Current political affairs and long-term trends – including the evolution of Russia’s leadership structure – are studied in depth and in comparative context. The program studies Russia’s political institutions, shifting balances of power between the federal center and the regions, changing public attitudes towards democracy, and theoretical issues of politics, economics, power and business.
After two months of trial and error in dealing with the Moscow protests, it looks like the Russian authorities have started to define their red lines. As before, the slightest physical resistance to the authorities is met with harsh punishment, but the siloviki have stopped short of openly fabricating cases: not for the sake of society, but because this concerns the president too. The level of repression is abating, together with the displeasure of the civilian section of the elite closest to the president, which had been alarmed by the siloviki’s attempts to alter the status quo.
Sergei Chemezov’s comments on the public mood in Russia testify not to the specter of a thaw, but, on the contrary, to the fact that the clampdown is in full swing, and only individual members of the inner circle are apprehensive of the authorities’ new radical strategy of repression, which will provoke a new spiral in the war that is already de facto raging between the state and civil society.
This month’s protests in Moscow over city parliament elections are proof that Russia’s non-systemic opposition has taken its struggle to be recognized by the Kremlin as a major political player to a new level. Faced with a foe that has seized the initiative, set the agenda, and brought people into the streets, the Kremlin is at a loss. Its brightest idea, it seems, is to forcibly disperse the protests and prosecute the demonstrators: an approach that risks the state’s takeover by the siloviki.
Recent demonstrations in Russia have not been led by a particular group or movement with grand political designs. Instead, protesters in Arkhangelsk – much like those in Yekaterinburg and even in Moscow – are simply people fighting for their government, finally, to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Centre for East European and International Studies
The society of citizens and its representatives in Russia face a dilemma. One option is to cut a deal with the state and work in its interests and on its terms. The other option is marginalisation, to become outcasts destined to be in constant conflict with the state.