Wednesday, 7 December 2011


It is taken for granted here that Russians are used to elections with little or no meaning, and that people have developed other creative strategies for everyday enjoyment and survival (mainly, it feels to me, by focussing inwards on the personal, immediate freedoms of one's own mental and family life). This is despite, or perhaps because of, a simultaneously stagnating and chaotic political system. As V puts it - the problem with this country is that it manages to be completely static and immoveable, and yet leaves you always uncertain as to just what might happen next.

So those initial pre-election rumblings (well, booings) and now the street demonstrations alleging fraud over the elections, which are continuing despite a massive police presence, the deliberate mobilisation of the pro-United Russia Nashi (Ours) youth movement and many, many arrests, seem suggestive of something very important. Online there has been plenty of lively oppositional stuff for a while (such as the video evidence on YouTube of ballot stuffing/ballot falsification/invisible ink pens given to voters) but now finally - aka Arab Spring/Occupy etc., etc., it seems to be hitting the streets.

So, whilst United Russia still run the Duma, the smooth control that Putin has exuded (and assumed) seems shaken. As Brian Whitmore puts it in his blog The Power Vertical, what we have is yet another version of that static/chaotic thing - " nothing has changed and everything has changed."

The photograph shows a disputed - that is, probably illegal - United Russia election poster, which copied exactly the public information poster designed to get more people to vote.

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