Staunton, February 4 – Many people have drawn parallels between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, but now a Russian analyst is drawing them between US protesters against the former and earlier Russian protests against the latter, a parallel that is not altogether encouraging given the ways in which the Kremlin leader exploited them to tighten the screws on his country.
In a comment for the Republic portal, Grigory Yudin, a professosr at the Moscow Higher School for Social and Economic Sciences, says that “the similarities” between US protests now and those against Putin six year ago are “striking.” In both, the chief means are humor and a predominant commitment to moderation and a peaceful approach (republic.ru/posts/79294).
“Both in Russia and in the US,” Yudin continues, “the demonstrations brought out into the streets angry residents of the cities. The egregious violations in the elections to the Russian Duma like the installation of an outsized American president generated anger. Such actions bring citizens into politics and show they have real power which must be taken into consideration.”
“Irritation must be distinguished from rage,” he says. Initially both Russians in the past and Americans now were simply angry. There was no place for humor the day after the Duma vote, and there was none at the American airports when Trump’s immigration restrictions went into force.
But both sets of protesters shifted toward humor given the lack in each case of political goals which had a “clear” path to being achieved. Russian protesters called “for honest elections” but didn’t say just what should happen to move in that direction. American protesters want Trump out but again have no clear plan as to how that could happen.
Ultimately in the Russian case, the demonstrations died out and the Putin regime made use of them to tighten the screws. Will the same thing happen in the US? the Moscow professor asks rhetorically. And does the shift to humor, an indication that the protesters don’t have a clear road map for the future, mean that this is already happening?
When those taking part in any protests begin to celebrate the fact that they are taking part, those demonstrations “lose their political potential,” however satisfying they may be to participants. That happened in Russia six years ago: it appears to be happening in the United States now.
“The fact that the masses in Russia and America began to speak a common language and in places make use of one and the same symbols is a sign that the processes in both countries bear resemblance,” Yudin argues. They share in many ways similar emotions, similar political situations, and similar problems.
And “these problems,” he insists, “have a global character and can hardly be resolved within a single state on its own.” That’s in part why the American protesters have been joined by demonstrators in other countries. Perhaps, Yudin says, “they will learn to listen to one another … and sooner or later seek to close ranks.”