Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A second Russian revolution?

The electoral standards of Russia's parliamentary elections have proven themselves to be legitimately on par with any corrupt, authoritarian dictatorship. This is perhaps due to Vladimir Putin's control of government comprising what we can clearly deem one. This said, the Russian state's stance on numerous international issues has been fairly and appropriately eccentric. President Dmitry Medvedev once expressed his support for Wikileaks; this is contrasted to its complacent defence of the Assad regime in Syria.

Though Russia is not a one party state, its ruling oligarchical and state powers blatantly and criminally enforce United Russia's electoral and political dominance, on both literal and propagandist levels. When not merely overwhelmingly ignored within the country, opposition party advocates and activists in general are regularly harassed, assaulted and intimidated. And may we never forget Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed in 2006 for her human rights activism. Though this is usually on the part of the state's secret service agents, it is worth watching Peter Oborne's Unreported World documentary for Channel 4 on the 'Nashi' movement, an organised group of 17 to 25-years-olds comprising a reconstructed Komosol and Putin's own virtual Hitler Youth. Unsurprisingly obnoxious, they travel around as leather jacketed-ad hoc vigilantes. A police officer who apprehends them for vandalizing pavement in front of the American embassy cowers away when they identify themselves as part of this pro-Putin activist group. A younger man vapidly expresses his hatred for blacks and Jews in Russia, while Young girls gushingly sing songs about Putin, in a headquarter building adorned with Stalin-style paintings and murals of him. (There is a certain irrelevancy to the Stalinism of the Russian Communist Party when Putin is a Stalinist sympathizer himself). 

But they are very much a minority. Instigated by the fraudulent election results on December 4, and obviously inspired the the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, an eruption of demonstration against Stalinist/mafioso rule chanted "Down with Putin" on the streets of Moscow. The response to this dissent was obvious: mass containment and arrest. Though unlike "democratic" western governments, the Russian state did not resort to rubber bullets or tear gas. This is an interesting juxtaposition of justifications. (The former powers can easily take extreme violent against their people for granted, whereas nations already mistrusted according to media narratives of their apparent unfreedom cannot. I wonder that an American tank would more easily get away with running down a lone resister).

Though Russians undoubtedly face deeply illiberal and pernicious forces, they are nowhere near those in Middle Eastern regimes. In more direct context of the Velvet Revolutions of Eastern Europe, let us hope this forms into a revolutionary movement we can declare solidarity to.

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