By Paul Goble
Disorders in Russia have become “inevitable,” an Ekho Moskvy commentator argues, because the country’s leadership has deprived the people of a choice in the elections. As a result, Matvey Ganapolsky says, the regime in Moscow is “closer to falling” than Mikhail Saakashvili’s in Tbilisi despite all Russia has done to destabilize Georgia.
Certainly the Georgian government has its problems, the Moscow analyst acknowledges, but at least it is the initiator of reforms. In the Russian capital, however, the only thing that matters is doing what Vladimir Putin wants be it the continuing incarceration of Khodorkovsky or the suppression of dissent (http://echo.msk.ru/blog/ganapolsky/753605-echo/).
Indeed, Ganapolsky says, the situation in Russia has deteriorated to the point that today Russians “do not curse the Kremlin, they laugh about it, and in the Internet, the leaders are recalled only with foul language” – and that is because no one believes that those in power can do anything they promise.
In this situation, those in power may be able to hold on for a time, Ganapolsky says, but they will not be able to do so forever – and they know it. The powers that be “understand that this business is coming to an end, but power is too sweet to give it up.” But by holding on in the way they are, he suggests, those in power now are only making the future of the country worse.
By failing to open up the political system, by reducing the citizenry to the status of “slaves,” and by simply clinging to power and control over the country’s wealth, Ganapolsky says, “the suicides in the Kremlin are leading the country precisely to the ‘senseless and pitiless’ revolt” so many have warned about for so long.
This “Russian revolt” is be “a revolt because there will not be an alternative force which would organize the crowd – the Kremlin has devoted all its efforts in order to declare any alternative to be madness,” apparently convinced that this is “some kind of amulet against disorders.”
“But this is a profound misconception,” Ganapolsky says, something leaders often do not recognize until the crowds have stormed the television station and the leaders themselves have fled abroad, “bitterly reflecting about their own ungrateful people and about Saakashvili who apparently has organized this revolt.”
Ganapolsky’s words may strike many as extreme, but in fact, they reflect a large and growing trend among commentators in the Russian capital, and their arguments and conclusions are being picked up ever more frequently by mainstream publications, itself an indication of some of the problems that the Ekho Moskvy host points to.
An example of that is provided by lead article in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta.” The editors of that paper argue that the Russian powers that be “must learn to speak to society the truth about the war” that is going on in their country rather than to assume that they can ignore what Russian citizens are feeling (http://www.ng.ru/editorial/2011-02-28/2_red.html).
Russians have become accustomed to living with ever more restrictions on their activities, the paper says, but they have been willing to do so in the expectation that the powers will be able to protect them from violence. And now, it is clear, “the police state cannot defend [them] from terrorist actions,” in the North Caucasus or even in Moscow.
Moreover, the paper adds, Russians “understand that the longstanding government optimism concerning the stabilization in the North Caucasus does not have any basis in fact.” But “the government refuses to recognize” either the problem in the south of the country or the problem the absence of a solution there has created for itself elsewhere.
“The atrophying of civil society [in Russia] is the result of the intentional activity of the state.” It eliminated elections to many posts and competition in elections to others, and “people become accustomed to the idea that the powers don’t need them.” In addition, opposition figures were “converted into marginals” and “party construction frozen.”
As a result, there was no way within the system for the anger an increasing number of Russians feel, and consequently, as polls show, ever more of them are prepared “to take part in street actions.” Such “an internal emigration is not constructive e for the powers,” the editors note.
“With such a level of protest attitudes, [Russia] will not shift toward modernization” because the state will have to spend its time trying to prevent “social explosions.” But that is just the problem, “Nezavisimaya” says. “The status of slaves” to which Moscow has reduced Russians leaves them “capable only of revolt.”
“The restoration of freedom,” which Russia so desperately needs, the paper conditions, “could begin with an honest conversation. But restoration efforts could proceed according to another scenario,” all the more so “when de facto on the territory of Russia a war is taking place.”
Tragically, many are seeking to give the impression that the whole country is absorbed with choosing a mascot for the Sochi Olympics. “If that were really so, then it would be better not to be clear about just what kind of a country this is—or who needs an Olympics in a land where every day citizens are being shot and blown up.”