Occupy Moscow? Putin’s Electoral Victory Deflates Demonstrators

Did you hear about Moscow’s Occupy Wall Street-esque three-month old opposition movement?  Even as Manhattan’s OWS movement’s recent attempts to revive itself have been diligently shut down by the NYPD, Moscow’s pro-democracy, anti-Putin protest movement  is waning in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s re-election as president on Sunday, March 4, 2012, with an overwhelming 63.7 percent of the vote.

In February, rally participants joined hands in a nine-mile ring around the center of Moscow and stood for more than an hour just smiling.  Video clips of electoral violations flooded the Web in December.  An all-female punk band climbed onto the altar of Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral playing a song called “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, Drive Putin Out.”  Protestors considered the movement a “battle against tyrants.”

Putin’s victory, however, has forced demonstrators to realize their opposition movement failed to extend its reach outside the capital and one poll monitor confessed disappointment at finding few electoral violations during the polling. Mr. Akunin, a famous Russian writer with a second home in France, admitted that there was a kind of “hangover” effect, that the initial “euphoria was too strong – it seemed like the triumph of democracy was just five steps away.  I understand that democracy is something you must earn.  If you get it cheaply, you won’t value it.”  Cautious movement leaders warn that the movement will lose steam until it puts forward a new, more realistic agenda or the government makes a “misstep.”  Mr. Akunin agreed: “Demonstrations and marches are an emotionally strong thing, but like any emotionally strong thing, they degrade after a while.”

Is the modern protest in the Western world dead?  How do you “earn” democracy?  See the NY Times article here.


  1. It seems that Putin’s hold on power is just too strong to be weakened by protest. By receiving 63% of the vote, putting any alleged election violations aside, the Russian people are showing that they stand firmly behind him. Protest can only really work when there is a truly divided population. Perhaps the Russian people are simply not divided enough on whether Putin should be president for protest to have a real effect. Another possible explanation is that people are simply scared to speak up for fear of government reprisals. It could be said that Putin has manipulated the Russian system into installing himself as Russia’s new dictator. It is worth pondering whether many in Russia, remembering their not too distant Soviet past, are simply afraid to speak up.

  2. Putin is powerful – there’s no doubt about that. He has certainly been finding a way to become Russia’s next dictator. Although I’m not sure what the solution to the Putin problem, the Russian legislature seems to have taken note. This week Putin went in front of Parliament to explain his plans for the country, and at that time, he was asked about his thoughts on a potential new law that would limit presidential terms in Russia to two. Currently, a Russian president cannot serve two consecutive terms, but there is no limit on non-consecutive terms. If the new law were to be put in effect, it is unlikely that Putin would be forced to obey it, since it would not be retroactive. However, it does appear that Russia is aware of the issue and prepared to deal with it (so long as Putin does not become more powerful).

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