May 7, 2012

Civil disobedience turns violent in latest Russian uprisings

In Russia the latest round of civil disobedience verged on violence. Some 400 protesters -- including Alexey Navalny, Sergei Udaltsov and Boris Nemtsov -- were arrested.

Matthew Clayfield

Journalist, critic, screenwriter and playwright

For the past six months, Western journalists in Moscow have represented the political situation in Russia as a simple dichotomy between good and evil, right and wrong, democracy and authoritarianism: in short, between the non-systemic opposition, spearheaded by figures such as Alexey Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov, and Vladimir Putin, the latter of whom later today will be inaugurated as president for the third time. Journalists have not only taken sides in their coverage of the mass protests that characterised the election season and its aftermath, but occasionally have even taken part in the protests themselves.

The dichotomy they have peddled, however, remains a false one: the real and widening divide in Russia is the one that exists between the country’s political class — Putin, Medvedev,¬†Navalny, Udaltsov, the government and both the systemic and non-systemic oppositions alike — and the people they claim to represent and seek to rule. That there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with Putin is obvious even outside Moscow and St Petersburg, though the unsuitability of any other candidate for the job — including those who would bring colour revolution to the country — is similarly evident.

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