The battle field turned out to be within the human conscience.
And THEY lost that battle by preparing for yesterday’s war with yesterday’s methods. They habitually draped themselves in their army protective gear and funded their military with enormous cash injections that the US State Department, the supposed culprit to have paid for people to take part in the protests, hasn’t even dreamed of. Could you really pay all these people who took the streets in more than a hundred Russian cities? The same apolitical people who suddenly sensed that they are CITIZENS and who took to Bolotnaya Square in Moscow opposite to the famous House on the Embankment, the symbol of a voiceless era.
In paraphrasing Joseph Brodsky, you could have “compiled a city” out of these people, or at the very least filled the main stadium at Luzhniki in Moscow to capacity.
A neighbour in my apartment building was the first familiar face I saw at Bolotnaya Square. Just like any old neighbour, he is your average Muscovite and the head of his household who hardly had clearly articulated political views. But now he has not only views, but also values that he came to defend at Bolotnaya Square.
These are the people, who earlier never thought of coming to the square, are now the mainstream of a society that will be taking shape over the coming five years, a society that will demand change and will make even attempts at flagrant vote rigging during the 2016 elections, a society that will call for a new leader in 2017.
American researches conducted the so-called “Harvard Project” in West Germany, Austria and the United States from 1949 to 1951. This project consisted of polling and conducting in-depth interviews of relocated peoples and emigrants from the Soviet Union. They for the most part considered the Soviet authorities to be legitimate. Most importantly, however, as Russian sociologist Boris Firsov pointed out, these people were inclined to rely more on “ameliorative actions than a strategy for real change.”
This was who a Soviet person remained to be until the middle of the 1980s, regardless of where he or she lived. This same outlook returned in the middle of the 1990s. Now, he needs change once again. And freedom.
Not all people and not the laymen, of course, need change and freedom. The active slice of society needs change, while everyone benefits from it. And the minority have always been without exception that engine of change. The logic, values and views of the few dozen people who gathered by the Pushkin statue in Moscow on 5 December 1965, demanding that the Soviet government adhere to the Stalin constitution, and those of the people who took to the street on 25 August 1968 to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, became the logic, values and views of a significant part of those tens of millions of people who rejoiced at the inevitable changes that took place at the end of the 1980s.
Within the Presidential Administration, The Kremlin, The White House, and expensive establishments capable of being described only in the writings of Viktor Pelevin, and within the absolute silence of state residencies whose wood floors have been polished off by the quiet skidding of strict housekeepers, they were preparing for yesterday’s war with the people, while the people didn’t even think of starting a revolution. Instead of revolution, it presented an alternative. Instead of a revolution, the people got its own new “Us” that was nowhere to be seen or heard for some 20 years.
If you can call what’s going on a revolution, then it’s a “catching-up” revolution, or “a rewind revolution”. Jürgen Habermas, a classic of political science, pointed out the phenomenon of incomplete change that has to be over the years brought to completion by once again hitting the enter button. The bourgeoisie and democratic revolution was not completed from 1993 to 1995, although its main achievements were set in stone in the 1993 Constitution. Now, this revolution needs to be followed on through to the end.
That this isn’t an easy process is clear. It’s obvious that, after an era of a large civil rise, irrational disputes and arguments begin (they’ve already taken place over where to hold the protest– at Bolotnaya or Revolution Square). The current “catching-up” revolution doesn’t have either one single stand-out leader or clear-cut logic for its next actions. There’s no movement or party, which is actually logical: everything’s only just beginning. If things goes well, all this may arise later.
What already exists is most important of all: the unstoppable yearning to express dissent, present an alternative, to force the authorities to listen and to compromise. If the side being addressed will not want to listen or compromise, then there will be no public consensus.
The other side is in a muddle. All it does is mutter mantras about social order and money from the US State Department. It’s using its last rounds that are good for nothing but suicide during a game of Russian Roulette: Rikov, Shevchenko, Kandelaki, Isayev…
One thing is clear: the ball is in Putin and Medvedev’s court. They themselves must now either acknowledge society’s evolution and conform to it by changing radically (one option is to leave power), or spark a counter-revolution. To be more exact, a counter-evolution. In such a case, however, they won’t have any chance of being understood by the active as-yet minority.