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Oleg Orlov: Doubts on the Eve of 10 March

Oleg Orlov, 09/03/12


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For the first time in the last few months I am beginning to have doubts about whether to go to the next protest meeting. I had no such doubts at Chistoprudny Pereulok, Yakimanka Street, and Bolotnaya and Sakharov Squares. Now I do. Why is that?

Having reflected on it I understood that the reason, strangely enough, was the "White Ring" protest on 26 February. We were stood on the Garden Ring road, "shoulder to shoulder" with like-minded people, sensing the mutual support, not only of the people next to you but even those on the same ring road on the other side of Moscow. An uninterrupted flow of cars drove past honking their horns, decked with white ribbons, flags, placards and amusing images. There was an amazing feeling of civic unity. What's more, we didn't have to listen to strange and unpleasant people pontificating at us from the grandstands.

On my way to Pushkin Square, after a difficult 24 hours of working as an observer at the elections and after the "victor's" odious celebratory show, I wanted to sense this feeling of unity again and to be surrounded by these like-minded people. And on Pushkin square there were people around me, who I think I could consider as such. However, the people on stage aroused nothing but bewilderment.

Not for the first time, Aleksey Navalny's speech was a source of great discomfort to me and my acquaintances. It was a speech that was evidently not directed at the "outraged metropolitan masses", people who are capable of independent thought and who have independently found their place in life. Why, one asks oneself, did he need to repeat the same strange question over and over again like a scratched record: "Who is the power here?" And why did he have to solicit the no less bewildering chorused answer: "We are the power!" And all this was done in such an excessive, almost hysterical tone. Indeed - the whole performance would have been more suitable for a broadcast to a crowd of unquestioning fanatics at some sort of totalitarian training exercise. And what sort of "power" is it that can be suppressed by the police within an hour of the end of the rally?! And where exactly is "here"? Is it by the fountain in the square?

It's clear that these are rhetorical questions and slogans are bandied about not so much for their clarity as for... Well, for what? This is a style suited more to engaging a crowd as opposed to a gathering of thinking intelligent people.

But I am prepared to put up with these sorts of speeches out of respect for Navalny's ability to cajole the broader layers of society to stand up to corruption.

Equally, despite my personal tepid attitude towards the Communists, I am prepared to listen to the speeches of their party's representatives. If only because Zyuganov, having won second place, refused to bow his knee to the "victor".

But why, time after time at these rallies, starting with the one at Bolotnaya Square, should I and my friends have to listen to the radical nationalists? People, who were nowhere to be seen amongst the observers at the polls. Who until quite recently were vindicating fascism in their public speeches. Who were calling for discrimination against my fellow citizens on the grounds of their ethnicity. What have the organisers achieved?

Some figures from the ranks of the nationalists, who until recently no decent person would have shaken hands with, have almost been transformed into "opposition leaders" and public idols. While they are standing on the stage their supporters in the square whistle and shout insults at other speakers, they try to seize access to the stage by force and even the stage itself and then beat up an "Ekho Moskvy" journalist... Fine "allies" these..!

It's clear why the organisers are flirting with the nationalists - they bring hundreds of people to the rallies. But I am afraid that as a result, thousands of people who hold different opinions will stop going to the rallies at all.

However, it was Baburin's speech that completely did for me. The young people on the square simply didn't know who he was - and were very surprised at my negative reaction. But the older generation recall this man's crooked path in politics and it arouses anything but respect. Who came up with the idea of inviting this character to speak, who up until now has been completely anonymous in the struggle against "Putinism"? Why?

For the sake of equality? Are we going to join forces with anyone in order to fight against this "bloody regime"?

The experience of the defeat of the democratic movement of the 90's should have been a lesson in the pernicious erosion of our moral compass and the transformation of politics into political manoeuvring.

Isn't this what threatens us now as well? If we want to turn the spontaneous protest of our fellow citizens against the brazen deception foisted on them at the elections into something long term, then it is time for the leaders of the protest movement to shift towards formulating new ideas and asking what sort of Russia we want to build and what exactly we are planning to oppose Putinism with. Cries of "Who is the power here?" and even justified demands for fair elections are not enough.

Source: Ekho Moskvy

Rights in Russia,
10 Mar 2012, 02:06