Monday, July 20, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Russians against Any Revolution, Not Just an ‘Orange’ One, Moscow Sociologist Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, July 20 – Despite the hopes of some and the fears of other, Russia is unlikely to experience an “orange” revolution anytime soon, less because of the success of Moscow’s policies and ability to stifle dissent than because most Russians believe that no revolution, “orange” or any other kind, can bring any good, according to a Moscow scholar.
In the current issue of “Neprikosnovennyy zapas,” Aleksey Levinson, who writes that journal’s “sociological lyric” column, says that survey data suggest that the reasons most Russians feel that way reflects what they have learned over the past two decades after their experiences in the Soviet period (
Those who grew up in Soviet times were constantly told that “revolution is a good thing,” Levinson points out, but those who learned the lessons of the period of glasnost and later have come to believe that “there is nothing at all good in revolutions,” an attitude that Putin’s “rehabilitation” of Soviet views on many things has not affected.
And that in turn reflects the view that Russia is a successor “of both tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union and therefore live in both these societies is described in the most positive terms,” thus making “the three Russian revolutions” appear to the population as “superfluous,” even harmful.
As a result, Levinson continues, “even supporters of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation” view revolution as something negative. For Russians, “revolution is a rebellion, and Pushkin himself (who currently, judging by polls, is more important than Lenin) said that it is senseless. Revolution violates order, while [Russians] are for stability.”
Indeed, he says, it is now possible to say of Russians that “We are all both supporters of state power and liberals conservatives.” And “all our efforts” are directed at “maintaining stability,” while “our nearest neighbors having become the most democratic republics on the contrary do not want stability: they carry out revolutions” even though they live better than we.
But in addition to this general hostility to revolutionary change, Russians have additional reasons to view “orange”-style revolutions with particular distaste. Such revolutions are “not rebellions, they are carefully thought out. They are based on the solidarity of people as citizens. [And] they are against administered elections, against the violation of the will of the people.”
Indeed, “orange”-style revolutions require both a widely shared view in the population that an election has been falsified and a commitment on the part of all groups to put “civic peace above their own political victory.” These conditions were met in Georgia and Ukraine, Levinson suggests, but they are unlikely to be fulfilled in Russia.
Russians, Levada Center polls show, “accept the manipulation of the results [of elections] as something inevitable,” even if a few are outraged by this aspect of Russian life. For most, “voting is becoming a ritual of participation and not an instrument of influencing the powers that be.” Thus, the “collision” at the center of “orange” revolutions is not likely to occur in Russia.
Yet another reasons Russians are put off by the idea of an “orange” revolution is their widespread view, one promoted by the powers that be in Moscow, that the events in Ukraine and Georgia were not the expression of any popular will but rather the result of outside forces working to set these countries against Russia and bring them into NATO’s orbit.
Given this set of attitudes, Levinson says, it appears curious that so many Russian government officials talk about the danger of an “orange”-style revolution in that country. According to some, the Levada Center has understated the danger with its findings in order to promote such an outcome.
And there are even “rumors circulating” that the government’s own polls show “entirely different results according to which the level of the threat is much higher. But if this is so,” Levinson asks rhetorically, “why do [Russian officials]prefer to believe the second set of results but not the first?”
“Why have [the powers that be] taken such serious and expensive measures as the creation of youth organizations directed at dispersing massive color demonstrations which have not occurred?” Perhaps some in power believe that these measures have kept the risk of an “orange” revolution in Russia so low, an apparently unanswerable claim.
But unless and until Russians come to view not only revolutions more positively and the proper relationship between the people and the powers as something that can and should be set by honest elections, Levinson suggests, the danger some in power profess to see is quite small, although the actions they take on the basis of that have consequences that are anything but.

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