Staunton, March 11 – Vladimir Putin’s Anti-Maidan movement has received a great deal of media attention, but it will not be any more capable of stopping change and even revolutionary change in Russia once the number of dissatisfied Russians reaches “critical mass,” according to Dmitry Bykov.
That has not yet happened, the Moscow commentator says, but the number of such people is becoming ever larger, something that Putin’s high approval ratings do not contradict because those are “an indicator not so much of love as of inertia.”
On the one hand and in the short term, that inertia may be extremely destructive, he argues. But on the other and in the longer term, it may make a positive contribution because it means that there is still “a chance that the situation in the country can be resolved without a civil war” because few are ready to take to either side of the barricades.
“Political changes,” Bykov reminds, “take place inside people’s heads and not in the ratings or even not in the squares.” In Russia, the number of people who feel appalled at what is happening to themselves and their country and are ashamed is growing. “The turning point will come when the majority is fed up with living as it does now.”
According to the Moscow poet, the amount of radicalization has been exaggerated by the media. “As a rule,” he writes, people who talk and write are radicalized more than those who simply live.” Life and work have the effect of causing people to focus on immediate things rather than the grand questions many commentators like to pose.
If people are working, they will come to terms with things, but the tragedy in Russia is that there is not enough real and creative work, and consequently far more are being radicalized than would otherwise be the case.
Any society can be split, Bykov says, if it is offered “a choice between mutually exclusive and non-realizable things … between freedom and order, between physical and mental work, between the country and the city…But there are things which unite a country above all such disagreements such as law, respect for the personality, and a desire to succeed.”
Under Putin, “all this has been destroyed” and that has happened “intentionally in order to distract people.” As Gogol pointed out, Bykov says, even the split between Westernizers and Slavophiles was false just as “all contemporary dichotomies are false” as well. That makes “all scenarios equally probable,” something encouraging and frightening at one and the same time.
But one thing is clear, he concludes: Russia faces a future that will not be stable but rather highly unstable and even revolutionary. Out of that new time of troubles, something new is likely to be born. But whether it will be good or evil is at present absolutely impossible to predict.