Khabarovsk and the rings of resistance of society

Sabine Lichtenfels presents the Resistance stone during the Ring of Power, February 18th 2019

Sociological and political characteristics of the protest movement in the Khabarovsk Territory – expert opinions in the program &# 171; VOA Discussion&# 187;

The scale of the protests in Khabarovsk after the arrest of the governor of the Khabarovsk Territory, Sergei Furgal, surprised many experts on Russian domestic politics. For twenty days, local residents have been going out to rallies and processions demanding the release of their elected “people’s governor,” as they call Furgala, and the return of the acting head of the region, Mikhail Degterev, appointed by presidential decree to Moscow..

Political scientist and publicist Alexander Morozov, researcher at the Boris Nemtsov Academic Center for the Study of Contemporary Russia at the Charles University in Prague, notes that even the most loyal strata of society are outraged..

“When we see Khabarovsk residents at their rallies, we understand well that these are not professional political oppositionists, but, on the contrary, citizens who yesterday, quite possibly, voted for Putin in the 2018 elections and even a significant part voted for the amendments, maybe these people supported the annexation of Crimea, that is, they are loyal people. But they have a very clear understanding that the explanation of Kremlin politics from Moscow is at odds with their own lives. That is why none of them any longer believes in the assertion that Furgal is guilty of any crimes in the zero years, ”the expert says..

Sergei Furgal, who went to the 2018 elections from the Liberal Democratic Party and unexpectedly defeated the candidate from United Russia, was accused of involvement in the murders and attempted murder of entrepreneurs in 2004-2005 in the Khabarovsk Territory and the Amur Region. The governor himself does not admit his guilt, and opponents of the Kremlin call the persecution of Furgal political, recalling both the relatively low level of support for the constitutional amendments in the region following the recent voting (62.28%), the loss of Vladimir Putin at 14 polling stations in the Khabarovsk Territory during the last presidential elections and, in general, a large-scale loss of positions of the “party of power” at the local level (“United Russia” has only 12.51% of seats in the Legislative Duma of the region).

“Personality is important to people in this case. A personality that personifies the choice of people, their ability to decide something on their own, – explains the sociologist Sergey Erofeev, professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “And so they demand that Furgal be returned to the region, not completely released, maybe, but at least tried in the region by an honest jury. People believe that they should also have a say in such matters and justice will be done much better within the framework of the law at the regional level. Of course, there is a personal choice of Khabarovsk residents, which was made in the region, but people understand that without more major changes, life in the Khabarovsk Territory will not change “.

A poll by the Levada Center, the results of which were published this week, showed that 83% of Russians know about the protests in the Khabarovsk Territory, despite minimal coverage of events by state media, and, moreover, 45% of respondents have a positive attitude towards those who goes to protest actions. At the same time, however, less than a third of respondents are ready to take part in protests in their region – 29%.

Alexander Morozov, speaking on the air of Voice of America about the potential for expanding the protest, was quite categorical: “My point of view is that regional protest in Russia cannot expand at all, under any circumstances. In a number of cities in the Far East and Siberia, some actions in support of the Khabarovsk residents took place, maybe insignificant, but it is important that they took place. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is completely unrealistic to believe that a protest can rise from the region and cover the whole of Russia for many reasons. At the same time, no matter how this protest ends, it is important here that as a tree accumulates annual rings, so the Russian post-Soviet society accumulates these annual rings of resistance, protest. This is extremely important, it does not disappear from social memory and, in the end, forms a very important line. “.

Sergei Erofeev, in turn, notes the difference with the national agenda: “Indeed, recent history shows that the successes [of the protest movements] in Yekaterinburg and Shies are regional success, which directly leads to some big changes in political culture throughout the country. did not. Another thing is that both in Yekaterinburg and in Shies, and what is happening now in Khabarovsk, receives just nationwide unorganized support from the people. When we watch streams from Khabarovsk, and people mark the cities and regions from which they watch the broadcast, it is simply amazing – this is the entire geography of Russia and the entire post-Soviet space. That is, in every regional case, of course, there must be a regional agenda, there must be a regional reason for success to happen. Some kind of success may develop at this stage in Khabarovsk, although the performances may be suppressed. As for national changes, they need a national agenda. While on the horizon, if nothing changes, the elections to the State Duma and there already this regional reserve can play a certain role “.

State Duma deputy from the Liberal Democratic Party Mikhail Degtyarev, hastily sent to the Khabarovsk Territory to a vacant position after the arrest of Furgal, has already made a number of statements, including the involvement of some unnamed “foreigners” in organizing the protests. Degtyarev said that he had “irrefutable evidence from law enforcement agencies” about those who flew to Khabarovsk when “there was an opportunity to shake the situation,” but did not disclose any details.

Political scientist and publicist Alexander Morozov considers such searches for outside organizers to be the implementation of one of the Kremlin models.

“Kremlin managers always forward those theses that can be used later. Now, of course, everyone laughs at Degtyarev’s words. Both Khabarovsk residents and the whole country see that this is complete nonsense. But in two months, this and similar statements will be important for the FSB, Center “E” [the counter-extremism department] and the special services, which will carry out arrests and repressions in the wake of the protests. The Kremlin always expects that in this way public opinion will be somehow prepared. Maybe it worked like that for quite a long time. However, now, in my opinion, there is more and more anecdote. The population perceives such statements, like Degtyarev’s, about foreign interference, and even in Khabarovsk, as insane! We know all these models of the Kremlin well. Nevertheless, they will also forward ideas about the presence of Khodorkovsky’s employees and other opposition – not Khabarovsk – organizations, ”the expert explains..

Let me remind you that the Kremlin, after the above-mentioned words of Degtyarev about “foreigners”, said that in general it is impossible to say that the actions were organized from abroad, but over time, as the presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said, “various quasi or pseudo oppositionists, brawlers who feed on this “.

Khabarovsk and the rings of resistance of society

However, sociologist Sergei Erofeev from Rutgers University in New Jersey suggests looking at the actions and statements of the Russian authorities from a broader perspective: “There is always an opportunity for the Kremlin to see the public reaction that no one believes in foreign intervention, but, nevertheless, they will do their own, planting one-two-third, because they consider them to be such and such agents. There is already no law, no evidence will work. It is another matter that the Kremlin also thinks about what the behavior of the residents of the region will be in this case, because the problems will not be solved and anti-Putinism will not go anywhere. Anti-Moscow sentiments – in the sense of organizing the leadership of the country and the region – will not go anywhere either. People at the local level are not organized now, but the potential for self-organization is always there, and the more communications there will be, the more awareness of the population and the more time resources, the sooner they are reorganized. If all the shoots are suppressed in the near future, nevertheless, this accumulation of the cultural stratum will play a colossal role for political culture and the future, richer and more honest political life in the country ”.

According to Alexander Morozov, if the Kremlin takes very rough forceful actions against the population, and not the governor of Furgal, the international community may react, as well as appeals to the European Court of Human Rights..

“Since the regime is moving into a new state, there is no doubt that further sanctions against this regime will follow, and there will be a rather deep rupture of political communications with European countries and the West,” says a researcher at the Academic Center Boris Nemtsov.

You can watch the full release of the VOA Discussion program with the participation of Alexander Morozov and Sergey Erofeev at this link: = 5s

  • Rafael Saakov

    Author and host of the program "A week". Since 2016 – Correspondent of the Russian Service "Voices of America" in Washington, in international journalism – since 2004. Former employee of the Moscow bureau of the BBC. Graduated from the Faculty of Journalism, Moscow State University. Main areas of activity – politics, sports, culture, social networks

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Khabarovsk and the rings of resistance of society

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