Protests in Russia on January, 23th, 2021
Aktualisiert: 17. Feb. 2021
There have been no similar protests (national, intergenerational, socially diverse, high levels of police violence) in Russia since 2011/12. However, today's protests are certainly not a turning point for Putin's regime.
However, the situation in Russia is becoming increasingly confrontational. In view of the September 2021 parliamentary elections, things may change decisively: the situation for "United Russia" and also for Vladimir Putin could deteriorate significantly.
The success of the protest will be measured by the intensity of the protests of the coming weeks. Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation announced the next week-end protests. From today's point of view, even a similar protest over several months seems unlikely; let alone a protest similar to that in Belarus. (Social) protests are likely to gain domestic political significance at the time of the parliamentary elections.
Last but not least, the government's action against Navalny is an important indicator of the Russian regime's readiness for repression. The rules of the game for both the non-systemic (Navalny case) and the systemic (Furgal case) opposition have changed considerably. The red lines of opposition activities have been drawn much tighter.
The vast majority of the population is still apolitical. Much will depend on the behavior of the Russian leadership. If the Kremlin continues to cling to the narrative of the "besieged fortress" and the image of an outspoken protest (à la Aleksandr Lukashenko), and if the proverbial tightening of the screws on domestic politics continues, the gap between those in power and the population will widen. Significantly more people will take to the streets next time. Especially if the social situation of the population is deteriorating, as is already beginning to happen.
However, today was a great success for Alexei Navalny. The protests were national and bigger than expected. Thus, Navalny is finally becoming the undisputed integration figure of the opposition, gaining national notoriety as well as domestic political importance, and becoming a factor in Russian domestic politics.
However, Navalny and the Anti-Corruption Foundation are in danger of becoming hostages to their own success if they assume that the intensity of the protests will continue for weeks and even months. From today's point of view, the latter is extremely unlikely.
Nor should it be overlooked that many of the protesters are not Navalny's supporters. The protest was not so much-for-the Navalny as-for-the omnipresent corruption. In interviews, most cited Navalny's recent investigation of Putin, which has already been viewed more than 72,000,000 times on YouTube, as the final trigger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?Vi=ipAnwilMncI&t=2s
The authorities have been much more brutal against the protesters than in the past in similar protests. But the clashes have remained the exception rather than the rule. The conditions in Belarus are still a long way off.
According to the first sociological surveys by Alexei Zakharov and Belyi Schetchik (Бeлый Cчётчик | https://twitter.com/WhiteCounter), for 42 percent of the protesters, it was their first protest (in 2019 it was "only" 17 percent ). 50% is younger than 31, 10% is 18 or younger.
And yes, game changes are always possible.