Saturday, April 09, 2005

Future Trouble in Russia?

The Washington Post reports on the growth of youth movements in Russia patterned after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Link.
In a country with a popular president, a growing economy and a fragmented and weak opposition, Russia does not seem ripe for the kind of revolt that toppled governments in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan over the past 17 months. But as Lenin once said, "a revolution is a miracle," and the Kremlin and its political opponents seem bewitched by the possibility of one.

"There is an Orange spirit in Russia," said Andrei Sidelnikov, the young head of the new Russian youth group Pora! (It's Time!), which took its name from the young activists at the heart of the street protests late last year that ultimately brought Viktor Yushchenko to power in Ukraine. "We are living through a new era of street politics. Our young people are becoming more and more active. . . . They might explode when they can't take it any longer."

Putin does not have to worry in the short term, but he should be worrying about the long term. Dictatorships require a monopoly over news. That used to be possible, but, if you are not willing to head a North-Korea-style totalitarianism, it is not possible today. Between satellite receivers and the Internet, people nearly everywhere have access to a huge menu of news sources. In the Middle East, more ruthless dictators than Putin are in trouble. He is in a position to lead a democratic and wealthy Russia if he so chooses. If he continues to choose authoritarianism, Russia will stagnate and his rule will be in jeopardy.


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