The failure of Navalny's rallies: results and conclusions
The events of Saturday, January 23rd, 2020 have two quite clearly separate sides.
First. For the liberal globalists who won in the United States, and in the West as a whole, Russia remains a principled enemy. But they still need a reason to increase the pressure.
Second. Navalny's case showed the failure of the official youth and informational policy. In the country, there is still no idea of the future, no consensus on the past, no satisfaction with the present.
As for the West, it needed to make the protest look large-scale on the pictures on TV. It was necessary to show its Western audience that there are protests in Russia, and that the level of popular discontent is so great that even children participate in the rallies, which the "armoured security forces" ruthlessly disperse.
For Western globalists, this is a sufficient reason to "stand up for world democracy" and rush to strengthen all sorts of sanctions "against the totalitarian state and the anti-people Russian regime."
This is being done with a very simple purpose. In September of this year, there will be a Russian parliamentary election. The West’s proteges stand no chance of getting any significant parties into parliament. This means that it is no longer possible to split the state mechanism by creating a standoff between the State Duma and the President.
What remains is an attempt to implement a scenario: to deny the legitimacy of the results of the 20201 parliamentary election, and then the 2024 presidential election “in accordance with the the Trump option", i.e., through a confrontation between the state and emotional large-scale street protests. Better yet, to inflame the situation in such a way as to change the government in Russia by 2024 as a result of a "colour revolution".
However, judging by the numerous attempts to openly push the police to the very edge, the main goal of the organisers of this sabbath - the mass shedding of blood in front of television cameras - remained unattainable. The actions of Russian law enforcement turned out to be too tactful, regulated, consistent and professional.
And the real scale of the riots turned out to be much lower than what was expected by their organisers. If to add up the reports from the field, then in the million-strong Krasnodar, only 3,000-3,500 people were able to come out to the streets. In Belgorod, out of 400,000 residents, a maximum of 700 gathered on the square. Even in Moscow – a multi-million megalopolis, the active protest mass did not exceed 20,000 people.
In other words, Navalny's headquarters managed to mobilise no more than 0.15% of the total population of Russia, which is home to 149 million citizens. Moreover, a fair proportion of the protesters turned out to be teenagers, who generally had little understanding of for or against what they "came to express their civil position”.
Does this mean that we should underestimate the fact of mass demonstrations in a number of Russian cities and continue to follow the previous policy on a number of issues? I think that January 23rd’s rallies were just a test, but if we do not rethink our approaches, in particular to youth and not only politics, the protest wave will grow.
If we look closely, everything in the country is not so bad. There is no big unemployment, the post-COVID crisis is gradually dissipating, although it will continue to dominate all countries of the world for a long time. What is driving people towards protesting and inexplicable aggression?
Russian society has long been deeply psychologically traumatised. Aggression in everyday life was manifested in the late USSR, but it was explained simply: "All the troubles are because of poverty." Then, in the 90s, there was even more aggression, as the majority of the population had a sense of injustice and theft from the appropriation of common property by a small group of people.
At the same time, education and the moral model left schools. A generation grew up without a rudder and sails, defiled from childhood and encouraged to be aggressive. Much of what they saw around them gave rise to anger, greed, and a lack of understanding of why some people had everything and others had nothing.
When most of the youth realised that the illusions were in vain and there were no real "social elevators" for them, they turned into explosive material. No one worked with them. This was and remains an unfilled niche. And then Navalny came to them with the words "I have come to give you freedom," and became their serpent/tempter, but did not become their leader.
Those who took to the streets on January 23rd, for the most part, are not supporters of Navalny and his agenda. They generally have little knowledge of all this. He influences a large number of drunks, sociopaths and psychopaths, hysterical subjects from the threshold of adulthood to retirement age.
At the same time, in small and medium-sized cities, people in squares discussed not Navalny's agenda, but urban topics - unauthorised developments, garbage disposal, problems of local life. This once again underlines the dissatisfaction of people with how local problems are being solved. Although the very fact of the success of attracting even those who took to the streets speaks of a serious change in the information and conceptual space in which Russia is now being squeezed.
In general, informational policy is a weak point of our government. Here they are used to receiving quantity, not quality. Creativity is a rare phenomenon. Especially in terms of the impact on the youth environment. The language that our media uses to talk to young people is about the same as speaking to them in ancient Greek. While those who, through Internet resources, called young people to rallies, spoke to them in a language they understood and in clear symbols.
The events of January 23rd showed that a sublimation of protests awaits us, but the Belarusian scenario will help us. The blueprint is the same. Social networks, crowbars, students, experts, artists, athletes, scientists, journalists, "I /We support Ivan Golunov" and all that stuff. In Russia, they are not preparing a transfer - in Russia, they are preparing a Maidan.
Is it possible to solve the problem of Navalny only by force? Of course, the law is the law, and in the event that it’s violated, there must be responsibility. But it is necessary to separate one from the other - him and the problems facing society.
Much of these protests is due to the lack of a positive social idea at the level of basic meanings. And if we do not develop them in the near future, the stability achieved now and not understood by the new generation will soon be lost. One may ask, what kind of stability are we talking about?
It is enough to compare the life of Russians today with the 90s: salaries and pensions not paid for months; hungry miners blocking roads; the collapse of infrastructure, frequent street flea markets, rats running along the streets of large cities, the absence of any social benefits.
Today, overcoming the systemic crisis in Russia requires a clearly defined, publicly formulated, well-founded and understandable long-term end goal and a system of governance that allows people to assess the degree of correctness or error in the tactical decisions made by the authorities.
Elena Panina - Director of the RUSSTRAT Institute