What is the real meaning of the June 9 events in Moscow? Apparently, the media – which for a whole week has provided frightening photographic evidence, photos of the riot and its participants, interviews with victims, and data on participants and the guilty – will keep trying to find the answer for a long time.
Some observers and politicians continue insisting that the riot had been prepared beforehand and was controlled; others suppose that it was spontaneous. However, the latter option makes it seem even more unpredictable and dangerous.
As the “Vek” weekly noted, Russian authorities were openly challenged in the center of their capital. From the standpoint of the “Vek”, the events of late form a certain logical chain, “The matter is that current processes in the leadership of the Communist Party chronologically coincided with intensification of extremism in Russia. There is an impression that someone decided to fill out the forming “political vacuum” with forces that operate not class, but nationalist slogans.”
Ardent debates in the Duma concerning presidential law draft on counteracting extremism in Russia also added fuel to the fire. A series of provocations followed discussions: mining of an advertisement board on the Kiev highway to the Vnukovo Airport, a secret hiding-place with flares…. According to “Vek”, the authorities tried “to use soccer as a possible mean for national integrity” by means of installing television monitors in crowded places downtown Moscow. Having done this, they in fact encountered the real forces that have longed rained soccer fields. According to official forces, Russian skinheads are the only ones responsible for riots. They are notorious for violence at Moscow markets. However, some analysts are trying to figure out the forces that back them. For instance, recently Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin made a sensational personal statement: according to him, Russian skinheads have sponsors and patrons abroad. Of course, it is possible to make a logical connection between Russian skinheads and the West. However, it is also an open secret that in some countries security services encourage right-wing extremist organizations, which they try to use to contain torrents of immigrants from Asia and Africa. This means, they are able to control them. As for Russian events, the authorities seem to have been the last to find out about the real development of the situation in the country – they have been too busy with developing political techniques for ruling the country. Now, they can see the results.
The “Novye Izvestia” newspaper draws the attention of its readers to the stubborn silence of the authorities concerning the June 9 events in the center of Moscow. According to “Novye Izvestia”, it is the best proof of the thesis that riots were not spontaneous. If the president keeps silent, this means that the patriotic element is under control and is manageable. Can it be that the “manageable element” will be a necessary instrument for construction of the notorious “ruled democracy”? “Novye Izvestia” notes, that there is a suspicion that this “new democracy” may become “partially nationalist, partially patriotic, and overall civilized national-patriotic”. At least, the present position of the Russian authorities allow to make this suggestion.
Russian politicians also reacted very emotionally on the June 9 events. Duma deputy Alexei Mitrofanov wrote in the “Nezavisimaya Gazeta”, “Football is just an excuse. All of a sudden we saw that everything in this world can break and destroy in an instant.”
This is true that both the Russian authorities and the society have been delighted with more than three-year stability in the country. “The people like the president. Now the Kremlin has a high popularity rating.”
However, lately it has become clear that there is calm only before a storm: negative processes are still on, but now they are not on the surface but underneath.
Meanwhile, Alexei Mitrofanov reminds, under Boris Yeltsin all was mush more obvious. Negative emotions concerning actions of the authorities met no obstacles while splashing out, as the first Russian president knew how to create competition for the Russian political forces.
The current power “likes to run everything over the phone”. However, the author stresses, it is impossible to endlessly suppress the passions, “Some day they will suddenly explode, just as it happened on June 9 in Moscow.”
Left-wing periodicals have their own answer to the question: “Who is to blame?” The “Slovo” weekly writes, “A new generation gathered on the Manezhnaya Square, who are the product of the democratic era. This spontaneous and that is why especially frightening fit of anger, violence, pain, and destruction lust breathed with wild, savage rage.”
As is known, imported cars, ground floor of the Duma building, expensive stores and fancy restaurants on the Tverskaya Street suffered greatest damages. As “Slovo” notes, if according to official data, a third of the population in the country lives beyond the poverty line, it is hard to expect young people from such social layers to behave themselves and to have good manners appropriate “for the declared civil society”.
Moreover, editor-in-chief of the weekly Viktor Linnik does not rule out that the June 9 events were just a starter. Linnik asks a rhetorical question, “What will happen when present three million of homeless Russian children grow up? Just imagine their pleasure when, having become strong, they will vent their anger for all hardships and privations of their stolen childhood on all rich and well-to-do!”
Overall, left-wing analysts predicts that in the near future a notorious Russian rebel, senseless and merciless is to start.
Movie producer Tofic Shakhverdiev said in his interview with the “Novaya Gazeta” paper, “A psychological barrier was broken on that June afternoon. It seems that it was possible anywhere but in Moscow. Now, it is obvious that it is also possible there.” Shakhverdiev also stressed the social underlying reason of the events, “Automobile destructors new that they would never have an automobile of their own…. They have long since learned that no matter how hard their mothers and fathers may toil, they would never be able to earn honestly enough money for a good house or a good car. They understood that in order to have all this, it is necessary to swindle, misappropriate, and steal. That is why they believe that owner of any car is a swindler.”
In these terms, “Novaya Gazseta” makes a number of conclusions, one of which is that “the authorities failed to establish the middle class on a patriotic basis.”
The paper also cited opinion of expert, Professor Alexander Asmolov, Head of the Individual Psychology Sub-faculty of Psychology Department of the Moscow State University. Asmolov states authoritatively that the events on the Manezhnaya Square were neither chaotic, nor spontaneous.
In his opinion, on June 9 “some deep-laid, complicated mechanism worked out, which makes it much easier to manipulate a crowd than a free individual.”
As is known, a crown provides a universal possibility to manipulate people, and it is no wonder that this scheme was once again used on the day of soccer match with Japan, “All extreme-programs were once tested on teenagers.”
From the standpoint of Alexander Asmolov, happenings of June 9 made it evident that there is a whole social layer in Russia, which became permanent nutrient medium for criminality. The author say it replaces the middle-class, which has never appeared in Russia. “This neoplasm keeps growing, like a cancerous growth, and it embraces different social layers,” explains Asmolov. In the opinion of the author, appearance of this class is connected with its entirely mercantile, utilitarian approach to this world. It has various manifestations, for instance, “They say, we have no time to bring up our children, we need to make money, it is the most important thing.” Consequently, teenagers on the Manezhnaya Square, and extremists of all ages are grows on the body of this class, as well as soccer passions on the surge of increased Russian patriotism.
Professor Asmolov notes that Russian authoritative criminals dream of following notorious Captain Morgan, who started the dynasty of “civilized masters of a great country – the United States”. According to the author, it is a normal wish, but it is necessary to take into account that “it is rather easy and fast to legalize officially, however, it is much more difficult and slower to legalize in the cultural layer.”
Famous children’s write Grigory Oster also reflected on the topic of Russian metamorphoses of late in the “Vedomosti” paper. Oster writes, before all was slow and gradual in Old Rus, “The first generation, i.e. grandfather was a pirate.” In Russia it was a river pirate, such as notorious Stepan Razin, or at least a highway robber. His son was a merchant, “he invited foreign teachers for this children, built houses, explored Siberian deposits, and in the end of his bright life constructed a church on an open site.” The third generation, grandchild of pirate grandfather was a most cultural and literate person, a Maecenas, a liberal, and even a Duma deputy.
However, Oster writes, in present Russia there are people, who managed to pass all the aforementioned stages within a decade. In 1990s they became robbers, and observed laws only when they did not interfere with their plans, they had to explore Siberian deposits and study foreign languages simultaneously, and today, those who are still alive are Maecenases, liberals, and some are even Duma deputies…. The author notes, that it is hard to imagine what their children will achieve having returned from foreign universities, “They will be better educates, more cultural than their fathers, and hence will be much more helpful for their Motherland.” That is when creation will begin, medical centers and first-class roads will appear in Russia, as well as new technologies and real democracy.
So Grigory Oster concludes, a grandchild of a river pirate would have built all this in time, but he did not have time, “Revolution started.” The question is whether present former pirates will have enough time….
Meanwhile, researches are still trying to understand the structure of the current Russian society and continue searching for middle class in Russia. Tatiana Maleva, an expert of the Moscow Carnegie Center says in her interview with the “Ogonek” magazine that middle class does exist in Russia, but it has a number of peculiarities. For instance, adjusting abilities of certain part of the population should be considered determinative. Russian middle class is those, who managed to survive in the course of reforms in the country; moreover, “survive” means to maintain or increase their living standards.
According to Maleva, there are three major indications of the middle class: first it is good education and a rather high social status. Second, it is stable financial situation. And the third is that people should refer themselves to the middle class. The magazine explains that the third item is necessary also due to the Russian peculiarity. Russians have two scales for referring themselves to the middle class: those who have money take their incomes for basis, others judge by their education and social status. From this standpoint, representatives of the destitute intelligentsia are also middle class, “because they read books, know who Snitke is, and live by memories of their prior status.”
However, the magazine notes, if base on the amount of people with higher and trade education, almost all of Russian citizens are middle class. Meanwhile, according to expert appraisals, Russian middle class is no more than 20% of the population. It is good news. Bad news is that this figure hardly grows, “While the success of reforms depend on whether this number grows or not.”
Observers also look for an answer to another question, “How will extremists act during forthcoming election campaigns? What should Russian expect on “hot fall” of 2003?”
This question is very important, as according to sociological polls, approximately 36% of Russian voters are the so-called Brown’s electorate, which is easy to change their opinion, very labile, whose choice is as a rule determined by current events and moods. According to “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” that published results of the All-Russia Center for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM), “they are badly addicted to television”.
It should be also mentioned that about a quarter of Russian voters are “absentees” – they do not come to election polls at all. According to latest polls, only 46% of Russian voters consider that participation in parliamentary elections is important and necessary for themselves.
As for right-wing parties, altogether they unite no more than 8% of electorate! Perhaps this is the real amount of the Russian middle class.
Despite latest losses, Communists still have support of 18% of voters, while the United Russia gained considerable weight and now 16% of voters support it.
According to May polls, Vladimir Putin’s popularity rating grew by almost 7%. According to observers, the cause of the growth was his unprecedented activity on the international political arena.
Overall, president’s foreign political achievements have considerably reduced the degree of opposition in Russia, especially among Yabloko’s supporters. According to sociologists, over past months Yabloko has lost more than 2 million voters, of the remaining electorate only 9% are ready to unconditionally vote for Grigiry Yavlinsky at the presidential elections, 29% of respondents are not sure about their opinion yet, and 61% of voters are ready to vote for Vladimir Putin.
However, the Union of Right Forces that suffered similar losses in January, has managed to increase the number of its supporters, despite the fact that in May the party again lost almost 2.5 million voters. By the way, a part of these people state that they will vote for Vladimir Putin and against all parties.
According to VTsIOM, there are 8% of such voters among Putin’s electorate. Overall, currently 48.7% of voters are ready to vote for Vladimir Putin, Gennady Zyuganov is close second, despite the fact that he has lost a third of his electorate over the past month.
As VTsIOM employee Leonid Sedov writes in the “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” paper, this way or that, Putin and all that is connected with him is a “decisive factor of political moods”. The paper also cited a statement of an “experienced political consultant”, “It is as hard to reduce Putin’s popularity rating as to drop a plane with president on board.”
On the other hand, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” presumes, that “the fate of presidency in Russia will be resolved not in electoral battles, but in behind-the-curtain fights between elites.” These fights may be accompanied with the most unexpected and extreme actions – it is hard to surprise Russians with anything now.
It is interesting how differently President of the Public Opinion foundation Alexander Oslon and VTsIOM Director Yury Levada answer on the question about a possibility of a sharp fall of the presidential popularity rating in their interviews with the “Kommersant-Vlast” magazine.
Alexander Oslon recollected the two-year-old question, “Who is Mister Putin?”. According to the author, in the beginning so-called elites did not accept Vladimir Putin seriously.
Today, the Russian president dominates on the political arena, and they had to forget about their disrespect. “However,” Oslon notes, “the elite still rejects him on the reflexive level.” According to the head of the Public Opinion foundation, this explains all talks about a soon fall of the presidential popularity rating. Alexander Oslon says these rumor should not be perceived seriously.
Yury Levada, on the contrary, is very serious about possible weakening of the presidential popularity rating. According to him, a great many factors work in this direction. For instance, two years ago federal districts were created in Russia – however, people still consider this presidential initiative to me senseless. Chechnya is still Russia’s weak point. There is not more order in the country, the criminality rate is still very high, as well as inflation and unemployment rates; there are still wage arrears. VTsIOM Director states that “Putin’s strength is his uncertainty. He does not belong to the left wing or to the right wing. Half of the people still say they do not know who he is.” The president has never published his program. So Yury Levada concludes, “If we say that 70% plus approve of his activities, this means that everyone sees him as they want to see.”
At the same time, the “Versia” weekly published an interview with famous “political scientist and geopolitician”, Director of the Center for Geopolitical Expertise and leader of the Eurasia Party Alexander Dugin. Mr. Dugin does not doubt what Vladimir Putin’s program and strategy should be.
Alexander Dugin states that “Russian president should consist of 71% of patriotism and 13% of liberalism.” However, at present the situation is opposite. but the president has already started changing. Dugin explains, that having been elected on a patriotic surge, Putin has the right to be a complete liberal between elections, in order to gain scores in the West. However, according to the author, there is a certain “ratio between pre-election time zones, which require the president to follow a patriotic and state-oriented course, and the most distant from election time, when maximal realization of all unpopular measures and closing to the West is possible.”
Two years of presidency are a “peak of liberalism”, which has already been passed. Closer to elections, the president’s “liberal and pro-western inclinations” will change for “patriotic trends”. Consequently, the balance of forces in the Kremlin is also to change: “patriotic initiatives will receive a new impulse, which will allow some groupings to increase their influence, while others will lose some influence.”
Unlike VTsIOM experts, Alexander Dugin is convinced that on the threshold of elections the political situation in the country will sharply change. Firstly, the Eurasia leader explains, the liberal course will become unpopular because of its painfulness to the population. Secondly, the pro-Western orientation will prove its vainness because there are most unlikely to be obvious positive results. Alexander Dugin stresses that this will “increase the meaning of patriotic factor, and if the president does not make use of this, the opposition will receive all dividends.”
It should not be forgotten that the present stability is very fragile and illusive, currently, President Putin is its only support. That is why “construction of an adequate, subtle, and thorough politics in the area of state system, patriotism, and national idea is the most important objective.” Currently, only Putin is able to achieve this objective. Alexander Dugin stresses, “In turn, we will do our best to help him.”
Meanwhile, according to the “Argumenty i Fakty” weekly, if six months ago there was not a single doubt that Vladimir Putin would easily win next presidential elections in 2004. However, currently the situation does not seem to be so cloudless, despite the fact that everything is alright with presidential popularity rating. Analysts are giving attention to meaningful political nuances. As an example, “Argumenty I Fakty” mention the fact that Mikhail Kasyanov has gradually and unnoticeably turned from a “technical” prime minister into a significant political figure. He publicly carries on polemics with the president concerning economic issues. He does not hurry to implement personnel and financial orders from Vladimir Putin. He manages to get his own way rather acute issues, such as a multi-million defense order to St. Petersburg “Severnaya Verf” enterprise; reforming the Transportation Ministry and the Russian Joint Energy Systems (RJES); privatization of Slavneft and others. Sometimes, he even manages to have the president change his decisions.
Besides, the weekly writes, there is an impression that old Yeltsin’s guards have preserved and even increased their financial-economic power and control of “security” structures in the economic bloc of the Russian government. They demonstrate to President Putin that the issue of supporting him at the next presidential elections has not been resolved yet. They hint that there are other candidates as well, and not from the government only…. As a result, a system of creation of “checks and balances” for the president has been invented and partially realized.
The political center is being thoroughly split. Beside the United Russia, the People’s Deputy party, parties of Gennady Seleznev, Sergey Mironov, Mikhail Prusak, numerous social-democratic parties are being formed. Meanwhile, the Communist Party is “purges itself” from opportunism and conformism with the regime. The People’s Patriotic Union of Russia has intensified its activities in order to rule irreconcilable opposition. As a result, the left wing is highly likely to receive the majority of votes at the 2003 parliamentary elections.
Moreover, significant figures from Putin’s closest surrounding have openly opposed each other for the first time. The Slavneft company became the center of the latest scandal. No matter what they say, it is demonstration of the president’s weakness rather than strength. It’s all immediately reminiscent of public conflicts between the defense minister and the chief of the General Staff, the prime minister and presidential economic adviser, or conflict between the Interior Ministry and the Security Council of the Defense Ministry.
However, “Argumenty i Fakty” believes, political constructions, serious conflicts and ordinary intrigues are highly likely to stop in the end, as their participants can always come to some agreements. However, there is another obstacle on Putin’s way to the second presidency, which became obvious on June 9. The weekly stresses that only the one who will be able to control a surge of Russian nationalim and patriotism will have a chance to become the next leader of the Russian Federation. It will be extremely difficult for the incumbent president, who openly follows a pro-western course, to do this.
On the other hand, conjuncture also determines a lot. As Yury Shchekochikhin mentioned in “Novaya Gazeta”, there are apprehensions that the “Festival of revival of the national spirit”, timed for the next elections, has only just begun.