This weeks Russia! Magazine column, “The Russian Opposition: Between Despair and Vanguard,”
Earlier this month, Sergei Shelin wrote that a “perfect storm” threatens Russia. If that storm hits, he argued, it would bring the Putin system to suspension. Whether Shelin’s doomsday forecast has any merit demands the powers of soothsayers and palm readers. Political science is, in many ways, as prescient as meteorology. Still, amid the Kremlin bulldog fights, economic jitters, and provincial grumbling, Shelin carves out a slight role for the Russia population in this impending drama. “The election day in September,” he writes, “will be a landmark of discontent, whichever way we get to it. But this discontent by itself will hardly be strong enough to seriously shake [the system’s] foundations. Maybe it will stir it a little.” A little. Maybe. But if a stirring is in store, then at what state do we find the Russian protest movement? If “The Dynamics of Protest Activity: 2012-2013,” a new report from Olga Kryshtanovskaya’s sociological laboratory, is even half correct, any stir might inject some much needed new blood into the Russian opposition. A lot has happened in two years. The movement that exploded into the streets of Moscow in winter and spring 2011 has mutated. Pessimism and apathy may have thinned its ranks, but standing firm is a smaller, more dedicated and determined core.