Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Putin Regime Transforming Apolitical Activists into Its Opponents, Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 1 – Russians who seek to some immediate problem “as an alternative to full-blown opposition activity” are increasingly being forced into politics by the Russian government itself because of the regime’s ever harsher response to any independent social activity, according to a Moscow commentator.

            In an essay on the “Osobaya bukhva” portal this week, Mariya Ponomaryeva says that the widely accepted “theory of small things is only a theory” in today’s Russia because “in fact, any social work in Russia inevitably leads to politics however much those involved say otherwise” (

            “Social and charitable organizations in the West rarely get involved in political activity,” she writes, and many Russians have assumed that they can do the same. “’I do  not want to get involved in politics,’” such people say; “’but I want to help people.’” But unfortunately, the Russian authorities won’t let them stay out of politics if they want to act in public at all.

            The approach of such Russians, often described as a manifestation of “the theory of small cases,” has been much in evidence over the last year, Ponomaryeva continues, but as she notes, “the theory is not new and not bad” but in Russia now it has no chance not because of the population but because of the powers.

            Fearful that any public action threatens their position, the authorities simultaneously refuse to meet it half way, something that might satisfy people, and label those who are engaged in it as political opponents even if there is at least initially no basis for such a charge, the “Osobaya bukhva” commentator says.

            That leaves the disgruntled citizenry with two options: either he can stop doing what he thinks is necessary or he can get involved in increasingly political forms of protest, a choice that means the regime will face either a more angry but passive populace or a larger number of political opponents.

            Neither choice promises much good, but the second is likely to become increasingly the one people will select, even if the regime continues to repress them and label them “foreign agents” because it understands that “any action outside of officially designated frameworks will lead to an understanding of the harmful quality of the current arrangements in the country.”

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