Staunton, August 18 – Yesterday, Russian police blocked the march in Novosibirsk calling for Moscow to live up to the constitution and observe the rights of the country’s federal subjects, but the Putin regime failed to block the message of the Siberian federalists from getting out.
Not only did the actions of the police underscore the legitimacy of the federalists that the Putin regime is violating the constitution and thereby demonstrated the illegitimacy of the regime, but they could not and did not prevent that message from reaching a larger audience via social networks and the internet. Instead, the police action may have had just the opposite effect.
Indeed, to judge from the way in which the story of the events in Novosibirsk have lit up social networks and the Russian internet, it seems clear that Moscow’s oppressive behavior had the effect of attracting far more interest in and support for the federalists than a policy of “repressive tolerance” might have had.
Grani.ru (grani.ru/Politics/Russia/activism/m.232137.html) provides a guide to some of this coverage, including on Twitter (twitter.com/kad0t/status/500943820704714752), Facebook (facebook.com/roman.popkov.56/posts/738280652896459), and the Internet more generally (http://tvrain.ru/articles/piket_za_federalizatsiju_v_novosibirske_fotogalereja-374123/).
And the site also provides a good example of how the Putin regime comes up short even when it uses its police powers to take articles it doesn’t like down. The article “Parade of Sovereignties 2.0” which Roskomnadzor forced “The New Times” to take down is now available elsewhere, including at szona.org/parad-suverenitetov/).
Obviously intimidation works for a time. Otherwise dictators wouldn’t use it. But even they find out that while they may be able to cow many people and even other governments for a time, they cannot do so forever. Putin is being given an object lesson of that in Ukraine and now in Siberia, even if so far he and people like him show little sign of understanding that reality.
The failure of Putin’s regime to do so should send a l message to the Russian people and the international community: Putin will continue to increase repression, however much he dresses it up in nice verbiage for some foreign governments, because he only understands one kind of force and doesn’t understand other kinds are ultimately much more powerful.