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Russia: Yavlinsky Stir Reveals Opposition Rift

On May 10, Grigory Yavlinsky [en] controversially wrote [ru] in his LiveJournal blog that the Russian opposition's recent turn to more confrontational tactics is a bad omen for democracy. Yavlinsky, born the same year as Vladimir Putin, is one of Russian politics’ oldest faces. He played a pivotal role in the immediate post-Soviet period, authoring important elements of Russia's transition to a free-market economy. Since the 1990s, Yavlinksy has been the face of Yabloko [en], Russia's original liberal democrat political party. In the Putin era, Yavlinsky's party has remained a curious outlier to both “systemic politics” and “nonsystemic politics,” having lost its Duma presence in 2007 but remaining an officially registered party that is still viewed by many oppositionists as compromised and pro-establishment.

Grigory Yavlinskiy, economist and politician, 15 Jan 2011, photo by Skilpaddle, CC BY-SA 3.0; Wikimedia Commons.

True to Yabloko's troubled past and present, Yavlinksy's May 10 blog post has upset many and pleased relatively few. While he made a point of praising protesters’ bravery and placing “main responsibility” on the authorities (‘those who falsify elections, propagate corruption and thievery,’ etc.), many have focused exclusively on Yavlinsky's criticisms of the protest movement. Lenta.ru, for instance, ran an article [ru] titled, “Yavlinsky Declares Protests Meaningless.”

Yavlinsky's concerns with the new developments in Moscow protests center on spiking violence and a perceived drift away from politics. He writes:

При этом я считаю, что если у организаторов есть расчет на то, что жестокость омоновцев будет мультиплицировать количество желающих с ними сражаться, то это неверный расчет. Опыт Триумфальной показывает, что мультипликации не получится. Наоборот, люди перестанут ходить на митинги и шествия, если там льется кровь, если их там избивают. Неужели кто-то полагает, что можно чего-то добиться лобовым столкновением, гражданской войной?

[…]

САМИ ПО СЕБЕ ГРАЖДАНСКИЕ МИТИНГИ, АКЦИИ, ГУЛЯНИЯ И ПРОЧИЕ ФЛЕШМОБЫ, ПРИ ВСЕЙ ИХ ЧЕЛОВЕЧЕСКОЙ ДОСТОЙНОСТИ, ПОЛИТИЧЕСКИ НИЧЕГО НЕ ИЗМЕНЯТ И В СИЛУ СВОЕЙ БЕСПОМОЩНОСТИ БУДУТ ЧАСТО ПЕРЕРАСТАТЬ В ДРАКИ И СХВАТКИ. Разрастание насилия сделает ситуацию во всех отношениях гораздо хуже.

If organizers are counting on the brutality of riot police to multiply the number of people wishing to join their fight, I think that's a flawed count. The experience of Triumfalnaia [Square] shows that no such multiplication occurs. On the contrary, people stop coming to rallies and marches, if blood is being spilled there, or if people are being beaten. Do some people really believe that anything can be accomplished with a head-on collision, or a civil war?

[…]

BY ITSELF, CITIZEN DEMONSTRATIONS, RALLIES, WALKABOUTS, AND SIMILAR FLASHMOBS (WITH ALL THEIR HUMAN DIGNITY) WILL NOT CHANGE ANYTHING POLITICALLY, AND BY VIRTUE OF THEIR OWN IMPOTENCE WILL OFTEN ESCALATE INTO FIGHTING AND CRACKDOWNS. The spread of violence will make the situation much worse in every respect.

As an alternative to this brand of dissent, he proposes a response “personal, programmatic, idealogical, organized, professional, moral, AND POLITICAL,” saying that a gradual, long-term approach is the only real option:

Надо начинать заниматься серьезной политикой , выигрывать выборы и брать власть. Долго? Да, шесть лет очень долго, но раньше и мы ничего не успеем. И следует понимать – альтернатив будет не одна, а три: левая, демократическая и националисты. Какая победит – скажет народ.

We have to take up serious politics, win elections, and take power. Will it be a long time? Yes, six years is very long, but we'll not manage this any sooner. And it's worth understanding that there won't be just one alternative, but three: leftist, democratic, and nationalist. Which wins out, the people will say.

Reactions to Yavlinsky's comments have varied. Some bloggers have been less than polite. Anti-Putin LiveJournal user i_l_d responded [ru] simply: “Go screw yourself, Yavlinsky.” Nationalist blogger sinn-fein-front wrote [ru] gloatingly:

Ну вот и Явлинский, отчисливший Навального за национализм, в своем блоге на Эхе Москвы признал националистов равноценной силой протеста. Что ж, отрадно. Один за одним падают бастионы русофобии в публичной политике

Well look here: Yavlinsky, who expelled Navalny [from Yabloko] for his nationalism, has in his blog acknowledged that nationalists are equal members of the protest [movement]. Well, how pleasant. One by one, the bastions of russophobia in public politics are falling.

Prominent blogger Rustem Adagamov [en], linking to the above-mentioned Lenta.ru article (not Yavlinsky's original text), tweeted [ru]:

Вот и Явлинский! http://lenta.ru/news/2012/05/10/yavl/ “Надо начинать заниматься серьезной политикой” Вау, а 16 лет до этого—это что было?

And here's Yavlinksy! [link to the Lenta.ru story] “We have to take up serious politics.” Wow, and the last 16 years — what was all that?

Dmitri Ivanov, a political satirist from the website CarambaTV.ru [ru], a webtv project, tweeted [ru]:

Явлинский заявил о бессмысленности митингов. Митинги заявили о бессмысленности Явлинского

Yavlinsky has declared the meaninglessness of the protests. The protests have declared the meaninglessness of Yavlinsky.

Despite the backlash against a politician infamous for upsetting pro-Kremlin and oppositionist figures alike, support for Yavlinsky also exists on the RuNet. Some of his supporters are predictable, like Ivan Bolshakov, a deputy chairman of Yabloko's Moscow branch, who faulted [ru] critics for taking Yavlinsky's words out of context:

И каким же надо быть простачком (или сознательным дискредитатором?), чтобы этот смысл извратить до «Явлинский – против митингов» и фактически приравнять заявление Явлинского к позиции Путина его дружков!?

What kind of simpleton (or conscious discreditor) does one have to be to distort this into ‘Yavlinksy is against the demonstrations’ and equate his statement with the position of Putin and his buddies!?

Vladimir Milov [en], another prominent oppositionist politician who briefly served in the Russian government as Deputy Energy Minister in 2002, is another figure who has publicized his disdain for street confrontations. He tweeted [ru] a mild attack on Lenta.ru and announced his support for Yavlinsky's comments:

Вот образчик типичного наглого хипстерского вранья http://www.lenta.ru/news/2012/05/10/yavl/ а вот оригинал, с которым я полностью согласен http://gr-yavlinsky.livejournal.com/43985.html

Here's a sample of some typical, obnoxious, hipster baloney [link to Lenta.ru story] and here's the original, with which I agree entirely [link to Yavlinsky's blog].

In the aftermath of parliamentary elections, between December 2011 and February 2012, the Russian opposition experienced an explosion of mass popularity that disadvantaged professional politicians like Yavlinsky and Milov, whose careers (or ‘activism,’ if one prefers) are fixed on evolutionary improvements to Russian society and governance. Theirs is the politics of policy and statecraft — what critics view as regime-collaboration and allies see as realistic, constructive work.

Current developments in Russia's protest movement have widened the gap between populist dramatics and nuts-and-bolts politics. Consequentially, Yavlinsky's blog-post scandal is symptomatic of a growing rift between guards Old and New. And, yet, men like Milov are fairly young. (He turns forty this summer.) The question is less about age than temperament and tactical preferences. Does one work ‘within the system’ for gradual change — a relatively thankless task with only distant satisfaction — or, to borrow a phrase from Yavlinsky, opt for more aggressive “head-on collisions”?

  • Yavlinskiy is correct with his views towards the current opposition tactics. Understandbly the tone of those against the Kremlin is one that is building with angst but the violent and provactive nature is only going to set them backwards and into the hands of the Kremlin.

    My other belief is that this movement, especially the ones still putting up a fight is not reflective of the people of the Federation. The golden youth from Moscow and St. Petersburg are one’s with silver spoons in their mouthes and are clamoring now for golden one’s. The amenities that have in their daily lives are vastly different from those who live east of Moscow, especially the further east you go.

    The opposition has also continued to take on numerous similarities of Western financed and influenced movements that shows what is transpiring in Moscow is indeed influenced and financed by the West. Specifically, the Rose revolution in Georgia and the Occupy movement in America, both backed by George Soros are becoming all too similar to what is now going on in Moscow.

    With the opposition becoming more and more of a mirror image to western backed movements and with additional opposition fronts such as the comical backing in Omsk of a half hearted blogger for political office at the expense of well educated and more seasoned politicians, plus other movements that have seen the oppositions focus sway from city to city on a week by week basis, one can only come away with a feeling that the true nucleaus of this movement is nothing more then a social media fad backed by western finances and mobilized by youthful Muscovites who clamor for nothing more then for a fix to their youthful short attention spans.

    Change for Russia is good, it is needed, the country needs to show a more positive image so it can attract outside investment and no longer have to rely on it’s natural resources alone but the change that is being asked of, needs to be a change that reflects the entire country, from Murmansk to Vladivostok, not just a group of silver spooned Muscovites who already have in their possession so much more then the rest of the country.

  • Pingback: Yavlinsky Stir Reveals Opposition Rift | Suuri ja Mahtava()

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