We Are All Russians Now

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hile following the events in Russia these days, what strikes me most are the lists of ‘most read articles’ on Russian portals. For instance, that’s how this kind of list looks on one of the popular left-liberal Russian websites:

Boris Akunin calls for the boycott of presidential elections. (In the same call one of Russia’s most popular writers suggested Putin to resign from starting in the next year’s elections, ‘before it is too late’).

Pianist Fyodor Amirov is under arrest. (Performer of experimental music, arrested during the demonstration against the stolen vote, is likely to miss his own concert).

Activist of Voina group is declared wanted internationally. (Natalia Sokol, who is eight months pregnant, is accused of violence against the policemen).

A journalist proposed his colleagues to throw their proffesional awards into dustbin. (Political commentator Stanislaw Kucher has stated that ignoring of mass actions by the leading channels of Russian television is not a sign of censorship, but rather of unprofessionalism).

Head of Hermitage museum resigned from his place on the list of the ruling party. (Although he did not do so for political reasons – rather ‘according to the will of the collective’).

For some time after reading these news I was ready to resign from the contempt to the Western stereotype entitled ‘Sooner or later Russia will get its own colour revolution’. At first the current events in Russia may really seem as a repetition of Ukrainan Orange revolution. In response to surprisingly impertinent falsifications a completely unexpected amount of people takes to the streets . The powers try to frighten the people with the sight of military technique in the streets, which only activizes those of their opponents who were passive beforehand. As a result of the power’s brutality more and more public figures allied with it withdraw their support. The system starts to decompose.

Luckily, situation is a bit more complicated. The arrests of hundreds of peaceful protesters all over Russia mean that Putin and Medvedev believe in the possibility of ‘color revolution’ in Russia more stubbornly than any liberal think-tanks do. The mass arrests are the clear sign of the Russian government’s fight with a completely out-dated and impossible scenario. What is a ‘color revolution’ in the optics of Cremlin? It’s an assembly of the deceived voters (more or less directly inspired by the evil West), who are trying to change the elections’ results through occupying the central squares of the capital. In Russia this demand would mean the inclusion of several small liberal and right-wing parties into the new parliament. Who would fight for something like that in the creeping cold of Moscow?

In fact, the recent events in Moscow have something in common with a bit different episode of Orange revolution in Ukraine. Precisely, it is the first round of Ukrainian presidential elections, when the violence and falsifications deployed on a full scale by the government resulted in the mobilization of civil disobedience. The basic difference in the Russian case is that until the ‘second round’ of elections (i.e. until Putin’s planned return into the presidential office) there are three months left – not three weeks, like it was in Ukraine. The Russian government, used to ‘crisis management’ techniques, will definitely try to divert the people’s attention from the current wave of protest. If I were a Russian oppositionist, I would immediately declare that I’m not planning any explosions in Moscow’s sleeping districts and subway stations. It is very likely that in the nearest future the Russian opposition will be accused of something like that.

Since the protests in Moscow started, Russian television refers to its oppression in the context of police attacks upon the protesters in New York, London, Paris, Athens etc. The message is clear: the West, which tries to teach us about democracy, is as evil as ourselves. However, this perverse logic makes a little bit of sense: it localizes the Russian protests in its natural context. They have much more in common with the Indignant movement that with the color revolution of any kind. Russians took to the streets not because they want to change the balance of power in the parliament. They took to the streets simply because they are outraged by lack of democratical procedures, corruption that became a way of life, and crisis that seems to never end. In this sense, we are all Russians now.


Columnist, film maker, editor of Ukrainian Political Critique magazine.