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Ukrainian ‘Freedom’ party should be ringing alarm bells

Ukrainian politics have gone through several major upheavals: the alleged poisoning of Yushchenko, the Orange Revolution and, more recently, the hounding of Tymoshenko. The rise of the far-right seems to have ruffled few feathers, but it would be a mistake to ignore them, argues Ivan Katchanovski.

Russia’s Regional Spring

Russia’s regions went to the polls on 4th March not only to elect a new president, but to decide who ruled in their own back yards. Here, results were less predictable: United Russia's support for any candidate was a liability, the local opposition had woken up and support from the authorities was no longer a guarantee of electoral victory. Mikhail Loginov followed the local elections in the Vologda and Pskov regions.

Note to Russian opposition: get over the election and work together for the future

Artemy Troitsky believes that Putin’s opponents contributed to their own defeat by taking a winter holiday, while the Kremlin used the time between elections to guarantee a Putin victory by fair means or foul. But opposition groups should get over their disappointment, recognise their potential strength and start working more effectively together. 

Letter from Togliatti: ugly brides go to the polls

The car-manufacturing city of Togliatti will this Sunday go to the polls for a second time to elect its new mayor. The choice is between an unofficial candidate from the ruling party and a cosmopolitan fomer regional minister for ecology. Valery Pavlukevich, a journalist from nearby Samara, travelled to the city to survey the local mood ahead of the vote

Central Asia: succession planning in dictatorships

Kyrgyzstan aside, recent elections in Central Asia would appear to indicate that the regions’ leaders are aiming to stay in power for life. But what will happen to their regimes when infirmity strikes, wonders Luca Anceschi?

 

Power and Weakness in Putin’s Russia

Vladimir Putin’s support machine was strong enough to guarantee him victory on 5th March. Putin’s strength is the weakness of the opposition. But he should be worried by the divisions within his own government. His days would be counted if parts of his own elite chose to ally themselves with parts of the current opposition. In such a fragile situation, Nicu Popescu believes that the EU and US should develop a strategy that would weaken Putin and strengthen civil society.

Russian politics: the burden of national myths

National myths have always played an important part in Russian politics, from 15th-century ‘Moscow as the 3rd Rome’ to Soviet, and now Russian, views of USSR/Russia’s role in the region. The power of the myths is such that a putative opposition government could well end up as no more than a clone of Putin and his regime, says Mykola Riabchuk

Russia votes: can Putin survive? (Update)

Updated with transcript. Video originally published 3 March

Just a few days before the presidential election, openDemocracy Russia and the Russia Foundation hosted three leading activists and journalists for a fascinating panel discussion on elections, civil society and the new Russia. Here we present transcripted video highlights from the event.

Why the opposition lost to Putin

As Russia's opposition comes to terms with Sunday's results, the time has come for sober reflection. The conclusions are clear, if uncomfortable: Putin is back, and he may well be in for a long time.

The way forward for Russia’s opposition

The protest movement didn’t achieve its ultimate goal at Sunday’s presidential elections, but Yuri Saprykin, a prominent member of the protest movement, believes it has already achieved a lot and its best work lies ahead. Here he provides a ten point analysis of the protest movement’s situation in the wake of Putin’s return to power, and how it might move forward in the future.

The weapon of truth: an independent observer’s view of a non-election

The debacle of last December's rigged parliamentary elections convinced many people who had previously been politically unaware to sign up and train as election observers. Sunday’s election saw ten times as many observers turn out. A core of them stuck doggedly to their task despite provocations and numerous attempts to thwart them; for some, like Julia Chegodaikina, life can never be the same again.

An election, or a declaration of war?

Amid growing proof of ‘dirty tricks’ during Sunday’s presidential election, the new Russian government has made it clear that the opposition can expect no concessions. Protesters at rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg have been arrested and subjected to police brutality. Tikhon Dzyadko, a journalist who was at the Moscow rally, looks back at the events of the last few days and considers the future for the protest movement.

Russia: farewell to 'national unity'

Vladimir Putin may have won Sunday’s presidential election, but his new term is unlikely to be an easy one. Russia has changed: the middle classes surf the Internet, compare themselves not to their parents but to their contemporaries in the rest of Europe, and demand change. Meanwhile, writes Andrey Makarychev, the Kremlin is incapable for moving with the times.

Putin’s anti-American campaign

This Sunday Russians elect their new president in an election Putin is virtually certain to win. Putin's campaign has been notable for its anti-western and anti-American rhetoric, writes Susanne Sternthal. Will this aggressive rhetoric help Putin withstand the challenge of an awakening Russian civil society?

How Putin can become a moderniser

A majority of Russians – and not all of them opponents of Putin – demand modernisation. Yet the predominance of the bureaucratic classes and importance of informal favours in Putin’s Russia makes that a near impossible task. Paradoxically, the only way out for Putin may be to absorb his bureaucrats even further into the running of the country’s business affairs, argues Alexei Levinson.

Project_ID: Who’s bugging the Russian opposition?

The 2011-12 election cycle has seen the full catalogue of dirty surveillance tricks return to Russian politics, from covert video recording to phone hacking of opposition leaders. Most have pointed the finger of suspicion directly at the door of the FSB. In reality, any one of a number of agencies could have been at work.

After Putin – who ?

Which ever way the forthcoming election swings, Russians will soon be looking for a new leader. With much of the current elite either of retiring age or discredited with voters, Andrey Kolesnikov wonders what a future presidential run-off could look like.

Spring: coming soon to Central Asia?

All across the world, authoritarian governments are crashing, and new forms of democratic and term-limited regimes are arriving in their place. Sooner or later this wave will reach Central Asia. When it does, the Kyrgyz model of slow political and economic reform might be the most effective way to achieve change, write Alexey Semyonov and Baktybek Abdrisaev.

Is Alexei Navalny sent to spoil the democratic party?

Navalny’s campaigns against corruption and his clever campaigning have won him a central role in the protests against Putin. But Navalny has also many critics. In his controversial article Daniil Kotsyubinsky, who saw how Navalny’s nationalism ruined a previous protest wave, wonders whether his programme might not end up destroying the democratic movement.

Vladimir Putin: his place in history

Vladimir Putin’s one great achievement is the restoration of bureaucratic order after its near destruction by Gorbachev and privatisation by Yeltsin. Yet the end game is fast approaching, and the longer Putin clings on, the more likely he will be instead remembered for letting greedy friends and bureaucrats run amok, writes Vladimir Pastukhov

Russia's liberal-nationalist cocktail: elixir of life or toxic poison?

Young, liberal figures such as Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Milov are building bridges between democratic and nationalist wings of the protest movement. Will this marriage prove a mix that mobilises a nation against the Putin regime, or will it taint the legitimacy of both sides in years to come, asks Nicu Popescu?

Anyone but Putin: how Russians should vote in March

Russians keen to punish Vladimir Putin at the polls on March 4 have four opposition candidates to choose from, but all are tarnished in some way by their links to the government. Grigorii Golosov analyses what voting strategy will work best to build on the momentum of this winter’s protests, and cautions against accepting any of the candidates’ claims to be true opposition material.

The origins of the Russian revolution: a view from Georgia

The recent experience of neighbouring states suggests that Russia’s rulers will struggle to control future political developments. Make no mistake: revolution of one kind or another is already under way, argues Gela Vasadze.

The Akunin-Navalny interviews: part III

Politician-blogger Alexei Navalny and writer Grigory Chkhartishvili (a.k.a Boris Akunin) conclude their dialogue with an exploration of what their country might look like after democratic change. What should be the priorities for a new and free Russia?

Young, brilliant and (so far) politically oblivious

The Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) is one of the most prestigious universities in Russia. The School abounds in clever and often rich young students, groomed to be the stars of tomorrow’s elite. Yet this privileged group is also one that has ousted politics from its daily life and — so far at least — has failed to respond to the momentous events currently shaking the country.

The Akunin-Navalny Interviews: part II

oD Russia continues publication of a remarkable exchange between two leaders of the Russian protest movement — writer Grigory Chkhartishvili, a.k.a Boris Akunin and politician-blogger Aleksey Navalny. In this part, the discussants compare their forecasts for the year ahead. 2012 will present an historic challenge to the authorities, they conclude, but will Russia's "arrestocratic" class be able to muster anything in response?

Russia’s ‘White Revolution’: why Putin failed and the Russian democrats may follow

By electing to follow an aggressive policy of imperial nationalism, Putin and his inner circle missed the emergence of a serious domestic crisis that threatens the very existence of their regime. These same factors may also, however, subvert the country’s growing pro-democratic protest movement, says Andreas Umland.

The Akunin-Navalny interviews (part I)

Just before the last Moscow demonstration on December 24, two of the protest movement’s most popular leaders — writer Boris Akunin and politician-blogger Aleksey Navalny — got together for a fascinating public conversation. The three-part interview, published on Akunin’s blog, is arguably the fullest profile of Russia’s leading opposition politician and covers many of the more uncomfortable aspects of Navalny’s politics. ODR is pleased to present the full English translation of the interviews.

Ukraine, Europe and the Yanukovych game

Negotiations over the Ukraine's EU Association Agreement were finalised last month, but Yulia Tymoshenko's continued imprisonment prevented the EU from signing off on a deal. Borys Tarasyuk wonders whether the Europeans may have overestimated their leverage in the matter, and whether their approach will turn out to be counterproductive.

A Brief Biological Guide to American Political Amphibians and Reptiles

In this educational piece the author describes the neoteny exhibited by the political species

Russia’s Smouldering 'White Revolution'

The Putin regime has little to fear from the latest public protests which, despite drawing large crowds, are apolitical. True politics will only become possible in Russia when both the opposition and the regime focus on the tedious work of practical politics, says Nicolai N. Petro in his highly personal view of recent events.

Small deeds, no politics

Moscow’s protest movement is gathering momentum, bringing in greater numbers and a wider constituency of supporters. What is as yet unclear, however, is whether it has the organisational clout to become a sustained force for change, write Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov.

A turbulent twelve months in Belarus

This Monday marked a year since Belarusians staged a peaceful protest (brutally suppressed) against rigged presidential elections. Although the regime has not been overturned, and the economy has managed to teeter on collapse without fully imploding, it is clear that Belarusian politics are now in a different place, writes Janek Lasocki

Belarus on my mind, and maybe on Putin’s too

Recent Russian protests against a stolen election were on the whole peaceful and well-policed. At similar protests in Minsk in December 2010, the Belarus police over-reacted, resulting in beatings and imprisonment for many of the demonstrators. Strong Russian support for the Lukashenka regime could indicate that future protests in Russia might be less peaceful, if the authorities start feeling threatened, says Yulia Gorbunova

Is Ukraine heading East?

On the eve of an EU-Ukraine summit on December 19, Ukraine’s relations with Brussels are deteriorating. EU officials have warned that the detention of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is damaging Kiev’s hopes of signing an Association Agreement by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Ukraine is considering relinquishing a 50%-share of its pipelines to Russia for cheaper gas. David Marples looks at the possible political direction Ukraine is headed for in 2012.
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