Russia's protesters: The people, ideals and prospects

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  • Russia's protests: fleeting anger or enduring movement?

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  • Putin, watch out. Russia's existential divide could mean serious trouble for the Kremlin.

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  • A perfect political storm is on Russia's horizon. Can the regime survive it?

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Russia’s protesters: The people, ideals and prospects

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Civic unrest is a moving target. For experts and policymakers alike, the dilemma is captured in idioms as well-worn as they are accurate: a flash in the pan or the tip of an iceberg? Do demonstrations and rallies manifest intense but fleeting anger and frustration, or do they represent an enduring and widening trend that may eventually force major reforms or even a regime change? Russia’s backsliding on democracy and human rights has for a decade been largely ignored or benignly neglected in relations between Washington and Moscow. A new generation of politically active Russians and an enduring prodemocracy movement would necessitate crafting an effective approach that reaffirms the moral essence of US foreign policy.

Key Points in this Outlook:

  • The Russian rallies of 2011–2012 appear to follow the pattern of successful anti-authoritarian revolutions in Europe, Asia, and Latin American, which were spearheaded by a middle class comprised of young, urban, well-educated, and relatively prosperous men and women.
  • Despite the Russian regime’s attempts to stifle public demonstration, limit freedom of speech, and restrict self-organization, the movement is likely to endure as an inspiring quest for human dignity.
  • If Russia’s protest movements do persist, the country’s domestic policy will become an increasingly central factor in relations with the United States.


The “Mink Coats” or the Middle Class?

Having reached their crescendo on Prospekt Sakharova and Bolotnaya Square between December 2011 and February 2012, by this summer, the Russian rallies have diminished in size. Although confidently predicted by some of the most prominent protest leaders, neither Vladimir Putin’s inability to secure presidential election in the first round nor the explosion of mass protests that would have occured if he had managed to do so have come to pass.[1]

Moreover, according to popular opinion (including that of some participants), the protesters were exclusively Moscow-dwelling upper-middle-class “bourgeoisie,” and the rallies were  a march of “the mink coats,” far-removed from the “real people” and their concerns.[2] (The  New York Times described the protesters as “debonair demonstrators in mink coats and designer jeans.”[3]) In this interpretation, the demonstrations were an intense but passing fancy to tickle the conscience of the flighty elite, momentarily reveling in the discharge of their civic duty but quickly retreating into their lavish apartments, Jeeps, and Land Cruisers, departing on shopping trips to London and Paris, and embarking on expeditions to the Brazilian rainforest or on South African safaris. For some Western experts, too, the “liberalization movement” did not “reflect a broader reality,” and thus posed no danger to the regime. According to the title of one Western expert’s article, the movement was no more than a “mirage.”[4]

Yet, examined in detail and in a wider historical context, the evidence is far less conclusive and may in fact point in the opposite direction. To begin, contrary to the Moscow-centric version of the events, the protests were not confined to Moscow or to Russia’s “other capital”  of St. Petersburg. Although far smaller in size than in the dual capitals, on February 4, 2012, rallies [mitings] and marches [shesviya] took place in one hundred and thirteen Russian cities and towns, including all the largest ones.[5] Contrary to the “mink coats” myth, only 5 percent of the December 24, 2011, Prospekt Sakharova protesters could be classified as “rich,” meaning “not refusing ourselves anything.”[6] Twenty-eight percent reported being able to buy a car, yet a 40 percent plurality had the means to purchase only “some expensive things” such as a television and refrigerator (but could not afford a car). Twenty percent of the demonstrators said they had only enough money for food and clothes. The remainder either had only enough for food but
not for clothes, or reported a shortage of money even for food.[7]

According to the traditional Russian definition that emphasizes education and occupation rather than income, this was a strongly middle class crowd: 70 percent had college degrees or higher and 13 percent were more than halfway (over three years) through college.[8] Yet, almost half of the protesters would qualify as middle class anywhere in that nearly half were professionals [spetsialist] and a quarter either managers or owners of businesses.[9]

The Lessons of History

The protesters were surely a distinct minority, as the Kremlin loves reminding everyone. But where and when has regime change—much less revolution—been enacted by the majority of people? The majority has families to feed and livings to earn. It is the younger, urban, better-educated, and better-off who tend to lead modern revolutions.

If the twentieth century’s European political history is a guide, movements with such a pronounced middle class deserve to be taken very seriously. As described by Samuel Huntington, Daniel Bell and Seymour Martin Lipset, the paradigm has proven correct again and again: after a period of record economic performance, the rapidly expanded middle class is no longer content to enjoy unprecedented personal freedom and prosperity; they also crave liberty and voice in the governing of their countries. This is the road democracy travelled, mutatis mutandis, in Spain, Portugal, and Greece in the 1970s when the middle class rejected dictatorships (or attempted dictatorships) on the Right and the Left; in South Korea and Taiwan in the 1980s; and in Mexico in the 1990s.[10] In the end, the middle class invariably emerged a victorious regime-changer. "The gap between the Putin regime and the expectations and attitudes of the Russian middle class is widened by a deep generational—perhaps existential—divide."

While what Huntington calls “performance legitimacy”—in essence, citizens’ allegiance to the state based on how much and how quickly their income grows—may secure an acceptance of a regime for quite a while (as in Russia in 2000–2008 and in China in the past two decades), economic growth in the long run is not a substitute for political reform or even regime change. As Alexis de Tocqueville noted over a century and a half ago, there is often a positive correlation between economic well-being and the propensity to rebel. For instance, a “steady increase of wealth” in France during the 1700s did not avert a revolution, even though in none of the decades immediately following the revolution did France’s “national prosperity make such rapid forward strides as in the two preceding it.”[11] Far from “tranquilizing” the population, this steadily increasing prosperity everywhere “promoted the spirit of unrest;” it was precisely those parts of France where the improvement in standard of living was most pronounced that became the “chief centers” of the revolutionary movement.[12]

De Tocqueville’s paradox was borne out when the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in January 2011 touched off the Arab Spring in Tunisia, which was among the most prosperous Arab countries at the time, its economy having expanded for twenty years prior to December 2010. Revolutions, De Tocqueville seemed to imply, may be conceived at least as much in hope as in despair. As he put it: “for the mere fact that certain abuses have been remedied draws attention to the others and they appear more galling; people may suffer less, but their sensibility is exacerbated.”[13]

The Russian Middle Class Follows the Pattern

Russian social dynamics appear to fit comfortably in this pattern. The great reformer and economist Yegor Gaidar used to say that Russia lagged behind the rest of Europe by about fifty years. He may have been right in this—the Russian middle class seems to have emerged from the sharp economic growth of 2000–2008 with higher expectations regarding state institutions and the engagement with the authorities at both national and local levels. Enjoying personal freedoms and prosperity unprecedented in almost a century, the more socially active segment appears to believe in being stakeholders in a functioning, fair, and less corrupt state. As leading Russian liberal columnist Andrei Kolesnikov put it, “after the fridges and the television set” came the demand for political liberties.[14] This is “a revolution of the middle class,” declared an opposition leader (and one of Russia’s most popular writers) Boris Akunin (Grigory Chkhartishvili).[15] “The middle class pays taxes and they are truly the salt of every developed society. . . . [And it needs] a healthy political system,” said Evgenia Chirikova, another hero  of the opposition.[16]

As the authors of the most insightful study of “political values and behavior” of the Russian middle class after the 2008 crisis discovered from dozens of in-depth interviews, this relatively “well-off” and “largely young” segment is also liberal, “critically-thinking,” and exhibits “a certain degree of self-organization.”[17] Perhaps most importantly for our purposes, the 2010 survey revealed a “relatively high” level of civic activity and respondents’ “attraction to democracy” was above that of the population at large. The respondents’ “shared values and ideals” had led to dissatisfaction with “non-transparent” governance, “erosion” of representation in elections, “uncontrollable government corruption,” and the cancellation of  gubernatorial elections. Their support of democratization seemed to stem from a desire to “restrain bureaucracy, corruption and lawlessness.”[18]

An Existential Divide

The gap between the Putin regime and the expectations and attitudes of the Russian middle class is widened by a deep generational—perhaps even existential—divide. A quarter of the December 24, 2011, Prospekt Sakharova demonstrators were between ages eighteen and twenty-four, and over half were under age forty.[19] Coming of
age after the fall of the Soviet Union, most were likely frequent Internet users. Accounting for one of the sharpest increases in Internet usage in the world, in 2011, 37 million Russians were logging onto the Inter-net every day and 52 million—more than in any other European country—were using the Internet at least  some of the time.[20] Of Russians between twenty-five and thirty-five years of age, three quarters used the Internet every day—twice as frequently as their parents.[21] They are what the Chinese call wangmin, or “Web citizens.”[22] Among the participants in the December 24 rally,  89 percent had learned about the event online.[23]

Although seven in ten Russians still have “favorable” opinions of Putin, the context, dynamics, and demography of his support may point to an increasingly brittle and hollow reputation.These men and women compare themselves not to their (mostly) Soviet parents or grandparents, but to their contemporaries in prosperous and democratic countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The proverbial “chaos of the 1990s” is at best a distant rumor, and a key legitimizing slogan of Putinism—“Regardless of what might be wrong with the country today, we’re better off than in the 1990s”—is  likely lost on most of them. Judging by their Internet posts and interviews, it  is an utterly bizarre anachronism for a great and proud European nation to have someone—anyone—in power for twenty-four years, which is how long Putin will have been in the Kremlin if he serves two six-year terms (counting, of course, Dmitri Medvedev’s 2008–2012 “presidency” as the continuation of Putin’s control over the government). This is six years longer than Leonid Brezhnev’s time in the Kremlin and as long as Stalin’s 1929–1953 reign. “We want to live in a free country,” a twenty-three-year-old Prospekt Sakharova demonstrator said on December 24, 2011. “Our parents grew up under Brezhnev. We don’t want that.”[24] “Enough already!!!” read a Facebook comment on December 12. “This is the 21st century after all. We are not Uganda.”[25]

Russian demographic trends endow these attitudes with considerable political heft. According to former first deputy prime minister and finance minister Alexei Kudrin, for the first time in decades, there are more Russians under age forty than there are above.[26] Furthermore, the twenty- to thirty-year-old children of the Russian post-war baby boomers are the single largest age cohort in Russia today—a quarter of the population—and are likely to remain so for the next forty years.[27] According to some of Russia’s most authoritative political sociologists, this age group tends to have a very strong middle class presence and to “present the authorities with completely new demands, both in terms of the political system and the operation of the national economy.”[28] They will not “settle for” the current order of things, in which the “power is controlled by the narrow layer of the natural-resources rent-collectors, with no democratic control over them.”[29]

Thus far, the polling results tend to be consistent with these forecasts. Among protesters, seven in ten identified themselves as “Democrats” or “liberals” (and only 6 percent as “national patriots”).[30] Asked for whom they would vote in an honest, representative election, 24 percent chose the “party of the intelligentsia”—the Center-Left prodemocracy opposition party “Yabloko”—and 19 percent would vote for a hypothetical party led by a protest leader and Russia’s most popular anticorruption blogger Alexei Navalny. Slightly more than one in ten supported the Communist Party, and about the same proportion would have voted for the “establishment” opposition Party of People’s Freedom, led by Vladimir Ryzhkov, Boris Nemtsov, and Mikhail Kasyanov. The nationalists trailed far behind—whether Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (5 percent) or Dmitry Rogozin’s Party of Russian Nationalists (2 percent).[31]

The Consonance of Attitudes

Yet, the grounds for anticipating the protest movement’s staying power, growth, and ultimate success extend far beyond historic precedence or demographic dynamic. Among the most important of these portents are the consonance of some of the protesters’ key attitudes with those of millions of Russians, the severity of economic and social problems that appear unsolvable within the current political framework, the protesters’ value system, and, finally, the core moral sensibility of the movement.

Thus, almost four in ten respondents in a March 2012 national survey agreed with the protesters’ claim that the December 4, 2012, Duma election had been either “likely” dishonest (27 percent) or “definitely” dishonest (10 percent).[32] Regarding the legitimacy of Putin’s reelection, 35 percent were “inclined” to think that the election would be “dirty” [gryaznye].[33] Greater still is the dissatisfaction, bordering on revulsion, with the daily dangers and indignities of Putin’s Russia. According to a Levada-Center poll this past April, 64 percent of Russians assumed that they might become victims of arbitrary arrest or other “lawless action” of the police or state prosecutors [prokuratura]. Fifty-five percent did not think they could rely on the courts to protect them from the abuse.[34] Overall, while 71 percent felt that a fair judiciary was “very important,” only 17 percent thought their country had such a legal system.[35]

The rise in the standard of living appears to have exposed still more Russians to abuse by authorities. Twenty years ago, the rudeness, corruption, and extortion by the traffic police affected only 6 percent of Russians; today, a quarter of the population has cars. According to Mikhail Dmitriev, president of the widely respected Institute for Strategic Research (which alone among the Russian think tanks predicted the public protests after the Duma election), the same is true of “other state institutions.”[36] All in all, notes Maria Lipman, one of the most knowledgeable and objective observers of Russian society and politics, “possibly” as much as a third of Russians sympathize with the protesters’ cause.[37]

A Wide Social Base

Of equal importance is the geography of the demonstrators’ social base. Some of the best-informed and most astute Russian observers see the growing appeal of the “Bolotnaya Square agenda”—democratization, open and competitive politics, impartial justice, fair elections, and elimination of corruption—in the country’s largest cities with populations of five hundred thousand or more, where between 44 and 50 million Russians live.[38] “It is [a Russia of] a modern, that is service-oriented economy, concentrated middle class and . . . higher  level of education,” wrote Kirill Rogov of the Moscow Institute for the Economies in Transition. It is a Russia that increasingly gets its information from an uncensored internet and thus is no longer “ruled by the mythologies” disseminated by the state-controlled television.[39]

From the Kremlin’s perspective, among the most troubling results of the erosion of this official “mythology” is the attrition of Vladimir Putin’s popularity, which has been among the regime’s main legitimizing factors. Although seven in ten Russians still have “favorable” opinions of Putin, the context, dynamics, and demography of his support may point to an increasingly brittle and hollow reputation. Fifty-three percent of Russians think that “the population of Russia is tired of waiting for positive change in our life [to come] from Putin.”[40] With corruption ubiquitous and shameless—in July, almost every third Russian was “outraged” by the corruption of authorities, the highest level of dissatisfaction in thirteen years[41]—the majority at large does not believe Putin when he promises to “lower the level of corruption at least by half.”[42] Indeed, when asked in which of a dozen different policy areas Putin had been “least successful,” 38 percent chose corruption.[43] In the end, only between 17 and 19 percent of Russians wanted to see Putin reelected in 2018.[44]

"A confluence of these "traditional" and "new" protesters could bring about a perfect political storm, which the regime will not be able to easily quell—or perhaps even survive.Some of the previously most appealing elements of Putin’s public image seem to be fading. If, in 2008, 62 percent of Russians thought that being “businesslike” was among Putin’s strong suits, only 39 viewed him as such in 2012. The general perception of him being “well-educated” has dropped from 52 to 28 percent, while his “leadership qualities” dipped from 41 to 28 percent.[45]

Yet, Putin’s greatest vulnerability may stem from the fact that many—if not most—Russians support him simply because they see no alternative.[46] The censorship of the national television and Putin’s barring of any popular prodemocracy opposition leader from running in the parliamentary, let alone presidential, election since 2004 have seen to that. It is thus quite plausible to assume that even a moderate relaxation of the Kremlin’s grip on the media and the expansion of the perimeter of public politics are likely to lead to a noticeable—perhaps even precipitous—fall in Putin’s ratings.

In Russia as a whole, 13 percent thought that the president “did not deserve trust at all,” but the unfavorable ratings were the highest among the educated and the young: he was disliked by 29 percent of college graduates and 30 percent of individuals in the eighteen to twenty-nine age group.[47] In Moscow, where Russia’s fate has often been decided, only 27 percent approved of his work, while 31 percent thought it “bad” or “very bad.”[48]

These numbers indicate a continuing alienation of a significant minority from the regime and a strong potential for public protest. Moreover, it is an axiom among students of social and political mobilization that intense “dislikes” among a more politically active and passionate minority are often more decisive than the “likes” of a less engaged and less vocal majority.

The Regime’s Inability to Deliver

In the end, as in all modernizing authoritarian regimes, the Kremlin’s greatest political challenge is to close the gap between the reality and expectations of the middle class. Can the regime manage this? Theoretically, it is possible, but in practice, it appears increasingly unlikely. To appease the population of larger cities and their growing demand for a fair and “just” state of laws (instead of one where rents and favors stem from personal connections and proximity to those in power), the regime would have to start with the creation of an effective and politically neutral judicial system and the establishment of effective limits on corruption. Yet, according to Dmitriev, this is something that is impossible to resolve within the “present rules of the game.” As a result, the “dissatisfaction” in key urban centers “remains intense and will not disappear”: these men and women are after “a deep transformation of the entire system of the Russian state on the principles of enhanced lawfulness and competitive politics.”[49]

If any Marxists remain in Russia, they would be hard-pressed to think of a more  graphic instance of the necessity of regime change as postulated by “historical materialism”: a political “superstructure” shackling and retarding the development of the “base” (“the forces of production” or national economy) and thus doomed to replacement. There is a growing consensus among Russia’s leading economists and political commentators that the country is facing systemic problems—economic, social, demographic, and ethnic—that have proved impervious to assuagement, let alone solution, within the current political framework.

Systemic changes are needed for Russia to become a modern and prosperous country, but the regime is said to be incapable of enacting such changes on the necessary scale.[50] “We are talking here about the unsuitability [neprigordnost’] of the existing institutions for the realization of the main economic needs of the middle class,” Dmitriev told an interviewer this past March.[51] Even in smaller cities and rural areas, until now docile and generally supportive of Putin’s state paternalism, there has been a growing dissatisfaction with the authorities’ inability to solve the many daily problems of Russian citizens. It is largely a “de-politicized” discontent: people “simply don’t like how the current regime is organized and how it works.”[52]

Economic Trouble on the Horizon

The main impediments to addressing this unhappiness through decisive and lasting political and economic modernization are the twin structural mainstays of Putin’s “sovereign democracy” framework: dependence on gas and oil exports and a pervasively corrupt rent distribution, with authoritarian control and patronage as its key instruments. Raw materials—mostly oil and gas—made up more than 85 percent of the country’s exports in 2011.[53] The revenues from these exports were 18 percent of the budget in 1999; in 2011, they accounted for 54 percent.[54] A $10 change in the per-barrel price of oil means a 1 percent gain or loss for Russia’s gross domestic product.[55] To balance the national budget in 2004, Russia needed oil to be priced at $27 a barrel, and, in 2011, at $115 a barrel. Thus far, the projection for 2012 is $117.[56] In September 2011, then-deputy prime minister and finance minister Kudrin estimated that if the price fell to $60 a barrel, Russia’s economy would register zero growth and would likely contract.[57]

Just like past civil rights movements, Russia’s is led by a middle class that is seeking to effect vast political and social change through a personal and deeply moral effort.Yet, by a broad consensus, even growing oil prices are no longer a panacea. From an average expansion of 7 percent a year between 1999 and 2008, the Russian economy slowed down to 4.3 percent in 2011, and even this growth was largely due to an increase in the price of oil. No matter what the oil prices, an increase of even 5 to 6 percent seems unlikely because of what is euphemistically known as a “poor investment climate”—corruption and the absence of the rule of law.[58] Sergei Guriev and Oleg Tsyvinsky, among the most perceptive Russian political economists, argue that to overcome corruption, “far more competition must be introduced to the political sphere, and that is a direct threat to the current political elite.”[59]

Should the oil prices decline precipitously, “the instability of the economic situation” and the “resumption” of economic crisis will become distinct probabilities—and the resulting crisis is likely to be at least as deep and painful as that of 2008–2009.[60] A “contraction” is all the more probable because of continuing financial turmoil in the European Union, Russia’s largest trade partner by far. Kudrin put the likelihood of this scenario at 50 percent.[61]

Potential Political Fallout

However, this time around, the political ramifications could be more damaging than they were three years ago because of the decline of the regime’s legitimacy over the past nine months. First, there was intense revulsion over the Medvedev-Putin job swap announced by Putin at United Russia’s (UR) national congress on September 24, 2011.[62] The shameless fraud perpetrated in the Duma elections two and half months later was another major blow. It would be “funny, to put it mildly,” Mikhail Dmitriev said to an interviewer, to expect the support for the regime to increase as time goes on: the next economic downturn will occur “in the conditions of a far lower trust in the government by the population."[63]

The situation is further complicated by a widely expected “toughening” [uzhestochenie] of budget policy—that is, budget cuts.[64] Last summer, Kudrin estimated that to pay for the government’s “promises” in 2012 alone, oil would have to be $147 a barrel.[65]  In addition to the trillions of rubles “pumped” into the economy in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis (2009–2011), the budget has been badly strained by the huge increases in defense expenditures and the “social commitments” that Putin ratcheted in the run-up to his to reelection, including pension increases for retiring baby boomers and salary raises for the government workers (among whom are virtually all teachers and doctors in Russia). “Even our current expenditures will be difficult to meet,” Kudrin warned at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum this past June.[66] Sergei Guriev argued that the state may “run out of cash” by as early as 2014.[67] Last September, Putin himself spoke of fiscal belt-tightening.[68]

With the Pension Fund reportedly teetering on the brink of insolvency, the raising of the retirement age to at least sixty-three for men is widely anticipated. Coupled with the recent sharp increases in the cost of utilities, the measure may prompt tens of thousands to take to the streets  as they did in 2005 when protesting the “monetization” of the in-kind benefits.[69] Likely to be joined by other low-income Russians decrying budget cuts, a confluence of these “traditional” and “new” protesters could bring about a perfect political storm, which the regime will not be able to easily quell—or perhaps even survive.

The Beginning of Political Crystallization “From Below?”

But political crystallization of the protest movement does not have to wait for the economic “flash points.” We may already be witnessing the beginning of this process at the sub-national level. In a break with a key national political tradition, the protesters hope neither for a hero, a good tsar, nor another revolution “from above” to deliver lasting progressive transformation. Instead, they appear to predicate success on self-organization “from within” and from the bottom up: “Nothing will change if we do nothing,” said a leader of Soprotivlenie [Resistance], one of the grass-roots anti-Putin groups that emerged in Moscow last winter. “This is a fight for us to have a normal civil society in Russia. Changes are possible in Russia only from below.”[70] That democracy “begins from below,” that without a strong civil society “nothing will be achieved,” that such a society is to be built  “from the ground up,” and that the process must  start immediately are perhaps the most powerful leitmotifs in interviews with protesters, leaders, and rank-and-file alike.[71]

These sentiments propelled 28,000 volunteers throughout Russia to observe the March 4, 2012, presidential election—an upsurge in civic responsibility and grass-roots activism unprecedented in Putin’s Russia and all the more remarkable because the result was widely believed to be predetermined.[72] Typical of the observers’ motivation was the sentiment of a thirty-one-year-old “aspiring filmmaker” from Moscow: “It’s not that I want to go out and topple anything. But the only way to understand at least approximately what is happening is to go and participate.”[73]

The realization that “democracy does not start at the top” but instead “begins in local elections” has already translated into independent candidates’ winning ten out of fifteen mayoral elections held across Russia this past March, including in such major industrial centers as Togliatti and Yaroslavl. In Yaroslavl, a city of six hundred thousand 165 miles northwest of Moscow, the winner declared: “We have something to say to Mr. Putin. Change is coming. Let democracy spring from the city of Yarsolavl.”[74] The Kremlin's opponents are also aiming to strongly contest a series of regional and municipal races nationwide in October.

In Moscow, where the billionaire “oligarch” Mikhail Prokhorov may have outpolled Putin in at least some downtown districts on March 4, the candidates of a loose opposition coalition—“Our City”—won a third of the open seats in elections for district (municipal) councils on the same day.[75] With 71 out of 1,500 total seats, they are still a tiny minority; yet, with almost all the winners under the age of thirty and determined to persevere and fight, this victory may be yet another portent of a changing political landscape in Russia’s large cities. Russian analysts believe it impossible for a pro-regime candidate to be elected mayor of Moscow when the Kremlin-appointed mayor’s term ends in 2015. To try and secure the “election” of such a candidate by “usual means” may precipitate protests on a scale “no one could imagine.”[76]

Restriction and Intimidation

And yet, it is precisely such an “unimaginable” scenario that the government appears to be predicting in retreating from Medvedev’s promises of liberalization in December 2011 and by blocking the few remaining venues of peaceful political change. A law that was passed by the Duma in April 2012 will make it extremely difficult for independent, not to mention opposition, candidates to get on the ballots in gubernatorial elections. To do so they must collect notarized signatures of 5 to 10 percent of the deputies in local assemblies throughout a  candidate’s region. With the UR “party of power” holding over 95 percent of the seats in regional Dumas throughout the country, the required endorsements would be virtually impossible to obtain without the most unlikely eventuality of at least some deputies defying the UR leadership.[77]

In addition, although newly elected governors will no longer be able to serve more than two consecutive five-year terms (another December concession), this limitation does not include the years in office of the currently serving, Kremlin-appointed governors. They are eligible for another ten years in office. Furthermore, “consecutive” means there is no limit on the total number of terms, thus permitting the Putin-Medvedev-Putin scheme in which a “dauphin” interlude allows the “regent” to be reelected again and again.[78]

At the same time, the regime has severely constricted the last-remaining channel of public expression—protest demonstrations—by a 150-fold increase in fines for the “violation of the established order of organization or execution of mass simultaneous gatherings and/or movements of citizens in public places.”[79] Individuals are to be subjected to fines up to the ruble equivalent of $9,000, while organizers and organizations responsible may be fined up to $18,000 and $30,000, respectively, in a country where the average annual salary is $8,600 to $9,400.[80]

For the first time in post-Soviet Russia, the sanctions also include “compulsory work” for “administrative violations,” with the terms more severe than currently meted-out for some categories of felonies. Alexei Kudrin called the law—signed by Putin on June 8, 2012—a “crude violation of a number of principles of rule of law, and, consequently, a violation of the constitutional right of citizens to peaceful assembly.”[81] The adoption of the law was followed by another first in post-Soviet Russia: early morning searches and confiscation of documents and computer media in the homes of several protest leaders on June 11. In the month and a half that followed, the Duma passed several laws further restricting freedom of speech and organization: criminalizing “slander” and punishing it with huge fines and lengthy prison terms; stigmatizing nongovernment organizations funded abroad by requiring them to register as “foreign agents;” and launching de-facto Internet censorship by creating an easily expandable list of “harmful” sites.

A Civil Rights Movement

In the short run, the sanctions might disrupt public protests. But any permanent “pacification” of the protesters by repression will almost certainly fail. Instead, it is likely it will only further discourage the protesters from even minimal cooperation with the authoritarian regime, thus increasing the possibility of radicalization and violence. The reason for the endurance is the movement’s moral credo. Although the demonstrators could be described as political opposition, a civil rights movement would be a more fitting characterization. They reject the system not because of some specific political or economic grievance, but because they find it indecent, undignified, offensive, and unworthy of them as individuals and as citizens. A Russian expert summarized this sensibility as the rejection of “total corruption, lies, and violence” because they were “incompatible with decent life.”[82]

The movement is united by a quest for dignity in liberty and democratic citizenship. “Instead of ideological dogmas, follow moral norms, believe in common sense and in the individual,” said one of the movement’s most popular leaders, Alexei Navalny, to an interviewer.[83] The protest, Navalny contended, was not so much about politics as it was about “a very simple idea of struggle for one’s rights, for one’s voice, one’s choice.”[84] To Lev Gudkov, the leading independent Russian pollster and president of the Levada-Center, the “moral character” of the movement was “starkly undeniable and remarkable,” especially after a decade of political apathy: “I have not seen anything like it in the past twenty years!” he said.[85]

Just like past civil rights movements, Russia’s is led by a middle class that is seeking to effect vast political and social change through a personal and deeply moral effort. The moral imperative of dignity in liberty and equality informs the protesters’ discourse. “‘Honor,’ ‘decency,’ ‘dignity,’ ‘conscience’ are the mainstay of the protesters’ vocabulary.”[86] “We don’t want revolutions,” a prodemocracy opposition activist said in a rally in the Siberian city of Omsk on February 4, 2012. “We simply want to be able to live and work honestly but this [system] does not give us such a right.”[87] “I am here because in my country, my government ignores my interests and humiliates me,” a middle-aged female demonstrator told a reporter this past February in Novosibirsk.[88] Their slogans reflect the same moral sensibility: “Don’t lie to us!”[89] “Don’t steal from us!”[90] “Listen to us!”[91] “We are not cattle!”[92] “We are not a faceless crowd!”[93] “We are the people!”[94]

According to independent observers, people demonstrated for “human dignity, the right to choose their own fate and to live in a lawful state.”[95] Their key demands are equality before the law (now controlled by authorities on the national and local level) and the end of de facto disenfranchisement: their votes do not count if they are cast for a “wrong” party or candidate. The law “must be the same for all,” said a participant in the February 4 rally in Novosibirsk, 1,750 miles from Moscow. The falsification of the results of the elections was a “violation of our rights as citizens,” declared a middle-aged woman at the same rally. “The right to choose must be restored!”[96] A month later, after Putin’s reelection, it was again “self-respect” that brought protesters out on the streets. “We are learning to be citizens,” a participant said to a reporter.[97]

The intensity of this personal commitment is eviden-ced by another leitmotif in the protesters’ statements: they are protesting to secure a better future for their children. “When she grows up . . . [what if she]  ask[s] me, ‘Daddy, where were you when they decided we would live in a state like Syria instead of Europe?’” a twenty-seven-year-old lawyer said of his eighteen-month-old daughter. “I don’t want to tell her I was too busy to do anything about it.”[98] Protest leader Chirikova told an interviewer that there were older and younger protesters, but “parents with several-year-old children were there in greatest numbers. That is indicative of something. We are anxious about the future, not even for ourselves but for the sake of our children. They deserve to live in a better Russia.”[99] Anastasia Pshenichnaya, a thirty-four-year-old advertising agent who came to Yaroslavl to volunteer on the independent candidate’s campaign elaborated: “When my children ask me what I did under the Putin regime, I will be able to say that I took action and achieved results.”[100]

In yet another break from a Russian political tradition with its perennial expectation of a new and perfect world emerging from what Stalin called “great ruptures” [velikie perelomy], the protesters are prepared for the change “to take years, not weeks or months,”[101] and seem determined to persevere as long as necessary. They reject violence, and, instead, seek to “take the Kremlin by peaceful protest” and “by putting there those whom we honestly elected.”[102] As an astute Russian observer noted, their model is Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington, DC.[103]

A Challenge to the Kremlin and US Policymaking

As with other governments confronted with civil rights movements, there is good and bad news for the Kremlin. Civil rights movements are notoriously disorganized, slow to crystallize politically, and sluggish to produce a leadership structure. They are mistrustful of politics and reluctant to join or even support political parties. The bad—very bad, I should say—news for the regime is that a combination of organizational inchoateness and moral intensity makes this movement hard to subvert or manipulate. The absence of formal and permanent leadership structures impede the effectiveness of harassment or cooptation. “No leader and no headquarters” is the advantage, Alexei Navalny told an interviewer. Unlike an individual leader, thousands are hard to “scare, arrest or bribe.”[104] As the columnist Andrei Kolesnikov put it, “It is difficult to oppose an educated class, which demands from the regime not just political reform but, first and foremost, virtue and honesty.”[105] Finally, as we have seen, the movement sets no time limits to the achievement of its goals. The protesters are ready for “a long, hard struggle,” a political “marathon” as Boris Nemtsov, another protest leader, put it.[106]

If this quiet and unyielding determination continues to inform and inspire a politically active Russian minority, US policymakers ought to adjust to the fact that, after a decade of at best harmless neglect, Russian domestic politics will become an increasingly central factor in US-Russian relations. This should be a welcome change for it may indicate a restarted evolution immensely favorable to America’s geostrategy and security: a free, prosperous, democratic, and peaceful Russia, once again within the grasp of the Russian people.

Leon Aron ([email protected]) is a resident scholar and the director of Russian Studies at AEI.


I am grateful to research assistant Daniel Vajdic and interns Samantha Costello and Katie Earle for their help with the research for this essay, and to editorial assistant Hilary Waterman, senior editor Christy Sadler, Mr. Vajdic, Ms. Earle, and production designer Jennifer Morretta for their assistance in editing and producing this essay.


1. For example, Alexei Navalny predicted on December 24, 2011, that the opposition would be able to “gather a million people across the country” and to “stage such events until the people who have seized power do not agree to free elections.” See Dozhd TV, Moscow, December 24. Boris Akunin thought in January 2012 that “we will advance and they [the regime] only retreat,” and that Putin’s victory in the first round of the election on March 4 was “absolutely out of the question.” See Boris Akunin, “Razgovor s Politikom” [A Conversation with a Politician], /49763.html (accessed January 23, 2012). After the demonstration on December 10, Evgenia Chirikova, too, felt that “if the authorities do not react to our protest, Putin stands no chance of being reelected in March. No matter what he does in March, he will not have enough votes to win the presidential election.” See Marcin Wojciechowski, “Putin Can No Longer Hush Us Up” Gazeta Wyborcza, December 17, 2011.
2. See, for example, Ksenia Sobchak in “Lyudi Russkoy Norkovoy Revolyutsii” [People of the Russian Mink Revolution], Echo of Moscow, December 19, 2011, (accessed August 2, 2012).
3. Michael Schwirtz, “A Russian Protest Leader Takes Center Stage,” New York Times, March 11, 2012.
4. Anatol Lieven, “Mirage of the Putin Protests,” National Interest, April 3, 2012, /behind-the-putin-protests-6722  (accessed July 18, 2012).
5. For an interactive map of the protests, see .ru/?um=PoipxDpFM5RpWFp4IOqNlCaTIPlXIvO5ll=14.334785%2C29.518752&spn=0.351563%2C170.902397&z=1&l=map (accessed on April 16, 2012). For references to protests outside Moscow, see, for example, (accessed August 3, 2012);  http:// (accessed August 3, 2012); /2012/02/04/Miting-Za-chestnye-vybory-v-Ekaterinburge-podderz hali-6-tys-chelovek-257475 (accessed August 3, 2012); or (accessed on April 16, 2012). 
6. “Opros Na Prospekte Sakharova 24 Dekabrya” [The Poll on Sakharova Prospekt on December 24], Levada-Center, December 26, 2011,   (accessed on March 14, 2012). For a good summary, see Maxim Glinkin, “Na Prospect Sakharova Vyshly 30-Letnie Spetsialisty” [Thirty-Year-Old Professionals Turn Out on the Sakharov Prospect], Vedomosti, December 26, 2012.
7. Ibid.
8. “Opros na Prospekte . . .”
9. “Opros na Prospekte . . . ” Maria Lipman defines the social stratum that contributes heavily to the ranks of the “new protesters” not as “middle class,” but as “the new urban class,” which she describes as “young, well-educated professionals and entrepreneurs who have learned to rely on themselves and take their own decisions.” They are also “mobile and flexible” and at home in the “world of new media and global communications.” See Maria Lipman, “Civil Society and the Non-Participation Act” (presentation, 42nd National Convention of the American Associations for Advancement of Slavic Studies, Los Angeles, CA, November 17, 2010).
10. In the words of leading Russian political sociologist Mikhail Dmitriev: “The democratization in South Korea and Taiwan was also painful but they’ve avoided a revolution.” See Mikhail Dmitriev, “Putin Zakonchit Tak Zhe, Kak Gorbachev” [Putin Will End Up Like Gorbachev], Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 15, 2012.
11. Ibid., 174.
12. Ibid.,174–76. The “Tocquevillian paradox” has been echoed, for instance, in Crane Brinton’s classic comparison of the English, American, French, and 1917 Russian revolutions. It would not be “easy to argue,” Brinton wrote, “that early Stuart England was less prosperous than [pre-Revolutionary] Tudor England had been.” And, just as in France almost a century and a half later, it was precisely the more prosperous who were “the loudest against the government.” Thus, Brinton concluded, the [English] revolution was “certainly not due to economic distress.” Even in 1917 when Russia was wracked by three years of war, “the productive capacity of society as a whole was certainly greater than in any other time in Russian history . . .  and the progress in trade in production since the abortive revolution of 1905 had been notable.” See Crane Brinton, The Anatomy of Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1965), 30–31.
13. Ibid., 177.
14. Andrei Kolesnikov, “Evolutsiya Bobrovykh Shub” [An Evolution of the Beaver Fur Coats],, January 24, 2012, (accessed August 3, 2012).
15. Boris Akunin, “Let’s Not Rush to Win Russia,” New York Times, January 20, 2012.
16. Evgenia Chirikova, “Russian Protest Leader Says March Election Rigging Means ‘End’ for Putin,” Gazeta Wyborcza, December 17, 2011.
17. L.M. Grigoriev et al., Sredniy Klass Posle Krizisa: Ekspress-Analiz Vzglyadov Na Politiku i Ekonomiku [Middle Class After the Crisis: An Express Analysis of its Opinions on Politics and the Economy], 134–38, 2010.pdf (accessed January 4, 2011).
18. Ibid., 139–41; 138; 142.
19. “Opros na Prospekte . . . ”
20. Will Englund, “In Russia, Internet Getting Word Out On Big Election Protest,” Washington Post, December 10, 2011.
21. Kathy Lally, “Russian Internet Revolution Fuels Protest,” Washington Post, December 15, 2011.
22. At the same time, it is important not to exaggerate Russia’s Internet access and use outside this age group and outside the largest cities. For instance, last summer, grass-roots organization leaders in Vladivostok and Kaliningrad estimated the Internet penetration at 20 to 25 percent, and emphasized such means of outreach and mobilization as newspapers, pamphlets, and leaflets. See Leon Aron, “A Quest for Democratic Citizenship” (conference, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, May 31, 2012). Similarly, with a March 2012 poll by the Levada-Center finding that 46 percent of Russians were not users of the Internet, protest activists were reported to refocus their efforts in the provinces from the Internet to more traditional means, including word of mouth. See Michael Birnbaum, “In Unwired Russia, Political Opposition Goes Old School,” Washington Post, April 22, 2012 and Perry Link, “How China Fears the Middle East Revolutions,” New York Review of Books, March 24, 2011.
23. “Opros na Prospekte . . . ”
24. Michael Birnbaum, “Anti-Putin Crowds Swell in Moscow,” Washington Post, December 25, 2011.
25. Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, “About 10,000 Facebook Users Decry Medvedev’s View of Protests,” Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2011.
26. Andrei Kolesnikov, “‘Otkrepitel’Naya Demokratiya’  Kak Vysshaya Stadiya ‘Suverennoy Demokratii’” [A ‘Democracy of  Absentee Ballots As the Highest Stage of ‘Sovereign Democracy’], Novaya Gazeta, March 4, 2012, /51432.html (accessed March 5, 2012).
27. Mikhail Dmitriev, “Putin Zakonchit Tak Zhe, Kak Gorbachev” [Putin Will End Up Like Gorbachev], Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 15, 2012.
28. Ibid.
29. “Putin Zakonchit Tak Zhe . . . ”
30. “Opros na Prospekte . . . ”
31. Ibid.
32. “Vibori 2012 v Otsyenkah Rossiyan i Pyerspyektivi Slyedooyooshshih 12 Lyet” [2012 Elections in the Evaluations of Russians and Prospects for the Next Twelve Years], Levada-Center, March 3, 2012, (accessed August 6, 2012).
33. Nataliya Raybman and Sergei Smirnov, “‘Levada-Tsyentr’: 4 Marta Pootin Nabirayet 63-66%” [Levada Center: On March 4 Putin with Receive 63-66 Percent], Vedomosti, February 24, 2012, (accessed August 6, 2012).
34. “Rossiyanye o Politsii” [Russians About the Police], Levada- Center, May 4, 2012, (accessed August 6, 2012) and Masha Lipman, “Putin’s Weakening Grip,” Washington Post, May 10, 2012.
35. Will Englund, “In Russia Poll, Contradictions and ‘Democracy Gap,’” Washington Post, May 23, 2012.
36. “Putin Zakonchit Tak Zhe . . . ”
37. Lipman, “Putin’s Weakening Grip.”
38. Kirill Rogov, “Stsenariy ‘Rossiya-1” [Scenario “Russia-1”], Vedomosti, February 8, 2012, /1497088/strategiya_rossiya1#xzz1lo9GDAJ4 (accessed July 18, 2012).  
39. By contrast, what Rogov calls “Russia-2” consists of smaller cities, towns, and the countryside. This Russia is much poorer, has obsolete technologies, and rusting plants and factories. More often than not, it is heavily dependent on government subsidies and therefore is “paternalistically oriented” and not inclined toward a more competitive and pluralistic political system. With a population of around 75 million (or over 50 percent of the country), “Russia-2” is the home of Putin’s largest constituency and it was this Russia that, according to Mikhail Dmitriev, elected Putin this past March. In the last few years, Dmitriev adds, there has been a “polarization” of Russian society and an emergence of two “camps” with vastly different values and needs. In the provinces, a “traditional, Left-populist” majority, and in the largest cities, demands for social and political change that the current political system is incapable of satisfying. In a recent talk, Lev Gudkov provided a very similar analysis. He described his version of “Russia-2” as applying to cities with populations between one hundred and five hundred thousand (or about 45 percent of the country’s total population), making up the “social base” of antimodernization. In the long run, however, Russia-1(although smaller than Russia-2) is far more active politically and has superior demographic and economic dynamics than Russia-2, which appears to be doomed to economic stagnation and shrinkage. See “Stsenariy ‘Rossiya-1;”’ Mikhail Dmitriev, “Avtor Doklada o Politicheskom Krizise: Prognoz Dlya Vlastey Neuteshitelen” [The Author of a Report On the Political Crisis: The Forecast Is Hardly Cheerful], RIA Novosti, March 14, 2012, (accessed  March 25, 2012); Lev Gudkov, “Delegitimation of An Authoritarian Regime: Mass Protests and Controlled Elections,” (presentation, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC,  June 4, 2012.)
40. “Rossiyanye o ‘Yedinoy Rossii’ i Narodnom Frontye, Politzaklyoochyennih i Imijye V. Pootina” [Russians About “United Russia” and the National Front, Political Prisoners and the Image of V. Putin], Levada-Center, March 12, 2012, (accessed August 6, 2012).
41. “Concern Over Corruption Highest Since 1999, Poll Says,” Moscow Times, July 12, 2012, /article/concern-over-corruption-highest-since-1999-poll-says /462044.html (accessed August 6, 2012).
42. Lyobov Borusyak and Alexei Levinson, “Shest’ Let Uslovno” [Six Years On Probation], Novaya Gazeta, April 18, 2012.
43. Ibid.
44. “Vibori 2012 v Otsyenkah . . . ” and  “Shest’ Let Uslovno.”
45. “Pollster: Putin’s Attractiveness Sagging ‘Irreversibly,”’ Moscow Times, May 17, 2012, (accessed July 18, 2012).
46. Maxim Glinkin and Lilia Biryukova, “Politicheskiy Krizis v Rossii Mozhet Sovpast s Novoy Volnoy Krizisa Ekonomicheskogo” [A Political Crisis in Russia Could Coincide With a New Wave of An Economic Crisis], Vedomosti, May 24, 2012, /politics/news/1779365/mirnyj_ishod_maloveroyaten#ixzz1vlhGTCRQ  (accessed May 24, 2012).
47. “Poll Registers Huge Growth in Distrust Toward Authorities,” RIA Novosti, June 26, 2012 and Englund, “In Russia Poll . . . ”
48. Ludmila Sergeeva, Darya Ilyashenko, and Maksim Glinkin, “Reyting Putina v Moskve Otsenen v 27%,” [Putin’s Rating in Moscow is 27 Percent], Vedomosti, July 20, 2012.
49. “Avtor Doklada o . . . ”
50. “Putin Zakonchit Tak Zhe . . . ”
51. Ibid.
52. “Avtor Doklada o . . . ”
53. Andrew Weiss, “5 Myths About Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, March 4, 2012; Sergei Guriev (informal talk, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, March 5, 2012). The structure of the country’s imports was just as indicative of a petro-state economy. In 2011, machines and equipment constituted half of the total value of imports; food, 14 percent; and “products of chemical industry,” 15 percent. See Vladislav Naganov, “Eto Vsyo Stalo Vozmozhnym Isklyuchitel’no Blagodarya Putinu” [All This Became Possible Only Thanks to Putin], Novaya Gazeta, March 2, 2011, (accessed July 18, 2012).
54. “Eto Vsyo Stalo Vozmozhnym . . . ”
55. Guriev (talk, Center for Strategic and International Studies).
56. Anders Aslund, “Heated, Open Discussions at the Gaidar Forum,” Moscow Times, January 25, 2012, www.themoscowtimes .com/opinion/article/heated-open-discussions-at-the-gaidar-forum /451595.html (accessed July 19, 2012).
57. “Ekonomika Rossii Imeet Zapas Prochnosti Na Odin God v Sluchae Snizheniya Tseny Na Neft,'” [The Economy of Russia has a Safety Margin of One Year in the Case of a Fall in Gas Prices], Novaya Gazeta, September 27, 20011, (accessed August 3, 2012).
58. Aslund, “Heated, Open Discussions . . . ”
59. Sergei Guriev and Oleg Tsyvinsky, “Protesters Affirm the Modernization Theory,” Moscow Times, January 19, 2012, (accessed July 19, 2012).
60. “Avtor Doklada o . . . ”
61. Andrew E. Kramer, “Putin Ally Warns of Political Fallout if Economy Falters,” New York Times, May 24, 2012.
62. Confirming wide anecdotal and cyber evidence, 27 percent of the Russians in a national survey called the “swap” a “personal humiliation.” See Englund, “In Russia poll . . . ”
63. “Putin Zakonchit Tak Zhe . . . ”
64. “Avtor Doklada o . . . ” For example, Ivan Tchakarov, chief economist for Russia at Renaissance Capital in Moscow, said this past May that the “budget is slipping into a deficit and the current account balance is likely to turn negative in 2014 or 2015.” See Stepan Kravchenko and Henry Meyer, “Putin Aims for Stability by Keeping Russia’s Key Ministers,” Business Week, (accessed July 18, 2012).
65. Mikhail Losev, “Rossiyu Nauchat Zhit Po Sredstvam” [Russia Will Be Forced to Live Within Its Means], RBK, July 2011.
66. Andrew E. Kramer and David M. Herszenhorn, “Former Russian Minister Warns of Economic Webb,” New York Times, June 23, 2012.
67. Guriev (talk, Center for Strategic and International Studies).
68. “Predsedatel' Pravitel'stva Rossiyskoy Federatsii VVPutin Provyol Zasedanie Pravitel'stvennoy Komissii Po Byudzhetnym Proektirovkam Na Ocherednoy Finansovyy God i Planovoy Period” [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Chaired a Meeting of the Governmental Commission for Budgetary Projections for the Next Fiscal Year and Planning Period], September 12, 2011, (accessed July 18, 2012). 
69. See, for example, Yevgeny Signal, “Generation Byez P” [Generation Without P], Kommersant, March 19, 2012, (accessed August 6, 2012); “Rossiyu Nauchat Zhit . . . ” and “Avtor Doklada o . . . ” 
70. Timothy Heritage, “Anti-Putin Protests Spur Civil Society in Russia,” Reuters, February 29, 2012, /2012/02/29/uk-russia-election-society-idUKTRE81S10H20120229 (accessed July 18, 2012).
71. Kathy Lally and Will Englund, “Anti-Putin Protesters Offer a Pragmatic New Message at Moscow Rally,” Washington Post, March 11, 2012; Chirikova, “Russian Protest Leader Says . . . ;” Will Englund and Kathy Lally, “Protesters Keep Up Pressure on Putin,” Washington Post, February 5, 2012; and Damien Pearse, “Moscow Protesters Demand Vladimir Putin’s Resignation,” Guardian, March 10, 2012.
72. Yulia Latynina, “The Birth of Civil Society,” Moscow Times, March 13, 2012, (accessed July 19, 2012) and Ellen Barry and Sophia Kishkovsky, “Russian Turnout Includes Thousands of Eager Observers,” New York Times, March 5, 2012.
73. Barry and Kishkovsky, “Russian Turnout . . . ”
74. Latynina, “The Birth of Civil Society” and Michael Schwirtz, “Mayoral Votes Give Russia Opposition a Boost,” New York Times, April 3, 2012.
75. Michael Schwirtz, “Opposition, to Its Surprise, Wins a Bit of Power in Moscow,” New York Times, March 8, 2012; Richard Boudreaux, “Russian Protester Finds Another Path to Change,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2012; and Kathy Lally, “Next Stop for Activists: Moscow City Hall,” Washington Post, March 29, 2012.   
76. “Putin Zakonchit Tak Zhe . . . ”
77. “This is a nasty and sneaky [podlen’kiy] little law,” said an opposition deputy in the Magadan regional Duma. “We proposed [to limit the number of required endorsements to] 5 percent but in the debates the United Russia majority raised the number first to 7 and then to 10 percent. It is clear that in the elections they will support their own.” See Ekaterina Eremenko and Mikhail Bulanov, “Regiony Prinimayut Zakony o Vyborakh” [Regions Are Adopting Election Laws],, June 20, 2012, http://kommersant.r /doc/1962820?isSearch=True (accessed August 3, 2012).   
78. Lev Gudkov has also brought up these points in a recent talk. See Gudkov, “Delegitimation of An Authoritarian Regime . . . ” See also, for example, Olga Kuzmenkova, “Otsketat Neshchadno,” [To Cut Off Without Mercy],, April 18, 2012;  Gregory L. White, “Having Vowed Reform, Kremlin Said to Dilute It,”  Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2012; and Nikolai Petrov, “The Kremlin Filter Façade,” Moscow Times, April 17, 2012, (accessed August 3, 2012).
79. Victor Davidoff, “Russia Passes Draconian Anti-Protest Law after First Filibuster in Duma’s Modern History,” Eurasia Daily Monitor 9, no. 109 (2012), ttnews[tt_news]=39480 (accessed August 3, 2012).
80. Federal’niy Zakon o Vnesenii Izmeneniy v Kodeks Rossiyskoy Federatsii Ob Adminstratirvnykh Pravonarushniyakh i Federal’niy Zakon ‘O Sobraniyakh, Mitingakh, Demonstratsiyakh, Shestviyakh i Pikteriovaniyakh” [Federal Law on the Introduction of Changes to the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Violations of Law and the Federal Law ‘On Meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations, Processions and Picketing’], Ekho Moskvy, June 8, 2012. http://echo (accessed June 26, 2012).
81. Ibid.
82. Will Englund, “Putin Presents Himself as Key to Russia’s Future,” Washington Post, January 17, 2012.
83. Boris Akunin, “Razgovor s Politikom” [A Conversation with a Politician], LiveJournal, /49763.html  (accessed January 23, 2012).
84. “Protestny Dekabr 2011: Chem Eto Zakonchitsya?” [The December 2011 Protest: How Will This End?], Ekho Moskvy, December 26, 2011, (accessed June 18, 2012).   
85. Lev Gudkov, “Delegitimation of An Authoritarian Regime . . . ”
86. See, for example, Boris Nemtsov, LiveJournal, February 5, 2012, (accessed March 10, 2012). 
87. Georgy Borodyansky, “Omsk. Glavnymi ‘Geroyami’ Aksii ‘Za Chestnye Vybory Stali Putin i Polezhaev” [Omsk. Putin and Polezhaev Became the Main ‘Heroes’ of the Rally ‘For Honest Elections], Novaya Gazeta, February 4, 2012. 
88. Ekaterina Kuzmina, “Aktsiya ‘Za Chestnye Vybory’ v Novosibirske—Opros Mitinguyushchikh” [A Rally ‘For Honest Elections’ in Novosibirsk: A Survey of the Participants], Epoch Times, www. /content/view/57851/54 (accessed February 29, 2012).
89. See, for example, Olga Vishnevskaya in “Aktsiya ‘Za chestnye . . . ”
90. See, for example, “Razgovor s Politikom.”
91. See, for example, Richard Bourdreaux and Alexander Kolyandr, “Anti-Putin Protesters Ring Moscow,” Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2012 and Tom Parfitt, “Anti-Putin Protesters March Through Moscow,” Guardian, February 4, 2012, /2012/feb/04/anti-putin-protests-moscow-russia (accessed July 19, 2012).
92. See, for example, Miriam Elder and Tom Parfitt, “Russian Anti-Putin Protests Draw Thousands to Moscow Again,” Guardian, December 24, 2012, (accessed July 19, 2012) and Ellen Barry, “Rally Defying Putin’s Party Draws Tens of Thousands,” New York Times, December 10, 2011. 
93. Lally, “Russian Internet Revolution Fuels Protest.”
94. Miriam Elder, “Putin Makes His Presence Felt as Protesters Take to Moscow’s Streets,” Guardian, March 5, 2012, (accessed July 19, 2012).
95. Alexei Zubov, “Net Povoda Dlya Ogorcheniy” [No Need To Be Upset], Vedomosti, March 5, 2012.
96. Ekaterina Kuzmina, “Aktsiya ‘Za chestnye Vybory’ v Novosibirske—Opros Mitinguyushchikh” [A Rally ‘For Honest Elections’ in Novosibirsk: A Survey of the Participants], Epoch Times, (accessed February 29, 2012).
97. Will Englund and Kathy Lally, “Fighting Erupts At Moscow Protest,” Washington Post, May 7, 2012.
98. Kathy Lally, “In Russia, Sweeping Protests Against Putin,” Washington Post, December 11, 2012.
99. Chirikova, “Russian Protest Leader Says . . . ”
100. Schwirtz, “Mayoral Votes Give Russia . . .”
101. Lally, “In Russia, Sweeping Protests . . . ”
102. “Protestny Dekabr 2011: Chem . . ”
103. Vladimir Frolov, “Protesters Should Copy U.S. Civil Rights March,” Moscow Times, February 12, 2012, /452897.html (accessed July 19, 2012).
104. “Razgovor s Politikom.”
105. Andrei Kolesnikov, “‘Otkrepitel’naya Demokratiya’  Dak Vysshaya Stadiya ‘Suverennoy Demokratii” [A ‘Democracy of Absentee Ballots’ As the Highest Stage of ‘Sovereign Democracy’], Novaya Gazeta, March 4, 2012, 51432.html (accessed March 5, 2012).
106. Boris Nemtsov, LiveJournal, February 5, 2012, (accessed March 10, 2012).  

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