot of money. Whoops! There goes your job market – now foreigners are doing all the work.
Welcome to politics.
Sure enough; from The Power Vertical’s Twitter feed, estimates of the crowd start at 80,000 and go all the way up to 100,000 – “double the turnout” of the December 10th protests. This, of course, indicates “growing discontent”. This is the momentum I spoke of earlier. They have to have bigger and bigger crowds in order to escalate demands, which now include permitting unregistered opposition parties to participate in new elections. From here, it’s only a matter of time until things flash into violence, especially with Navalny – puffed up like a toad with his own importance – shouting about storming the Kremlin. And violence, of course, is the precursor to revolution.
The government is going to have to get a handle on this. The crowds are still small, but their size is being exaggerated and the government must get the truth out in the form of photos and video, because right now it is letting the west drive the narrative. Don’t think things will relax because it’s Christmas – the west would gladly bypass Christmas if it meant starting a colour revolution in Russia.
It makes me want to vomit to see Boris Nemtsov held up as the people’s champion, him that couldn’t crack the 5% support barrier to getting a seat in the Duma. It was a mistake not allowing his dozy party to register, because a dismal showing might have averted his current manufactured popularity. Now he can strut and preen for the cameras, and nobody will ever know what his party would have garnered for support, so he can pretty much make it up.
It’s also curious how vastly the west appears to enjoy jokes that mock Putin’s manhood and the state of his marriage. Remember when John Kerry dared to mention that Dick Cheney’s daughter is a lesbian? You’d think that he had passed around naked pictures of her, from the reaction by Republicans. But now it’s all just good fun, Putin can’t fuck his wife, so he fucks the country instead, har har. I can’t believe there are Russians who find that funny. Don’t they realize the disgraceful image of themselves they are offering up to the world?
Russia is not Iran, but Washington has already made the same mistake they do every time. They may want Putin gone, but they handed him one of the best campaign issues – nuclear missile defense. In Iran back in 2009 they were still threatening war with the country, so it was impossible for oppositions to get their patriotic credentials together. In Russia the Kremlin will have a much easier time flexing patriotic muscle. They could skip the NATO-Russia summit to show that they are serious, while Washington is intransigent about the written guarantee.
That will be a major issue in the presidential campaign. Just like in Iran – “If you are on our side, why do you want to kill us?” Obama comes out worse because the reset is dies just after he got the old gang from the 90s back together. He has no other foreign policy achievements, and will certainly receive blame when Libya and Egypt turn Islamist. Foreign policy is actually the POTUS’s main duty.
Also, Geodesic engineer says 56,000 people protested at Moscow rally:
I have heard 60K more often in news reports, but a lot less in other major cities this time. Moscow cannot alone bear the protests because it reminds people that city cannot drag the whole country around politically.
Of course the western media will always choose the highest numbers for the demonstrations. It inflicts a very heavy burden on Russia that it cannot conduct its own politics in peace and quiet and by itself without having to face a constant critical commentary from the west about everything that happens. Nor incidentally is this a new thing. Having said this Russia has by now acquired a measure of immunity to this sort of thing and one must not overlook the fact that the great majority of Russians are not exposed to the western media and do not get their news from it to anything like the extent that we do. Claiming that 80,000 to 100,000 attended a demonstration that may have been attended by 30 – 50,000 (75,000 I am sure is too high) does not in the end change the facts on the ground and to the extent that it believes its own fantasies the western media ends by fooling itself.
As to the government, I repeat my previous comments. It has wisely allowed the protests to happen in a peaceful and orderly way apparently on this occasion even laying on tea and snacks for the protesters through the Mayor’s office. By allowing the protests to happen in this manner the government ensures that the protesters accept its rules and admit its legitimacy. The government in my opinion is also wise not to engage in a war of words with the protesters (such as Medvedev’s silly comment on his Facebook page after the last protest), which would surely be seen as a sign of nervousness. At the end of the day a peaceful protest of the kind we saw yesterday changes nothing. I gather that some of the speakers at the rally yesterday talked of a general strike and Navalny made some sort of threat to storm the Kremlin. None of that of course is going to happen. Provided it takes care of its political base and does not panic as I am afraid Medvedev at times shows signs of doing the government has nothing to fear.
PS: One thing the protest does show is that all the demands for constitutional reform that we have been hearing over the last few years are neither here nor there. How often for example have we heard complaints about the wicked practice of appointing governors and the way this has supposedly created some sort of sinister “power vertical”? Now that the governnment is returning to the election of governors the opposition shows no interest in the subject. The reality of politics in Russia as elsewhere is that what actually concerns an opposition is not abstract constitutional questions or legal issues but the fact that it is not in power. Putin understands this but Medvedev does not.
Mocking and demonizing Putin is standard practice, right out of the OTPOR handbook. Same was done with every “rogue dictator” who ever dared to stand up to Washington. OTPOR recommends application of vulgar jokes and graffiti against the loathed “dictator” in order to dehumanize him and make people despise, instead of fear, him. In Libya the graffiti against Gaddafi scrawled on buildings included very specific violent acts (sodomizing, lynching, etc.) which rebels actually got to carry out in reality once they got their hands on him. As he was being dragged through the streets, Gaddafy attempted to engage the conscience of his attackers: “What did I ever do to you?” [Like, apart from transforming Libya from the poorest most illiterate country in Africa, with a population of 2 million; into the wealthiest most literate and healthy country in Africa with a population of 6 million and a national hoard of 600 billion pure cash.]
Putin could ask the very same question: “What did I actually do to you guys?” [Aside from saving Russia from colonization and extreme poverty.]
I have to say, I am not a fan of Putin, I have not forgiven him for his Yeltsinite past, and I would not vote for him, I would rather vote for a communist or socialist. But it disgusts me to see how these ungrateful losers and foreign hirelings are disrespecting Putin and everything that he did for Russia.
I agree with every point here. I too am by no means uncritical of Putin but I find the attacks on him offensive. I would say that in my opinion vulgar jokes (as opposed to allegations of corruption) probably do him little harm.
Thanks, alex, I agree that allegations of corruption have got to be more effective than vulgar jokes when it comes to discrediting political leaders. However, the OTPOR-type revolutionaries themselves, along with their ideological mentor, Gene Sharp, firmly believe in the power of mockery to overthrow regimes, it is all part of their Machiavellian handbook of techniques::
One of Otpor’s insights was that the most effective weapon against dictators isn’t bombs or fiery speeches. It’s mockery. Otpor activists once put Milosevic’s picture on a barrel that they rolled down the street, inviting people to hit it with a bat.
Serbia protesters learning from “a rumpled Boston academic named Gene Sharp”, who though little known in America, allegedly “inspires tremors among dictators abroad”? Color me skeptical.
Before OTPOR was even created Serbia had already gone through nearly a decade of organized mass rally phenomena (pro and anti government) that provided all the learning experience one could need. Phenomena kickstarted by the architect of what its opponents deemed the “Yogurt Revolution” (demonstrators threw yogurt pots at delegates trying to address them).
After the massive and consequential rallies in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1996-97 there would have been hardly the need to consult the works of any little known Boston academic. Only I wager it would have been a little embarrassing, and left less room for self-flattery, to admit the spiritual father of Color Revolutions is not so much some Gene Sharp, but sooner one Slobodan Milošević.
Yes, but the west likes it better if it can be traced to an innovative American or Brit. Or Canadian, I must admit; we are no different than any other country when it comes to patting ourselves on the back, and though we strive for national modesty, heroes are a guilty pleasure.
Mockery is an excellent weapon because it wrests the leader down from his pedestal. Once it’s OK to be disrespectful and ribald to his face, you’re one step closer to throwing him unceremoniously from office. The Kremlin has made some efforts to turn the mockery on Nemtsov, but western sites like The Power Vertical immediately counter that the effort “backfired” , and that Nemtsov is more popular than ever, thanks to the hip-internet-savvy liberals who are basically untouchable when it comes to anything technical. The Kremlin is perhaps not great at web-dissing, but it’s not as bad as they like to make out, either – it’s all part of the Kremlin-as-old-fogeys-not-like-the-hip-new-generation meme. They’d be wise to stop trying to beat Nemtsov at the west’s own game, and confine themselves to stark, New York Times-style factual reporting (I mean the kind when the Times is not making a fool of itself, which God knows it does often enough). Start with shooting down the big air balloon that the 24th protests were over 80,000. Surely that can be disproved with time-stamped aerial shots showing crowd concentration. Then a straight one-liner: this is what the western newspapers are saying – this is what actually happened. A few examples like that will establish foreign sources as shameless liars or robots too lazy to fact-check, and that will call everything they report into question. As well it should.
I think what annoys me most is to see Russians apparently believing and promoting western rubbish (Putin 2050? Have you seen that sign? Come on).
That’s a good point about Libya’s cash surplus. Russia also has a large surplus. Perhaps the hope is that new governments will spend it on modernizing and upgrading their oil extraction facilities – work performed, of course, by western contractors.
Well, like I said, if Russians have forgotten already that Putin literally saved the nation from collapse, perhaps having it collapse under a different government would remind them. There are few things as satisfying as saying, “I told you so”. The trouble with that scenario is that Russia would not recover from a collapse – not as Russia, anyway. There’d be no coalition of nations waiting to bail them out like Greece. A great source of regret is that Russia did not implode in the late 90’s as it looked sure to do, and it would never be allowed to twice flirt with disaster that way.
But Alex is right – the vast majority of Russians do not follow western fantasyland news, and do not listen to the triumphant clacking of western pundits. And the rude protesters (which by no means includes the entire group) are a tiny minority. Hopefully when Putin is inaugurated they will all move in disgust to the USA and UK. Then the headline will be “Russians Flee Toxic Russia in Droves as Putin Resumes Dictatorship”. I don’t know why I let it bother me, because the recipe is a familiar one and based heavily, as usual, on bullshit.
Cartman’s right, too; Russia should skip the next couple of summits and diplomatic events. It’s largely an autonomous country anyway, and doesn’t do that much trade with the west, and it’s always the same old tiresome finger-wagging and lecturing and sniggering from the usual peanut gallery. The west just gets used to handing out shit and Russia having to take it. They’d squeal like pigs if Russia cut its energy output in half for a month or two.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Merry Christmas to you as well, Zhenya!!
Merry Christmas for everybody !
Paradoxically the meeting on the Sakharov Sqare was covered in “Vremya” with such a sympacy that you might think that this is a goverment sponsored action, part of “Perestroyka-2 and liberlization” events 🙂 There were even 30 sec fragments of turncoat Kudrin as well as Sobchak speaches with negative reactions of the crowd redacted out. Also there was a clear attempt to link the meeting to the political reform proposed by Medvedev.
BTW there was a couple of parralel meetings of opposition on Dec 24: Zhirinovski’s and Kurginyan’s (a TV personality with his own program see http://www.kurginyan.ru/publ.shtml).
meeting . The latter has distinct “anti-orange” centiments. See
It’s interesting that it was mentioned in Vremya only in passing.
Another interesting link is:
Thanks for the links, @kievite. I really like the Kurginyan meeting and resolution.
Где смута – там самозванцы. well said!
Is becoming more clear what is going on, Not So United Russia is openly splitting into 2 fractions. It was always a poorly-patched-together conglomeration anyway, and now the split is becoming extremely evident. This split opens a crack for the the Orangeoid hamsters to try to sneak back into power with their big plans for Perestroika II. The Medvedev faction has long flirted with the Orangoid elements, they share many of the same values, like blaming USSR for WWII, etc., and idealizing West. It would actually be logical step for Medvedev to split off from Putin completely and join the Bolotnaya gang. But maybe they would not accept him at this point. And maybe he still has a deal with Putin to become Prime Minister. That would be a disaster IMHO, as Medvedev has shown no good ability to actually govern Russia.
“That would be a disaster IMHO, as Medvedev has shown no good ability to actually govern Russia.”
Oh, I disagree. He actually proved to be a fairly capable politician, and what I liked about him is that he listened to his advisers before making a decision, although it wasn’t just a case of going along with whatever the advisers wanted. As both Eugene Ivanov and Kevin Rothrock pointed out and substantiated, he got quite a lot accomplished on the pick-and-shovel work of modernizing Russian law, and his policies were generally sound. His work didn’t get much airplay in the western media because they like drama, such as “Medvedev throws out the rulebook, rewrites Russian law overnight” (forgetting how long western law has dithered over such things as public display of religious objects or influences), and some of his work was attributed to Putin instead. Not because the west likes Putin – quite the opposite – but in order to portray him as the big loathsome spider in the middle of the web, pulling on the strands to affect the lives of all the poor prisoners.
But you’re right that he probably wouldn’t be accepted now; for one thing, he let the west roll him on Libya, although I think he learned a valuable lesson from that which perhaps couldn’t be taught any other way. For another, his reaction to the squalling about new elections – which obviously is not going to happen – was too panicky and reactionary. Left to his own devices, he’d probably agree, and that’d be the end. He’d wake up and find that something funny had happened with the exit polls in the re-run elections, and the people were screaming for Boris Nemtsov to take over and waving white scarves.
Anyway, visible rifts in the party will only encourage the provocateurs (which the western narrative insists contemptuously are not even present, this is an all-Russian cry for freedom, like Mel Gibson in “Braveheart“). If the party can be held together until the presidential elections, it might be time for a little Tom DeLay-style arm-twisting and party discipline.
Anyway, visible rifts in the party will only encourage the provocateurs (which the western narrative insists contemptuously are not even present, this is an all-Russian cry for freedom, like Mel Gibson in “Braveheart“).
My impression is that United Russia as a party of oligarchs consists of two large parts: one is the globalists (aka fifth-column) which represents financial oligarchy and more oriented on the West that on internal market parts of the economy (information technologies, etc), the other, more nationalistic part, represents energy and military-industrial complex. Very similar to the USA Congress. The only difference is that in Russia for the second tier oligarchs it is very important to be elected to Duma just to ensure their own security and security of your business (the first tier can like in USA rely on their (multiple) Duma representatives). So Duma is an interesting creature but not that much different from the USA Congress: they have their own Democratic and Republican party within the United Russia.
Similarly, in Moscow and S.Petersburg protesters are middle class people who benefit from globalization and who are well described in the following verse:
That means that in Moscow and S.Petersburg the protest has substantial social base and recruiting 60K or 120K people in Moscow out or its eight million population is not a big deal: it is Russia’s financial center after all and like any capital more connected to global economy then the rest of the country. Exactly like is the case in Kiev (althouth Orange Revolution imported protesters from Western regions of Ukraine).
And what drives them crazy is that the fact that they did not managed to get a piece of pie large enough in comparison with their peers or their piece of pie did not grow fast enough for the last three years and due to this they have a complex of inferiority. That they are forced to drive Corolla instead of BMW. Fly to Czech resorts instead of Courchevel, etc. And they are the most sensitive to the slowdown of Russia economy due to financial crisis of 2008 because they (or at least part of them) belong to an interesting sociological category of “frustrated achievers”. Such people became extremely unhappy with their life and political system as they climb up the middle class ladder because they feel they are “left out” behind peers in conspicuous consumption. See research related to Peru and Russia:
Here is the summary
United Russia is internally subdivided into three or four informal “discussion clubs” with slightly different focuses and ideological viewpoints.
They can be roughly described as liberal-conservative, social-conservative, state-patriotic, and liberal. Wiki has a good section on this.
I don’t think one should be excessively cynical about the motives of the protesters. A few may be annoyed because they are not doing as well as they would like but I am sure that the overwhelming majority are demonstrating out of honest beliefs.
I don’t want to go on repeating myself but I say again that I see no danger of a colour revolution coming out of these protests even if that is what some of the organisers of the protests and their western backers would like. Demonstrations are a normal development in a country that is or aspires to be a democracy. If the political system in Russia is so fragile that it cannot survive a few medium sized protests during an election season and a certain amount of internet gossip then it is heading for collapse without any help from the west. Frankly I see nothing to make me think that and I say again that the fears of a colour revolution are misplaced.
I want to make one final point, which is that the overwhelming focus since the elections on questions of election fraud and on the protests and of possible colour revolution scenarios has had one entirely unfortunate but possibly intended consequence, which is that it has drawn attention away from what surely should be the true focus of political analysis, which is the election results themselves. It seems that even if we allow for 15% fraud, which I do not for one moment believe but which some people are claiming, calculations suggest that the two liberal parties would still not have won enough votes to qualify for seats in the Duma even if the threshold had been 5%. This happened in an election in which the government party United Russia suffered a sharp fall in its support. The liberals were unable to capitalise on this to reverse the collapse of their support to any significant extent. The result is that for the second time even on the implausible assumption of 15% fraud Russians have voted for a Duma without liberal representatives. What this surely means is that for all the fire and thunder we have been hearing over the last few weeks liberalism in Russia is a declining political force largely confined to a small but still significant and highly vocal section of the population of the two capitals and to part of the Russian population that lives abroad.
What you say is perfectly true, but it does not lessen the annoyance of western naval-gazing on the protests. If the west saw it as you do – perfectly normal, nothing to see here, return to your homes – everything would be fine. Western media has a technique it repeats over and over in situations like these; little human-interest vignettes in which the people mentioned (who sometimes don’t exist or are, at best, a composite of all the protesters interviewed) become symbolic of the protest themselves and sometimes even heroes. Think Joe the Plumber during the McCain/Palin campaign in the U.S. This endeavors to redraw reality so that people believe the protests are huge, nation-wide, a force of nature that cannot be denied.
Those are the ones that irritate me most. I don’t want to suggest Russia under Putin has been fair and just with everyone, and I daresay you can find any number of people with legitimate grievances. This, however, is being shaped into a narrative that Russia is sick of Putin stealing everything for himself, and wants him gone in favour of modern globalists with an all-modernization agenda who will somehow perform all this tinkering while diversifying away from an energy economy. How stupid do they think the audience is? Russians are sick of prosperity, and tired of watching the country have economic growth while everyone else is in recession or begging the neighbours for a bailout?
I could see it if Putin actually was a dictator who stole the country’s wealth to enrich himself, but that’s not the case and western revisionists have to settle for allegations that it is. He’s not Ceausescu.
I don’t want to keep repeating myself either, but this try-it-you’ll-like-it sales pitch for uprising has been tried before, in Ukraine, and it was disastrous in its effects. The bottom fell out of the economy under the most liberal leadership the west could have envisioned, and the country slid steadily down the list of most corrupt countries in spite of efforts to pretend it wasn’t happening. Because Ukraine can often be used by the west as a foil to Russia, it was allowed to recover. Russia, having made such a mistake and elected some glad-handing fool with big promises about money practically falling out of the sky and so much personal freedom you wouldn’t even believe it, would not be.
Pretty much everything you say with here I agree with. It was because I became so utterly fed up reading and listening to nonsense about Russia that had no connection with the country I know that I turned to blogging. The final straw was a classic Russophobic lecture I attended in the spring given by Martin Sixsmith, who was a former BBC correspondent in Russia and who has just published another in the seemingly endless series of Russophobic books about the country. After that finding blogs like yours was a relief.
Comment for @kievite, continuing Kurginyan thread:
Literary allusion: Was there any deliberate symbolism in Kurginyan’s choice of Воробьевы горы aka Sparrow Hills for his alt-protest rally? Maybe it was just a convenient place to gather; or maybe they were allluding to the oath that Herzen/Ogarev took:
In 1826 or 1827 they stood on the Vorob’evye gory (Sparrow Hills) overlooking Moscow and swore an oath to sacrifice their lives in the struggle for the liberty of Russia. Like the memory of the Decembrist martyrs and his friendship with Ogarev, this oath on Sparrow Hills became part of the mythology by which Herzen would define the purpose of his life.
I am guessing there was an allusion, since every Russian schoolchild knows the Herzen/Ogarev story. From your Kurginyan link:
Здесь на Воробьевых горах мы клянемся пробудить народ и защитить его право жить согласно собственному усмотрению, собственным представлениям о благе и справедливости.
Перестройка-2 не пройдет!
P.S. When I was studying Russian literature, I was forced to read Herzen’s complete auto-biography, all 3 volumes. What a narcissitic windbag! In his later years he became a noted liberasti of the 19th century. If Herzen were alive today, I am sure he would be an Orangeoid. And, while his friendship with Ogarev did last forever, it is noteworthy that later in life Herzen seduced Ogarev’s wife, even had a daughter with her, who did not know until she was a teenager that Herzen was her real father. I am not spreading gossip, this is all in the biography.
This is interesting, there has been some speculation about whether Kudrin suddenly grew a conscience and went off the reservation, but this Wall Street Journal piece indicates that he is still allied with Putin. And that Kudrin’s participation in the Saturday demonstration was coordinated in advance with Putin. That does not surprise me.
Unfortunately, I cannot link the original Wall Street Journal article, because you have to pay to read it, and I am too thrifty to do that, so I am stuck with the Russian translation. Here is the most interesting paragraph: Г-н Кудрин заявил в интервью газете «Ведомости», которое будет опубликовано во вторник, что он консультировался с г-ном Путиным накануне демонстрации и пришел к выводу, что «в целом, диалог возможен».
Translating this paragraph back into English, which may differ from the original, which I cannot view:
Mr. Kudrin declared in an interview with the Vedomosti paper, which will be published on Tuesday, that he had consulted with Mr. Putin on the eve of the demonstration and came to the conclusion that “on the whole, dialogue is possible.”
This is disgusting, it indicates that a faction of United Russia is actually in cahoots with the Orangeoids. Some kind of shady deal is being cooked no doubt. This is maybe Kudrin’s ticket to return to power and back to the privatizations and oligarchic accumulation of capital. And maybe I have been unfair to Medvedev, since this quote indicates that it is Putin, not Medvedev, who is playing the Orange card.
This might explain why Kudrin was booed by the crowd (although it does not explain why Nemtsov was also, and I notice that didn’t get anything like the loving coverage Putin being booed at the sports event did). Still, opening negotiations with whoever is perceived to be the enemy is not at all unusual in politics. You just have to be careful not to give anything away, or to make promises that will immediately be leaked to make the enemy (the Orangeoids, in your example) appear to have gained the upper hand. Both Shevardnadze and Yanukovych made this mistake, and in both cases it was portrayed – successfully – as desperation. This is what they’re looking for – anything that can be offered as evidence that the Putin regime is weakening or crumbling, because they’re going to need something like that to encourage further protest and to keep the numbers up. Any implication that it is not achieving anything makes that task much more difficult.
After Dec 24 Kudrin looks like a turncoat and like any turncoat he need orangists more then they need him. His wish to create a new liberal party is a little bit naive. So his only place is like Yushchenko — “a respectable figurehead of orange revolution” in tandem with some fierce and unscrupulous street fighter like Timoshenko. Right now only Navalni fits this bill at least by Salon view 🙂
I wonder if Putin’s approach to Kudrin now is something like in quote “Diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice Doggie!” till you can find a bigger stick.”. Because with such friends, who needs enemies…
But this can’t explain why orangists now dominate the media… And who allowed this to happen.
According to The Power Vertical, liberals own the internet in Russia, and whatever they say immediately becomes reality.
I’m sure Navalvy is under tremendous pressure, cajolery and flattery to take political status, for exactly that reason. Navalny is a firebrand who wants action and doesn’t think much about the consequences, while Kudrin would be the sober technocrat and moneyman, while – lest we forget – already possessing valuable experience on running the country.
Navalny would fit very nicely into American strategy. His anti-Caucasus rhetoric (and calling for end to subsidies for Caucasian republics) is part of Skinhead plan to cut North Caucasus loose from Russian Federation. Which is precisely what British/Americans have been trying to do ever since 1989!
In this respect, I cannot envision a Putin-Navalny deal, since Putin has based his legacy on pacifying and rebuilding North Caucasus.
Putin is a nationalist, in his own way. He just envisions the Caucasus as part of Russia. There should be nothing in nationalism that precludes dealing with other nations or that implies isolationist ideals. Government policy merely needs to be fashioned with the notion that such deals must be to Russia’s benefit or advance Russia’s interests.
The United States formulates government policy in a fashion that will realize new advantages for the USA while preserving those already gained. It rarely deviates from that formula. That’s nationalism, but it’s not bizarre or crazy and no country that was not naive or stupid would make policy otherwise. Quite a few have been too trusting, to their later sorrow.
I agree with your analysis regarding the sloppy western crush on Navalny, though. Indeed, splitting off the Caucasus from Russia would open up a whole new realm of possibilities.
Putin would be deemed a nationalist in the West where statism and nationalism are conflated, but he can not pass for one in Russia where there is a distinction between the two.
Can somebody give me a good reason I should dislike this Navalny character?
Is it that he is a nationalist? Well many distinguished and worthy people in Russian history were. Including many who tower above a relatively unremarkable bureaucrat like Putin. Also I imagine most Russians are at least somewhat more nationalistic than Putin and presumably we like them anyway.
Is it that he accused the YeR party machine of tampering with the results of the recent election? Well so did our colleague AK(@sublimeoblivion) and presumably we still like him anyway.
Is it that the West has a crush on him? Well early on, I’m talking 1999-2000, they had a crush on Putin as well, didn’t they? Also if Navalny is sincere in his nationalism wouldn’t that mean that he is very unlikely to sell Russia downriver to Western interests? Wasn’t a previously unknown Boris Yeltsin appointee, mentored by the liberal Sobchak, a better candidate to sell out to the West than some firebrand rabble-rouser?
Кирилл Фролов: “… наш кандидат Владимир Путин не знает даже, кто это такой. А ведь ВВП очень информированный человек. Значит, нет никакого Навального.”
Navalny comes across to me as a very clever man. I say this as someone who knew little of him until a few weeks ago.
At the moment he does not appeal to me. I do not like his rhetorical style of which Yalensis provided a good example on this blog. More to the point his entire approach is completely negative. He is very free abusing and criticising and condemning others but he has presented no positive programme of his own. If for example he has given any indication of which party or Presidential candidate he supports or intends to vote for I don’t know it. His line “anyone but United Russia/Putin” looks to me frankly cynical and intended to give Navalny credit for the success of any opposition party that does better than expected. It reminds of the line that you are always certain to win a horse race if you put your money on every horse.
For the moment this ambiguity about where precisely he stands is working to Navalny’s advantage but in time as he starts to attract more attention and begins to assume a more overtly political role he will start to invite more questions about where precisely he stands. Something like this appears to have happened in a radio interview today where he appears to have been asked questions about whether or not he intends to put himself forward as a Presidential candidate and during which he apparently also discussed the possibility of his forming his own party.
Navalny absolutely SHOULD form his own political party. This will force him to publish a detailed political platform explaining his position on many important issues. In addition, it will force him to disclose the sources of his funding.
Would it? I don’t know that the production of a political manifesto tells you much of anything about the party. Most political parties refrain from putting anything genuinely scary in their statements of what they’re all about, such as, “Immediately cut off funding for those greasy terrorist Caucasian bandits”, although that might well be a goal. But that’s all just window-dressing; everybody knows, through relentless polling, surveys and other sampling efforts, what matters most concern the electorate. It is simplicity itself to tailor a manifesto that says, “We’re all about that – the environment? Yup, I just love the environment. The economy? Jesus, it’s a mess, isn’t it? One of our first priorities will be fixing the economy that Putin and the party of crooks and thieves (make sure to get that in at every opportunity, so that people remember it, like the number for a local cab company that radio drilled into their heads 20 years ago and they can still remember with perfect recall) broke, and making sure all you nice folks have a good job with reasonable hours and great benefits”. Soothing pablum that the audience basically supplies for you.
Here, for example, is what the KPRF is all about.
Stop the extinction of the country, restore benefits for large families, reconstruct the network of public kindergartens and provide housing for young families.
Nationalize natural resources in Russia and the strategic sectors of the economy; revenues in these industries are to be used in the interests of all citizens
Return to Russia from foreign banks the state financial reserves and use them for economic and social development
Break the system of total fraud in the elections
Create a truly independent judiciary
Carry out an immediate package of measures to combat poverty and introduce price controls on essential goods
Not raise the retirement age
Restore government responsibility for housing and utilities, establish fees for municipal services in an amount not more than 10% of family income, stop the eviction of people to the streets, expand public housing
Increase funding for science and scientists to provide decent wages and all the necessary research
Restore the highest standards of universal and free secondary and higher education that existed during the Soviet era
Ensure the availability and quality of health care
Vigorously develop high-tech manufacturing
Ensure the food and environmental security of the country and support the large collective farms for the production and processing of agricultural products
Prioritize domestic debt over of foreign (to compensate for household deposits, burnt in the disastrous years of “reform”)
Introduce progressive taxation; low-income citizens will be exempt from paying taxes
Improve the efficiency of public administration, reducing the number of officials to extend the powers of labor collectives and trade unions
Create conditions for development of small and medium enterprises
Ensure the accessibility of cultural goods, stop the commercialization of culture, defend Russian culture as the foundation of the spiritual unity of multinational Russia, the national culture of all citizens of the country
Stop the slandering of the Russian and Soviet history
Take drastic measures to suppress corruption and crime
Strengthen national defense and expand social guarantees to servicemen and law enforcement officials
Ensure the territorial integrity of Russia and the protection of compatriots abroad
Institute a foreign policy based on mutual respect of countries and peoples to facilitate the voluntary restoration of the Union of States.
Sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t put their shoulder to initiatives like those? Apart from a few projects that sound suspiciously like recreating the Soviet Union (Oops! Communists; what was I thinking?), most of these are common sense, and the kind of things the people want to see happen. Some of them are probably achievable in the short term. But “Take drastic measures to stop corruption and crime”? Great. How, exactly, would that be made to happen? Every party would like to achieve it. But it’s not as simple as saying it. How about we make a rule that, for everything that’s not dead easy, you tell me how you plan to make it happen. I mean, there are a lot of “creates” and “ensures” and “prioritizes” that sound really good, but they’re usually attached to things the ruling party identifies as serious problems, but has had an uphill battle solving. Everybody knows they are problems. Saying you’d try “vigorously” to solve them is simply adding a modifier that makes it sound like you have a plan. Okay: let’s see it. Remember, your goal while you’re fixing all these things is to move Russia closer to being competitive with other European countries – you can’t just blow all the money on subsidies that compensate for uncompetitive industry or technology, because those will collapse as soon as the subsidies are eased or removed.
Let’s look at corruption, for example. How would the KPRF tackle corruption? Boost the number of cops on the beat by a factor of, say, 5? I hope not, because a whole bunch of them just got fired last year for being corrupt. Next idea. Jack up police wages to the point they don’t feel they need to take bribes to supplement their shitty income? Great idea. Where’s the money going to come from? If you identify it, how do you plan to raise police wages without raising the wages of postal workers, firefighters, street cleaners and the forestry services? Besides, all that is just petty corruption anyway, small potatoes. The real big stuff happens nearer the top; under-the-radar political contributions, that kind of thing. Going to stamp those out? Good luck getting re-elected.
A political manifesto is barely worth the paper it’s printed on if it’s just another list of high-minded pipe dreams. Tell me how you plan to make your ideas reality, and we’ll see what your chances of achieving your goals look like.
Disclosure of funding would be interesting, but foreign funding of political candidates is actually quite rare, because it’s illegal. That’s not to say it never happens, but aid is washed through a couple of layers of deniability, and as such would be unlikely to appear in a list of supporters. Usually it’s done in the form of aid to organizations (cough, NGO’s, cough) that help you achieve your aims without appearing to aggressively support any candidate.
I can’t speak for everybody, of course, but the reason I dislike him is probably best encapsulated in your reason 3: that the west has a crush on him. Yes, it’s quite true the west had a crush on Putin – even Browder had quite a man-crush on him, early in his first term. But the reasons for their affection are different. Putin was cosseted and feted while the west still thought he would continue Yeltsin’s “reforms” and emptying the state’s treasuries into the pockets of the wealthy, both domestic oligarchs and foreign investors. They started to temper their affections while they still thought, okay, he’s not going to ride the country into the ground on full throttle – but maybe he’s pro-western and pro-European to the point he can be encircled. When it became apparent Putin was pro-western only to the point he wanted Russia involved in western organizations like the WTO, and that so Russia could compete for goals that were in the national interest, the west decided it despised him.
The west now has a crush on Navalny because he appears to be the only one with sufficient influence among the electorate to bring Putin down, and the inclination to do so. If he’s not a politician, so much the better – he won’t be looking for a reward later on, because bringing down Putin is the goal in itself. The west loves Navalny in the way you love a dangerous animal that threatens your enemy: you don’t love it enough to bring it home with you. Ha! Can you imagine Navalny addressing a crowd of 80,000 or more on the Mall, and shouting, “We have enough people here to take the White House”? The Feds would have him in the jug quicker than you could say “incitement to riot”. They like him just fine where he is, provoking Putin, and if he’s arrested, he’ll be a martyr. If he was arrested in the west for going on like he does, he’d just be a criminal, and the western audience would understand perfectly.
Navalny, so far, indeed shows no inclination to sell Russian interests down the river. He’s spoken out in public in defense of the Russian energy industry being available to foreigners even less than it is now, under Putin. But again, Navalny is not a politician, or even a leader beyond leading a rebellion. Governance is not his interest, revolution is. Once such a revolution succeeded, Navalny would be sidelined; canonized as the hero who freed Russia from its chains, but with no role at all in running it.
I don’t want to foster the impression that I believe Putin is some sort of superman; a great hero such as comes along only once in a generation. He’s actually a quite ordinary man, and if he has exceptional gifts, they are stubbornness and self-discipline. But he looks like a superman because those who would take power from him are so mediocre or so transparent. And there seems little to argue about in the question of whether he saved Russia from destruction once already; if the country had continued to pursue the policies that prevailed when Yelsin stepped down, it would have imploded. It did not, instead becoming an economic success story. It’d be a mistake to say Putin did all that single-handed, but he was the leader. I just can’t see Zhirinovsky, with his crazy threats that make him the laughing-stock of the world, or Zyuganov with his commitment to restore the Soviet Union, as a successor. Mitrokhin would probably be a very good regional politician, but his party platforms lack depth in foreign policy and national security, and favour closer integration with the west. That wouldn’t come cheap. Let’s not even get started on the pack of liberals like Boris Nemtsov with his swaggering and his playground insults.
A surprising number of people seem to believe that because Putin is still the leader (well, it’s Medvedev, but he’s on his way out) and there is still corruption, Putin favours corruption. That’s like saying, a dog has a nose, you have a nose – you’re a dog. Those same people seem to think removing it is as simple as saying “stop all this corruption, right now. Don’t make me go and cut a stick”. I’m sure that were they in power, they would begin to get a feel for what a mammoth task it is. But then it would be too late. Russia would have a leader who underwent an epiphany, and realized stopping corruption is a much bigger task than he thought. And he would have other weaknesses that Putin does not. Navalny is a terror for rooting out corruption, but has no more notion of how to stop it than does anyone else. Exposing it is less than half the battle.
Navalny demanded the freeing of Khodorkovsky as a political prisoner on the Dec 24 Meeting. That more than anything else for me has imparted a negative impression of him. Not because I really care what happens to MBK these days, but I do think that one’s views on MBK are an excellent shit test of whether one is (1) a true democrat and servant of the people or (2) a stooge (or useful idiot) of foreign / oligarch interests.
You’re right. That’s a good reason and a good litmus test.
@hoct: The reason I dislike Navalny is because I believe him to be a paid agent of the United States government. If I did not believe that, then I would not dislike him, I would merely disagree with some of his positions.
But is Kudrin really a turncoat? Or did Putin himself send him to the Oranges to cut a deal against the Reds?
Further proof of Medvedev’s brilliant success in planting a liberal 5th column within his own government in the form of his own human rights council. After demanding that all prisoners guilty of economic crimes should be released, undermining the verdict in the second Khodorkovsky case and calling for the dismissal of the Chairman of the Central Election Commission, the human rights council has now provided Medvedev with another New Year present in the form of its “considered view” of the Magnitsky case. This “considered view” goes by the title “the torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky”.
Outstanding posts on this blog have already dealt in detail with the Magnitsky affair and I am not going to discuss the case here. What most offends me as a former lawyer is that a supposed human rights council has ignored the presumption of innocence and wilfully prejudiced the trial of the people who were in charge of Magnitsky whilst he was in prison by declaring in advance of the trial that some or all of these people tortured and killed him.
It also has the direct effect of supporting and legitimizing the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act introduced in the USA, which restricts travel by all these individuals as well as their spouses and children, and has the ancillary effect of legitimizing William Browder’s business method.
If this council believes their decision-making will bring approbation and cheering from the west, it is probably right. But these decisions will also be used as a cudgel to beat their entire country and people as a bunch of savages.
RIght on all points.
I wonder who will be the international mediators to help Russia “to resolve” fabricated crisis:
Yanukovych is…a little unpolished. He’s poorly suited to the stately minuet of diplomacy, as he often says what’s on his mind rather than thinking of a flowery way to say it that will remove its sting. This trait is often used to good advantage to make Yanukovych appear an unlettered and ignorant turnip from the country.
Yet the west couldn’t get enough of the folksy charm of former construction worker Boris Yeltsin. Ditto onetime farmer Mikhail Gorbachev. And one could hardly blame Yanukovych for being a bit peeved with anyone who facilitated the Orange Revolution – in his own right he was considerably more a visionary as an ignorant turnip than the Foreign Office types with their pinstripes and pinkie rings, since he probably won the second run-off fairly the year before and was instead handed the wreckage of a country 5 years later, after the Great Liberal Experiment.
Very few countries now boast leaders who are descendants of what amounts to de facto monarchies; powerful political families who don’t seem to have done much else but sit on a pile of money and fiddle in politics. Most of the world’s leaders were something else before they entered politics. Yanukovych is not unusual in this. But the grudge his foes have against him was evident in their effort to get the investigation into his 1970’s criminal convictions – which he did not challenge at the time although he could have appealed at state expense and pardons were the rule rather than the exception – re-opened nearly 30 years later. And I’m fairly certain that if Boris Nemtsov (just by way of example) lost his mother when he was only two years old and grew up running the streets barefoot, the combined liberal press would weave a human-interest story around those facts that would make you cry in sympathy like a jilted schoolgirl. Not so Yanukovych – his upbringing apparently just resulted in his developing into a stupid country turnip.
“In December last year, you participated in the putsch.” Sing it loud, Mr. Yanukovych, because that is undeniably a fact; Adamkus helped ensure Yushchenko’s presidency started off smooth and untroubled, with the transfer of power perceived as free from bitterness. “You allowed (the then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma) to manipulate you in his own machinations.” That is arguable, and sounds more like an opinion Yanukovych might better have kept to himself. “Therefore, your actions will have negative consequences for the future development of the relations between Lithuania and Ukraine,” In what material way does this statement differ from EU Foreign Affairs representative Catherine Ashton’s angry, “…the approach of Ukrainian authorities risks having profound implications for the EU-Ukraine bilateral relationship”, on the occasion of Tymoshenko’s conviction? Was tthat “a rant”, too?
Yanukovich is one of the best political leaders in Europe. Ukraine is lucky to have such a leader, he is also a very good manager of the economy. Who cares that he is rough-speaking? Good for him for telling the Lithuanians off — they deserved it, because of their meddling!
Another interesting potential source of financing of Orangists in Russia:
I read elsewhere that Berezovsky admitted to the transfers of funds from his companies, but not that the purpose of the funds was support for Yushchenko’s campaign (because that’s illegal) and to keep the protests going. The part about Tymoshenko being sidelined after the election sounds to me like convenient attribution, since that’s what happened and this way it can be blamed on Russia. Tymoshenko, despite declaring herself opposed to Russia, was so arrogant and full of herself that she was easily manipulated, and I believe Russia preferred her where she was. In fact, her horrid governance skills, dreadful understanding of economics and constant challenging of Yushchenko were what torpedoed her.
Berezovsky’s material support for the Orange Revolution is now a bit like Israel’s nukes – not officially acknowledged, but generally understood to exist. But of course it only adds to Berzovsky’s overall hero reputation in the west. Somehow I don’t see Ukraine or Russia as vacation destinations in his plans.
Question: “Did Berezovsky finance Ukraine’s Orange Revolution?”
Answer: “Does a bear sleep in the woods?”
I mean, somebody has to pay for all those orange balloons, $15 million sounds like a lot, but all those balloons, flags, orange paraphernalia don’t come cheap.
Which reminds me, who paid for all those white balloons and white ribbons and other B.S. paraphernalia in Moscow? Did anybody audit this and ask to see receipts?
A good, almost classic example of Orange dezo dusted off and reused in a new situation:
Very well, professionally written article in best tradition of Fox News. Presumption of innocence is completely missing: there is already ready-made verdict and all facts are pre-selected to support it. From reading there is a distinct picture that people from other parties are crystal honest and the only problems are with the party of “Scoundrels and chiefs”. Funny, in the article the most honest people, real fighter for democracy, are almost invariably communists ;-).
Pre-selected “facts” creates distinct impression that everything everywhere were falsified and there is no other way to cure this indignity but new elections. Exactly the same trick that was so successfully used in Orange Revolution. There are probably problems with the selection and verification of the facts if you do it one by one, but most readers will never try.
But when you try to check those facts that you can, you instantly discover interesting nuances. I made just one simple check: in the part of the article with the subtitle “Where is truth?” they mentioned results that were produced by organization called “Citizen-Observer”. I went to the web site http://nabludatel.org/ and voila. You can instantly see Golos as a friendly organization. The latter primary goal is discrediting “United Russia”; it exists on the money from State Department and is currently under investigation for dirty tricks used. I think a lot of people would be interested in knowing who paid for Citizen-Observer “research”.
The Orange Revolution is the subject of a huge number of myths some of which have been thoroughly refuted including by commentators on this blog. However there was an important point, which is consistently missed.
Yes, it is true that the enormous financial and propaganda backing Yushchenko got enabled him to draw almost level with Yanukovitch in a Presidential election that he would otherwise have certainly lost. Yes, it is also true that this same financial and propaganda backing (including money from Berezovsky) enabled the Orange leaders to keep tens of thousands and possibly even hundreds of thousands of protesters semi permanently camped out in subzero temperatures in Maidan Square. It is also true that this same financial and propaganda support caused the defection midway through the protests of the state television system to the Yushchenko camp.
However the Orange revolution also shows up the limits of this support. Yushchenko was unable to win in the southern and eastern Ukraine where on the contrary the fact that the west was supporting him almost certainly worked against him. His attempt to break into the parliament building and have himself inaugurated President was successfully resisted. The attempt by the Orange leaders to organise a general strike was a failure.
In the end the Orange revolutionaries found themselves obliged to take the wholly unrevolutionary step of contesting the election result in court. At this point as even the BBC was reporting some of their supporters were starting to become discouraged. If the court (in this case the Ukrainian Supreme Court) had done its job properly it is likely that the protests would have slowly melted away. The Supreme Court of course did not do its job properly. Under the influence of its Chairman (who was later rewarded by Yushchenko with the Chairmanship of the Constitutional Court) the Supreme Court not only and after what can only have been a cursory investigation upheld the Orange complaints but it also took the entirely unconstitutional and illegal decision, which it had no right to make, to annul the whole election and order a re run. It was this decision of the Supreme Court (obtained by who knows what bribery or pressure) that brought about the breakthrough that all the protests before and all the foreign pressure up to then had failed to achieve. Even then because the decision of the Supreme Court was actually illegal Yushchenko was obliged to do a deal with Kuchma before the new election was held in which he was obliged to cede some of the President’s powers in the event of his victory.
I ought to add that another largely forgotten aspect of the Orange revolution is that in order to be sure that he would win the run off Yushchenko as part of the deal he did with Kuchma had to change the electoral law to disenfranchise several million of Yanukovitch’s supporters. In other words after complaining of electoral fraud against him, in order to win the run off Yushchenko had to rig the electoral system in his own favour so that he could win. What is almost entirely unknown is that after these changes to the electoral law were made but before the new run off took place the Ukrainian Constitutional Court (which is a wholly separate body from the Ukrainian Supreme Court) declared these changes to the electoral law unconstitutional. Though the new run off was itself only taking place because of a court Judgment the Constitutional Court’s Judgment was (of course) ignored and the run off was held in accordance with the new law. Doubtless this contributed to Yushchenko’s margin of victory.
A further illustration of the limits of financing and propaganda is provided by the Ukrainian parliamentary elections of 2007. These took place following Yushchenko’s completely illegal decision to dissolve the existing parliament in which Yanukovitch had a majority. That decision was contested in the Consitutional Court causing Yushchenko to try to dismiss some of its judges and to deploy Interior Ministry troops to the capital (think of what the west would say if Putin ever did anything like that!), When the elections were eventually held I was told informally by a private source that Tymoshenko’s campaign was funded to the extent of $250 million. That would be an impressive amount even by the standards of a US Presidential election. In the event Tymoshenko severely disappointed her foreign backers (or should we call them investors?) by failing to win the decisive victory she had previously assured them she would.
What we are seeing in Russia today is a scenario where some of the “technologies” that were used in the Orange revolution are once again being put to use. However the Orange revolution actually shows the limits of those “technologies” even in the far more favourable conditions of the Ukraine (Hunter has done a very good comment discussing the major differences in levels of party support as between the Ukraine and Russia). As of the time of writing the liberal opposition in Russia has only managed two medium sized rallies in Moscow where it was only able to beef up the numbers by drawing in many people who are not liberals with the result that many (most?) of its leaders got booed. It has held a very few pathetically small and scattered rallies in the rest of Russia. It has so far failed to agree on which candidate for the Presidency in an election that is now only three months away it is going to support. None of this looks very impressive or very threatening.
Incidentally on the subject of Kudrin, I do not think he stands any possible chance of seriously challenging Putin in the way that Yushchenko once did. Unlike Yushchenko he is far too heavily compromised by his long association with Putin to be a credible opposition candidate. Also as he showed at the rally on Saturday he has all the political charisma of a loaf of bread. In my opinion as I have said on the Sublime Oblivion blog his attendance at the rally was triggered by his competition with Prokhorov who had previously said he would attend the rally.
The only remotely credible figure to emerge out of the rally on Saturday was Navalny but I suspect that a lot of the support he is getting is precisely because he (falsely) pretends to be apolitical. Were Navalny to enter politics in a formal way many of the contradictions in his position would become clear at which he would start to alienate as many (or more) people than he was attracting.
I ought to add that another largely forgotten aspect of the Orange revolution is that in order to be sure that he would win the run off Yushchenko as part of the deal he did with Kuchma had to change the electoral law to disenfranchise several million of Yanukovitch’s supporters.
I’ve never heard of this disenfranchisement law. Could you please provide a link?
I will see if I can find something though it got incredibly little attention even at the time.
An excellent and informative response, Alex. I join others who object to your forgoing Russian material on your blog in favour of just commenting on others, because you have a real flair for it. But I understand if you simply don’t have the time, and I’m grateful you choose to comment here.
That’s a great post Alexander. Many thanks for this effort.
I agree with your key point about the limits of Orange technologies. That also correlates with Mark’s assessment than this is more a destabilization attempt than “regime change” attempt (although destabilization can well be “program-minimum” and regime change “program-maximum” in Bolsheviks terms). There is actually another factor due to which limitations of orange technologies might be more severe in Russia then in Ukraine. My feeling is that “orange leprosy” (Gennady Zyuganov’s 2006 term; http://www.yoki.ru/news/social/politics/24-11-2006/34274-0/) is more prominent on the Internet (Vedomosti.ru, Gazeta.ru, grani.ru, mk.ru, echo.msk.ru), but on the ground left and left-center forces have a bigger weight. Demands of many protesters (for example, return to free health care and education) is closer to the Communist Party, or “Fair Russia”, the parties of the left block. They are completely foreign to liberasts.
This line of thinking is along the lines of Mark’s hypothesis that the main accent here is destabilization not so much regime change. Although I think that like in case of Bolsheviks they have their “program-minimum” (destabilization) and program-maximum (regime change).
Putin’s Achilles heel is that he inherited the results of Yeltsin’s privatization. Existence of oligarchs like Prokhorov, Abramovich, and other “playboy billionaires” is a slap in the face of people and undermines Putin’s position as much or more as his desire to return to the President position after more than a decade in power.
BTW I already forgot some of the details of Orange Revolution that Alexander pointed out (failed attempt to instigate a general strike, disenfranchisement law, etc) so the post was a great reminder of those events.
I would add another important for Yushchenko victory event: the tremendous media campaign centered around the plot about his dioxin poisoning. The plot (attributed to Yushchenko’s wife) was a great invention and was very effective for brainwashing independent/undecided voters serving as a great supporting argument to the slogan about “Criminal Yanukovych/Kuchma regime”. Please compare the latter with the slogan “Party of scoundrels and thieves” and I think some doubts emerge whether our new hero Navalni (aka Razvalni) invented it all by himself ;-).
So, if the analogy with Orange Revolution holds true, we can expect liberasts to double their efforts in destabilization and try to play the total obstruction of Presidential elections card to force the second round, and then to try to involve courts on technicalities. The game for which Duma elections was just a (successful) warm-up.
That’s probably why Putin is now personally concerned about transparency of March elections.
Thanks for your comments. By the way thanks also for your posts, which have been extremely informative.
I agree that the agenda is more destabilisation than actual regime change. A question I would like to have answered is which of the current crop of Presidential candidates would be of most use in such a scenario? My own guess is Sergei Mironov.
I’ve recently began taking an interest in Hungarian politics. Basically, this right-wing guy called Orban and Fidezs came to power after the socialists were discredited, and now controls 68% of the parliament. He is in alliance with Jobbik, who are basically ultra-nationalist nutjobs like the banned DPNI.
Anyway, they are now passing a series of laws and reforms that are making the country far more right-wing and economically liberal. E.g. homelessness was recently outlawed, and not in the sense that they would all now get free housing LOL. (And – according to critics – more authoritarian, as the judiciary is brought under control (i.e. what happened in Russia back in 1993); the rules of the game are changed to permanently favor Fidesz; the media is placed under supervision; etc. in fairness, the sum total of these changes may well make Hungary less liberal than even Russia). They are also changing the legal nature of Hungary from a civic republic to a volkish state, offering citizenship to ethnic Hungarians abroad – which may provoke conflict with Romania – and speaking of a Greater Hungary.
I am wondering if this is what a Russia under Navalny would look like. A lot of rhetoric about cleaning up the “mess” left behind by the “crooks and thieves” while consolidating his own authoritarian system, persecuting Muslim minorities, and trying to annex the ethnic Russian parts of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the Baltics.
PS. That said, I really don’t know to what extent this “authoritarian slide” is real. As we all know, the media likes to exaggerate things.
Once I would have said Navalny didn’t have anything like that kind of ambition – that he was just a guy who got mad because he believed he had graphic evidence of something bad happening and either nobody would listen or those who did just shrugged and said, “so what”? Under that theory, as soon as he got a little recognition, he would fade back into contented obscurity. But his performance during his speech reminds me of somebody from a garage band who suddenly finds himself fronting Led Zeppelin. He plainly loves the attention, and it might well be fairly easy to persuade him to adopt a political role.
However, as Yalensis noted, that would force him to settle on a political position and build a party around it, or join an existing party, and reveal all his funding sources. There are still ways he could receive support from abroad, of course, but it would be more complicated and he couldn’t just be jetting off to Yale to attend an overthrow-the-government seminar. I just don’t know if he wants to accept those kinds of restrictions.
Coincidentally I saw this Simon Shuster piece in Time Magazine today indicating that Navalny is in fact planning to form his own political party. According to Shuster:
On Dec. 24, the ragtag committee pulled off the biggest demonstration in Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union. As many as 120,000 people gathered on Sakharov Avenue to call for democracy and political reform. Putin was their favorite laughing stock. Navalny was one of the heroes. “I see enough people here today to take the Kremlin,” he told the crowd. “But we are a peaceful force. We won’t do that just yet.” Three days later, during a live interview on Echo Moskvy radio, he announced plans to create his own political party, saying he was “ready to fight for leadership positions,” including the post of president.
So, between now and March, Navalny is planning to run for President?? Or is he talking about 6 years hence?
Shuster goes on to fantasize about whether Navalny, upon assuming power in the Kremlin, will put Putin on trial, as he has promised; or simply send him off to a comfortable exile in Venezuela.
No doubt now that West has pinned their hopes for revolution on Navalny. He is the Russian Yushchenko. Shuster describes him as an electrifying, charismatic leader who has the ability to unite disparate political factions. Instead of staying in his little box, Navalny is being deployed now, in his full glory. Things should get interesting in the next couple of months….
Yes, that’s quite a piece of work. Simon Shuster is a regular contributor to the decades-long Russian collapse meme, together with his sidekick Miriam Elder. I doubt very much that Navalny means to form a political party and stand for election between now and March.
On the funny side; somewhere, Boris Nemtsov is sobbing into his pillow.
@mark: Continuing thread above about Navalny:
There is a very old American story/joke about President Calvin Coolidge, who was noted for his laconic style. A reporter ran into him one Sunday morning leaving his church service with his family, and the reporter asked him, “Good morning Mr. President. How did you find the sermon?”
(Coolidge just shrugs.)
Reporter (persisting): “What was it about?”
Reporter: “Well, what did the preacher say?”
Coolidge: “He was against it.”
That’s Navalny: All he talks about is corruption, and we already know that he is against it. Since I would personally love to see Navalny exposed as the Wall Street tool that he is, I would love him to publish at least a bullet-point manifesto of the goals of his future political party, analogous to the KPRF manifesto that you quoted from, which covered many major bullet points, enough to allow even a casual reader to get a gut feeling whether they support his party or not.
What is Navalny view on free public education? For or against? Is he a socialist or a libertarian on this issue?
Ditto – Free medical care? For or against?
Foreign policy? NATO? For or against?
Banking reform? Free Khodorkovsky? [Well, we already know that he is FOR that…]
That’s a very shrewd observation, but there some immanent dynamic as soon as a “professional protester” becomes a successful media project. I would call it “Novodvorskaya dynamic” (see below).
My impression is that he is just another (and pretty talented) representative of a long gallery of “professional protesters” that Russian society produces and that in the past were represented by such figures like Bonner, Politkovskaya, Yulia Latynina (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yulia_Latynina), or, especially, Novadvorstakya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valeriya_Novodvorskaya).
IMHO he can be pretty much decoded as Novodvorskaya in pants: a very skilled, talented parasite on difficulties that Russian society experience. Much like most Perestroika heroes or most Orange Revolution heroes. So it is important to understand that this role does not require him to have any original political program. He can just steal it. The fact that he can be sold under nationalistic sauce actually makes him much more valuable PR product. And as long as he has supporters that does not exclude continuing flow of hard currency.
Novodvorskaya actually once make a pretty shrewd comment about human rights that can be applied to “export of democracy” drive:
BTW in 2007 she made a statement that fits Navalni 100%:
That perspective fits well with the Shuster piece, in which he lays the groundwork early for acceptance of Navalny’s nationalistic side by portraying it as a wild youth letting off steam kind of thing, and even spins it positively by suggesting his “street cred” as a leather-jacketed hoodlum (figuratively speaking; he doesn’t look like that sort, but he does like violence – what do they say? When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail) is what allows him to build alliances of disparate political persuasions. Gosh; if he could master turning water into wine, he’d be Jesus. I think what Yalensis meant was that if Navalny had his own party, he’d have to stop hopping about saying “Now I’m a liberal” and then “now I’m a nationalist; see? I’m just like you” and settle on a political philosophy and goals. Nobody wants to vote for a revolutionary who’s going to turn the country upside down and then not know what to do with it.
And all that nationalism and anti-immigration parades phase was, what, just a couple of years ago? Let’s let bygones be bygones, right? Meanwhile, although Putin hasn’t worked for the state security services in nearly 20 years, the same people who are so forgiving of Navalny’s little foibles never get tired of reminding people that Putin’s a KGB spy, like he just quit last week and is probably still moonlighting for them on the side.
Watch how Navalny speaks, though. Either he was a quick study in his destabilization seminars, or somebody who knows what they’re doing is coaching him. He knows how to walk the rhetoric right up to the line, whipping the crowd into a violent mood without coming right out and advocating violence – because that’s against the law. “We have enough people here now to take the Kremlin…but we’re peaceful, and we won’t do that…yet”. He’s the kind of guy who gets other people killed. And while he might not have that as a goal, I’m sure he is trying to provoke a violent reaction. The crowd needs to lose that holiday attitude, and somebody getting a baton across the bridge of the nose would take care of that nicely. The police need to box clever with this situation, and it remains to be seen how long they can keep up the pleasant disinterest with Navalny throwing bacon fat on the fire.
Nice joke about Net discussions about Russian Elections:
Every political party needs (1) a Manifesto approximately 2 or 3 pages long just showing the bullet points of who they are and what they stand for on major domestic and foreign policy issues; (2) a more detailed Plan, possibly running into hundreds of pages, detailing exactly how they intend to achieve these bullet points once voted into office.
Example: Manifesto states [imagine that this is a country with significant illiteracy]: “We seek 100% literacy in our country.” Detailed plan something like: “Over the next 5 years we will build X number of public schools, using revenues from (increased taxes on wealthy people plus oil exports, etc.), then in the following 10 years an additional Y number of schools. etc., until complete literacy has been achieved.”
If Navalny is serious about forming his own political party and running for office, then he needs to start composing, at the least his Manifesto, if not his Plan. But @kievite is right, Nakhalny is not really interested in running for office, his role is that of the provocateur. @kievite is also right that somebody is clearly coaching him.
I agree, but that leads us once again back to parties fighting for electorate votes to replace a government that is already doing a pretty good job. It would be easy, to use your example, to show improvement over the government’s efforts if the country only had 50% literacy – but in Russia it’s somewhere up in the high 90’s, already very close to 100%. And the government has been closing schools in outlying areas as mass migration to cities occurs. Your party might win a handful of votes by promising to build a school in an area the government had just closed one, because the remaining families probably resent their kids’ having to bus 20 miles to the next closest one. But would that be an effective employment of taxpayers’ money? Decidedly not. You have to not only propose an achievable political agenda, it must reflect common sense and you must be able to show how your plan would improve over current performance.
The issue this time around is not the economy. Russia is doing pretty well, and the trend is generally upward. Western sources like to agitate from the point of view of “young hipsters” who “dream of mercurial careers”, because that’s their target audience – young people who were not in the job market or dependent on their own earnings when the economy went into the toilet in the 90’s. This source likes to smirk that these young people “can’t be frightened with specters of the 90’s” as if (a) it was only the kind of situation invented to frighten children, not a real threat at all, and (b) not done with the enthusiastic participation of western elements (such as Yeltsin’s “Harvard Boys”, who argued he must do everything very quickly in order to forestall the communists, who would cripple his plan and take the country back to the Soviet Union) who hoped to bring about Russia’s irrecoverable ruin. Efforts now are dedicated to downplaying that catastrophe, as if it could never happen again, and dangling a view of a bustling market-economy Russia in which young people who have just broken into the job market could be executives running their own companies before they’re 35. This is dangerous, because that kind of mobility rarely takes place in a stable economy – that kind of overnight success is far more likely to happen under volatile conditions, such as the turbulent late 90’s, when a handful of well-connected people woke up in charge of about 80% of the nation’s GDP. That’s precisely the economic climate they’re fighting now in Ukraine, and they will tell you it’s not only not an easy thing to fix, it’s not the kind of economy you want to deliberately create, because it depresses your national rating on just about every barometer there is.
But a resurgent Russia just when the west is off-balance and a large part of it is struggling for survival – it looks, for example, as if the Eurozone might not see the end of 2012 – is just what the west does not want.
The issue this time around is corruption. The party in power is being portrayed as so irredeemably corrupt that the only way to deal with it is to throw it out en masse, and start over. That’s Navalny’s line, and you’re likely to hear it quite often in the coming months. Which leads us in turn back to your original point – you have to identify elimination of corruption as a goal….but then you have to describe how you mean to do it, and it has to compare favourably with the manner in which the current government is dealing with it. Navalny is the west’s golden boy for this issue, because he has an heroic background in anti-corruption. People might not take the time to think that nearly 100% of his efforts have focused on identifying corrupt practices, not fixing the problem. There have certainly been some successes, like the websites Navalny is supposed to have set up so that his “followers” could inspect public tenders for signs of corruption, which they apparently did on a number of occasions, and the tenders were annulled (according to Shuster). But that’s small potatoes against the allegedly massive (massive!!!) corruption problem Russia struggles with, as it has for many, many years and which the current government is working to correct. So you’d have to show how a Navalny government (sorry, but those words together still make me laugh) would clean up corruption, and the plan would have to be not only achievable (think the reaction of big business to this), but an improvement on the government’s efforts. You can’t just flood the country with thousands of anti-corruption cops that you have personally interviewed yourself (to ensure they don’t themselves contribute to the problem). Look for a proposal that “empowers and involves the citizens” via increased internet monitoring of increasingly transparent business practices. That sounds great on the face of it, because every citizen fancies when he/she hears such a plan that they could easily spare a couple of hours out of their already-busy workday to go online and monitor business deals – moreover, that he/she has the skills already to do it well. And likely a Navalny plan would play to that small conceit and flatter it. This includes the bonus of expanding internet use, and the west has a big advantage in controlling/manipulating populations with a high internet penetration rate, particularly social networking, although that advantage would be largely wiped out by the language barrier. Unless you had a government of Navalnyite zealots.
But controlling corruption isn’t enough. Such a plan would have to show how it would manage the national economy – and since the opposition is always parroting the western line that Russia is too reliant on energy exports and is thus vulnerable to a drop in energy prices (ha, ha, I made myself laugh out loud at that; did you read that Iran threatened yesterday to close the Straits of Hormuz? Think they couldn’t do it? All you’d have to do is sink a few big bulk carriers near the mouth where the only deep water is. Could that be done without any warning? Sure), then such a plan should describe how the new government would diversify away from an energy-dominated budget. Oh, and don’t forget national defense, because Russia remains suspicious of western objectives.
As it should be.
Next Opposition rally is scheduled for either February 4 (Saturday) or February 5 (Sunday). Tentative plan is to march down Sadovoi Ring, then Tverskaya Street, then finish at either Lubyanka or Manezhnaya. March will be followed by rally. Organizer will be Vladimir Ryzhkov, same guy who organized the December 24 rally.
Рыжков сообщал, что в феврале и марте планируется провести два масштабных митинга. “Сейчас рассматриваются четыре даты на проведение масштабных митингов. Я считаю, что один такой митинг надо провести в феврале, а один — в марте. Уверен, что даже в марте после выборов, когда тысячи наших наблюдателей заявят о тысячах нарушений в ходе выборов, на улицы выйдут миллионы”, — заявил политик.
Ryzhkov announced that two mass rallies are planned, one for February the other for March [after the election]. (…) “I am convinced that even in March, after the election, when thousands of our observers have publicized thousands of instances of fraud in the election, then millions will come out into the streets,” he declared.
So Ryzhkov has already decided that the March elections will not be clean!
From this, I deduce that the “White Revolution” has already been scheduled in advance for some specific date in March. No doubt all the flags, banner, ribbons, humorous costumes, etc., have already been ordered and ready to unpack. I predict this will be THE BIG ONE. The West’s last best chance to prevent Vladimir Putin from returning to the Kremlin.
See also Navalni’s interview at http://echo.msk.ru/programs/albac/842708-echo
He has some really interesting ideas 😉
@kievite: Thanks for the link to the Navalny radio interview on Ekho Moskvy, for everybody here is the written transcript.
Is a very long interview – 2 hours, and Navalny says many interesting things.
Summary of major points made by Navalny:
• Navalny demands major electoral reforms to register political parties. Once there is level playing field, he will form his own political party and run for President.
• He does not accept legitimacy of Duma elections and insists on a re-do of the vote, but only after guarantees that results will be clean.
• He intends to do everything within his power to see that Presidential elections do not occur in March. He is thinking maybe they could be postponed to September instead. He hopes to bring at the minimum one million protesters out into the streets come March, and once they are out in the streets they will not go home until their demands are met. By then the weather will be warmer.
• Putin has no legitimacy any more. He will be given a choice: either compete for election honestly (under the new system that the Opposition proposes), or pack his bags and leave.
• In answering a call-in question, Navalny clarified that, upon assuming power he will NOT cut a deal with Putin to assure the safe departure of Putin’s criminal “clan”, no, they must be put on trial. But, as a compromise, and for the safety of the nation, Navalny out of the goodness of his heart is willing to offer Putin certain personal guarantees of safe departure. Putin will go into exile. Maybe he will have to disguise himself in woman’s clothes in order to escape, but he will get out safely enough.
• After Putin’s departure a Transitional Government will be setup to lead the country in the period until the next elections. [NOTE: This sounds an AWUL lot like Libyan scenario to me, what with their National Transitional Council and all that jazz! ]
• To the answer of another caller, Navalny confirms that once he comes to power he will immediately free Khodorkovsky from prison. A “pardon” is not necessary, since Khodorkovsky’s trial itself was illegal and illegitimate. Furthermore, Navalny intends to prosecute those who illegally prosecuted Khodorkovsky. As to whether Khodorkovsky gets YUKOS company back, well, that is something that needs to be discussed by the new government…
• Navalny ends the interview by threatening “lustration” laws against the mean judge who threw him into the pokey for 15 days. He also threatens to “lustrate” Churov. [Is there an English word for “lustration”? It basically means the firing or arresting of officials who served the old regime after it has been overthrown by the new regime.]
But seriously, thanks for summarizing the interview yalensis. My support for Navalny has now fallen to pretty much zero.
You’re welcome, Anatoly. But please do not trust my hastily-composed summary – read (or listen to) the whole interview yourself. It will deduct 2 hours from your life that you will never get back, but maybe still worth it…. Since Navalny is such an important person now, somebody really should translate the whole interview into English (like our INOSMI in reverse): it is important, he lays everything out there, his whole strategy for seizing power, kind of like Lenin’s “что делать” except that he is no Lenin, but I simply don’t have the time to do it. I would be willing to share the load with someone and translate maybe a page or two … any volunteers out there?
On the “lustration” issue [WTF that old dissident Jew Lev Shcharanski is still alive??? And he is living in LIBYA now???], there is further news today: the judge specifically mentioned by Navalny and threatened with “lustration” (Olga Borovkova) is the subject of a new propaganda piece by Simon Shuster. Navalny-ites have been picketing Borovkova’s house, making her nervous. Navalny mentions her several times in his interview and clearly holds a grudge against her, because she tossed his ass in the pokey. (Also Udaltsov’s.) In his article (which I first saw in INOSMI), an excitable Simon Shuster imagines a world in which the KGB abducts and brutally kills this young woman judge, then blames her death on the Opposition.
I have confidence in your account of the interview. I had not until now realised what an irresponsible and destructive man Navalny is. Thank you for making that clear. I can now categorically say I am against him.
@alex: with Mark’s indulgence I might try to translate more of the Navalny manifesto later. Especially the bit towards the end of the interview when he gets more into his economic platform. (The Khodorkovsky thing is just the headline; then he gets into more meaty issues with his proposals to stabilize and legalize privatizations.) I think this is important because I was trained as a Marxist, so I am always looking for the angle “Whose class interest does he represent?” Even if somebody is not a Marxist, I believe this is a useful exercise, because otherwise it can be awfully confusing trying to figure out who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. I mean, Navalny says a lot of good things too. Who could possibly be against corruption or police brutality? The fact that he wants to overthrow the government? – well, sometimes that is a good thing too. (I am not a pacifist, there are some revolutions I would support. Revolution against Yeltsin? – that would have been awesome!) In other words, under some circumstances I could very well go over to his side and become a loyal Navalnyite revolutionary … EXCEPT for the fact that I personally only support movements of dispossessed type peoples (workers, poor people, downtrodden, etc.), and my analysis indicates that Navalny represents the interests of international finance capital and Russian compadore bourgeoisie. Hence, he is not my guy. (Neither is Putin, it goes without saying; nonetheless my attitude towards Putin is more complicated….)
People are not always what they seem. Just as an example, there is this political group in America called “Tea Party”, and they claim in their rhetoric to represent the interests of small businessmen, farmers, average workers, etc. But when you scratch just a bit below the surface, it turns out (and you don’t have to be a super-Marxist intellectual to figure this out) that they actually represent the interests of certain super-rich clans (like the Koch Brothers) and Wall Street. Caveat emptor.
“Navalny mentions her several times in his interview and clearly holds a grudge against her, because she tossed his ass in the pokey.”
That’s the first sign I have seen of anything remotely likeable in Navalny, because I can understand it – it makes me feel a common bond with him. Not that I’m suggesting a position of power should be used to get even…well, yes, I guess that’s what I am suggesting. But what made me think of it was all those kids screaming “down with Putin” and carrying rude signs that show him with a condom wrapped around his head. Of course, you have to allow it, because it’s freedom of speech. You have the freedom to be a stupid dickhead, too, but the leadership of the country doesn’t owe you anything once you realize you did a stupid thing, least of all forgiveness. I thought, “if I were Putin, I would so get even with those protesters”. Just the ones that were overtly and gratuitously rude, of course; I have nothing against polite dissent and disagreement. I also don’t mean I would hunt them down and punish them. But someday, they would need something – a loan, permission for something. And I would make sure they didn’t get it. I’m vindictive that way.
But I wouldn’t make a very good national leader, for exactly that reason. Ditto Navalny.
I forgot to say that “lustration” is an English word and can be used to describe what Navalny is proposing if I have understood it correctly. To be precise what I have understand it to mean is a process of wholesale removal from their positions of people Navalny considers unreliable or criminal or corrupt.
The more correct or appropriate word in English is however not lustration but “purge”. This is doubly appropriate since when used in a political context the word “purge” in English is indelibly associated with Stalin’s Terror of 1937, which until recently was callled in English “the Great Purge”.
Thanks, @alex. The word “purge” (Russian would be “chistka”) is probably a little too harsh to translate “lustration”. The Poles used the word “lustration” and “lustration laws” as a way of firing/prosecuting Communist Party functionaries after the anti-Communist revolution there. Ukrainians also used the word during Orange Revolution (lustration of Kuchma-ite officials). Hence, Navalny would be placing himself in that tradition, rather than the Stalinist tradition of “chistka”. Plus, the word “lustration” has a Latin root (from “lustrare”, “purify”), so being lustrated almost sounds like a nice thing, whereas being “purged” sounds very unpleasant!
@mark: That is understandable. I have a vindictive streak too (as a result of being bullied a lot as a kid), which is why I force myself to live my life by a strict ethical code: I defend myself against attack, but I do not initiate or retaliate. I am not a pacifist but I try to live by the Shaolin kung fu philosophy, which goes something like Avoid rather than check. Check rather than hurt. Hurt rather than maim. Maim rather than kill… In other words, only apply proportionate force and only in self-defense. Well, thank the gods I have never had to kill anyone, or even maim. Maybe just hurt their feelings….!
This is a war the Kremlin can win. Rhyzhkov has tipped his hand early, both to method (predictable) and to acknowledgement that millions of protesters, not thousands, will be necessary to realize the western/liberal dream of casting down Putin. But I have no doubt they’ll be giving it a serious try.
I also have no doubt there will be plenty of videos showing alleged vote-rigging, ballot-stuffing, and various cheatery. I am sure of that, because if it is a squeaky-clean election, Putin will win easily, and the western/liberal effort will not have the issue of cheating to whip up hysteria. So assume there will be such videos, and that – with western boosting – they will “go viral” instantly. The Russian government will have to be just as fast, because if the election actually is squeaky clean, as I expect all reasonable effort will be made to ensure, such videos will either be fakes or what they show will be heavily influenced by what the uploader says they show. They will have to be quickly discredited.
That said, Russia does not have to allow international monitoring. There is no doubt it is a democracy, and it doesn’t have to keep trying for western approval over and over – this is unobtainable with Putin as leader, and the west will cheer Russian democracy only when there is a western toady installed or an unstable radical who will dismantle the economy in a series of crazy reforms. However, the Kremlin has trapped itself by allowing the “revolution” to gain strength without taking the steps of jerking the western NGO’s up short, as well as the domestic ones that are financed by western think-tanks. No opinion ever came out of a western think-tank that said, “Russia is doing fine”, and they are all variations on “let’s meddle”. Golos’s manifest interference and strident pushback were a three-day wonder, when what should have happened is instructions for them to pack up and get out of the country. The Russian investigation of all Golos’s “viral videos” is now complete, and resulted in far, far less actual evidence of fraud compared with that described by those who captured the videos. But what’s the result? People believe Golos, not the government – after all, this is the government of thieves and swindlers, right? So I say, as I have before, why supply the enemy with the sinews of one’s own destruction? Although some degree of international monitoring will have to be allowed (otherwise its refusal will be the trigger for protest), it should be done on the government’s terms. Clear guidelines must be established beforehand, and there is no time to lose. Observers and monitors must not get in the way of people voting, or infringe on voters’ privacy in an effort to “see everything”; this resulted in many observer complaints last time, as if the elections were actually arranged for their benefit and the voters were merely crashing the party. Complaints of fraud should be addressed to the government, not streamed straight to a western audience, because even if the video turns out to show nothing, the west will pounce on it and the damage will be done. There’s no harm in the video’s maker having a copy, so that there are not accusations that proof of cheating is being suppressed, but the government in the country where it occurred should be allowed to investigate it first. I’m sure the west would demand the same, in the unlikely event that Russian monitors were required before they were allowed to elect a government.
It seems comical to me, from a cynical viewpoint, that all the disparate elements of protest seem to believe their ideological goals will be realized if only they manage to force a change in government. It is impossible for this to happen; a government that made the nationalists happy would outrage the liberals, and so on.
Anyway, as I said before, I put my faith in the Russian people to know what is in their best interests. If they put their trust in a western-engineered plan to change their government, that is their affair. I believe if that happened, and at present it looks very unlikely, it would turn out to be a terrible mistake. But if it happened and it turned out to be a huge success, I would cheer. My goal is not to keep Putin in power because I like him, but because he looks the most likely of the available choices to keep Russia successful and independent.
This is a war the Kremlin can win.
IMHO the situation is actually pretty serious. Like was in case with Orange Revolution the opposition now wants to exploit weak spots of “Putin’s regime”. Among them:
1. Huge pressure from the West which is ready to go “va bank” for any anti-Putin candidate and coordinate and finance color revolution. That point does not require further comments.
2. Results of Yeltin’s privatization. there is wide discontent about it and this is probably the most powerful tool the opposition has. My impression is that this demand has a lot of support of middle (and part of upper) class. I remember that similar noises were heard from Orange Revolution leaders, especially from Timoshenko (who for her role correlates with Navalni well). Of course after coming to power this was swiped under the rug: the only action I remember that can be classified as “re-privatization” was confiscating from Kuchma son-in-law and selling giant Krivorozhstal for 4.8 billions (more then total sum of previous Ukrainian privatization) to Indian billionaire Lakshmi N. Mittal the German subdivision of the British-Dutch Mittal Steel. (http://www.kommersant.com/page.asp?id=620652)
3. Medvedev weakness as a politician. His tremendous personal blunders (stupid dances, extreme, childish happiness when he was giver a new iPhone, stupid, badly though out initiatives, like Skolkovo, stupid initiatives as a lawmaker like flirting with amnesty for economical crimes and weakening of punishment for embessement, multiple humiliations from his Presidential council on human rights, latest rush with badly thought out reforms, etc) as well as his naive and stupid flirting with liberalism are serious source of discontent that hurt Putin because people see this as a betrayal of Putin’s own principles and course by his most trusted lieutenant. In more way then one Medvedev is a knife in Putin’s back.
4. The fact that in 10 years in power very few people were brought in and “Leningrad cycle of friends” (aka Leningrad mafia) still dominates (rotation of elite question).
5. Huge problems with the corruption of law enforcement and links between law enforcement and organized crime which are inherited from Yeltsin’s days. Including crimes committed by acting policemen (so called werewolfs) are projected on the party in power and personally on Putin despite the fact that this is impossible to change. Complicity and fear of police to investigate crimes committed by “people from Caucasus” because of fear of retaliation.
6. Net of western NGO (actually Navalni in a way is one person NGO as he is no other job but “protester”).
7. Betrayal of the part of the current elite (Kudrin, etc).
8. Wide discontent about government officials abuses of their status as well as part of the elite behaviors “above the law” especially various traffic accidents and using extra expensive cars (Mercedes-Benz, Bentley Continental GT, Maybach, Lamborghini etc) as well as driving with flashing lights without regard to other drivers life or property. Often against the traffic on the opposite side of the road. BTW Prokhorov’s Maybach on which he came to the Sakharov Sq meeting did have flashing lights despite the fact that he is not a senior government official.
9. National problems including well-known “Kavkas problem” and problems with gastarbeiters from Turkmenistan and other Southern ex Soviet republics.
A very belated Blessed Christmas and also all the best for the coming new year!
I think kievite made many interesting and relevant points.
1.)”IMHO the situation is actually pretty serious.”
Indeed. Actually very serious and Putin knows it.
2.)”Results of Yeltin’s privatization. there is wide discontent about it and this is probably the most powerful tool the opposition has.”
However, some of those now in ‘liberal opposition’ were involved in the Yeltsin’s ‘privatization’ years and those not involved would, with their ‘pro-West’ stance, demand it. One thing that Putin can do to further alienate the ‘liberal opposition’ from ordinary Russians is to expose that these people will sell off anything to the highest bidder. As for the other opposition groups like the Communists, even if they stand to ‘gain’ from this – they are less of a problem to Russian stability than ‘liberals’ who are loyal Washington stooges.
3.)”Medvedev weakness as a politician.”
Agree 1000000%. Medvedev is and was Putin’s GREATEST error. He is a “Russian liberal” at heart – and I suspect having some sympathies with the likes of Khodorkovsky et al. The problem is that I really think(even back then) that he actually wants to betray Putin and was manipulated by Washington and their boys in the ‘liberal opposition’ but at the very last, probably Putin’s internal maneuvering and his sense of ‘self-preservation’ led him to ‘remain’ with the Putin regime(with the hope of becoming the Premier). If Putin had given in to Medvedev to be the 2012 Presidential Candidate, I think there would probably be the usual hissing from Washington and not the current scheming to ignite a ‘revolution’ in Russia.
I have other comments but gotta go now. Later!
today I stumbled upon this analysis of the protest movement (via ROPV), which I find interesting and mostly agree with.
Like Alexander Mercouris I don’t think there is the risk of a coloured revolution taking place in Russia in the foreseeable future. This doesn’t mean that the West isn’t trying to achieve it and hopes to succeed, but such hopes and attempts are rooted more in ideological idiocy (see what they got in Egypt) than on reality.
Happy New Year!
I am afraid I have to concur with @kievite’s pessimistic forecasts. I wish I didn’t, but I do.
According to this RT report from last March, Joe Biden rushed to Moscow on a “secret” mission. Some of it concerned Libya, of course. But there was also a desperate attempt to persuade Medvedev to run for presidency and not let Putin back into Kremlin. According to this report, Biden did meet with Putin personally and offered him as a consolation prize, the chairmanship of the International Olympic Committee. Putin must have said something like, “No thanks, Joe, I’d prefer to be President again, and why don’t you mind your own business.” Biden was quoted after this (I will try to find links if needed) as saying that it would be “unfortunate” if Putin did decide to run, and that the “Russian people were tired of Putin.” Well, Biden was not bluffing (Americans rarely bluff when it comes to throwing their weight around internationally), Putin did not listen to him at the time, and now I guess he has to pay the price: full-blown Colour Revolution to greet his return to Kremlin. It doesn’t help that Medevedev frittered away all those years and allowed the traitorous NGO’s to spread like cancer and take over; now it is too late to throw them out before the election.
In fact, it is too late between now and March for authorities to do much of anything to prepare for this onslaught, except just what they have been doing, which is at least providing good policing of the crowds. All it would take is one violent incident (like those mysterious masked snipers who show up in all Arab revolutions) to explode this tinderbox, and next thing you know, Navalny and his henchmen will be sitting in the Kremlin deciding how to allocate oil contracts. If anybody thinks that sounds ridiculous, then they should study carefully what happened in Libya.
Come on Yalensis, you DO know what happened in Libya. Rebels there would have been crushed (as they should have been) if it wasn’t for Western intervention. Such intervention is impossible in Russia, so any large-scale violence from Russian opposition crowd would see something more akin to the Tiananmen Square, with ranks of the Russian opposition literally thinned for decades to come. Small-scale violence would be easily contained by the security forces, so its of no consequence.
The whole problem with the government’s response at the moment seems to stem from the “tandem” arrangement, where Putin has to coordinate and time his correct instincts and responses with the ridiculously inept Medvedev and his circle.
Look at all the statements Putin made, his immediate response is to meet the challenge with strength and confidence, forcing the opposition to prove that they are strong and popular enough to be taken seriously (something they have no hope of doing). Had he been dealing with the protests on his own, the whole thing would be over by now, but… at least for the time being, Medvedev is the President. His meekness, obvious weakness and mumbling, as well as truly ridiculous statements by his advisers put the burden of proof on the government. Due to his pathetic response to the protests it is the government that has to prove that the vote was essentially legitimate, it is the government that has to prove that it still commands the support of the majority of the people, it is the government that has to prove that it actually HAS a programme for dealing with corruption, rather than just empty words and proclamations.
In my view its actually very easy to improve government’s response. All they need to do is not to allow Medvedev and his incompetent circle anywhere near the official response to the criticism of the upcoming election and at least 50% of the problem would be gone in an instant.
Thanks for response, @apc, you are absolutely correct of course that in Libya the Opposition could not organize a trip to the toilet without NATO bombs clearing the path before them. And it goes without saying that NATO cannot fly bombing missions over Russia… пока, as Navalny himself would sinisterly mutter….
I wish I’d read your response before I replied myself, Alex. That’s very well thought-out, and I agree with it.
Well, let’s not get carried away. What happened in Libya could never have come about without military intervention on behalf of the rebels, who were losing badly when NATO appeared on the scene and were a tiny minority. In Tunisia and Egypt, not much prodding was required to make the people realize they were living under the yoke of a tyrant, because they were. My main grief with the west’s intervention in that case was that it propped up Mubarek for nearly 30 years, during which it was clear his people hated him and were living in poverty – then got on the revolution bandwagon with a load of sanctimonious guff about how “Mubarek must step down” so as to be on the side of the angels. Gee, d’you think? It was only western interventions that kept him in power in the first place.
So, then – one of two conditions would have to prevail to see a repeat of Egypt or Libya. One, a plugged-in social networking community among a population that has been deliberately impoverished for decades by a dictator whose popularity has been scraping bottom, and whose assassination has been attempted several times. I think we can agree that condition does not exist in Russia. Despite western attempts to link him with decadent palaces and a flamboyant lifestyle, Putin appears to live simply and except for his fancy watches and occasional macho stunts, there’s not much to separate him materially from the average guy in Russia besides power. Two, condition one not being present, would be a country that is appropriately located in terms of western military presence for constant or near-constant western aircraft coverage, and has weak anti-air defenses and a weak or no air force. That’s not Russia.
I still think the most likely scenario preview we have seen is the Orange Revolution. Gorbachev has already said that if Putin stepped down now, he could be remembered for the good things he did. This seems to run counter to the narrative that Putin is ruining the country, but also includes an implied threat that he will be made to look differently to Russians. We are already seeing this in attempts to portray him as contemptible (party of crooks and thieves) and ridiculous (latching on to his condom remark, people appearing dressed as a condom and posters of Putin with his head wreathed in condoms). I think it is from this direction the assault will come.
Remember, the success or failure of this always comes down to the people. If they want to buy what the revolutionaries are selling, it’ll happen no matter what defenses are mobilized against it. Serbs largely bought the demonization and ridicule of Milosevic, and even then it took a military intervention to bring him down. It’s also important to note here that the dreaded OTPOR were active for a couple of years in order to complete their campaign of making Milosevic an object of ridicule, and at their peak had less than 100,000 supporters.
If Russians don’t buy in, it can’t happen. The west might flex its regime-change muscle, but if the public doesn’t buy in (and military force is not an option), it won’t get off the ground. Ways to not buy in are to write to local papers expressing disapproval of the disrespect and rudeness shown toward the government, for television stations to conduct on-the-street interviews in which those interviewed similarly reject the message, and for the protesters themselves to be made ridiculous by mocking their childish antics and exhorting them to get jobs so they won’t have too much free time on their hands – unemployment is lower in Russia than it is in the USA. Remember, what works for them will work against them.
This is still mostly a western-supported event, in that the west is far more excited about it than Russia is. There are still people who remember the Orange Revolution as the best moment of their lives, a rush of giddy excitement and a sense of uncontestable power…
But none of them live in Ukraine.
We have a great team of commenters here… Happy New Year for everybody !!!
Happy New Year, @kievite. You’re the best!
And many best wishes and thanks to Mark for running such a great blog and allowing us so much leeway in our comments!
A very Happy New Year to all, and I echo those who have remarked on the exceptional quality of comment supplied here – there are many times when I feel very much the student. С Новым годом!!!!!
On the question of violence I agree with Yalensis. The very worst thing that could happen would be for violence to take place. If violence does take place it is essential that it originates with the protesters and that the response of the authorities is proportionate.
The Russian government’s response to the protests shows that it understands this well. In my opinion Putin’s combination of “business as usual” firmness and humour are the correct way to respond to protests of this sort. Aggressive suppression would radicalise the situation whilst offers of concessions such as Medvedev seems altogether too inclined to make would be perceived as weakness and would feed the fire. In fact there is no need to make concessions since the protest movement is divided and weak.
Just to show how divided and weak it is consider the following points:
1. I do as it happens think that what has energised the opposition is the prospect of Putin’s return to the Presidency. It is also very likely that the US did warn Putin against returning to the Presidency as Yalensis says and that forces within the US have gone into overdrive to try to prevent it. I also agree with Yalensis that Navalny is almost certainly another western product to replace the previous failed western products, Kasparov and Nemtsov, and that the prominence he has been given is part of the campaign to stop Putin’s return to the Presidency. The flood of videos that appeared on YouTube to discredit the elections, the money given to Golos for the same purpose and the publicity and (I am convinced) the misrepresentation of the video of Putin at the martial arts competition were all part of this same campaign as of course was the idea of the white ribbon.
It is important however not to overlook the fact that the sort of people in Russia who are horrified at the prospect of Putin’s return and who the campaign has mobilised are the sort of people who would never have voted for Putin anyway but who support the opposition anyway. That they are expressing their feelings more loudly and more insistently through protests and in social network sites and in the media than they did before does not mean that there are any more of them now than there were in August. It is just that with the return of Putin they have more cause for alarm and metaphorically speaking are now shouting more loudly.
Their overwhelming problem is their lack of numbers, a fact shown up by the actual election results when the two parties they are most likely support, Yabloko and Right Cause, got 4% between them if you believe in 0% fraud or possibly 5% if you believe in 15% fraud in accordance with Shpilkin’s calculations. The result is that as a commentator called Kirill pointed out on the Sublime Oblivion website the lack of numbers has forced them to beef up the size of their rallies by drawing in all sorts of people like the Communists, the ultra left groups led by the likes of Udaltsov and even some nationalists, who have completely different agendas and who don’t support them. The result was that at the rally on December 24th most of their leaders got booed. Even then given the fact that more than half the electorate of Moscow even in accordance with the official results voted for opposition parties the turnout at their two rallies was respectable rather than overwhelming.
2. It seems to me that if the opposition is to have any realistic chance of achieving any sort of impact then it has to unite behind a credible candidate for the Presidency. At the end of the day in order to gain credibility the opposition has to be able to say who they think should lead the country in place of Putin. What in the end made the colour revolutions in the Ukraine, Georgia and Serbia possible was precisely that there were alternative opposition candidates namely Yushchenko, Saakashvili and Kostunica, waiting in the wings.
Since the opposition can hardly convincingly support Zyuganov or Zhirinovsky that begs again the question of who do they support? Prokhorov is in my opinion a clown who chickened out of speaking at the rally on December 24th and the fact that he is a billionaire oligarch will surely work against him in a country where the oligarchs are hated as a class. Personally I doubt that he would get more than the 1-2% opinion polls suggest Right Cause was getting when he was leading it. Yavlinsky is a decent and honourable man and is the only liberal politician who came out of the 1990s with honour. He ought logically to be the candidate the opposition should support. However in the elections his party failed to get more than 3-4% of the vote and it is quite clear that the more hardline oppositionists like Kasparov, Nemtsov and Navalny dislike him. I cannot see Yavlinsky posing a credible challenge to Putin. By contrast Sergei Mironov starts from a base of 13-17% support and as a supposedly socialist candidate stands some chance of winning over the 19-25% who in the elections voted Communist (which is not of course to say that he will). If one adds to these figures the 4-5% who voted for the liberal parties then one comes up with a hypothetical support range for Mironov of 36-47% making Mironov a credible challenger though even then I have to say that his prospects seem to me to be thin. Still he is as far as I can see the only candidate the radical opposition could conceivably support who might pose a credible challenge to Putin and who might conceivably be willing to play along with colour revolution scenarios. It follows that he is a far more threatening figure for Putin than Kudrin is.
And here of course we come to the heart of the matter. Though the logic of supporting Mironov seems to me irresistible the “non systemic” opposition shows absolutely no sign of doing so and nor do its backers in Washington and London. Presumably he is too left wing for them. Instead they are focusing all their energy on disputing a parliamentary election that is now in the past.
I never thought to dispute that violence would be the worst possible outcome… for the protesters that is. True, the Government would not walk away smiling, Tienanmen Square was, after all, acknowledged as a victory of the Chinese Communist Party after some time had passed. At the time it was going on the whole thing seemed to be one giant clusterf… and if anything of the sort were to happen in Russia it would probably end up being an even bigger mess.
Violence would be a terrible possibility, with everyone suffering, but not everyone suffering equally. I think its important to remember and mention it out loud that the ones who will get hurt the most are the one actively seeking to provoke violence, namely Navalny and those dumb enough to listen to his screeches. Maybe through unflinchingly brutal cost-benefit analysis some sense could be pounded, hopefully NOT literally, through their thick skulls, that careful response from the government does not equal weakness or fear, but only an unwillingness to deal with the clean-up. That for Putin such an event would be a big inconvenience, nothing else, but for many of them it could have a far more tragic end.
Ironically enough, if Putin were to display greater aversion and fear of violence, that would only increase the chances of violence taking place, as those stupid enough to start it in the first place could only perceive that as weakness and fear, making them push harder, make greater demand and eventually do get the inevitable violent reaction from the state.
It is a really screw up world that we all live in, what more can I say?
Happy New Year! May it bring a tiny bit of sanity to this insane world of ours.
I agree, Alex, and Happy New Year to you, too!
People who are supposedly smarter than Navalny have convinced themselves before that if they take that fatal step and push things over the line, the west will step in and save them. Witness Saakashvili in 2008, nearly in tears of rage on international TV with Condi Rice at his side, her face like a thundercloud. Saakashvili was nearly as furious with the United States as he was with his Russian enemy – because he had convinced himself that if he started the ball rolling, the Americans would have to get in the game: maybe they were even hoping he would do just that, there were so many mixed signals. It turned out to be a horrible mistake that cost Georgia NATO membership. It wasn’t the USA’s fault – not really. Saakashvili just allowed his mouth to write a cheque his military couldn’t cash.
The west will not step in to help Russian protesters if they push things into violence – and Navalny is such a hothead that it is a very plausible scenario. The assembled government forces could easily handle any riot by anything less than a quarter of the population of Moscow, and people who had to be controlled by riot cops would be in very deep shit indeed. The western press would have a field day with the story, and the U.S. government would express its displeasure in the strongest terms (oh no!!! a trip to the woodshed with Mrs. Clinton!!!), maybe cancel a couple of trade deals, but that’d be it. And while the police have likely been told to take it easy and make sure that any provocation doesn’t come from them, they have also likely been told that if things get out of control they are to spare no effort to guarantee public safety and free passage on the streets. Anyone who says, “they can’t arrest us all” is begging for a lesson, because indeed they can. How many people are incarcerated in Russia? I believe it is second only to the USA. Is the Russian government troubled about overcrowding in the prison system? Not so you’d notice.
Very good point, @mark. Navalny, when in manic phase of his bipolar disorder, probably assumes NATO will swoop in to his rescue if he gets himself into a pickle. He talks audacious as if he is Mustafa Abdul Jalil (=leader of anti-Gaddafy opposition in Libya).
Around this time last year Jalil ordered Gaddafy to give up his power and leave the country, and Gaddafy responded with “You and what army?” and Jalil responded with “This army…” (pointing to NATO). And Jalil ended up winning because he had NATO at his fingertips.
Navalny talks bold as if he is in same enviable position as Jalil, but he is not. As Russian proverb goes, he is dividing up the bear skin with his friends before he has even shot the bear!
Viz Navalny, I want to acknowledge that Giuseppe was right in a comment I queried on Anatoly Karlin’s website. He said that Navalny’s over the top rhetoric would at some point begin to irritate given Navalny’s propensity to threaten action (such as storming the Kremlin) he cannot carry out. I said Navalny was simply speaking to a rally. Following Yalensis’s summary of his radio interview I now realise that what I took for a harangue of a crowd is in fact a reflection of how Navalny speaks and thinks. I was therefore wrong and Giuseppe is right. Navalny is a narcissist and a megalomaniac who wants to destabilise the situation in order to seize power for himself. As people become more exposed to him that will become increasingly clear. Unless he is able to achieve a breakthrough soon (which I do not for a moment believe) people will quickly tire of him. Within a year, two at most, he will have burned himself out.
Dear APC27 (or is that Alex?).
You touch on an important though unacknowledged point, which is that the Tiananmen Square incident ended up by strengthening the Chinese government and, to the extent that Chinese economic growth since 1989 has depended on political stability in China, it indirectly laid the foundations for that growth. I do not think though that the situation in Russia today is analogous to that of China in 1989.
On the subject of Putin appearing to threaten violence in order to keep the situation under control, I have to say that my own view is that that is more likely to provoke protests than to prevent them. Remember also that unless there is a genuine willingness to use force the threat of force becomes a bluff, which can lead to complete humiliation if it is ever called. For the reasons I have already set out at length I do not think there is any reason to go to these lengths.
On the subject of my previous post I notice that not only is the radical opposition unwilling to unite behind Mironov but judging by the summary of an interview he has given Mironov is unwilling to unite behind the opposition. In the interview though Mironov was heavily critical of United Russia he seemed to be going out of his way to say good things about Medvedev and Putin, which rather begs the question of why in that case he is running for the Presidency at all.
Alex is fine and I do agree that the situation is not the same and that threats of violence would be counter-effective if they are just a bluff.
We do seem to disagree though on the importance of strength, or at least a perception of strength, for any Russian leader. Any Russian leader, no matter how competent, Medvedev, for example, is really not that bad by Western standards, that is perceived as weak has a very serious problem on his hands. Without that perception the decisions made in Kremlin are simply ignored by the rest of the country, no matter how clever or beneficial they appear to be. In the end, its not the ability to pass laws, but the ability to enforce them which really separates effective Russian leaders from the rest.
Just as a perception of weakness may leave a relatively good leader completely hamstrung, a perception of strength may make a completely atrocious leader seem a lot more attractive to the Russian public. Yeltsin was a complete failure as a President, his shelling of the Parliament was a very dubious affair, which certainly had little to do with democracy and even less with common sense, BUT the effect of that decision was still largely positive, as he was able to milk it for years to come as an example of his own determination and strength. Even after years of drunken buffoonery, the memory of that event still served him well in comparisons that were drawn between him and his political opponents.
Its actually pretty sad, but in Russia anything that reinforces the perception of strength of its leaders does, in the end, seem to benefit them, no matter how costly, stupid or even bloody these actions seem at the time.
That is why I believe that the threat of violence is not a bluff, as it would simply be in Putin’s own interest to exploit any sufficient excuse provided by the likes of Navalny and his idiots and crush them hard. He may choose not to do it, to avoid the mess, or simply to avoid casualties, but in the end I honestly do not believe that anything which could be spun as a show of strength would be detrimental, on balance, to the Russian leadership.
Which make the attempts on the part of Navalny and some of the crazier opposition crowd to invite that very reaction look that much more stupid. Of course they could be, as Mark mentioned, delusional enough to believe that the West would be able to protect them if things got hairy, but that would just mean that they are just a bunch of nutcases, nothing more.
On the contrary I completely agree with you that a Russian leader needs to be strong and to project authority and strength. Gorbachev did not and that was one reason why in the end he fell. I remember hearing with astonishment about how he apparently agonised over the decision to send troops to Baku when order had completely broken down in the city and sending troops to restore it was absolutely essential. Similarly I thought absurd Medvedev’s comment that sending the army to fight Georgia in 2008 was the most difficult decision of his Presidency. On the contrary I cannot imagine a more straightforward or necessary decision.
A government in a modern country like Russia however needs to act in a lawful and consistent way if it is to govern the country successfully. If the protesters are so foolish as to turn to violence (and Navalny’s comments lead me to think that in his case this is a greater possibility than I had imagined) then the Russian government would have both a right and a duty to respond. However a government should not seek to provoke violence or counter violence with disproportionate violence of its own. The late Tsarist period provides Russia with a terrible lesson of what can happen if it does.
PS: It is not only in Russia that an appearance of strength works to a leader’s advantage. Whatever else one may think of her Margaret Thatcher also managed to project an image of strength and authority and that undoubtedly worked to her political advantage.
One dynamic in the radio interview is that listeners called in to the show. With a couple of exceptions, most of the callers were adoring fans who asked questions like, “How can one man contain so much wonderful-ness as you?” or “So, what shall we do with that nasty Putin once we seize power?” and it was in response to those fans that Navalny’s responses became ever more radical and more audacious. I guess what I am trying to say is that the callers may have triggered Navalny to verbal feats, same as haranguing a mob. If it had just been him alone with the interviewer, his responses might have been more measured, although she was pretty adoring too and threw him a lot of softballs.
Agree that Navalny might burn himself out sooner than, say, your Boris Nemtsov, who is a marathon Oppositionist and knows how to pace himself. Navalny has also set himself a very high bar for success: If he pulls fewer than 1 million protesters out into the streets in March, then, by his own stated outcome measure, he will be a failure.
Thank you for this though to my mind what you say only makes it worse. The point about haranguing a crowd is to stir it up and excite it the better to control it. From what you tell me it seems that what is happening instead is that Navalny is being swept along by his supporters. If he is not careful instead of him controlling them things could end with them controlling him. If so then the danger that he might feel obliged to turn to some form of violence increases. That of course is already consistent with his rhetoric. It is very difficult for me to judge all this from a distance especially as I don’t speak Russian but the whole thing is beginning to me to look like a cult.
PS: Viz Navalny’s ” million strong” rally I have heard that the Communists are circulating a joke that the protesters need to hire Churov to count the numbers who turn up.
Kievite is right. There are exceptional commentators here on this post.
Happy New Year everbody!
I think there is widespread misunderstanding here of the danger that the results of Yeltsin criminal privatization (so called the Gore-Summers-Talbott “privatization” plan implemented by Harvard academic mafia) represents to the long term stability of the country.
There are several good sources that are extremely important for getting proper perspectives about the real problems that Putin administration faces in view of the attempts of color revolutionaries to appropriate broad country-wide discontent with the results of privatization.
Paul Klebnikov paid with his life for his “Godfather of the Kremlin: The Decline of Russia in the Age of Gangster Capitalism”. Read the book.
Among more recent sources I would recommend to listen Stephen Cohen interview which will help to understand grave danger that this ticking time bomb represents for Russia:
I think anybody who discusses here the results of Russian Duma elections should listen to it at least twice before writing the next post 🙂
Thanks for this.
A very solid and interesting analysis from Stephen Cohen who along with J. Arch Getty is the best historian on Soviet and Russian history working in the west today. I should say that I agree with pretty much everything he says as I think would most people on this blog though I am obviously more sympathetic to Putin than he is.
By the way I noticed that towards the beginning of the interview he refers to “a guy” who has “put together” “all the exit polls and all the opinion polls” and concluded that there was “only 5% fraud”. Hands up all those who think “the guy” is Anatoly Karlin. My hand’s up!
And so far not one word in the Western media about this:
Again from RT about today’s rallies in Moscow, of which by far the largest is pro-Putin. This will no doubt be reported sometime later today in the West as a Putin rent-a-mob: