Protests Reveal Dissatisfaction

Friday, 24 Feb 2012 04:11 PM

By Lev Navrozov

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Moscow’s intelligentsia is again making waves in the aftermath of nationwide demonstrations on Dec. 10, 2011 to protest alleged fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections and demanding an end to Vladimir Putin’s 12-year domination of the country.

On Feb. 7, the Russian high-brow Internet pay site, Snob, which is owned by Mikhail Prokhorov, carried the lengthy article, “I Accuse” by Mikhail Arkadiev, an Honored Artist of Russia, a prominent and internationally acclaimed classical pianist, composer, and conductor.

russianprotester.jpg
"I have no vote," reads the message on a Russian protester in December.
(Getty Images)
He has served as the music director of the Russische Abende Chamber Music Festival (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany) and regularly gives master classes in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Budapest, Brussels, and elsewhere (www.classicalarchives.com).

Widely discussed on radio station Ekho Moskvy, Arkadiev’s article is a response to the so-called “Putin’s Boosters,” i.e., those who expressed their intention to support Putin in his upcoming re-election campaign (March 4, 2012). So far, 499 signatures appear on the list of supporters.

Figuring amongst Putin’s “boosters” who put down their signatures are men and women from social media, prominent dramatists, actors, artists, film directors, world-renowned musicians, composers, and people in the arts and sciences.

Those familiar to Western audiences are filmmakers Oleg Tabakov, Nikita Mikhalkov, and Fyodor Bondarchuk, among others. As in art, so in music.

Even respected classical musician Yuri Bashmet did not step out of line, lending his support to the inevitable dictator.

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, it became known that Ekho Moskvy, Russia’s only independent radio station, will cease to exist as we know it.

The old administration was forcibly replaced by a new one, and the entire editorial staff submitted letters of resignation. Could this have been a protest to the controlled, Soviet-style media that is likely coming?

Similar policy changes have also recently affected the editorial staff of Snob, possibly in retaliation for the site’s uncensored, and unbiased reporting.

The former editor in chief was let go while others resigned on their own.

With some of the outstanding contributors gone, and others probably going to follow, it became clear that the publication will change its unique character, no longer sustaining its intellectual independence. In the end, it will go the way of the politically inert glamor press.

In his article, Arkadiev writes:

“I am aware of the fact that what I am going to say will reach only but very few people. But say I must. And what I want to say must be said at this time crucial for the country and only by a classical musician who lives in Russia . . .

“I hereby accuse Putin’s regime, which has corrupted our country and which I hold morally responsible for the unconscionable, criminal schism of Russia.This schism was clearly manifest during the two Feb. 4, 2012, Moscow events — the pro-democracy, anti-Putin Bolotnaya Street demonstration and the other, staged by the Putin regime in support of Putin and organized by Putin’s loyalists, on Poklonnaya Street . . .”

Putin has got all it takes to win the March 4 election: power, apparatus, money, and armed special police to squash any possible display of unrest.

One thing Putin’s well-organized re-election campaign desperately needed was the loyal support of the media and the Russian elite intellectuals.

He now seems to have fixed that too with the signatures of many of the country’s cultural elite in the creative arts, music, literature, film, and social media.

Destruction of the free, independent press and the rush of the Russian elite to support the inevitable victory of a stealthily totalitarian regime should be taken as a sign that something irreversible is happening in Russia.

For a short time, there was hope that more freedom would be won. And indeed, for a while this seemed possible. I am no longer optimistic that freedom is on the horizon.

The last few decades have seen ever-increasing numbers of Russian businessmen and intellectuals in the West who are free to travel, take part in joint business ventures and freely exchange ideas.

Signs of revolt have emerged in recent months. The Russian people are up in arms. The events reveal deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the Putin regime.

They’ve show us just how unhappy the people are with the political system in Russia.

Lev Navrozov is a journalist, author, and columnist who is a winner of the Albert Einstein Prize for outstanding intellectual achievements. He can be reached at levnavrozov@gmail.com. Read more reports from Lev —
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