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memri
September 28, 2017 No.
7112

Russian Political Analyst Krasheninnikov: New Rules In The Russian Political Game

Political analyst Fyodor Krasheninnikov wrote an article in the Russian newspaper Vedomosti, titled "Frameworks In The Void," where he argued that the Russian authorities’ non-response to "irritating factors" means there are new rules to the political game.

Krasheninnikov lists five "irritating factors" for the Russian authorities. The first one is represented by the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, who recently exploited protests in support of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims to position himself as a religious-political leader, by acting as the guarantor of Muslims' rights. Kadyrov also posted a public statement on his Instagram and YouTube channels, in which he reverses his previous stance professing unequivocal support for any Russia's policy. He is now on record that if Russia were to support the Myanmar government, which he has described as the Shaytan (the devil), he will oppose Russia's position.[1]

The second factor is "Orthodox fundamentalism." Recently, Orthodox fundamentalists protested against the showing of the movie "Matilda," directed by Alexey Uchitel, which recounts the affair that Tsar Nicholas II, who has been canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church, carried on with the ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya, prior to his marriage. The Riga based Russian media outlet Meduza.io reported: "A campaign against the movie has raged for almost a year now, and State Duma deputy (former Crimean Attorney General) Natalia Poklonskaya wants the film banned on the grounds that it 'insults' Nicholas II, who is considered a holy saint by Russian Orthodox Christians. 'Matilda' premieres on October 26, but some movie theaters have refused to show it, citing threats of violence and one arson attack in Yekaterinburg. In September, arsonists set fire to two cars outside the law office of Konstantin Dobrynin, who represents Alexey Uchitel, and scattered slips of paper with the inscription: "You'll burn for Matilda!"[2] Alexander Kalinin, the head of the fundamentalist "Christian State - Holy Rus", the group believed to be behind the arson attacks, was placed under arrest until November 22.[3]

The third factor is the success of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The anti-corruption activist is touring Russia to campaign for the March 2018 presidential election, attracting thousands of people to his rallies.[4]

The fourth factor is represented by an "epidemic" of false bomb threats. The Kremlin described the wave of false bomb threat calls received in several Russian cities as "telephone terrorism". Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated: "It goes without saying that this is telephone terrorism, telephone hooliganism. The president was properly informed as soon as the string of outrageous phone calls began."[5]

The fifth factor is the "intellectual ferment in national autonomies," whose consequences are hard to predict. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to make Russian language mandatory and non-Russian languages in the country's federal republics optional sparked a wave of protests. Recently, 60 Tatar writers wrote an open letter to Putin in defense of their national language, arguing that the disappearance of the Tatar language from the compulsory school curriculum will make it "secondary and unnecessary." [6] Demonstrations have been organized in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, to support the continued official status of the Bashkir language.[7]

The following are excerpts from Krasheninnikov's article:[8]


Fyodor Krasheninnikov (Source: .Facebook.com/fyodor.krasheninnikov)

A Series Of Factors Complicating Russia's Domestic Policy

"In the contexts of unending pressure on the Russian authorities by the international community, one cannot help noticing the emergence and development of a series of factors complicating the domestic situation.

"The first to materialize in chronological order, were Ramzan Kadyrov and all those who pressure the federal government under the banners of Islamic solidarity. The decision of whether to use or not to use a certain element in foreign policy has always been made by the MFA and by the president personally, and it is obvious that mass rallies of thousands and Kadyrov’s shuttle diplomacy were totally unnecessary for playing the Islamic card.


President Vladimir Putin with Ramzan Kadyrov (Source: President2012.ru)

"Secondly, one cannot help noticing the emergence in the public sphere of forces using slogans of Russian Orthodox fundamentalism. Evidently, it is primarily an attempt of certain groups to increase their influence, to impose themselves as partners on the country’s leadership. But it is impossible to overlook that the U-turn in Russia’s domestic and foreign policy towards the proverbial 'traditional values' happened a long time ago, and, just as in the case of Islamic slogans, the country’s leadership did not require the approval by some radical forces for decisions already adopted, and no reasonable explanation exists for why it would be presently needed.


A scene from the movie "Matilda" (Source: Youtube.com)

"Thirdly, Alexey Navalny, successfully barnstorming through the cities of Russia with multi-thousand sized rallies, is building up pressure. Assessing the reaction of local authorities and comparing the number of people joining these campaigns with the usual indices of street activity in those parts, one must admit that the consent to legal organization of protest rallies is not some cunning ploy on the part of the authorities, as is hinted, but rather a desperate measure, allowing the authorities to put up a good front in a bad business. Undoubtedly, if the authorities were confident and really considered Navalny’s supporters to be just a few fringe elements, nothing would have prevented them from banning the rallies, even at the cost of police violence – after all, they did it before and got away with it.


People gathered to hear Navalny at a rally (Source: Navalny.com)

"Fourthly, there is a confusing epidemic of false bomb threats; it’s unclear who could benefit from it and how, power-wise. It is reported that damage from it has already exceeded 300 million rubles, and so far there has been no indication that it is winding down. All the existing versions trying to explain what’s happening are unfavorable, one way or another, to the establishment. If it is a controlled process, what does it produce, apart from popular resentment and a wave of gossip? And if the process is not under control, it is all the more devastating for the government: who can disturb the peace on such a massive scale and with such impunity under the very noses of the special services endowed with such extensive powers?


A fire truck near Megapolis shopping mall in Moscow on September 13, 2017, after a hoax bomb threat. (Source: Rt.com)

"Fifthly, intellectual ferment in national autonomies has started around the volatile language issue, which has always been one of the main contributory factors to development of conflicts. The prospects and consequences of the exacerbation of the 'national question' are so far hard to predict, but they are in any case alarming.


Rally in support of Bashkir language in Ufa (Source: Russia.liveuamap.com)

"Despite the fact that all the above-listed factors are divergent, one thing unites them: in all the cases, when somebody acts decisively or goes beyond the existing frameworks, the authorities exhibit the absence of a clear position bordering on helplessness. One can assume that in the future, new crisis situations will arise, but one cannot discern any viable mechanism of solving them in the framework of the existing system, so that the pressure on the authorities will continue to rise.

"The theory that all these situations are only created so that Vladimir Putin could, on the verge of the election, increase his activity, 'establish order' and thus confirm his status of undisputed leader, is viable, but even if we accept it as our primary scenario, we must take into account the sad experience of Russian history: provoking radicalism has almost always led to losing control over the situation.

"And if we set aside conspiracy theories, the picture becomes even more worrisome: the situation in the country is slowly getting out of control, and an ever increasing number of new intra-elite groups or elite wannabes are starting to ask the fatal question: why, is it OK to do it this way now?"

 

 

[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7104, Pro-Rohingya Protests In Russia: A Political Vehicle For Kadyrov? – Part I, September 24, 2017.

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7105, Pro-Rohingya Protests In Russia: A Political Vehicle For Kadyrov? – Part II, September 24, 2017.

[2] Meduza.io, September 25, 2017.

[3] Themoscowtimes.com, September 25, 2017.

[4] Navalny.com

[5] Tass.com, September 14, 2017.

[6] Business-gazeta.ru, September 22, 2017.

[7].Rferl.org, September 16, 2017.

[8] Vedomosti.ru, September 20, 2017.