A comment on Russian regime stability

The excellent Power Vertical blog has an entry today about parallels between current protests in Russia and the early perestroika period. Brian Whitmore implies that given these parallels, there is likely to be a significant increase in popular protest in Russia in the near future.

I am sympathetic to Brian’s analysis, but we should remember one crucial factor that allowed the early perestroika activism to turn into something more — the willingness of the authorities to allow it to develop and to grow. I’m pessimistic about the current authorities’ willingness to do the same. More likely, any efforts to expand protests will be met with force by the government.

Perestroika was only in part a popular protest movement. Popular protest developed and grew because Gorbachev wanted to use it to break the back of the conservative CPSU bureaucracy. I see no parallels in the current environment to this aspect of perestroika, and therefore it seems to me that protest will remain relatively small scale for the foreseeable future and will not threaten the Putin/Medvedev regime.

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