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Fractures within the Russian opposition?

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In a must read article, Global Voices reports on some of the fractures in the broad Russian opposition.

Maria Gaidar was prevented from addressing the crowd by, allegedly, Eduard Limonov, leader of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) and Garry Kasparov’s close ally in the Other Russia anti-government coalition.

The article goes on to translate blog entries from both Maria herself, and Ilya Yashin, which, I think perfectly illustrate the contradictions and conflicts within the current broadly constituted Russian opposition.


  • The sad part really is that the political ‘opposition’ in Russia consists mostly of clowns. Maybe the reason for this is that those capable of truly mounting an opposition, have no interest in it? Maybe things really are just the way Russians want it — I have yet to meet anybody seriously opposed to Putin. The only people I have met who hate Putin and his crowd were so-called ‘intelligentsia’, who worked for the state in one capacity or another.

    Among the business people and private economy individuals I deal with, there are very few who are severely critical of him. They don’t love him, but think that he’s pretty much the only game in town worth betting money on.

    What this country needs IS a political opposition, but not these clowns.

  • The same is true of Serbia (i.e. the LDP’s ?edomir Jovanovi?), though in the case if the Radicals, I think they prefer to be in opposition (you don’t have to be responsible as you are not hemmed in by the legitimacy of governement), and they would be strategically more effective re: Kosovo.

    No matter how marginalized or insignificant the opposition, they are a hang over from the ‘good times’ that neither they themselves can face up to, nor the Media in the west which can’t really cope with the fact that Putin and his party are hugely ‘popular’, not to mention the fact that their ability to put out western style soundbites (they were well trained) is a gift to lazy journalism…

    What would be good in Russia is an opposition that is politically pro-russian, but offer serious alternative policy with regards to the economy, media, civil projetcts/community etc.

    For all the propaganda about Putin being an ‘autocrat’, he has been very pragmatic and accommodating in foreign relations apart from when
    the West insists on pushing Russia’s red lines. By comparison, the brits and the yanks have been quite dismissive of any criticism (and blindly continuing on provocative policies), not just by the ‘opposition’, but particularly their allies (S. Korea’s ‘sunshine’ policy vis-a-vis N. Korea for example).

    Putin’s very moderate use of opposition has been quite smart, including his master stroke of letting Bush into the stans (I think he deliberately took a educated gamble as he wanted to gain political benefit (or credit which meant washington was very quiet about Chechnya, Khordokovsky etc, and OTOH to overstretch american power so that like an elastic band, it would sooner than later have to pull back, in this case leaving a space that a much more moderate sounding Russia could fill). The giving someone ‘enough rope’ strategy. But then again, I could be completely wrong…. It’s just that once a spook, always a spook.

  • I have yet to meet anybody seriously opposed to Putin.

    Khordokovsky was arguably the greatest threat, and look what happened to him! My guess is there are plenty of Russians who could mount an opposition to Putin, but have thought the better of it and are keeping their heads down until his successor is in place, have resigned themselves to the status quo, or have packed up and left.

  • Khordokovsky is a bad example. What that man planned was a coup d’etat. If you look at his history, he would have turned this country into his personal fiefdom even worse than anything Putin and his siloviki have done so far. MK had his own goddamn army, for crying out loud. Talk to people who had to deal with him, on the Yukos compound just outside Moscow. I had a professor (at the time head of a Russian studies department) who thought that Yukos was the harbinger of a post-modern political future for Russia: private security forces more effective and better paid than the government, government free zones throughout the country, run by Yukos. Yukos was planning to BUY the bloody duma by bribing local chapters of different parties to run his people for elections. Not to forget the very, very close links between MK’s top people and some high-profile murders. I’m not the best to talk about this, since I was not here, but it’s all in the public domain. Look up the name “Eric Kraus”, and his monthly newsletter “Truth & Beauty”. He has a few things to say about MK. Eric is no conspiracy theorist or expat loser, but a hedge-fund manager who has been in Russia for pretty much since the collapse of the USSR.
    Look up Menatep, and what’s still going on outside in the big, wide, world of PR war. The image of MK as a human rights activist and fighter for political freedom is a carefully created image by some very, very good PR agencies.

    If there were a legitimate political opposition, I doubt it had much to fear — the Kremlin has yet to shoot demonstrators, or do anything that would be outright frightening outside the South Caucasus.

    There is no legitimate, that is: broad based, popular, opposition in Russia. There will be, within the next ten years, I’m quite certain.

    The worst case scenario is that the United and Just Russia party will become the Dems and Reps — closely knit elites pretending to have a democracy, just like in the old US of A. But – considering that most Americans are happy with that, too, why wouldn’t Russians be?

  • Khordokovsky is a bad example.

    I take your points about him being a crook planning a coup d’etat with his own private army, etc., but that does not preclude him from being a political threat to Putin. His opposition may have been illegitimate from a democratic, party-politics perspective, but it was oppostion nonetheless.

  • No doubt, although whether the benefits of his incarceration outweigh the damage done by selective application of the law remains to be seen. I suspect not.

  • Such a selective process of the law is evident in the US. If you’re a high profile person who does things which upset the government, the chances for being hit with an investigation increase as opposed to keeping a low profile and (loosely termed) “throwing the dog a bone”.

  • Such a selective process of the law is evident in the US.

    Are you incapable of discussing Russia without continually making random comparisons to other countries?

  • Are you capable of not appearing to be selective in your criticims of Russia?

    What are you saying? That I should criticise everything in Russia, not just select certain things for criticism?

  • It’s misrepresentative to suggest that Russia is somewhow that much different on a number of topics.

    It’s therefore not wrong to point this out with comparative examples.

  • It’s misrepresentative to suggest that Russia is somewhow that much different on a number of topics.

    Maybe, but what has this got to with your question:

    Are you capable of not appearing to be selective in your criticims of Russia?

    Which suggests I should not criticise anything in Russia without criticising everything else as well.

    Is there any connection between these two sentences?

  • There’s a definte disconnect in your ability to comprehend some clearly expressed thoughts which require no further clarification.

    Oh, I understand the question all right. It’s the relevance I’m struggling with. Given that you are unwilling or unable to explain why you asked the question in its context, I’m going to have to go with the conclusion that you didn’t really understand what your own question meant.

  • Tim,

    back on topic: ok, Mr. K. was a political threat… but so was Mr. Bazayev. We are conflating things when we talk about a legitimate political opposition in the same breath with Mr. K. If we are concerned about democracy, Mr. K. was no hope for the country. It’s bad enough to have to deal with a civilized mafia structure like the Putin people (and I put as much emphasis on civilized as on mafia) — Mr. K would have been running the country with the help of an uncivilized mafia.

    Unfortunately, we had the choice between two evils, and I firmly believe the by far lesser won out. I also believe that over time, the current power structures will become increasingly more civilized and less and less mafiosi (again, I mean to use this word in the most original of senses and without much moral judgment. I do think that an enlightened mafia can provide a fairly functional form of government that generally benefits the majority of subjects. It is not democratic, but it can meet the minimum standards of acceptable government).

    One day, in the not so far distant future, I think the Russian top mafias will go the way of the American mafias (must I remind you of the origins of the Rockefeller clan’s fortunes and powers? Or that of the Kennedy’s?)

    Today, the US is by far one of the most democratic and fair societies out there, but it wasn’t for most of its history.

    I believe that, barring terrible events and bloody revolution, Russia will head that way, too. I consider it inevitable — or at least strongly determined.

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