Thursday, January 29, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Being More Putinist than Putin Doesn’t Pay in Today’s Russia

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 29 – Russian anarchists, ecologists, and historical preservationists organized a demonstration in St. Petersburg last Sunday in which, echoing and thereby making fun of the line used by pro-government groups, they said that they are prepared to support anything Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wants.
But for their trouble and, from the point of view of the authorities, their trouble making, “Gazeta” reported today, they were harassed by the militia and now will face criminal charges for shouting such slogans as “Raise Tariffs on Communal Services Still Higher!” “Yes, to Higher Prices,” “Yes, to a 12 Hour Work Day!” and “Yes, to Higher Duties on Imported Cars!”
In sum, the marchers chanted, “We are Ready to Agree to Everything!”
This “absurdist” approach did attract the attention of passers-by and that was enough for the powers that be in the northern capital to decide that they had to be stopped and punished lest others take up this yippie-style action and lead more Russians to laugh at their leaders rather than fear them. (
The idea for a March of Those Who Agree was dreamed up by members of a local Resistance Movement as a response to the government’s efforts to organize its supporters to drown out those who disagree with Putin. The ringleaders said they wanted to show not only how absurd the regime has become but also to highlight “what can come from this.”
As the Moscow paper noted, “loyalty to the powers that be [in today’s Russia] when pushed to the limits appears to the guardians of order hardly less insulting than open protest.” And as a result, even though the organizers had permission from the St. Petersburg government and was small (fewer than 50 people), after 30 minutes, the militia moved in.
The officers arrested five and took them off on charges of jaywalking. One, Aleksey Yarema, was accused of the more serious crime of “illegal use of state symbols” apparently because he had put the group’s promise to “agree to anything” the Russian prime minister wants on a transparency of the Russian Federation tricolor flag.
Now, as the paper noted laconically, all of those detained for participating in this March of Those Ready to Agree are “awaiting trials,” an indication that as difficult as it may be for anyone to believe, in the Russia of today, it is almost as dangerous to be 110 percent for Vladimir Putin as it is to oppose him.

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