Last Sunday’s “election” in Russia is continuing to generate a spirited opposition. Videos of vote manipulation and falsification are flooding YouTube. Over 5,000 people demonstrated in Moscow on Monday. And now the last Soviet president and great liberalizer Mikhail Gorbachev is asking for a vote recount.
Such an outburst is unusual among Russian society, smothered by censorship and corruption, with justice and power for sale. But it should not be surprising. Repeated insults to people’s dignity and intelligence are among the most powerful triggers of rebellions and revolutions. Shoving United Russia, widely known as the “Party of Thieves and Swindlers,” down people’s throats constituted just this kind of insult. And it has generated revulsion.
The probability of such a reaction was obvious to anyone who looked beyond the despondent chattering classes in Moscow and talked to at least some of Russia’s myriad grassroots organizations and movements. The ones that I had the privilege to study and interview this past summer have evinced a remarkably consistent moral and existential non-acceptance of the regime. They see their overarching meta-goal in creating a kind of mature, self-aware, and self-organizing society that would be willing and able to control the state. Over the past decade, they have worked quietly but steadily and with unshakable moral determination to instill millions of Russians with civic responsibility and enlightened citizenship.
In many ways, what we have seen in the last two days is the result of this astounding and still unfolding evolution. More is still to come. Just wait until Putin’s “election” in March and self-coronation in May.