Other Russia’s Conference on July 11—12 have started processes of confrontation between Putin’s Kremlin forces and new oppositional forces consolidated under “Other Russia’s” banner.
At the moment of “Other Russia’s” creation, old opposition forces (Zuganov’s Communists, Yavlinski’s democrats, the Union of Right Forces) have proved to be impotent. Not dead, but as unactive as dead. For more than decade those opposition parties were present in Russian State Duma, however that presence couldn’t stop an installation in Russia of rightwing Putin dictatorship. Exploiting protest emotions of population, Zuganov, Yavlinksi, and rest were actually pretenders, false oppositioners.
It is natural that when in July 2006 “Other Russia” conference have presented “Other Russia” to the world and to Russia, the new opposition was met with skepticism. Union of ex-prime minister Michael Kasyanov, National Bolshevik forces headed by Limonov, plus chess champion Gary Kasparov seemed bizarre, exotical. But only until December 16, 2006. “March of Disagrees” what took place on that day proved to be a success, gathering together more than four thousands disagrees, instead of usual few hundred gathered normally by liberal and communist meetings, menacing their monopoly for public gatherings, surprising for general public.
But no surprising for Kremlin, as on December 16 more than nine thousand strong police forces were defending center of Moscow from disagrees. Kremlin had better sources of information, so they expected thousands on Mayakovski Plaza that day. Hundreds of “Other Russia” activists were stopped on their way to Moscow, thousands of city dwellers were prevented to come to Mayakovski that day. But all sides got our message: New opposition is born, and it has support of masses.
Even better result was achieved by next “March of Disagrees” on March 3, in St. Petersburg. More than 6,000 people were participating. Center of St. Petersburg was in calamity for three hours. Numerous were skirmishes with special police forces. Despite police forces, despite the fact that communists shamelessly announced on that very day and time their own meeting, despite the fact that some leaders of “Other Russia” were detained, march in St. Petersburg was smashing success. That day, I believe, Kremlin’s nervousness on subject of “Other Russia” became parnoia. Because next March of Disagrees in Nizhni Novgorod on March 24 was surrounded by 20,000 strong police forces. Thousands of disagrees were prevented from coming to the place of gathering, nine streets heading to that place were blocked, few hundred activists who battled their way to place of gathering were detained with cruelty. However, “Other Russia” came out of confrontation victorious. It was a moral victory, and moral victory is highest and strongest type of victory.
After that Russian politics became unthinkable without “March of Disagrees,” without counting “Other Russia” forces. Old Opposition, losing its influence with amazing rapidity. Inside old oppositional parties, arguments for joining forces with “Other Russia” were born.
Double hit, when marches were launched in Moscow and St. Petersburg on April 14 and 15 were met by Kremlin with unprecedented police violence. Center of Moscow looking as a military camp, was a field for hunting and beating Moscovites by special police forces. And again both marches were moral victories of enormous power. Because acting president and his police force were preventing citizens from realization of its undeniable Constitutional rights for a peaceful manifestation. Sense of justice, however different for each individual, was telling to simple citizens witnessing police terror in their cities, that Kremlin is terribly wrong and terribly guilty.
By the middle April citizens of three most populated cities were witnesses to the acts of terror and cruelty of Putin’s police. Rumors, stories of violence are flowing from now on cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.
Kremlin, like in epileptic fit, reacted violently. Too violently, because after marches of April whole world is involved in watching struggle between “Other Russia” and Kremlin. Russian television’s silence on subject become irrelevant, as personal experience, local newspapers, widespread rumors could not be stopped.
Kremlin got the lessons of April. “March of Dissenters” in Samara on May 18 was authorized by cities’ authority. However, FSB, all sorts of police were acting in the same way as on previous occasions. They violently worked on the preventing of the march, arresting hundreds, detaining, beating and beating again. On the morning of May 18, 27 people booked on flight N813 heading to Samara were stopped from boarding plane on the pretext of having “suspect, possibly false” plant tickets. Foreign journalists, activists of the “Other Russia” and, worst of all, leaders of “Other Russia.” Gary Kasparov and Edward Limonov were held at airport Sheremetevo-1 for five hours, until the last plane of the day heading to Samara have had left. Stupidity of that police operation is obvious because that detention of Kasparov and Limonov became world news number one of the day.
What is the next step? Marches at St. Petersburg on June 9, and in Moscow on June 11 will no doubt accelerate political life in Russia even further. No matter how Kremlin will behave itself. Their violence will spark feeling of rage, of disgust and that of rebellion. If Kremlin (I don’t believe this personally) will decide to not prevent citizens from participation in June marches, it will help marchers to show their real forces. In both cases Kremlin will be defeated. By its own violence or by the show of new opposition’s strength.
Second conference of “Other Russia” will be held on July 11 and 12. It will add to process of acceleration. In autumn, finally, public opinion will be massively and strongly gathered on the side of “Other Russia.” The number of disagrees and those enraged by the Kremlin’s violence will achieve a critical point.
Edward Limonov, The Exile