SODOM & GOMORRAH: Russian protests are continuing on, despite some appeasement from the government and the cold of winter. One thing is certain: the number of protesters is too high to arrest them all.
The Russian protests are a self admitted futility. The demonstrators know that they have little chance in defeating Vladimir Putin in the March presidential election, but they have taken to the streets in an attempt to be heard. Prior to these demonstrations, the police have been fairly quick in breaking up opposition groups. But the size of the Russian protests has grown beyond the point of that kind of control. Nevertheless, they aren’t large enough to make any real difference.
Demonstrators say that they are tired of corruption in the government, yet there seems to be more to it than that. This interview with Vyacheslav Nikonov, President of the Politika Foundation and the grandson of Josef Stalin’s foreign minister, is particularly insightful in understanding the development of the Russian protests. He says that the distance between left and right is far greater in Russia than in any other European country. The nation is far from unified – various elements of the far left and right are active and outspoken.
Nikonov points out that the Putin government has been in power for twelve years; there are bound to be people who are unhappy or left out of the structure. He asks us to consider the fact that the Russian protests also include a number of people who are rallying for the government. Nikonov points out three groups of protesters. The first is the liberal, pro-Western sect which is unhappy with Putin and would like to see more Western policies. The second iis the communist group, which claims that Putin has been too Western. One of the leaders, Eduard Limonov, says that if this group has their way, the March election will be the last in Russian history because he’ll institute a proletarian dictatorship. The third group is composed of nationalists who feel that the government is spending too much money supporting the Northern Caucasus and that there are too many Muslims migrating to Moscow.
It’s too soon to tell in the Russian protests will deligitimize Putin or not. On one hand, they could because there are a large number of grievances coming from different corners. On the other, they could strengthen his position because he’s seen as the most stable and least radical leader in Russia right now. The opposition groups have their own problems and aren’t terribly popular with people; Putin may be able to position himself as a sane alternative.