A Good Treaty (USA):
Nationalism and the possibility of a ‘color revolution’ in Russia
With Russia’s sixth presidential election having reached its preordained conclusion, what remains unclear is how Moscow’s already seething political opposition will respond to the prospect of six more years of Vladimir Putin.
If the protests continue, will they be met with harsh reprisals? That was the route taken in Belarus when Alexander Lukashenko won a fourth consecutive presidential term in 2010. Police intervened as soon as demonstrators assembled the night after the election, and hundreds of protesters along with seven presidential candidates were jailed.
Alternatively, could we see a repeat of Ukraine’s 2004 “Orange Revolution”, when demonstrators camped out in downtown Kyiv and the authorities backed off, allowing a re-run of the election, which the opposition won?
In the Russian case, neither wholesale repression nor revolution is likely. After the State Duma elections triggered demonstrations last December, the Kremlin cannily abandoned its initial response of arresting protesters, and started issuing permits for demonstrations. Since then, the opposition has generally cooperated with the authorities in limiting their protests to officially sanctioned locations and times. The March 5 demonstration was approved for Pushkin square, about one mile from the Kremlin, and participants were only arrested after the officially-designated time had elapsed.
If protests continue in their current pattern — peaceful gatherings at approved locations — then the opposition movement is likely to subsume into the background noise of Russian urban life. Opposition figure Aleksei Navalny has suggested that the time is ripe for escalating the level of confrontation, by protesting directly in front of government buildings and daring the authorities to crack down. Last week he wrote on Twitter, “Only Lubyanka. Only hardcore.”