December 16, 2011

Alexey Navalny

Alexey Navalny

More importantly, the economic upturn has not lasted. A good deal of the new wealth that was created has been siphoned off by the new oligarchs, the officials, Mr. Putin’s mates. Opposition parties have been suppressed, candidates have not been allowed to stand, and meetings have been dispersed violently. Law and order are a joke. Corruption and violence are rife.

Putin has announced that there will be no investigation and that troubles have been stirred up by the Americans, who clearly bribed all those tens of thousands who turned out on a freezing-cold day to protest.

But Putin underrated his opposition. It is organized and tech-savvy. Protest meetings this time around were arranged with social media and mobile phones.

Trying to present a more modern, Western image than Putin’s crude macho posturing, President Medvedev posted on Facebook that he intended to investigate electoral fraud. Facebook’s faceless hordes shouted him down.

The Russian government has been involved in social media for quite some time. Anybody who has posted about Russia in the West knows of the ill-written and boringly repetitive comments that flood in whenever a piece goes up that is critical of Putin’s regime.

There’s an aimless bewilderment in the government’s reaction to post-election events. Somebody clearly prevailed on Putin not to order the toughest possible responses. There are reports of some sympathy among the police, though there are also reports of them saying that they know these people are enemy agents because the Boss told them so.

Many Russians still believe the old chestnut about it being the Americans’ fault. But a growing segment—one that participates in social media both foreign and domestic—will be difficult to control. Their dissatisfaction will spread and their ability to organize themselves (hitherto the government’s preserve) will be admired and emulated. Mr. Putin does not have long to control a situation with which he seems ill-equipped to deal. Presidential elections are due in March, traditionally a month of Russian uprisings and revolts.



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