The Corner

Russia Wakes Up

The appearance of 5,000 to 10,000 persons on the streets of Moscow Monday protesting fraud in the December 4 parliamentary elections is more than just a surprising event. It signals the end of the era of Russian passivity.

Normal.dotm

0

0

1

331

1892

National Review

15

3

2323

12.0

0

false

18 pt

18 pt

0

0

false

false

false

/* Style Definitions */

table.MsoNormalTable

{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;

mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;

mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;

mso-style-noshow:yes;

mso-style-parent:””;

mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;

mso-para-margin:0in;

mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;

mso-pagination:widow-orphan;

font-size:12.0pt;

font-family:”Times New Roman”;

mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;

mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;

mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;

mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;

mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;

mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;

mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;

mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}

Moscow, sated with easy oil money and politically cynical, has not seen a political demonstration this large in years. And whereas past protests dealt with freedom of assembly, an important but secondary issue in the Russian context, this one dealt with the core issue – the freedom of the authorities to falsify the vote.

The widespread intimidation, ballot stuffing, and multiple voting reported from precincts all over the country was hardly unexpected. According to an August poll by the Levada Center, only 4 per cent of Russians believed that the upcoming elections would be completely honest and 62 per cent believed that United Russia, the ruling party allied with Putin would use manipulation to inflate its results – which, by all accounts, is exactly what happened. (The pro-Putin Chechen Republic, which is ruled by terror, for example, gave United Russia 99.5 per cent of the vote.)

But, despite a generous share of fatalism, anger with United Russia, described by many in Russia as the “party of crooks and thieves” led many to cast protest votes for the Kremlin controlled alternative parties, particularly the communists, who doubled their vote, and Just Russia. The practical result is still the same. The Kremlin will control the State Duma just as it did before. But the rejection of United Russia is a signal that society is stirring and change is possible. The demonstrators who took to the street to protest abuses that have taken place – at least to some degree – since 1991, divined the new mood and acted on it. Russia is awakening from its political torpor raising the possibility that Russians will have a new chance to establish the democracy they tragically failed to establish after the fall of the Soviet Union twenty years ago.

David Satter is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His latest book, It Was a Long Time Ago and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past is just out from Yale.  

David Satter has written four books about Russia, including, most recently, The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin, now available in paperback. He is the only American journalist to be expelled from Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Most Popular

Culture

White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More
Health Care

The Puzzling Problem of Vaping

San Francisco -- A 29-story office building at 123 Mission Street illustrates the policy puzzles that fester because of these facts: For centuries, tobacco has been a widely used, legal consumer good that does serious and often lethal harm when used as it is intended to be used. And its harmfulness has been a ... Read More