For PBS, I dig a bit into the protests in Russia. I don’t think they’re that big of a deal… yet.
So is Russia experiencing an Arab Spring, only in the Russian winter? It is way too early to tell. In Egypt and even Libya, revolutionary movements are being coopted by Islamists, and no one knows yet if those revolutions will wind up being net-gains for their respective countries. Protest movements in Russia are too nascent – are a few thousand Muscovite protesters that big a deal in a city of 10 million? – to draw grand conclusions at the present time.
However, we know from experience that these movements can appear weak and scattered and then rapidly snowball into something enormous and life-changing. We also know that outsiders, even outsiders living locally and reporting on events in real time, can have a limited understanding of the broad social currents that inspire mass uprisings against a government, and even less about how they’ll turn out. There would be something enormous behind the protests, or it could just be a media spectacle. After all, it’s not like Russia has never arrested dozens of activists at an opposition march before (or even on a regular basis).
Russian protests follow a fairly predictable pattern, and so far we haven’t seen much that hasn’t happened before. Despite the harassment meted out to opposition figures at these anti-government rallies over the last few years, the Russian public has remained remarkably complacent. Traditional Russian fatalism could inspire more shrugging and hand waving than outrage this time around, and things will proceed as they always do. Or it could reach a tipping point and inspire a total collapse of the ruling government.
No one likes “it could go either way” but we really do have to think in those terms, however fun it is to declare REVOLUTION and scream about how the world is all new again.