When Russia marks 100 years after the October Revolution, Russians are still ready to take the streets

Just on the day when Russia celebrates the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution, when the people raised their heads against power, a study shows that the Russians have not lost their will to manifest.

Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny hold leaflets with his name during a rally in St. Petersburg, Russia October 7, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny hold leaflets with his name during a rally in St. Petersburg, Russia October 7, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

The study has been conducted by the Center for Economic and Political Reforms, Tsepr, a Moscow think-tank that has been focusing on issues of the weakest working class since 2015. Among its activities, Tsepr monitors every event that takes place on the territory of the Federation. From January to September, the study reports, there were more than 1,100 protests across Russia, for political, socio-economic and work-related reasons.

An ever-increasing number, from 248 events in the first three months of 2017 to 445 in the third quarter. It means a 60% increase since the beginning of the year, Tsepr say.

It is not a coincidence that the study was published on November 7, the centenary of the October Revolution.

From Caucasus to Siberia

The analysis also gives the motivations. According to the study, the majority of protests concern the late or unpaid salaries, wage reductions and other labor issues. In total, about 70% of the protests were motivated by economic reasons. The most striking examples are the protests of truck drivers against the "Platon" road tax, those of the peasants against landslide expropriation and the great demonstrations in 67 cities of thousands Russians who had invested their savings in the construction of apartments never built.

In some cases, socio-economic issues are linked to political ones. This is the case with widespread anti-corruption protests, led by Alexei Navalny, a prominent figure in opposition to Putin. Or the case of demonstrations against Moscow municipality’s plan to flat down thousands of old Soviet residential blocks.

Not like what one might imagine, outbreaks of protests are not limited to large cities, but spread even in the remote areas of the country, from the Caucasus to Siberia.

Just like 100 years ago

The more interesting aspect of the cases recorded by Tsepr lies in their determination to go against the government to get what demonstrators want. It’s not about educated elite, a progressive minority. We are talking about the working class that is the backbone of support for Putin, and that has no political aims nor has any sympathy for the opposition.

“The social contract that is the foundation of Putin-era stability — citizens do not get involved in politics, and the government, in exchange, offers material well-being and aspires to keep out of people’s pockets — has been violated,” journalist for the Kommersant Andrei Pertsev wrote at the beginning fo the “Platon” demonstrations.

The study attributes responsibility for protests to the deafness of power to people's demands, a "destructive tactic" that goes from ignoring citizens' requests to pretending to solve their problems. The conclusion of the research is that Russia has not yet developed a system of prevention and constructive resolution of social conflicts. For this reason, street protest is still almost the only effective way for citizens to assert their rights.

Something very similar to 100 years ago Russia.

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