Staunton, June 28 – Many Russian analysts have suggested that the Kremlin views what is going on in Armenia as a color revolution because it is incapable of thinking about any protests in the former Soviet republics as anything but the actions of foreign governments in general and the United States in particular.
But Yuliya Latynina suggests there may be another factor at work here: Moscow is only to ready to declare some event as the beginning of a color revolution so that when passions cool, the Russian leadership will be in a position to claim that it has won another victory over the West and thus impress the Russian population.
Street demonstrations have now spread to five cities in Armenia, Latynina wrote in a commentary published in Novaya Gazeta yesterday, but she argues that these protests are “typical for a post-Soviet country” in which people are being forced by the market to pay more for electricity than they expected to at a time when they are being increasingly impoverished.
Indeed, she suggests, “this is a classic post-Soviet contradiction. On the one hand, there is the habitual view of the poor population that electricity doesn’t cost anything; and on the other, there is the market economy” and monopoly ownership of electric power generators combined with a collapse of industry thus forcing the population to bear even more of the real cost.
In time, “the impoverished population must pay just as much [for electricity] as people do in developed countries.” But the process of shifting from expectations inherited from Soviet times to that condition inevitably creates problems and generates protests as has happened in many former communist countries in the past and is occurring in Armenia now.
In those countries where there is still some industry functioning, firms can bear some of the higher costs of energy. That is the case in the Russian Federation, Latynina says. But in others where industry has collapsed as is the case in Armenia, there is no one around to pay the higher costs except the increasingly poor population.
That not surprisingly sparks anger and sometimes demonstrations, the Moscow commentator says, but “these protests do not have any particular political subtext.” The problem here is that “even without such subtexts, [those like in Armenia now] hit Russia in a special way.”
On the one hand, she points out, Armenian President Serzh Sargyan is “one of the few oriented toward the Kremlin.” And on the other, Russian firms own the Armenian power producers. Those two things alone are sufficient, Latynina observes, to set the conspiracy theorists in the Russian capital to working overtime.
The Russian reaction is in fact the most instructive thing about the current situation. “In that total paranoia in which the ruling circles of Russia live, there is no explanation for anything that happens in the world besides the machinations of the United States.” Indeed, she says, she is surprised someone hasn’t suggested that “only prayers and FSB special operations have saved us from the fall of the moon,” something the Americans supposedly have an interest in.
But there is something more at work in the Armenian case, she argues. “Our conspiracy theorists need phantom victories over America, and when everything in Armenia calms down, they will with pride describe it as their suppression of a ‘rates Maidan.’ And everything will calm down in Armenia because that country doesn’t have any other way out.”