At the end of January, large protests took place in all of Russia’s major cities. This has sparked interest not only within the country but around the world.
The protests took the form of unauthorised rallies and marches.
The authorities refused to approve them because they attracted large numbers to the city’s central locations.
But the situation was further compounded by Covid-19 restrictions.
Police and troops of the National Guard attempted to suppress and disperse the protests. In almost all cases this resulted in open and brutal violence aimed at protesters.
In St Petersburg law enforcement used stun guns against detained citizens lying on the ground.
One even pulled out a pistol when protesters tried to push security officers out of the square.
In Moscow law enforcement and the Russian National Guard beat protesters with rubber truncheons and billy-clubs—and with their hands and feet. Across the country up to 10,000 people were detained over two weeks of protest.
The protests of January 2021 have three features that distinguish them from similar protests in 2011-2012 in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow and in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
In previous years, the main base of the protests came from representatives of the intelligentsia and the petty bourgeoisie.
But this year many layers of society of all ages took to the streets.
This speaks to growing tensions and concerns with the state in the population as a whole.
This year, unlike in previous times, a wave of protest swept across the whole country. They’ve even involved regions far-flung from the two capitals and from other large cities such as Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan and Novosibirsk.
Of course, the two capitals continue to play a central role and that’s where everything will be decided.
But the geographic spread of the protests may indicate that the regions are tired of fixation on them.
The protesters radicalised and began to push back against security forces.
On 23 January social media networks were flooded with videos showing snowballs being thrown at police, and of people beating law enforcement officers off detainees.
The most popular video showed a native of the Chechen republic, Said‑Muhammad Dzhumaev, singlehandedly fighting several riot police at once.
This trend suggests that people are learning to resist the regime. And they are ready to fight to the end while the liberal leaders of the protests urge them to go home and protest peacefully.
Another interesting feature is that many left movements, including our own group, Socialist Tendency, agreed on the need to go to these events to agitate.
We need to deepen them in favour of the struggle for workers’ democracy.
These left movements have attempted to paint the protests red, and videos of the actions continue to be popular on social networks.
On 2 February Alexei Navalny’s verdict was announced. It was precisely around him that the wave of protest formally unfolded.
He was jailed for two years and eight months.
Immediately after the verdict was announced, people again gathered in Moscow and St Petersburg to show their opposition to the term.
Despite the fact that the wave of protest has already declined, it is becoming more and more obvious that the regime is hanging on with the last of its strength.
And that its fall is inevitable.
The current government in Russia is only holding on due to the loyalty of its power structures.
It is no longer capable of influencing the bulk of the population ideologically.