Russia’s Democratic Winter

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As such signs suggest, Russians have become less inhibited in their opposition. Despite serving 15 days in jail, Alexei Navalny recently vowed that protestors could seize the Kremlin and pledged to take up to 1 million protestors to the streets in the run-up to the March election. Even television, formerly the preserve of government approved programming, is becoming more fearless. On December 18, the current affairs show Central Television program on channel NTV – itself owned by state-run gas company Gazprom – featured a 10-minute satirical broadside against Putin that highlighted polls showing his plummeting popularity and likened him to dictators like Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. The aggressively anti-Putin tenor of the show was all the more remarkable because the typically pro-government channel had just recently run a smear campaign against Golos, Russia’s sole independent election monitoring group. Now Putin was the target.

For its part the government, having failed in its strategy of waiting for the protestors to fade away, has moved to offer token concessions. Putin, after initially disparaging the demonstrations, has said that they “need to be treated with respect,” though he continues to insist that the December 4th elections were legitimate. President Medvedev has paid lip service to greater transparency and recently announced that reforms were in the works to allow a wider range of parties and candidates to compete in elections — though only after the March presidential election. Neither proposal has mollified the protestors, who have vowed to return to the streets in the months ahead.

Encouraging as the rising opposition has been, serious challenges remain. Most notably, there is no unified platform or political figure around which the protestors can rally. The fact has not gone unnoticed by Putin, who has noted that “There are no people who could do something concrete.” There is also concern that some of the opposition figures could be co-opted by the government. Eyebrows were raised when Putin announced  that Alexei Kudrin, a disgruntled former finance minister who had supported the protestors, remained on his “team.” Some opposition activists also worry that the decision of billionaire tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, to challenge Putin in the next election is a political ploy, designed to put a competitive gloss on an election that will not be truly contested.

Even if the March election proves to be business as usual, however, the events of the past month suggest that Russian politics has been transformed. Just as the freezing months have arrived, Russians’ disengagement from political affairs seems to be melting. If that continues, it could be a long Russian winter for Putin.

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  • Jim

    I listen to The Glazov show on this site. The comments made were that the demonstrations were big but mainly a city affair and thus small per the population of Russia. The protestors claimed Putin stuffed the ballot box. If so he did a bad job of it ; his party actually lost votes. The communists gained. The Communists are said to be devoutly anti Semitic. Further more the country side people are beginning to post pictures of Stalin in their homes.

    Putin is much preferable to Yeltsin and the Harvard boys.and according to Prager
    Putin is far from anti Semitic

    • Stan Lee

      That's true. The Russian population is presently about 143,000,000 which for the most part is concentrated west of the Ural Mountains. Russia is vast, a country with 11 time zones from the Belarus border in the west, to Vladivostok in the east.
      Putin did get a big surprise, before this, ballot-cheating wasn't so inflamatory, Russians just acquiesced as they've always done.
      But, they have no foundation for democratic government, only central, unforgiving, leaders.
      There are more Putin-types, not friendly to Putin, waiting in the wings. 'Sad for Russian people that their leadership is so intent on absolute power. There is a deep pathology of Jew-hate in that country, not all people, but enough to make it evident. Russia has approx. 12% Muslims also.

  • Stan Lee

    While there are protestors against Putin, two major protesting groups are both wrestling for control to oust Putin and one of them to assume leadership. One group represents itself by displaying "red,"for Communist, the other displays "yellow, white and black," for the group of fascists which mimics the "Heil" salute of the WW2 Nazis. THere are other protestors too, but they were for democracy and consequently at the rear of the crowd.
    Both large groups are Jew-haters, Jews being a centuries-old scapegoat in Russia regardless of politics.Russian Jews amount to about 1/2 of 1% of the population, which is around 143 million. Whether Putin is also anti-Jewish is questionable. He certainly favors assistance to Islamic regimes that are dedicated Jew-haters.
    I don't use the word "antisemite" anymore because Arabs are also known to be Semites, and that confuses the situation. Maybe that word "antisemite" sounds "PC," but liberals seem to require "PC" to an extreme degree and want everything "sugar-coated" to obscure the real meaning of words. Anyway, it is what it is.

  • Stan Lee

    Two colors have been displayed at these demonstrations; red, for the Communists and yellow, white and black for those who actually mimic the Nazi salute. These two conflicting movements were stationed at the front of the demonstrations. Other Russian demonstrators, unaffiliated with the two aforementioned groups, were at the back of the crowd. They couldn't get any closer, but they also were there.
    Usually, in Russia, political demonstrations require registration of demonstrators, I don't know if this requirement was enforced. Lord knows that Russia has plenty of enforcement boots on the ground!
    Both of the two dominant parties are anti-Jewish, the Jewish minority in Russia may amount to less than 1/2 of 1%. I wonder how Dennis knows that Putin is not a Jew-hater? I do know for certain that Putin

  • tanstaafl

    "Not a single vote for Putin!"

    I wish we could say the same about our own commissar.

  • DeShawn

    Yeah you can blame Mr. Putin all you want. But the TRUTH is that he's had to do a lot of what he's done to stop the jewish oligarchs from continuing to ruin Russia ( Yes, once again, there's a jew in the woodpile. You jews have done quite a number on that country. Like murdering 60 million Russians under judeo-bolshevism. Wherever you people go, destruction follows. Why don't you just take responsibility for once?

    • mrbean

      It, he is most full with, sayeth Master Yoda.

    • reader

      For once? I thought, the Jews always take responsibility for everything. Interesting, but the first and the most Jewish Bolshevik government – the Sovnarkom of 1917 – contained 16 members, of which just one (Trotsky/Bronshtein) may have been ethnically Jewish (actually, there is a genealogy research out there claiming Trotsky to be given away for adoption as an eligitimate child from Rayevsky/Pushkin bloodline). So, why don't you Jews take responsibility for being Communists, Capitalists, Bankers, Lawyers, etc, etc, – all at the same time?