Social groups in Russia

The liberal UK press in the UK tells its readers a wild lie about Russia. The lie is that there is an “opposition” to Putin  and that this opposition is headed by someone called Alexei Navalny.  At least this is the view pumped out by the Guardian’s men in Moscow. Based on a reading of their articles over a period of time it is clear what is happening. These ‘journalists’ probably mix with a fairly limited set of Russians. On any question of the day they drop Navalny’s people a line on Facebook and print the Press Release they get back as the news. (The Independent follows a similar line; I don’t often look at the other papers).

In reality there are multiple oppositions in Russia – and most of them are far from being pro-Western liberals. Navalny himself is a Moscow blogger who mostly blogs about alleged government corruption. He plays a cat and mouse game with the authorities – always looking for ways to make it look like he is being persecuted and oppressed while for their part the authorities do their best to deny him this opportunity. In Russia Navalny is known as the King of the Kids due to his ability to use his social media accounts to get teenagers to turn out to his rallies. (He has been exposed by the independent media outlet Medusa as faking claims that his websites are being blocked by the authorities when in reality they are being blocked as a result of him using DoS security services). [1]

The following is a very first tentative sociological sketch of the different political groups in Russia.

Putin. United Russia. – The United Russia party has a strong base in government owned institutions. However there are plenty of people who broadly accept the programme and ‘ideology’ of United Russia and the current centre entirely voluntarily and who are not employed in government structures. (We can add that it is a trait of Russians to be quite conservative and to value stability; the current centre always has an advantage in such a situation. Until the next revolution of course!)

Navalny group. Moscow and St. Petersburg and sometimes other major cities. Attracts school pupils. Focus is on claims of corruption in current administration. Limited political programme beyond this. Mostly a social media phenomenon; but in general there is a market for his views about government corruption.

Communists. Active supporters of The Communist Party as well as people who may not vote for the Communist Party but who are socialists or communists. This group is highly critical of the current government and direction the country is going in from a social justice perspective.  (Possibly, but I don’t know, some would not consider the Communist Party to represent their views, seeing them as being too close to United Russia). People in this group are implacably opposed to the current centre on social justice grounds. But they are absolutely not pro-Western nor are they remotely liberals. They would like to bring back many aspects of the USSR.

National Groups. These groups are quite small. For example there are people in the Republic of Tatarstan who would like Tatarstan to be independent. Of course there are also some nationalist groups in the Caucuses – in Chechnya for example.

Fanatical liberals. (As described to me by a Russian friend who identifies himself as part of a ‘silent majority’). These people are in favour of gay rights, feminism. They are generally libertarian. Pussey Riot is probably representative of this fringe group.

Russian Nationalists. Far right wing. These people may think that Putin is pro-USA.

A middle-class who is in contact with the West and who are financially keeping their heads above water. (At one end this group is represented by middle-class professionals such as computer programmers who are very much in touch with colleagues in the West and who may be doing really quite well financially). This group may value Putin and the current system for the stability which it brings but feel that the current system politics locks them out of business opportunities. This is due to apparent tie-ups between government structures and certain businesses creating the perception (valid or not) that people without the right government connections cannot develop a business. This group is not politically vocal; they don’t go onto the streets.

This list is not exhaustive. As soon as I’ve written it I can think of Russian acquaintances who do not fit into any of these categories.

One final point. Even Russians who may believe for example that the Skripal poisoning was an act carried out by Russian secret services do not consider this such a big deal. One friend of mine, who is in general, pro-Western (he wants to study abroad), commented that the West had overreacted to it. The point here is that even amongst the most liberal and Western-leaning Russians there is an independent perspective; open to the West even here does not mean they are dying to become a vassal state.

The Guardian (and perhaps other UK media) tells its readers is that there is one united opposition in Russia and it is something to do with Navalny. This is a propagandistic fabrication. The other part of the fabrication is that this fictitious opposition is yearning to be liberated by Western liberalism.  The fact is that there are many social groups in Russia who are opposed to the current political centre but many of these would also be opposition groups in the UK.  And most of them would in reality give most Western liberals the absolute horrors.  And even the most Western-leaning opposition groups are not leaning over; they are still Russian and independent.

Notes

  1. https://meduza.io/en/news/2019/09/11/long-time-it-consultant-for-alexey-navalny-s-anti-corruption-foundation-quits-accusing-management-of-corruption

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer