ISSN 2330-717X

Golunov’s Release Highlights Arbitrariness Of Putin Regime, Not Its Weakness Or Opposition’s Strength – OpEd


Not surprisingly, the Russian opposition claimed its protests had forced the weakening Putin regime to release Ivan Golunov and the Kremlin suggested that what had happened simply showed once again that there is a good tsar (Vladimir Putin) but unfortunately bad boyars (lower-ranking officials) and that justice had triumphed.

Neither of these suggestions is true. Instead, as any number of commentators suggested today, Golunov’s release was just as arbitrary as his arrest, did not reflect any strengthening of the opposition or weakening of the regime, but instead was a reprise of past Kremlin efforts to escape a bad situation of its own making (e.g.,

Consequently, there is no reason to conclude that the regime is on its last legs or the opposition is in a position to force change. Instead, as other commentators pointed out, this is a one-off action, the regime will continue as it has repressing those it wants do and retreating only if it thinks that is its interests so it can take undeserved credit and repress others more easily.

(For some commentaries making these points, see,,,, and

Perhaps the most thoughtful comment came from Olga Romanova who pointed out that the Golunov case represented the Putin regime at its most typical and showed that no one is going to be able to change his system. The only worthwhile goal is to destroy it completely and put a different one in its place (

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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