The November holiday which is always with us


Reportedly, the Day of Reconciliation and Consensus has been celebrated for the last time on November 7 in 2004. Within the next few days the Duma is supposed to pass a bill under which November 4, reportedly to be called the Day of People’s Unity, will become Russia’s main autumn holiday.

The majority of citizens, apart from the leftist opposition of all tints, haven’t given much thought to the point of introducing a new holiday. Tradition is tradition; at the end of autumn the people must have a holiday, The name of which could be altered. Besides, notes Novye Izvestia, “for the young generation the October Revolution is a vague expanse of history, somewhere between Peter the Great and Stalin.”

The image of the leader of the revolution has undergone conceptual changes in the public mind as well. “Nowadays Lenin in Russia is beyond politics: some are concerned about him as a historic figure, others – as an artistic image. For teenagers Lenin is something average between Che Guevara and Father Christmas. He’s an archetype for philosophers. The communists are cherishing Lenin within themselves, while every self-respecting visitor to Moscow tries to get to the Red Square, into the Mausoleum first of all,” says Novye Izvestia.

Servicing this Russian version of a miracle costs the budget $1.5 billion per annum, informs the newspaper, “and this fact guarantees its perpetual intactness.”

Traditionally, a military parade was held in front of the Mausoleum this year, in which 107 still living participants of the renowned parade of 1941, who had got straight to the frontline from Red Square, participated.

According to Kommersant, this parade has been the last one – since 2005 defenders of Moscow who are veterans will only attend similar ceremonies as spectators, while students of honorable military schools will be marching by.

As for the communists, who have considered November 7 as their big day, they had to conduct their activities away from the Kremlin.

CPRF leader Gennadi Zyuganov promised his affiliates on Theater Square “not to give in the holiday” (according to the police, some 50,000 attended activities of the communists). As reported by Kommersant, when Zyuganov took the main column from the Kaluga Square to the Big Stone Bridge and got on his toes to observe how many people were following his teammates and him, his deputy Ivan Melnikov calmed him down: “Don’t worry, we are not alone here.”

Curiously enough, despite the general indignation of the opposition with regard to abolition “the major holiday for every Soviet person,” nobody at the meeting dared to directly accuse President Putin or at least United Russia of attempting on this sanctuary.

As informed by Kommersant, mainly “censured were only members of the Russian Orthodox Church,” since the Inter-Religious Council of Russia had offered the initiative of abolishing the Day of Reconciliation and Accord. The hierarchs of the church were censured for “depriving us of November 7 in exchange for croplands for their monasteries, and we’ll be deprived of May 9 if the church is permitted to use the labor of field-hands.” In response Gennadi Zyuganov promised to celebrate November 7 “with a bigger scope.”

Indeed, indicate results of a poll done by the Public Opinion Foundation and published by Izvestia, only 22% of respondents approved of the idea of shifting the “major fall holiday” (as defined by Vedomosti newspaper) from November 7 to November 4 (the day of banishing the Polish troops from Moscow in the XVII century and the end of the Era of Distemper); 45% disapprove of this innovation and 33% have no particular opinion.

Entrepreneurs polled by Vedomosti proved to be more unanimous. The businessmen said that the multitude of Russian holidays have lost their particular meaning for the modern generation: “these are only extra days off,” which could be shifted, replaced, merged into blocks for convenience of the holiday-makers. As for November 7, this is “a gloomy holiday, the date of a split in society” and its disappearance from the calendar of holidays is justified.

However, says Izvestia, one cannot ignore the danger that “absence of an official holiday will be compensated with availability of an unofficial one” – to spite the authorities, which are evidently prepared for that.

“We are a democratic nation to have tolerance for ideology of some our citizens,” stressed Valery Bogomolov, secretary of the general council pf United Russia. As for the new fall holiday, in opinion of Bogomolov it is quite apt: “The Era of Distemper had been a frightening epoch: the issue of national unity had been raised. The unity had actually become the nationwide, without any references to the Kremlin.” United Russia has no doubts: “We must celebrate this holiday.”

Besides, the power has taken care of keeping the number of official holidays unchanged. As is widely known, it is offered to introduce full-fledged New Year’s holidays for our laborers, which will only legalize the engrained tradition, businessmen said.

A businessman told Vedomosti that, according to his calculation, at most 20% of Russian enterprises and organizations function during New Year’s and Christmas holidays, “while the rest only function formally.” Therefore, an official recognition of this fact will contribute to slight changes. However, Yevgeny Gavrilenkov, a chief economist of Troika Dialog disagrees this point of view; he told Vedomosti that extensive New Year’s holidays are only appropriate “in case we are building a self-sufficient regime.” This decision is unacceptable for companies linked to the Western business, since the start of January “is an active period” in the West. If Russian business life is forced to stop, companies are threatened with huge expenses.

“It is interesting that the zeal of deputies of the pro-presidential bloc who have taken up settlement of the “red dates” clashes with the tasks declared by Vladimir Putin. The president declared the necessity for doubling the GDP by 2010 almost as a nationwide idea, while in our case we are ordered to relax more rather than raise the man-hours,” says Russkii Kurier.

Expert Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center has provided the newspaper with a convincing explanation with regard to this: “This is partly populist, but on the other hand this complies with actual concerns of the persons in charge of this in the Kremlin ?????????. Added on the agenda are more substantial issues, for instance reformation of the executive power, mutual relations between the center, regions and municipal administrations. Clearly enough, as compared to appointing of governors the idea of increasing the length of New Year’s holidays is to cause a more positive response of the people.”

Thus, we are observing a “calculated ousting of keen negative emotions with an artificially formed positive.”

Russkii Kurier reminds that this is not the first time the Kremlin uses similar methods: when the issue of appointing governors was discussed at the Duma, officials of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the FSB were given the floor afterwards, to come out “with some shocking statements.” As a result, the discussion concerning Vladimir Ustinov’s proposals of taking family members of terrorists as hostages proved to overshadow the main topic. Similar initiative is unlikely to be passed as a law, but the tension was alleviated surrounding reformation of the “institute of governors.”

Something of a kind is taking place now, says Russkii Kurier: “Instead of straining the people with redundant thinking, the Kremlin and the government have preferred to give people extra days, so that voters could drink and enjoy the pleasures.”

Evidently, renowned sociologist Yuri Levada notes in Novye Izvestia, Russians “are bent on thinking least of all:” if they dislike something in the official policy, they “either tolerate, or try to disregard this.”

At any rate, the matter of changing the order of electing governors could hardly become the plea for a nationwide indignation. According to the Levada Center, “the amount of pros and cons is almost equal here, given that two-thirds of the population either don’t really care or don’t know about this.”

On the whole, says Yuri Levada, despite the fact that the people have apparently accepted various liberties, but hasn’t got time enough to get used to them, haven’t learned to appreciate them, and weren’t ready to fight for them. “One shouldn’t think that new, clean and democratic people succeed the incumbent generation. The youth at the age of 20 is already living in new conditions: it has learned to earn more than elder generations, travel the world, has opportunity to study in Europe and America. It is sufficient for the young people. They don’t take vote in the election, no as a sign of protest, but only because they don’t care,” says Levada.

Yuri Levada notes that we’ve now received renewed elite in almost all spheres of our life. The time has come for quick careers; “our top leaders are 50 years old, the leaders of lower rank are at the age of 35-40, while the business leaders are 25-30 years old. The people above 60 had been to all similar posts, since at least being younger a person couldn’t managed to get to the top.”

This doesn’t mean that these people are “new” by their social type, their frame of minds: “They are young and active, but disappointment was their major response to the events of several past years, both for those who initiated the reforms and how they were carried out. Many people think that it would be better to act in the old manner.”

Fortunately, “there’s no return; we only have an imitation of what we used to have, because the CPSS had monopoly for ideology, political decisions and violence… The party could jail or finish any person; the manpower policy, the courts and state security bodies were in one hands. United Russia only has monopoly for the voting. However, United Russia has no monopoly for thinking and the machinery of violence…

In the opinion of Yuri Levada, this is real indecision, because the authorities don’t know what to do: “When abolition of gubernatorial election is proposed for combating terrorism, they are only undersigning their helplessness, proving that they have no response to modern challenges.” Besides, reminds director of the Levada center, over past five years the governors have been deprived of the rights, money, seats in the Federation Council; “president’s monitors were set above them. This all turned out to be in vain. The federative system in the country is being abolished now; an attempt is made to control the country from one office using a single threat “dismiss any person.”

According to the author, “young, glib, complaisant and awfully petty persons have come to politics at all levels now. They have neither political goals, nor ideological targets.” Most importantly, “they realized that democracy is accidental in Russia.”

“The past hasn’t yet returned entirely, but the restoration is taking place in minds of our people at the unprecedented speed,” Izvestia says in an article dedicated to a recent analytical report of the Institute of Complex Social Surveys (IKSI) of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

According to the institute, the number of those who regard “revival of the mighty power” to be the major task has doubled in Russia since 1998. At the same time, the number of adherents to the market economy has fallen by a quarter, although they are by 8% more in number than those who recognize significance “of forming equal opportunities for everybody,” notes Izvestia, but “this could be a version of nostalgia on the Soviet era, when almost everybody had been equal.”

According to Mikhail Gorshkov, director of the above institute, the majority of Russians, independently of their age and “competence” would now prefer “majority of industries dominated by the state property or, at least, the state administration with the corresponding system of state guarantees.”

Evidently, the matter doesn’t concern the incumbent state. According to researchers of the IKSI, Russians are ready to recognize legitimacy of “only the state, which assigns the foreground to interests of the community which is defined as the nation, rather than interests of the state machinery.”

As for the incumbent system, “despite a noticeable drop of criticism concerning actions of the authorities as compared to the 1990s, Russia of nowadays has no people’s majority which could say that ‘this is my state and my policy.’

According to Andrei Ryabov, an observer with Gazeta, the critical attitude for the permanently growing Russian bureaucracy with is engulfed in inter-specific struggle is explainable. Even in the presidential structures, says Ryabov, “despite the evident success in construction of various administrative verticals, it becomes more evident that various groups of interest, which have settled firmly in the above verticals, have indomitable wish to implement their own corporate interests first of all, which often contradict the orders received from the top.” As usual, the corporate policy is based on references to certain “national goals.”

Moreover, the current balance of forces in the presidential team, which has formed as long as influential representatives of Yeltsin’s Family have been ousted of it, could hardly be called stable. “As a result, the groups which are rivaling for power and influence are so keen on “pulling the rope” that they forget entirely about the goals for the sake of which they had been called to the power,” Ryabov notes.

The author doesn’t argue the assertion that the endless struggle between various power groups had existed in the Yeltsin era. In the opinion of Andre Ryabov, the difference is that no ambitious plans of structural reforms had existed then – even if they had appeared nobody had taken them seriously. Everything is vice versa now: “far-reaching plans of reforms; administrative verticals for the implementation of them are nearly constructed.”

The achievements give rise to lots of questions. In particular, the administrative reform which has affected the government, hasn’t caused the expected results: “The number of governmental units has increased considerably; relations between them have become more entangled. Most importantly, the government’s role in managing the economic and social sphere hasn’t been changed drastically, although this was the prior target of the entire reform.”

A rallied team and, especially more, common policy is out of the question. This is clear to many people, including leaders of the incumbent governing party, who evidently wouldn’t object to creation of another power vertical of parties in contrast to the available administrative verticals “so that the supreme state bureaucracy wouldn’t regard itself as master of the situation.”

Indeed, says Andrei Ryabov, “the public manifestations of discontent which some members of the Duma faction of this party tend to display at times,” it is possible to state that some United Russia members are evidently bored with the role “of the unpretentious parliamentary makeweight to the presidential administration.” As is said, “they want something more.”

It is unlikely possible to agree that United Russia in its current view may prove to be useful for creation of an alternative “party vertical.”

According to Izvestia, referring to the data from the Levada Center, “despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of respondents in Russia approve of the president’s actions for the 5th consecutive year (with slight fluctuations) and, if the Duma election were held tomorrow would again vote in favor of United Russia, a need for serious opposition is growing in our society.” Russians don’t recognize the existing opposition members as such. According results of the opinion polls done in October, Grigory Yavlinsky, Irina Khakamada, Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov failed to collect even 3% in their favor; Alexander Zhukov hardly passed the threshold of 2%; German Gref gained 1% sharp; Anatoly Chubais, Alexei Kudrin, Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky gained 0.3% of confidence each. Izvestia states that Gennadi Zyuganov supported by 6% of respondents remains the leader in the opposition.

“The communists, rightists and Yabloko members may incessantly recall the administrative resource used against them at the latest parliamentary election and threaten to condemn the Central Electoral Commission at the Human Rights Court of Strasbourg, but this all doesn’t cancel the verdict the public has announced on their struggle: only 25% of respondents assumed in 2000 that the country had no serious opposition, while now this figure approaches 50%,” the newspaper says.

Izvestia cites Dmitri Oreshkin, director of Group Merkator: “the feeling that no real alternatives exists to Putin now” is putting the people into a strain. In the opinion of Oreshkin, the share of people who think that the substantial opposition is indispensable will be increasing, “which will result in the following: a person who has no merits, can offer nothing particular, will jump out like a devil from a box and gain more public support that he’s worth of at the expense of using new words.”

According to Rossiiskie Vesti weekly, the fringe opposition is trying not to lose its chance now.

According to the weekly, there has been a sharp increase in activity of the opposition since the moment when President Vladimir Putin said, in an interview with Ukrainian journalists, that he would not seek a third term in office. “This “no” has stirred up all kinds of fantasies among many people in Russia and the West.”

Prominent political consultant Andrei Piontkosky, director of the Center of Strategic Studies said in a recent Voice of America interview that the “Putin model” will bankrupt itself within three or four months, and the whole problem is that “there is no one to whom power can be transferred.” Two versions are possible: “an internal coup organized by the chekists (secret services), or simply chaos, in which “fascist-minded” groups would promote some political figure of their own.”

However, says Rossiiskie Vesti, Maria Lipman from the Carnegie Moscow Center said Putin may remain in the Kremlin for a longer period “but only if there is a state of emergency, possibly due to a crisis resulting from major terrorist attacks or a natural disaster.”

The opposition is getting ready to act: a so-called “civic congress” is set to take place on December 12, which is the Constitution Day, at which the opposition’s main slogan will be announced: “Putin out!”

For this purpose, the right-wing parties have joined forces with the CPRF and Sergei Glaziev’s organization, though their cooperation has been divided into two phases.

The first state involves voting together in the Duma and organizing various protest events. The second stage will begin when the opposition switches to taking radical action. (What could this mean?).

However, in the unanimous opinion of the majority of media, the power will pay back the favor. According to Expert magazine, “the need for applying huge efforts for reviving the statehood in Russia and, perhaps, to preserve Russia intact as a state” will induce the incumbent authorities “to abandon many liberal principles and standards, which are being followed in Europe.” In the opinion of the magazine, revision of basics of the modern liberalism in its European version is inevitable in Russia. “The crisis of statehood, collapse of the army, still low level of living standards of the majority of people,” absence of “spiritual ties,” which unite the public, plus an evident need for creation of a new state ideology may create “the required nutrient medium” for emergence of a new national idea, according to the magazine. The author says the “idea of total revenge” is supposed to become such: “this very idea may become the common ideological goal for diverse Russian society.”

According to Expert, although unknowingly the incumbent authorities are acting in conformity to this very idea: “When Putin said at the dawn of his presidency that the ideology of patriotism was the new ideology, he actually meant the revenge ideology.”

Besides, specifies the magazine, patriotism is an indispensable component of the revenge ideology, “because patriotism could be defined as unconscious striving for dominance of a large corporation (a state or a nation), with which a person belongs, above other similar corporations.”

Though the Russian president “in his revenge is not pursuing any other goals than achieving the living standards of modern Europe, the impulse for mobilization, activity is raising the odds of a another outcome,” says the magazine.

Besides, notes Expert, construction of a powerful state, which may form the structures required to “foster its citizens and maintain discipline among them” is allegedly compatible with the “liberal idea of an individual’s independence from the state.”

Further on Expert has been effectively citing a notorious slogan by Benito Mussolini “everything for the state, nothing against the state and the personal liberty in a state,” specifying that this postulate “gains a different meaning under new historic conditions in Russia.”

When faced a crisis at the start of last century, the Western civilization tried to respond to it with the aid of fascism. Nowadays, concludes the magazine, Russian society is facing many of those challenges, though in slightly different form.

So far, weakness has been the distinctive feature of power in Russia, Georgy Satarov, president of InDem Foundation says in Novaya Gazeta: the weak dictatorship of Putin era has replaced the weak democracy of Yeltsin rule. The disorder in the government, economy and the social sphere has only increased over these years.

“Everybody is sick and tired of weakness. Therefore, the choice we have to face is obvious and simple – either strong dictatorship or strong democracy,” says Satarov.

According to Georgy Satarov and his associates who have organized the All-Russia Civil Congress, under similar circumstances “initiative gets to the civil society, which is underestimating its abilities.”

However, the authorities are unlikely to underestimate them either; they are evidently trying to explain the citizens that, renowned writer Viktoria Tokareva says in Profil magazine, “any holiday, even a bad one, is better than the most excellent working days.”