Monday, March 15, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Kaliningrad Opposition Adopts ‘Kutuzov Strategy’ Against Regime, Leader Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 15 –Moscow commentaries have pointed to the decision by the opposition in Kaliningrad not to hold a mass meeting next weekend as a victory for the powers that be, and some activists in Kaliningrad itself have said they feel betrayed, but the leader of the opposition movement there says that both are in error, the result in each case of confusing ends and means.
In an extensive interview posted on the New Kaliningrad portal over the weekend, Konstantin Doroshok, the head of the Justice Organization, explains why he made the decision and how it resembles General Kutuzov’s decision to surrender Moscow to Napoleon in order ultimately to defeat the French invaders (
Doroshok, who was responsible for a massive demonstration in Kaliningrad on January 31 and for several smaller protests since that time, told the Internet news service that there were “many reasons” that he had taken the decision to put off holding the long-planned protest meeting this Saturday.
Above all, he said, the powers that be in Kaliningrad had “done everything in order not to allow the meeting to take place in a genuinely secure place.” Holding it in the Pioneer Stadium, as they proposed, he continued, would have been “dangerous” because the powers that be were, according to his sources “planning serious provocations there.”
That would be relatively easy for them to do, Doroshok pointed out, because at that site there are loose bricks and other construction detritus that those who wanted to stage a provocation could easily make use of. As a result, he said, if the demonstration had taken place, “many people could have suffered.”
But there is a bigger reason, the Justice Movement leader continued. The meetings in the past and any meetings in the future are not an end in themselves. Rather they are a means to force the powers that be to take into account the opinions of the population and to negotiate with popular leaders in order to reach the decisions that these leaders and their supporters want.
At the January protest, Kaliningraders demonstrated that they had reached a level of total “distrust” of the governor and his administration. The powers that be were not only taking decisions without any concern about their impact on the population, but they were ignoring those, like those who finally went into the streets, who sought to press their views.
Now, Governor Gyorgy Boos and his people are talking with leaders of the opposition, including some of its representatives in various councils and promising to reverse some decisions that the population doesn’t like. If that happens, the opposition has achieved much; if it doesn’t happen, Doroshok warned, the opposition retains the right to demonstrate again.
Specifically asked if he thought this new relationship with the powers that be will work, Dorokhov said that “we have not yet tried it” and will have to see. “We have begun new relations with the powers that be. We can improve and perfect them.” And if that doesn’t work, then the people can return to the streets.
Indeed, as the powers that be now know, there are several key dates at which the opposition will see how things are proceeding: There won’t be a protest on March 20, but if the government fails to keep its promises, then there are at least two other dates when protests may occur – April 2 and April 20.
Commenting that “at one time, Kutuzov surrendered Moscow in order to defeat Napoleon,” Doroshok pointed out that by that action, the Russian general “won the war. Do you understand?” he asked his interlocutor: “There are tactics and strategy in the conduct of a battle.”
Sometimes one must go forward to “decisive” battle. At other times, it is more important to “preserve [one’s] forces, to preserve the opposition in Kaliningrad. This is important. If we act [without being sensitive to the threats that emanate from the powers that be] we are taking an enormous risk of losing” those who support the opposition.
“If I am told tomorrow to go to war, then I will go,” Doroshok said. “But in this case, it is impermissible to deceive people and to say that we are going to a peaceful meeting if we know in advance that it will be a meat grinder. Why is this necessary? Why then go into the field to take part in a meeting?”
“I simply cannot take on myself such a risk and such a responsibility to put Kaliningraders in that [situation],” Doroshok concluded. And he expressed concern that some who want to push forward in the face of these risks may create the very opportunity for provocations that the powers that be are clearly looking for.
While it is likely that many in Moscow and in Kaliningrad will view Doroshok’s words as nothing more than an attempt to explain away what they see as a defeat for the demonstrators and a victory for the regime. But in fact, as his reference to Kutuzov makes clear, Doroshok and those who calculate as he does do not plan to lose the war even if they are avoiding battle now.

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