ISSN 2330-717X

Activists In More Than 20 Russian Cities Demonstrate For Navalny And Against Putin – OpEd

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The Russian government’s decision to immediately detain Aleksey Navalny on his return to Moscow has sparked plans for a major demonstration in the Russian capital this coming weekend. But it has already led to smaller protests in more than 20 Russian cities “from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad.”

Most of these were individual actions with supporters of Navalny carrying signs like “Freedom for Navalny, Prison for Putin.” In some places, the authorities ignored them; in others, the powers that be detained them and brought charges. But the geographic extent of the protests must be worrisome to the Kremlin because it highlights Navalny’s network and attraction.

The Moscow meeting is certain to attract more attention – that is where Russian and foreign journalists are concentrated – but these protests in the regions and republics reflect the attitudes of the more than 80 percent of the population of the country and thus are important as well.

The exact number of these regional protests on behalf of Navalny is unknown. The two best listings are at 7×7-journal.ru/articles/2021/01/18/navalnyj-spasibo-chto-v-rossii-onlajn-7×7-s-regionalnyh-akcij-v-podderzhku-politika and sibreal.org/a/31050433.html. But they are certainly incomplete because news from many places is slow to come in.

Besides showing the geographic extent of support for Navalny, these protests and the speed with which they appeared are important in another way: The Kremlin may be able to crush any sizeable protest in any one place, but it cannot effectively suppress numerous demonstrations expressing a common position in parts of the country far from one another.

Even Putin’s repressive machine is not yet up to that; and consequently, the existence of these “hearths” of Navalny supporters in regional cities may be the best defense those who march for him in Moscow may have – and perhaps even an important defense of the opposition political figure himself.  

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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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