"Five groups of the protest movement As presently constituted, the protest movement can be divided into roughly five groups: (1) The most popular group consists of artists, poets, television personalities, writers, and journalists. People like Artemy Troitsky, who came to the last rally dressed as a condom, Leonid Parfyonov, Boris Akunin, Dmitry Bykov, Olga Romanova, singer Alexei Kortnev, and socialite Kseniya Sobchak. They all make it a point, however, to declare that they are 'non-political,' that their concern is to give the nation back its 'moral voice.' 2) Another large group at these protests have been Russian nationalists like Vladimir Tor, and 'true communists' like Sergei Udaltsov. Udaltsov, a scion of the Old Bolshevik elite—one of Moscow’s streets is named after his great-grandfather—parted ways with other communist organizations when the failed to adequately reflect, in his view, worker’s interests. His latest project, the Russian United Labor Front--Left Front, also objects to mere party politics and calls for power to be transferred directly to the working masses. Tor, on the other hand, is one of the perennial leaders of the right wing 'Russian March,' which also counts blogger Alexei Navalny among its participants. He also abjures the divisive term 'party politics', preferring to speak on behalf of the whole Russian nation. While many at Sakharov Square might wish to distance the protests from his appeal 'Russia for Russians,' as Tor pointed in his address to the crowd, the nationalist protesters in Manezh square in Moscow who battled riot police last February share one important bond with the current protests--an uncompromising hostility to political authority. 'Without the heroes of Manezh,' Tor reminded the audience, 'there would never have been a Bolotnaya.' (3) Smaller in number, but much better known, are the perennial leaders of the Old Opposition, figures like Vladimir Ryzhkov, Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Garry Kasparov, and Grigory Yavlinsky. While some have worked in the government, they have all publicly broken with Putin, and now demand that the entire political system be reconstituted. Their personal ambitions have prevented them from agreeing on a common political strategy, much less a joint list of candidates. As a result, while theoretically they could represent the beginnings of a political opposition, in practice they have placed themselves at a safe remove from the political process. NAvalny_Sakharov_square_meeting The blogger and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny was released from prison on 20 Dec, four days before the Moscow rally. He was jailed for 15 days for marching in one of the previous unsanctioned opposition protests. ‘I see enough people here to take the Kremlin and the White House right now, but we are a peaceful force,’ Alexei Navalny told the crowd. (Photo: drugoi.livejournal) (4) A fourth group is one I call the new Internet Opposition. It is composed of people like Alexei Navalny, Evgenia Chirikova, Grigory Melkonyants, and Ilya Yashin, who have developed a core following among Russia’s rapidly burgeoning internet community. Navalny is the most charismatic of this group. He has made clear that he considers himself a politician, and that he will run for office (under a different system). For now, however, his political views are hard to pin down. He is all things to all people, refusing, for example, to even discuss whether a (hypothetical) political party he might lead would be on the left or the right side of the political spectrum. With the exception of Navalny and Yashin, who were once active in Yabloko (Navalny also served briefly as an advisor to Belykh in Kirov), their rise to prominence has been largely due to persecution by the authorities and devotion for a single cause, be it corruption, the environment, or election monitoring. Their persecution has garnered them “street cred,” but not much else. Some in the Old Opposition thinks these youngsters look to them for guidance, and that they will ride into political office on the latter’s coat tails. I very much doubt it. (5) The latest addition to protest movement are individuals who have been part of, or directly benefited from, the Putin regime but have since abandoned it. They include former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, and “A Just Russia” deputy Ilya Ponomarev. While they too reject the Old Opposition and share the values of the Internet Opposition, at the last two mass rallies they were met by resounding disapproval. Prokhorov, for example, chose not to address the crowd in Sakharov Square after being hectored by shouts of “Go back to Courchevel”—the Swiss ski resort favoured by Russian nouveau riches. The crowd’s antipathy to individuals with practical political experience are once again on full display here. Thus, by default, the government retains the sole practical political agenda and, as such, its dominance is unassailable. It can easily afford to wait for opposition leaders to devour each other as they have so often in the past. It can then step in to co-opt the best and the brightest by giving them the opportunity to apply themselves in the only meaningful political game in town. ‘… the government retains the sole practical political agenda and, as such, its dominance is unassailable. It can easily afford to wait for opposition leaders to devour each other as they have so often in the past."
Monday, January 02, 2012
Russia’s Smouldering 'White Revolution'
Nicola N. Petro gives a breakdown of the forces in Russia propelling a movement with unpredictable outcomes: