The Great Russian Awakening?

Paul Goble reports:

The denunciation of criminality in the militia by Kuban MVD Major Dymovsky on YouTube and the appearance of clips by two other former interior ministry officers threatens to “awaken” Russian society more than any other development since the recovery of stability earlier in this decade, according to numerous Moscow commentators. And while the suggestion of some that the MVD may be the unexpected source of “an orange revolution” in Russia are an overstated reaction to regime propagandists who have suggested that the West is behind the major, there can be no doubt of the attention these YouTube appearances are gaining.

One commentator, Dmitry Bykov, argued that “the popularity of the Kuban major is comparable to the mechanism of the glory of Maxim Gorky” a century ago. At that time, he says, “everyone knew that the people were becoming impoverished and suffering but for the first time, someone from that milieu was telling them about it.”  Dymovsky has not appeared at a time when he can lead a struggle with “the system,” Bykov continues, but “like Solzhenitsyn who wrote down the testimony of the zeks, [the YouTube celebrity] is collecting “testimony’ of the ‘ments,’ who have suffered from the actions of the bosses” and his story is a compelling one.

Another commentator, Igor Bunin, who directs the Moscow Center of Political Technologies, said that Dymovsky’s actions ought to lead the leadership of the MVD to try to find a way to talk to him and those like him rather than trying to fight him and his fellows by various forms of pressure. Moscow political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin shares that view. He suggests that the way in which the interior ministry has responded to Dymovsky’s appearance recalls that of the mafia and its devotion to the principle of “omerta” or silence about all activities of those who are its members. That will only further undermine the confidence Russians have in the MVD.

Meanwhile, in an article in Moskovsky Komsomolets, Yuliya Kalinina provides another and perhaps even more significant perspective on Dymovsky and those of his colleagues who have decided to use this new technology to bring their grievances before the country and its leadership. Describing Dymovsky’s actions as having sparked “a revolt” from the most “unexpected” place, Kalinina recounts a conversation she had with Mikhail Pashkin, the head of the coordinating council of the militia union in Moscow. He said that after Dymovsky went on YouTube, ten of his members said they were ready to do the same.

Kalinina provides an explanation for this trend, noting that the majority of employees of the MVD are “egocentric” and view themselves not only as important but having a dignity that others should not trample upon. Unlike other people in Russian society, they have authority, arms, and power. And when those things are crossed, they are furious.
“Teachers and doctors do not suffer any less from the arbitrary behavior of the leadership, its idiotic plans and senseless demands. But they put up with it. They are silent,” Kalinina says, “because they know that they are nothing.” Neither Putin nor Medvedev would do anything for them if they appeared on YouTube – and so they don’t. But the “Moskovsky komsomolets” journalist continues, “a militiaman does not believe that he is shit. He thinks that he has certain rights. Once he fought in Chechnya and he has an order and thus they are obligated to give him an apartment.” Such anger, she continues, makes “militiamen dangerous.”

“They are dangerous for individual citizens and they are dangerous for the entire government. One has to do something with them. Otherwise,” Kalinina says, “they really will carry out “an orange revolution” and call for the release of Mayor Yevsyukov.” And if they are driven to that point, she suggests, “no one will be able to cope with them.”

4 responses to “The Great Russian Awakening?

  1. Maybe, but I doubt it…

    Meanwhile, Oleg Panfilov is voting with his feet!
    He will be a most welcome addition to Georgian journalism.

    “Russian Free-Press Advocate Moves To Georgia”

    November 13, 2009
    The prominent Russian journalist and free-press advocate Oleg Panfilov has moved to Tbilisi.

    “The main reason for my moving to Georgia is the situation in Russia. It’s impossible to live in a country where the authorities lie to you, where media lies to you, and people are afraid of them,” Panfilov, who previously ran the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, told reporters.

    Panfilov, a longtime critic of the Russian authorities, said he had been receiving death threats.

    He took Georgian citizenship last year.

    In Tbilisi, Panfilov will host a program on a new Russian-language television channel called “Kavkaz Kanal.” He will also teach journalism at Tbilisi’s Ilia Chavchavadze University.

    Panfilov also says he hopes to found a journalism school and write a book on the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war.

    — Brian Whitmore

  2. There are also LOTS of frustrated and angry officers in the Russian military.

    • I hope that they start posting their dilemmas on YouTube.

      • …and like Stalin, you can bet good money that Putin will have a purge. And like Stalin, Putin will achieve in getting rid of his best and brightest patriots. Or at least, what’s left in Russia.

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