Staunton, August 29 – Many dismiss protests in the Russian regions as irrelevant to what is happening in the capital, but Yekaterina Schulmann says that these actions, even if they are unlikely to become massive, as already having an impact on the Russian government because the regime has been forced to respond.
In some cases, she said on an Ekho Moskvy broadcast, the powers that be try to talk their way out of the problem. In others, they use pressure or even repression. And in most, they use their control of the media to distort the situation and blur what is really going on (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1825902-echo/).
This combination of “carrots and sticks” is one that the regime has applied “more or less successfully over recent years,” she notes. “But if these cases become too numerous, there won’t be enough resources to address them.” In that event, even if the protests are specific rather than general, the system would face a crisis.
The way the authorities respond, Schulmann continues, also reflects the personality and biography of the governors. If the governor is from the force structures, “he will be accustomed to act one way; if he is from the onetime elected governors, he will be accustomed to act in quite another.” Governors will also vary depending on whether they are locals or from the outside.
Other factors are involved as well, the analyst says, including but not limited to the state of the elite in the particular region, relations between that elite and the force structures, and the past experience both governors and governed have had. One can even speak of regional patterns: Schulmann calls the crackdown on the tractor march “the North Caucasus” variant.
But she insists that it is incorrect to call these various protests “economic” as many do in derision. “The demands are essentially political. People want to be heard. Peope want to take part in decision making. To decide on things that concern them, such as taxes, bankruptcies, land distribution, construction, and tearing down of property.”