Russian opposition must put aside their grudges and unite against the war

Demonstration on December 24, 2011 on Sakharov Avenue, Moscow. Photo by Bogomolov.PL, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0,).

This article by the former journalist from Novaya GazetaIvan Zhilin, public originally at Geneva Solutions. We reproduce an edited version as part of a content sharing agreement with Global Voices.

It seems impossible to fix our country. Even in times like these, our best people are stubbornly repeating the mistakes that led to the attack on Ukraine.

How have we allowed war to happen? Not only because of our indifference, infinite patience and willingness to put up with problems for the sake of a “bright future” (for which the man who gave the order to bomb kyiv supposedly prepared us), not only because of our unwillingness to change the things (because “before it was worse”), but also because of our disunity. We have also come to war now because the members of the Russian opposition have never been able to agree with each other.

For example, 2011-2012 protests. After the 100,000-strong rallies against electoral fraud in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Avenue, after the mile-long march down Yakimanka Street, after the ‘Great White Circle’ (when protesters surrounded the center of Moscow) and after #OkkupaiAbai (when the opponents of the president camped for a week in the center of the capital), the Russian opposition leaders decided to create a Coordination Council.

The council’s task was clear: pressure the government to reform Russia’s judicial and electoral systems. The council brought together opponents of all kinds: from Alexei Navalnythen flirting with the nationalists, to the extravagant and cosmopolitan Ksenia Sobchackpassing through the liberal Boris Nemtsov and the socialist Sergey Udaltsov.

The Russians know well how this united struggle ended. After organizing a few protest rallies, the opponents fought among themselves, trying to find out whose strategy was to fight the regime, who to support in the elections and what money should be allocated for that. And a year after the creation of the Coordination Council, they dissolved it, without achieving any change in the country’s political order.

This fragmentation of the Russian opposition later manifested itself in a conflict between the Yabloko party leadership and Alexei Navalny, in a conflict between the non-systemic left forces represented by Sergei Udaltsov and his associates, with the liberals and parliamentary communists, and finally , including in reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov (Some opposition-minded Russian citizens believed the award should have gone to Navalny.)

And now, at the beginning of the third month of battles in Ukraine, the Russian opposition has decided to do the same thing: attack their own. On April 26, Navalny’s supporters published a “List of Warmongers”, which included journalists Kseniya Sobchak and Oleg Kashin (who had publicly opposed the so-called “special operation”), as well as 30 members of the Russian Security Council, 101 Defense Ministry officials, 473 presidential envoys, other security officials, and “corrupt celebrities.”

The file of Navalny’s supporters says of Kashin:

A Russian propagandist, published on the website and in the publication Republic. It is worth noting here that the Republic and its editor-in-chief Dmitry Kolezev have consistently taken an anti-war stance. Kashin himself stated that Ukraine “is the righteous side in this war”. He explained that his inclusion of him in the list of «warmongers» was by “revenge” on the part of the Navalnists for the earlier rifts between him and Navalny’s supporters.

A Russian propagandist, who posts on the website and Republic. It should be noted that Republic and its editor-in-chief, Dmitry Kolezev, have consistently taken an anti-war stance. Kashin himself declared that Ukraine “is the right side in this war.” He explained that his inclusion in the list of “warmongers” was in “revenge” of the Navalnists for the previous disagreements between him and Navalny’s supporters.

The file is even tougher with Ksenia Sobchak:

A Russian propagandist… despite the fact that she was nominally in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s regime, her actions on several occasions only gave him legitimacy: including helping to legitimize him during the 2018 presidential election, in which she participated as a spoiler candidate.

A Russian propagandist… even though she was nominally in opposition to the Vladimir Putin regime, her actions on several occasions only gave her legitimacy: they even helped legitimize him during the 2018 presidential election, in which she ran as a spoiler candidate.

And this despite the fact that Sobchak’s network of Telegram channels is now one of the most popular unblocked anti-war resources in Russia, with an audience of more than 1.5 million people.

I am not naive enough to think that Sobchak, who is Vladimir Putin’s goddaughter, is willing to seriously confront him and try to seize power from him to stop the war. But it is clear that she is doing her bit to educate the Russians and wake them up from her militaristic dream. If not personally, through the journalists of him.

Meanwhile, according to other Russian opponents, she remains on the list, accompanied by this explanation: “Each of these people is responsible for the fact that the fate of millions of Ukrainians has been broken and that the standard of living of millions of Russians be even lower.

Among other factors, a powerful American anti-war movement uniting blue-collar and urban hippies, communists and liberals, churchgoers and ex-military, helped stop the Vietnam War. They stood together on Capitol Hill, took over Chicago’s Lincoln Park and staged sit-ins on the steps of the Pentagon.

The Russian opposition, unfortunately, instead of uniting all its supporters under anti-war slogans, instead of putting aside their differences in the face of war, has dedicated itself to disqualifying each other as enemies. The only thing that inspires optimism is that global changes in Russia sometimes occur unexpectedly:

  • In 1953, Nikita Khrushchev was secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party, one of the men closest to Stalinand in 1956 he was its main exhibitor.
  • On March 17, 1991, a referendum on keeping the USSR was held (and 76.4% voted in favour), and on December 26 the Soviet Union collapsed.

Perhaps now, too, the anti-war movement and resistance to war will emerge from something unexpected. And unexpectedly, they win.

Russian opposition must put aside their grudges and unite against

Image courtesy of Giovana Fleck.

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Russian opposition must put aside their grudges and unite against the war