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Russia / December 26, 2011
By Sean Guillory

On December 5, the day after Russia’s Duma elections, the anti-corruption crusader and popular blogger, Alexei Navalny, told a raucous crowd, “I want to say to you: Thank you. Thank you for playing you part as a citizen. Thank you for telling these assholes, ‘We’re here!’ For telling the bearded [Electoral Commission head Vladimir] Churov and his superiors: ‘We exist!’ We have our voices. We exist! We exist! They hear that voice and they are afraid! They can chuckle on their zombie-boxes. They can call us “microbloggers” or ‘network hamsters!’ I am a network hamster, and I will slit the throats of these cattle!” Shortly after giving this speech, Navalny was arrested, and by the next morning, sentenced to 15 days in a spetspriyomnik (special detention center) outside of Moscow. Navalny was released on December 20, and has been considered among many the de facto leader of the Russian opposition.

Why Navalny? One reason is that declarations like “I will slit the throats of these cattle,” though metaphorical, are no mere puffery. Unlike many in the Russian opposition, Navalny puts his words into action, and in a climate where more than a few government critics have met their demise, this action puts his life on the line. Yet, he remains fearless. “It’s better to die standing up, than to live on your knees,” he told the New Yorker’s Julia Ioffe last spring. With that kind of gumption, it’s safe to say that Navalny has become a nagging pain in the ass of Russia’s corrupt elite. He’s done so not by staging rallies, leading a political organization, or seeking political office. Navalny is an activist of the 21st century: his weapons are a blog, Twitter, and a crowdsourcing website. His army is motley of “network hamsters” ready to root out big moneyed corruption by combing through dry contracts posted on his site Rospil. The results are impressive. Since Rospil’s creation in December 2010, Navalny and his army are responsible for the cancelling of $1.2 billion worth of state contracts. Given all this, it’s amazing that someone has yet to slit his throat.

But Navalny is more than an anti-corruption crusader and renowned blogger. The thirty-five year old Muscovite lawyer is also emblematic of two forces that were once supporters of Putin, but are now increasingly turning against him: the urban, educated middle class, or ROG (russkie obrazovannye gorozhane) as pundit Stanislav Belkovskii has dubbed them; and Russians with nationalist sympathies. On the surface these two groups appear antithetical to each other. The former are often described as “hipster-gadget-lovers” (khipstery-gazhetomany) more interested in Moscow’s cafes, clubs, and sushi bars, and, until two weeks ago, showed no interest in politics besides ranting on their Live Journal blogs and Twitter accounts. The nationalists are portrayed as racist working class street thugs whose sense of Russian victimhood speaks through fists and boots to the heads of migrants from Central Asia and the North Caucasus.

Nevertheless, both groups share common ground: they’re by and large suspicious of the West and the Russian liberals who extol its values, patriotic, despise corruption, view immigrants as destroying the integrity of the Russian nation and increasingly loathe Putin and his cronies. With a foot in each world, Navalny is emerging as the logical person who could unite them around a new mass political movement based on what Alexei Pimenov recently called “an anti-corruption pathos plus the national idea.”

Middle Class Envy

Alexei Navalny’s life story is representative of both groups. Born in 1976 to a fairly middle class Soviet family (his father a Red Army communications officer and his mother an economist), Navalny’s formative years fell smack dab in the middle of Russia’s post-Soviet Time of Troubles. Then, as before, corruption was endemic. As a law student at the Peoples’ Friendship University in Moscow, Navalny was no less immune to the encroachment of bribery on everyday life. He recalled to Julia Ioffe, for example, the necessity of slipping fifty dollar bills in his exam book to ensure a passing grade. After graduation, Navalny did a short stint in a real estate agency where he got an insider’s look at how Russia really worked. “Working there,” he told Ioffe, “taught me how things are done on the inside, how intermediary companies are built, how money is shuffled around.”

But his brush with big time corruption came in 2007, when he began looking into why his portfolio of Gazprom, Rosneft, and Transneft stock gave so little return despite their enormous profits. His investigations into the matter revealed that hundreds of millions of dollars were begin skimmed from Transneft’s coffers through expensive contracts with shell companies. He filed a lawsuit demanding the release of documents disclosing to who and where the money went. The case is still in court, and to the surprise of many, Navalny has had enough court rulings in his favor to keep it alive.

By 2008, Navalny began blogging about his anti-corruption efforts because, as he told Charles Clover of the Financial Times, he had “had enough.”

“In Russia, everyone talks about the so called vertical [system] of power,” Navalny explained. “But it’s really just a vertical of corruption.”

Navalny’s personal crusade against corruption is unique, but his experience with it is not. Unlike in Soviet times where a bottle of vodka, a favor, or an introduction to a potentate greased the wheels, money rapidly became the tender in post-Soviet corruption. This made the system of favors impersonal and more hierarchical, polarizing the haves and the have-nots. This is not to suggest that personal relations ceased to matter. On the contrary. To climb up in Russia’s business world required money and connections. And for many in Russia’s emerging middle class this combination created an impenetrable glass ceiling.

Nevertheless, Russia’s middle class acquiesced to this situation throughout the 2000s. Russia was booming, oil money was trickling down, and the Russian middle class was expanding to as much as 20 percent of the population. Despite their increasingly social and economic power, few in the middle class made demands even as Putin’s government neutered the political opposition and consolidated state power around a circle of cronies from St. Petersburg. Instead a tacit agreement was broached between Putin and the Russian people as a whole and the middle class in particular: economic stability, and even prosperity, for political loyalty. By the end of his second term, Putin felt confident enough that this deal was secure that he installed his protégé Dmitry Medvedev as President but still remained in the halls of power as Prime Minister. Kremlin Inc. rolled on.

Cracks in this deal began emerging with the 2008 economic crash. Though Russia recovered quickly overall, the middle class failed to recuperate. According to a report by the Zircon Research Group, Russia’s middle class was shrinking. The percentage of Russians identifying themselves as “middle class” fell from 54 percent to 47 percent. Zircon estimated that the class had shrunk from a pre-crisis 20 percent to 12 percent of the population. Another indicative figure was the number of people selling their wares to pawn shops. The Moscow city run pawnshop chain Mosgorlombard saw a 50 percent boost in its customers, from 200 to more than 300 daily. And these new customers weren’t just the poor, as one would assume. “Business owners have started coming. They need to find ways to keep their businesses going, they need emergency cash,” Irina Palmova, the shop’s director said.

Russians are getting increasingly dissatisfied with the state of things and particularly with corruption. Navalny’s brilliant slogan painting United Russia as “The Party of Crooks and Thieves” has gathered wide currency on the internet and print media. More and more Russians feel that the country is going in the wrong direction and their confidence that Putin, Medvedev and United Russia could sway the course is precipitously diminishing. Thus, Medvedev’s and Putin’s “surprise” announcement last September that the latter is returning to the Presidency adds insult to injury. Moreover the dynamic duo revealed that this was the plan all along. The last four years were a wash, the Tsar is coming back, and no one cared to ask the Russian middle class their opinion about any of it. Putin’s message to the electorate is clear: “I don’t care what you think, so much so that I put this little gnome in the driver’s seat for four years just so I could get around the term limits in the Constitution. I’m back, but the truth is, I never left.” Russians are now facing at least six, and possibly twelve more years of President Putin’s botoxed mug.

Revolt of the Nationalists

The other side, some would say the dark side to Alexei Navalny’s politics is that he’s a Russian nationalist. As Kevin Rothrock has argued in convincing detail, Navalny’s nationalism is no mere dalliance or opportunistic attempt to feed off Russians’ distaste for Central Asians and Caucasians. Rather, he has a long track record of political involvement in nationalist politics.

In 2007, he co-founded the nationalist group NAROD (The National Russian Liberation Movement). Their manifesto, an admixture of what Navalny calls “democratic nationalism,” includes calls for democratic control of the state along with volkish precepts like “ending the degradation of Russian (russkii) civilization” restoring the “organic unity of the Russian past, present and future” and “every Russian (russkii) must have the right to receive Russian citizenship and the possibility to return to the Motherland.”

Yabloko expelled Navalny in 2007 for his participation in NAROD and other nationalist activities. At the end of his expulsion hearing, he yelled “Glory to Russia!” and stormed out. Among his other nationalist fits, he wrote off the neo-fascist Movement Against Illegal Immigration as harmless as “girl scouts”; declared that immigrants “will NEVER assimilate” and are a “bomb under our future”; called on Russians to arm themselves against “Muslim-looking criminals,” supported the nationalist inspired “Stop Feeding the Caucasus” campaign, and most recently joined the organizing committee of the yearly nationalist powwow, the Russian March. When Russian liberals flew into a tizzy over the last move, Navalny explained it thus: “I clearly supported this long-held idea of mine, if you don’t like those who will go on the Russian March, go there yourself and make it better. There they will talk about real problems and ‘liberal-schmiberal’ labels are nonsense.”

Whatever one thinks of Navalny’s nationalism, the truth of the matter is that his beliefs coincide with the majority of Russians’ views on immigration and the North Caucasus. Nationalism and immigrant bashing has populist resonance in Russia, and until recently the Kremlin was willing to tap it to consolidate its own power. For many Russians, nationalist or not, Putin symbolizes the ideal Russian man: conservative, athletic, sober, religious, and patriotic. He returned Russia to international prominence after ten years of humiliation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even the extreme right love him for his recognition that the core Russian values are “none other than patriotism, love of one’s motherland, love of one’s own home, one’s people.” But Putin’s stature of a defender of the Slavic nation, like his approval in general, is shrinking among nationalists as an estimated four to eight million illegal immigrants enter Russia every year to do much of the labor to fill the power elites’ pockets with money. “There is more than just massive dissatisfaction with the state,” Valeriy Solovey, the nationalist academic and ideologue told Reuters. “It’s hatred. That hatred is directed at all organs of the state and it’s directed at the very top — I mean the prime minister and the president.”

Russian nationalists might be able to garner at least the moral support of the public to their cause. True, most Russians scoff at the rhetoric of extreme nationalists, but their obsession with immigration does constitute a “real problem.” According to polls conducted by the Levada Center, the majority of Russians identify with the nationalist slogans “Russia for Russians” and “Stop Feeding the Caucasus.” When asked whether they supported the slogan, “Stop Feeding the Caucasus,” 62 percent answered that “definitely support” or “partially support.” To the question “How do you relate to the idea ‘Russia for Russians’?” a total of 54 percent answered with some support, while 32 percent called it “fascist.”

Navalny recognizes the potential of uniting Russia’s middle classes and nationalists. In fact, it’s an alliance he’s been advocating since at least 2007. There is no doubt he’s made some inroads into both camps. A virtual cult has sprouted around him in liberal circles. One of his biggest boosters is the prominent liberal pundit Yulia Latynina, who recently labeled him the “only electable Russian.” And just this week his formal party, Yabloko, was getting pressure to nominate Navalny as their presidential candidate. To which, the party’s leader Sergei Mitrokhin angrily tweeted: “Navalny will not be nominated. 1) He didn’t express any desire to be; 2) He was expelled from Yabloko for nationalism. He has not given up this view;” And “Nationalism would be ruinous for the Russia. Yabloko cannot support nationalists even if they’re popular. We will not change out principles for popularity.” He then told “Navanly’s fans” to shut up about it.

Navalny’s efforts to cajole the nationalists have been less successful. His membership to the Russian March organizing committee notwithstanding, his slogan “Party of Crooks and Thieves” made few inroads among the Russian Imperial flag bearing and Seig Heil-ing crowd. Nationalist like Konstantin Krylov, Vladimir Tor, Dmitrii Demushkin, Alexander Belov see Navalny as an ally, but not their leader.

Plus, liberals and nationalists remain deeply divided within the protest camp. A few hundred nationalists joined the mass protest at Bolontaya, but many in the crowd shouted that they were provocateurs and organizers only allowed Krylov to address the crowd. Both groups are trying to take possession of the movement sparked by the December 4 elections. Protest organizer and human rights activist, Lev Ponomarev is arguing for the necessity to put the nationalists “in their place once and for all.” The nationalists are firing back that they will prevent the liberals from “privatizing” the movement.

Can Navalny unite these forces? He could, and what is more, he might not need the liberal or the nationalist leadership to do it. Both the middle class and Russians with nationalist sympathies share more common ground that their leaders are willing to admit. In fact, the average ROG and the average nationalist might be one in the same. In a response to whether the “anti-corruption pathos plus national idea” had any currency, the sociologist Ovsei Shkaratan said the following:

Yes, [the protesters at Bolotnaya] are nationalists. Of course, those who went to Manezh (the nationalist riot in December 2010) are not their crowd. But they would interact with them. Be as that may, it would not be cause for hysteria if this were to happen. It could come to this. They want to live in a serious stable country where serious and educated people are in power. I repeat: I’m not terribly convinced that they are democrats. But they don’t consider the far right existing in our country as either educated or competent, and to cooperate with them isn’t necessary.

But Alexei Navany is educated and competent. And he’s ready to slit throats.


Sean Guillory is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He blogs about Russia at Sean’s Russia Blog and can be followed on Twitter @seansrussiablog.



Add your own

  • 1. pmx  |  December 26th, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    The best article Ive read on modern politicis of russia in a while.
    Its funny how the corruption culture is so similar in russia and mexico.

  • 2. Soj  |  December 26th, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Just as an addendum, the word NAROD means “people” as in “a race of people”, so that’s a clever little acronym.

  • 3. John Drinkwater  |  December 26th, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Interesting article. How could Nalvany take power? How could he even run for president without the backing of a political party? Woudn’t United Russia just block his candidacy if he did tried to run? Aside from perhaps Prokhorov, I don’t see how ‘a path to the nomination’ as they say in the US. If Putin stubbornly clings to power and the overall situation in Russia continues to deteriorate, then what happens? Another revolution?

  • 4. G.A.  |  December 26th, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    If Russia stops feeding Caucasus without detaching it, there will be trouble. Why won’t Russians just give all the Chechens and Ingushes and such independence, if they’re so worried about financial strain?

  • 5. hulk hogan irl  |  December 26th, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    as much as I like to hear anything anti-Kremlin and anti-elitist, combining fervent nationalism with a struggling, bitter middle class in an effort to change the system invariably gives you fascism. I think the mistake here would be to assume that because UR is socially conservative that opposition to them would be socially liberal (even if they themselves hint that they are; remember that ‘nazi’ stood for ‘national socialist’), what you could very well be seeing here is the elitist right versus the reactionary right.

  • 6. Urda  |  December 26th, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    It would be genuinely interesting and telling to see how Russian expats outside of Russia feel about Putin.Especially since a lot of them live in the Caucasus or in places where they themselves feel at times,quite unwelcome.

  • 7. Luis Felipe  |  December 27th, 2011 at 1:09 am

    There’s no way he’ll reach power with his current approach. He’s part of that post-Cold War generation of youth the world whose very politics are alienated — as if politics themselves are to be depoliticized. Unsurprisingly, this talk seems to emanate from reactionaries who won’t admit to it.

    All this talk of uncovering corruption scandals? That’s supposed to be the job of journalists, but then again, with the media as hollow as modern politics, it’s no wonder the two would be conflated like that.

    Remember the “green revolution” in Iran, and how all the Twitter and blogging nonsense came mostly from Western busybodies while the actual Iranians were busy getting their hands dirty? That’s because petty-bourgeoisie kids don’t protest, they just pretend to do so on the internet like you and I do.

    Trust a Brazilian when he tells you this: an anti-corruption crusader is an idol with feet of clay. I can guarantee you that, should he remain polonium-free, he WILL become an oligarch.

  • 8. Aenn  |  December 27th, 2011 at 2:17 am

    You have to understnand: in the USSR, Russians were the oppressed majority. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Well the reasoning behind that was that if you don’t keep the majority in check and suppressed, it will make the minorities revolt and break away. The funny bit is, of course, that that’s what happened for exactly the opposite reason – Russian presence was treated as undesired and “not-needed” everywhere else through the USSR. The result of the breakup was even worse for the former republics than for Russia.

    Then there was the influx of Caucasians in the early 90s/late 80s, which were attracted by the easy commerce (and thuggery), something post-communist Russians were still rather complexed about.

    So it doesn’t surprise at all that there’s a boiling nationalist movement, as Russians were still treated inferior in many cases. And are being treated inferior by their very own bureaucracy, almost always.

  • 9. Mac  |  December 27th, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Funny how nationalism now is suddenly acceptable in the west when it’s Russian nationalism opposing Putin.

    But voice healthy nationalistic views (and I mean healthy as in putting your nation first, not excessive as in wanting to be enemies with every foreigner and foreign country) in any western nation and out pops both liberals and reds and calls you a fascist.

  • 10. A Silver Mt. Paektu  |  December 27th, 2011 at 10:50 am

    While the particulars are interesting, an alliance between frustrated petit bourgeois strivers and racist lumpenprole bullyboys is by no means historically unique. It is, in fact, the classic blueprint for a fascist movement.

    The anti-communist states that the left spent most of the Cold War denouncing as fascist were little more than kleptocracies run for the sake of enriching Western business interests and small cabals of local compradors. They were geographically remote from their mass base (the various bourgeois strata of the imperialist metropole) and were thus unable to mobilize serious manpower. Their shows of force were unambitious endeavors, characterized by the death squad and targeting mainly dissidents.

    Real fascism–the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini; the sort of fascism that mobilizes entire nations to invade the neighbors and build obscene charnel factories devoted to industrial murder–requires the sort of confluence of broad local reactionary class forces that Navalny is attempting to ride. I doubt his movement will get as far as all that, but watching from a safe distance should be educational.

  • 11. calripson  |  December 27th, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Two points:
    Russian liberals have never been supported by more than 15% of the population at any time post 1991. They get press play in the West, but the average Russian supports nationalism.

    A movement to “Stop Feeding the Caucasus” would lead rather quickly to the dissolution of Russia with not only the Caucases but also other areas (such as Tartarstan) breaking away. Russia is in the position of having to expand (in some form or fashion reincorporating Belarus, Kazakstan, Ukraine ect)or to dissolve. Its current state and current demographic reality leaves it no other option. Clearly the West would like to see Russia split apart (read Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard)and will do everything to prevent an expansion into areas like Ukraine.

  • 12. az  |  December 27th, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    To add to what @10 is saying, Navalny seems to be going the fascist route, but he is by no means the first. Before it was Limonov if you remember, who went as far as having eBooks by Mussolini on the NBP website, and in what I am pretty sure (and correct me if I’m wrong) was not in a “know your enemy” manner. Today he is the leader of Drugaya Rossiya, the major nationalist movement at the opposition protests both when he was allied with the opposition who were in power during the Yeltsin years (such as Nemtsov) and today at the post-election protests. Though it should be noted that he rebranded from hammer-and-sickles to Romanov dynasty flags.

    The left opposition is pretty divided at this point with the Left Front for the protests and CPRF somewhat ambiguous, going to the protests and doing agitation, but also speaking out against the “orange mischief” that they suspect from the liberals.

    It should also be noted that there is a separate faction of (what can be seen as quasi-fascist) Stalinist hardliners led by Kurginyan (with a pretty notable biography) who for the past two years has been on a debate show where he defended the pro-Soviet point of view against a liberal opponent, with a panel of experts to support each side. According to polls at the end he consistently won the overwhelming majority of votes on the live polls.

    He had an “alter-meeting” which attracted 3,000 people compared to 10,000 of the Navalny-led meeting, though actual figures may vary. The meeting was mostly Internet nerds and hardliners from the (unofficial) Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Russian Communist Workers party. One thing that I thought was pretty funny was that they had “world’s smartest man” and internet meme Anatoly Wasserman as a speaker.

    However, despite being good at debates, Kurginyan is very ineffective as a public speaker and at this time mostly appeals to his core audience which already agrees with his ideology.

    His ideology is essentially an attack of modernism as a “project” of bourgeois capitalism, as he argues that while modernism was the ruling ideology of capitalism, “giving every nation a right to progress,” today this system is no longer able to function, giving rise to post-modernism in the Western countries, which attacks modernism as dictatorial, and ends up supporting pre-modernism, of which he gives the examples of support for Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan on the hands of the West, even American conservatives who once believed in the Clash of Civilizations theory but now see Islamism as “the will of the people.” As a result, he sees the USSR and communism not as a matter of “east” or “west,” or “collectivism” versus “individualism” as the popular dichotomy goes, but as an alternative to the West, just as Byzantium was an alternative to Rome, as the Byzantines had called themselves Romaioi. This probably serves the Third Rome nationalists as well.

    To be honest, I am too distant from Russian politics to make a judgment on either, but I have noticed both Navalny and Kurginyan as popular names in the Russian blogosphere so I thought that it would help to add some information about him as well. He is a lot like Limonov in his earlier years, believing that the USSR was an empire like the US and believing in its ambitions, except with a much less interesting personal life and what he is now crafting to be an image of an old-school Stalinist (as in actually against Khrushchev and Brezhnev-era policies, not just appealing to Stalin’s cult of personality) hardliner.

  • 13. Evgeny  |  December 27th, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I don’t trust Navalny. I would better vote for Putin or Kurginyan, than him.

  • 14. Buzz  |  December 28th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    It would be a shame if Navalny threw away his anti-corruption legacy to play the Russian Game of Thrones. Russian politics have evolved from simply finding a leader to addressing important issues, and Navalny was partly responsible for that.

  • 15. Down and Out of Sài Gòn  |  December 30th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    It wold be nice to have a leader that embraced Russia’s racial complexity, rather than go “Russia for the Russians”. You’ve got Yakut. You’ve got the Tatars. You’ve got the Tuva. And of course you have the Russians. Why not rule for them all?

    Russian nationalism is not just discriminatory, but also 80-years-out-of-date obsolescent.

  • 16. Krokodile  |  December 30th, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Russia, being compared to the US all the time for no reason, is a stronger democracy. There is a long-running tradition of overthrowing bullies while slitting their throats, while US populace is being pavement-faced over raising objections to ruling class banksterism. Learn your history, folks.

  • 17. Serge  |  January 3rd, 2012 at 12:54 am

    Please, fix a typo: not ‘petspriyomnik’, but ‘spetspriyomnik’, wich is a shortage to ‘spetsial’niy priyomnik’ or ‘special detention center’ in English.

  • 18. Oleg Majboroda  |  January 3rd, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Actually it´s a spetzpriyomnik(from special), although he claimed himself that he is a net hamster so pets would be good too 🙂

  • 19. Marina  |  January 3rd, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I have a lot of claims to Vladimir Putin, but I think that people like Alexei Navalny can not be the leaders of Russia. I do not believe any one person in opposition, they are much worse than Putin.

  • 20. The Black Monk  |  January 3rd, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    @10 – Good points, but Nazism and Mussolini’s fascism are a bit like like Pol Pot vs. Tito’s communisms. Not accurate to lump them together.

  • 21. Oksana  |  January 4th, 2012 at 9:02 am

    It’s not essencial to support this snow revolution without any snow to be in opposition! The situation is often representated like there are no any other forces in Russia at all but it isn’t true. Left wind could form an exellent movement if all parties and organisations unite anf they would get millions of supporters. Personally I trust Kurginyan more than Navalny. I don’t want there paid so-called democratic nationalists to win in Russia… It even sounds crazy. We need a strong country with strong, independent and respected power.

  • 22. Oksana  |  January 4th, 2012 at 9:03 am

    For fair vote, against revolution!

  • 23. Vladimir  |  January 4th, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Navalny is only slightly more nationalist than Obama. He has stated in numerous interviews that he does not judge people based on their ethnicity and despises the idea of the hardcore nationalists about ethnic non-Russians being second-class people.
    He is pro-gay marriage (though he is not ready to allow such couples to have children), he supports the legalization of sex-work, among other things, he is opposed to death penalty and he believes that church and state are supposed to be separate.

    The “throat-slitting” part of this speech is overblown and largely misinterpreted.
    What he actually said is “…I AM an Internet hamster. And I will *gnaw through* the throats of these bastards!”, which is a bit difficult to take literally.

    He does not aim to have Putin and Medvedev hanging from the light poles, but would have them tried by a fair court of law and locked up for a very long time.

  • 24. Uhmerikwan  |  January 9th, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Too bad Americans don’t have a candidate for president of the quality of Navalny. The best we can come up with are Negro gropers and suck poops of the Israeli lobby. A truly disgusting situation.

  • 25. Marcus McSpartacus  |  January 11th, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    So… Ron Paul is like our Zhirinovsky?

  • 26. Dimitri Ratz  |  January 11th, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Mikhail Prokhorov is a great contender, he has looks, carisma, he bought a local team (New Jersey Nets), Chicago area is getting developed by Sevarispol (not his company, but he was involved in minning/steel before ending up with mostly Polyous Gold that if I remember correctly his trying to re-register at England (It’s a Russian minning company or at least it still was last year). The problem is Mikhail is not running in United States! He would do much better if he would of bought a team in Russia, and addressed Russian concerns instead of saying he’d try to merge the rouble with a Euro at the time when Euro is in crises. So his audiance is all wrong since his not going for Obama’s job nor whoever is the leader in EU. His remark about liking to manage risk has much to do with why his running. Although Prokhorov himself is not tied to murder of that mayor that was blocking the way to Yukos extending their oil business and who’s brains were found at the basement of Yuko’s CEO’s bodyguards home, the auctioning of state property was tied to funding Yeltsin received before a close election in the 90s, and the state assets were not auctioned openly in the aim of having biggest participation, and so assets were given below market price. Although Prokhorov has paid all his taxes since 2000, the merky 90s privatilazation is a cloud on his head, even before former Sibneft CEO trails started in London. So it’s pretty obvious that Prokhorov would be much better positioned, and yield clear benefits if he can secure 6% (that’s the upper limits taking current trends in Russia, and provided he gets the 2 million signatures just to run which in itself almost as likely as Gangrich winning Virgenia. However, the risk management benefits are amanse as any possible future investigation into his earlier business dealing can easily be countered with it’s just political persecution (Running for president, ect). Given all the data the only logical reason, the obvious even to people living in Pittsburg, and despite Tymoshenko example where she still went to jail, but than again she wasn’t reregistering Polyus Gold in Britain was she?

    Now that is cleared up lets look at the opposition. Just Russia with about 15%, a party founded on getting better pensions for seniors can only go so far. Liberal Democratic Party, my personal favorite if I had Russian citizenship, with party making it’s own brand of vodka, and advocating nuclear annihilation of county of Qatar when Qatar recognized terrorist state of Icheria in Russia during the Chechen crises, not recently when Russian diplomate got beat up by Qatar for the secret suitcase at the airport against UN regulations. But despite for great conversations at parties, Zarcovsky (LD Party) can’t get more than 12% as his party received, because especially women voters can’t stand his vulgar language rather than his foreign policy, even if he has his son run instead of him in honor of North Korea… That leaves, Communist Party of Russian Federation, or as referred to in our media in the states as “Left Front” when Misses Clinton was lending support to the opposition. The Communists got 23%, and are likely to get a strong second place, possibly as high as 30% to 35%. One of the reasons is Liberal Democrats know their candidate doesn’t have the required support so only 2%, at most 3% end up voting party line while large majority end up voting for the Communists. Now Yablko Party (Yablako = Apple, also apple computers are really popular in Russia, but not related), is a party that was in power when it sold the county out, literly, state assets for less than market value, I’m not talking about current price/earning of 4.7 for Russian index which is crazy itself considering you don’t have to bribe as bribes already were extracted from the earnings. Anyway important note on Yablako Party members. Prior to voting they mentioned they will vote for Communist, as they were quoted “that’s the only real opposition”, and vote they did as Communist party had only 12% last Duma(Congress) election. Also Glassnos, a foreign entity, at least to the Russians, funded by us as well as the EU was caught with opposition palmphlets in their office, which they said that party members accidently just left there…. Even Prokhov admitted that even if all alleged violations were to be correct it would only effect less than 1% of the vote. So the unusual clear support for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation by the Yablaka members as well as the Obama administration is a change in policy. Even if 150 million dollars is an exadurated number the fact that Obama is supporting the KPRF is clear. There are two possible reasons, he agrees with their idiology? The other being Russia is to competitive with capitalism and has largely rebuilt itself while cutting down to 9% state debt while our goverment debt is just a touch over 100% of Gross Domestic Product (pretty much everything we make and create in one year). With the given data I think the later is mostly at play, but honestly it’s both.

    Russian Stock Index hitting P/E around 4.7 for a country (it was around that prior to protests, an average return of over 20% a year) reflects the expected return of Putin to presidency despite the disapproval of the Western elites. The Russians who acquired assets in not exactly clear title during the 90s were in aggrement with government that if their good with tax and law, and stay out of politics that government will look the other way fearing the strengh of the elites as they are international, and so it worked, until recently. The new rules are everyone in politics and all laws, even ones broken before are fair game. Partly this was the change as a result of Georgian war (which recently EU forced Georgia to take Russia in WTO), partly the financial crisis which dried up foreign financing, as both happened at same time it’s not possible to tell which aspect broke this agreement, or perhaps both. However it does explain why many Russians would rather give up 20% per year returns for something less provided they lose it all for something they did 15 years ago…

    Also recent poll indicated Putin’s approval rating was at all time low of 44%. However the question was worded something like if you have complete faith/Trust in Putin. A more appropriate question would be who would you vote for president if election was today, as it’s likely some people might vote for him who do not trust him completely.. Also Kudrin, the former Finance ministers new party in the making is likely to have a future, although not soon. Putin is using Kudrins ideas with 13% flat income tax now in effect for a decade, and Gazprom only paying 22% on revenue or twenty something (while Rosneft, heavily British owned oil company) paid 48% of all revenue, and 13%the flat income tax is for citizens only, others pay 30%. The communists recently were pushing to raise taxes on Gazprom to Rosneft levels, but that doesn’t make sense since majority owner is the government so it’s like taxing yourself and sticking it to a minority shareholders while doing it which Putin is clever to avoid, but he doesn’t loud the benefits of low taxes as that is political suicide in a country right now, Kudrin is smarter, but … not clever.

    Oh that’s right Navalny, his ideas about auditing all firms with state ownership are in the process already, but with Union state more foreigners having now legal access already to the working market is likely to enrage his comrades. If Navalny was this popular years ago Putin would have sent him as envoy to NATO, or human rights chief as was the case with popular figures years back, but now with total politization of politics, Navalny is not likely to get any political job prospects. Also Putin shocked some journalists on his views about brining back direct elections for governors before the parliment election, and it was widely reported, not sure why they were shocked, but now it’s being reported as a consetion to the protests which happened after the fact.

    Here’s the breakdown of Russian election short of Prokhov inventing a car that runs on water between now and March:
    Putin 55-60%
    Zuganov (KPRF) 30-35%
    Zursky (LDP) 1-2%
    Prokhov <6%
    Moroz (Just Russia Party) 3-4%

  • 27. kievite  |  January 16th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    My impression about Navalny is slightly different from the authors. I think about him as more of a Western project in Yushchenko style, then a spontaneous phenomena. And “Putin must go” campaign is a direct replica of campaign against Yanukovych in 2004 Ukrainian elections.

    Orange revolution style efforts for “regime change” in Russia promise little or nothing to Russians. The last thing they need is a repetition of instability during Yeltsin’s bizarre rule of a drunk power addict and his gang with selling all major assets or cents on a dollar under the fake pretext of democratization.

    Trajectory of Ukraine economics after orange revolution is a good example here.

    It looks like anti-corruption efforts of Navalny are mostly PR and the “canceling of $1.2 billion worth of state contracts” recently was disputed via direct (and pretty thorough) calculation. Spreadsheet is available on the Net.

    Also Yale training in color revolution strategies and contacts with the State Department (revealed in hacked emails) make this “fearless corruption fighter” and his motives a little bit suspect. Money can play a role — he desperately needs financing but it can be more to that as those who pay the band order the tune.

    Blatant attempt to exploit nationalists which might lead to further disintegration of Russia only increase this uneasy feeling.

  • 28. Rugile  |  May 3rd, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Well, I lived in both countries and all I can say that they are differently corrupted. In Mexico people have a very different attitude towards things.. I think it’s a problem more not of corruption but a very low educational level..

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