Monday, June 14, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Popular Backing of ‘Primorsky Partisans’ Bears a Frightening Message for Moscow, Analysts Say

Paul Goble

Staunton, June 14 – The actions of the six men who have become known as “the Primorsky partisans” by themselves represented no real threat beyond their locality, but what popular reaction to them has been says about the current situation in the Russian Federation should be a matter of utmost concern.
Since the events in Primorsky kray at the end of May – for a chronology of them, see -- Russian commentators and officials both in the print and electronic media have been trying to make sense of them with descriptions ranging from an anomic outburst of violence to the beginning of a radical revolutionary movement.
But in the last two weeks, most mainstream writers have focused less on the actions of “the partisans” than on how people in the region and across Russia have reacted to them and have concluded that these reactions are far more serious threats to the country than “the partisans” themselves could ever be.
An example of this kind is a commentary that appeared on last week. Its basic and disturbing conclusion is that “the Primorye tragedy shows that [Russian] society no longer agrees to recognize in an unqualified fashion the monopoly of the government for the use of force (
The events in Primorsky kray, “where MVD forces attempted to liquidate an armed group which declared a right-radical set of goals and committed a number of attacks on employees of the law enforcement organs,” the paper said, “demonstrate a terrifying picture of the situation of minds in Russia.”
There have been various explanations for why the six men took action, but regardless of their reasons, what is most striking is “the mass support which the citizenry expressed to people who by the laws of any country had committed and were continuing to commit crimes of violence.”
Some of the support for “the partisans” reflects backing for the program offered in the radical right manifesto, “which was posted on the Internet in the name of the members of the group.” But most of those who support such actions have done so and continue to do so for what is ultimately a more disturbing reason.
“These are people,” continues, “who do not see in the domestic law enforcement system anything except bands of dishonest people willing to use force for their own purposes and with whom it is necessary [for the Russian population] to struggle against by means of terrorist methods.”
This sense is illegitimate is not something that “was achieved by the activities of ‘the band of partisans’ and not by the manifestos of Nazis.” Instead, it is a product of the actions of “the state machine itself and [especially] by the force structures, which should have a monopoly of force recognized as legitimate by the population.”
By reacting to “the partisans” in the way that it did, the population shows that it “no longer agrees in an unqualified form the monopoly of the state on the use of force.” And that means that “it is ever more difficult for the state to use this monopoly against real criminals because [the state itself] is under suspicion.”
“This is genuinely terrible,” the commentary says.
This “discrediting of law enforcement organs, the judicial system, and the special forces which have realized this by their own actions,” says, “is transforming the situation from a problem of state construction and reform into an occasion for a bloody uprising,” a far more serious danger.
And no one should “deceive himself” that such a rising would be “cleansing.” It would not have “any other effect besides destruction.” And this “problem will not disappear” even if the powers that be are able to capture or kill any people who seek to follow the path of the Primorsky “partisans.”
Every country has “extremist ‘militias’” which seek to take the law into their own hands, but in Russia, the events in Primorsky kray suggest, the willingness of the population to support them will “only grow,” even in the case of “the most successful operations” to subdue them. And it appears, concludes, that the time for doing so in a bloodless fashion is running out.
If that conclusion appears apocalyptic, it is nothing compared to some of the comments in the Russian blogosphere. Some suggested “the partisans” had “broken the taboo” on violence against officials, opening the way for more ( and
And others pointed out that the fact that the population and the media were calling the people who took part in this violence “forest brothers” or “partisans’ has its own message. If those resisting the powers that be are partisans, then that implies, they suggest that the powers that be are an occupying force (
But such an online discussion could not take place in Russia without someone suggesting that “the Primorsky partisans” were a provocation by unnamed officials who somehow planned to use both the actions of the gang and the popular reaction to them for their own, clearly nefarious purposes (

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