Staunton, VA, April 11, 2017 – The long-haul truckers’ strike, the largest and most consequential labor action in Russia since the end of the USSR, is a development few Russians and even fewer people abroad know about because the Kremlin has given an order to the central and regional media outlets to understate the size of the action and the motives behind it.
In Nezavisimaya gazeta April 11, journalists Svetlana Gavrilina and Aleksey Gorbachev report that this Kremlin ban has not been followed everywhere and so some news about the strike is getting out, but “the information blockade” has been largely successful, especially since most of the action is outside of Moscow.
Bair Tsyrenov, a Communist Party of Russian Federation (KPRF) deputy in the Buryat parliament, told them that “the regional media has been prohibited from covering the protests of the long-haul drivers,” even though in Ulan Ude, people can see what is going on because there are “about 100” trucks along the roadside.
“The tactic against them,” he continued, involves “pressure on the leaders of the protest and complete silence about the action in the local media.” In Dahestan, Gavrilina and Gorbachev say, the government media haven’t covered the strikers but denounced them as threats to the stability of the country. In addition, these outlets have claimed that the truckers have put “false video clips” on the Internet. Despite this, the number of truckers taking part in the south of Russia continues to grow.
Perhaps even more important, Tambov drivers have announced that they are ready to go to Dagestan to take part in the labor action. But Tambov activists say they are upset that their action “has not been treated in the media,” especially given how important the issues the truckers’ strike are.
A similar silence is being maintained by government media in other regions, even when the drivers are careful to avoid directly violating rules.
Nikolay Mironov, head of the Moscow Center for Economic and Political Reforms, told the journalists that “the authorities are not prepared to make concessions” and that they believe that time is on their side rather than the drivers who are not receiving any income when they are striking.
That may be true, but there are two reasons to think it may not be. On the one hand, many Russians are certainly learning about the truckers’ action from the Internet and those media outlets, like Nezavisimaya gazeta and Novaya gazeta, which are covering the strike and discussing its implications.
And on the other, other social groups like retailers in Makachkala and some politicians, like those in Dahestan’s parliament and State Council, are backing the workers. The number of such allies is likely to grow over time, despite the Kremlin’s media blackout, and that, along with the commitment of the drivers to stand firm, may ultimately transform the situation.