The arrests of the Khabarovsk “activists” did not in any way reduce the intensity of the protest, since these people are not the leaders and can be easily replaced.
Not so long ago, sociologist Aleksey Zakharov published a very informative comparative review of the nationwide recognition of the Khabarovsk protest based on the results of polls by the Levada Center:
“The numbers are very encouraging. Most Russians are in the know and sympathize with the protesters:
Do you know about the protests taking place in the Khabarovsk Territory in connection with the arrest of the Governor Sergei Furgal?
Keep a close eye on how events unfold - 26%
Heard something about it - 57%
The first time you hear about it - 16%
How do you feel about the people who came out to these protests?
Neutral, indifferent - Khabarovsk 23%
Rather negative, negative - 17%
Difficult to answer - 11%
For comparison, last summer's protests in Moscow were less noticeable (16% followed closely, 47% heard something), and they were treated much worse (23% positive, 45% neutral, 25% negative ). The visibility of last year's events in Yekaterinburg, Ingushetia and Shies was even lower (41%, 74% and 65% of the respondents had not heard anything about them). Delegitimizing the Khabarovsk protest is a more difficult task for Putin, and it is not yet clear how he will cope..."
Another sociologist, Sergey Yerofeyev, explains what is actually happening in Khabarovsk in recent days in the conditions of an almost complete information blockade by the state media:
“Coverage of weekdays of the protest by independent sources: on Tuesday August 4, 2020, there were 7 streams from Khabarovsk, two hours long and longer, 4 of them with views ranging from 100 to 200 thousand in the first hours. This means, apart from the main performances on Saturdays, a significant increase in comparison with the previous days and weeks (especially since Alexey Romanov was arrested, and Dmitry Nizovtsev returned to Moscow). At the same time, as before, independent media and streams, with limited comments, do not provide a voluminous picture of what is happening, so that the audience can understand more clearly whether the protest is on the decline and what is the overall dynamics of the struggle that we are witnessing.
Of course, the Khabarovsk protest can be discussed “politologically”, when preference is given to a comparative analysis of the algorithms for suppressing such protests by the authorities, although in principle this is nothing new. Other commentators are busy with stories about the behavior of mainly representatives of the authorities, but by no means the public. It is more productive when such a discussion is conducted taking into account the successful experience of the public of Yekaterinburg and Shies, as well as the uniqueness of the Khabarovsk situation, since this is the only region of Russia that has recently tried to live for itself, without the excessive intervention of the Kremlin, and its residents at a critical moment immediately spoke with political demands. And yet, in the responses to the Khabarovsk events, there is a lot of fortune-telling in the thick of political science (even one of the 3.5 real political scientists in Russia, Grigory Golosov, groundlessly argued that the protest had original organizers), while we are faced with a primarily cultural and sociological case.
The most important help for obtaining a voluminous cultural picture of political struggle - and this, from the point of view of science, is a normal political struggle - and identifying its dynamics could be (1) polls of the Khabarovsk residents (it seems that the local headquarters of Navalny is already engaged in this), as well as (2 ) a simple sociological observation of what is happening and its description with the possibility of categorizing the elements of public action. The second is what, given structural conditions, such as a certain amount of freedom and professional competition, journalists should do. However, even the Rain present in Khabarovsk does not do this, and not so much because it does not have professionals at its disposal - such an exercise that seeds for as many as one and a half of the competent journalists available to the channel - simply in the absence of the mentioned structural conditions, he cannot afford to be completely honest and comprehensive analysis. Other federal media outlets are not involved, even such as The New Times, Novaya Gazeta, Radio Liberty and Mediazona.
At the same time, almost anyone who carefully watches various streams from Khabarovsk is able to notice what can serve as critical material for cultural and sociological analysis based on the available panoramas and scenes. In this regard, I have already posted on Facebook small sketches about the dynamics of the behavior of the Khabarovsk public and, in particular, the expansion of its repertoire of demands and aesthetic framing of political action. Since no one has really dealt with this yet, I will add a little about what the 25th day brought.
- Protests remain disorganized and peaceful, with the demonstrators' conversations for the first time clearly showing satisfaction with the crowdsourcing situation in the absence of leaders. Interestingly, the usual small group of protesters on weekdays was especially loud today, even in the rain and umbrellas, and the voices of young men became louder and more insistent. Is such a physical amplification of the voice a sign, if not of the growing organization of the protest, then at least of the consolidation of its core?
- There is even more independent blogging coverage. In such a situation, it is difficult for the audience to divide bloggers into those on whom there is suspicion of cooperation with the Kremlin ("Mouthpiece of Moscow") and those who are the new growth ("RusNews", "Narodnoye Slovo", etc.). At the same time, the growth of blogging occurs mainly not due to streamers, but due to commentators, many of whom are increasingly subject to political science fortune-telling.
- Interaction with authority. It seems that it is already considered useless to appeal not only to the acting governor, but also to the local parliament. One senses the conviction that the Liberal Democratic Party and its regional deputies are politically buried. Zhirinovsky's fresh statement about Degtyarev's nomination for governor in 2021 causes no more outrage, but sarcasm. The courts have been ignored so far. Expectations of coverage of what is happening by the local media as the fourth power have also been left in the past, relying mainly on bloggers, the presence of the Dozhd TV channel does not cause enthusiasm. The police are mostly ignored, there is no more chants of gratitude for their neutrality, but the shaming in their address has generally disappeared so far. At the same time, on the one hand, for the first time, with the help of the police, it was possible to effectively get rid of the alleged provocateur; on the other hand, the protesters more sharply showed situational anger at the police - the marching convoy snapped at the police car while trying to urge “not to disturb the order”, forcing its “swearing man” to shut up. At the same time, there were rumors that “the cops were taking the escorts”.
- Slogans. To "Russia, come out", "wake up the cities, trouble with our homeland", "we need the support of the whole country" was added "thanks to the people of Russia." Thus, the rhetorical feedback between the regions is established. It can be assumed that the strengthening of the rhetoric of a linked action is possible if Khabarovsk residents, in response to speeches in other cities, begin to declare their support for the defenders of Khabarovsk detained there. At the same time, "freedom for political prisoners" sounds more and more active, perhaps a transition to a more effective "freedom for political prisoners" will take place. On the whole, from the point of view of mobilization, tracing slogans like “as long as we are united, we are invincible” are heard less often. The emphasis shifts to innovations - “Putin is a thief, stole Furgal”, and also, after “Down with the tsar,” “no to dictatorship” sounded as a continuation of the development of anti-systemic discourse.
- The aesthetics of protest. The convoy has been escorted by motorists on weekdays not for the first day, but today there are more of them. Now they act as part of the column (which is not far from the “auto protest”), including as protection from the police from behind. The drivers began to beep constantly, the practice of using not only flags on cars, but also code alarms, was established. There are no comments yet regarding the new practice of wearing red ribbons. There were no red flags of the USSR today, on a weekday, but do the ribbons have anything to do with this? Ideological aesthetics, naturally, is more colorful on Saturdays, when there are much more protesters: in addition to the Soviet one, an imperial flag appeared, and there were also attempts to join the all-Russian practice of recapturing the Russian tricolor from the Kremlin. Interestingly, the aesthetics of Stalinism, even anti-Putinism, is practically absent. The everyday life of protest turns out to be important from the point of view of consensus aesthetics. It is expressed in three groups of statements, which seem to be the main ones in the everyday context: (1) the right of the region and the people, (2) pro-Burgal and anti-Putin slogans, (3) calls for the country to support the protest.
- Conversations. The more frequent attempts of the authorities to send people “with ideas” into the crowd in order to sow discord have so far been unsuccessful. They are accompanied by supposedly sincere initiatives of various individuals regarding the structuring of the protest. Individual participants began to read out written proposals on the content and procedure for presenting the protesters' demands. It is not yet clear whether there is a discussion of them somewhere and somehow. An interesting episode: a volunteer who came from Chelyabinsk (how else can you call such people who are becoming more noticeable, despite the fact that it is not organized by anyone?) Spoke on camera about the need for a "veche" as an application, in the spirit of direct democracy, of Article 3 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation to address federalization issues (although the idea of federalization has not yet been articulated among the protesters). The current text of the protest, compared to an unexpected surge a week ago, does not yet indicate an increase in interest in direct democracy and a referendum (at the moment it is not very clear to which one), although the spontaneous search for ordering the protest becomes a counterpoint to satisfaction with spontaneity. The fear of provocations is also stable, and at the moment it remains one of the grounds for structuring collective action.
- After three weeks of protest, in the absence of leaders, the practice of folklorization emerged, not only through songs about Furgal, etc., but also through the installation of “folk characters” in addition to the driver of the “Furgalomobile”: “guy with a cane”, “Yegorovna”, “Freddie ”(Who returned to duty after an attempt at repression), etc. Anthropological experience suggests that this is a sign of the potential for the duration and deepening of collective action.
- Those who were kicked out of the ranks with megaphones were replaced by people without them, while maintaining the same efficiency of chanting. There is still no tribune as an organizing point, everything is just as spontaneous. The arrests of the “activists” have not helped to reduce the intensity of the protest, since they are not leaders and can be easily replaced. The scale of the action and the structural and geographical position of Khabarovsk seem to contribute to the easy replacement of activists, which is both an important difference from the events of the summer of 2019 in Moscow, and the homology with Shies' victorious long-playing practice.
This is just a quick sketch. I certainly could have missed something important among the many online panoramas and street scenes as sociological raw materials. Something, perhaps, is a repetition or does not have the frontal meaning that I tend to attach to it. This sketch is also far from a well-thought-out systematic categorization of public action, but maybe someone will already do it? In the meantime, my main, uncomplicated, assumption boils down to the effectiveness of the NEMK principle, when the public becomes more angry, but, at the same time, much more understanding..."
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