Vadim Zhartun, analyst
Let's talk about the good: the most difficult is over. I'm not talking about the coronavirus now, but about the main event of the upcoming 2021 - the inevitable (and now quite close) end of Russian statehood in its current form.
Well, well, what is it behind? You ask reasonably. Putin in the Kremlin, EdRo in the Duma, Rosgvardia in the streets, oligarchs in chocolate. What has changed ?!
I'll tell you. The most difficult thing is to be a black sheep, when those who understood everything were the first to get tired, disappointed and either dump or get lost, and the rest did not even begin to suspect something was wrong.
And this curse of the opposition, which the "fiery revolutionaries" stigmatized for their unwillingness to take the Kremlin by storm, and the townsfolk for "rocking the boat" of Putin's cozy stability, has gone into oblivion.
The country is going through what is called the "moment of truth" - a time when the truth becomes obvious. Look around, listen to the conversations of people, admire the beauty of the moment.
It’s as if millions of blind people began to see clearly and look around in horror. Yes, there is a nightmare around, but the very fact that society is beginning to see it gives hope for the best.
Really large-scale political changes are very similar in nature to nuclear chain reactions.
And for an atomic explosion, the most important thing is the critical mass of fuel of the required degree of enrichment.
Further, the nuances begin that make the reaction more effective or reduce the necessary critical mass - the form of a nuclear charge, reflectors and neutron sources, as well as a mechanism that unites an assembly divided into parts, transferring it to a supercritical state.
You don't need to be seven spans in your forehead to draw parallels: in political processes, the sources of neutrons are opinion leaders, reflectors are the media, the most effective form is political parties, the degree of enrichment is the share of people who have a pronounced political position, and the role of an initiating mechanism can play another "black swan".
I understand this, you understand this, and the authorities, even in the most backward African despotisms, intuitively understand this, therefore they do everything possible to avoid a social explosion: they imprison, bribe or physically destroy opinion leaders; takes control of the media and introduces censorship; bans political movements and tries to keep society as fragmented as possible.
A ban on mass events from the same opera: by getting together, people can form the very critical mass and initiate processes that can no longer be contained.
As you noticed, the authorities have learned to cope with the task of self-preservation quite well, and just as in a nuclear reactor a chain reaction is limited by rods with a neutron absorber, the security of the dictatorship is ensured by the security forces.
But there is a fundamental difference between the rector and the society: the number of rods in the reactor is limited only by the designer's imagination and they have nothing to do with fuel, while the security forces are part of society, and we will return to this later.
Most people cannot be called strong men - in any society there are old people, children, sick, crippled, obese, untrained and simply exhausted by the daily struggle for existence.
Alas, in the same way, most people cannot be called clever. Yes, we are: old, small, not far from nature, poorly educated, focused on earning our daily bread. This is life and that's okay.
The most laconic definition of the essence of the situation in which we find ourselves is "Smart guys against bastards in the fight for control over fools".
And this is the uniqueness and charm of the present moment: what the clever people understood long ago, now began to reach even complete fools.
This is a much more complicated process than it seems at first glance, because normal people are prone to propaganda and tend to denialism (denial of a reality that contradicts their beliefs), but the authorities so talentedly and persistently dunked people with their heads in shit that the miracle of insight finally happened...
The deal between the state and society in Russia was revised several times by the authorities unilaterally, and each time - in the direction of worsening conditions for the people:
It is difficult for people to understand how the turnover of power, the independence of its branches and civilians are connected with the contents of their refrigerators. Daredevils like Navalny tried for a long time to convey this to the Russians via the Internet until the state came to the rescue and helped with visual aids:
Raising the retirement age, more and more extortions, falling incomes, policemen who have gone berserk from impunity, ostentatious luxury of officials, foreign life of deputies, a farce with zeroing, self-isolation of the authorities during an epidemic, failed military adventures, shameful meldonia, loss of leadership in space, ostentatious blindness regulatory bodies and other odious antics of the authorities did their job.
The people understood everything, and this understanding is irreversible - it cannot be banned by Roskomnadzor or seized during a search by the police. It is this understanding that is the equivalent of the degree of enrichment of nuclear fuel, only for a social explosion, not a nuclear one.
Khabarovsk became the first example of a massive, sustainable political protest since Bolotnaya Square, the critical mass of which turned out to be higher than the capabilities of the security forces to suppress it.
It is important that this protest began without media support, without bright and charismatic leaders and, most importantly, without purely mercantile reasons - the demands of the Khabarovsk citizens are exclusively political - amid an epidemic and a ban on rallies.
This suggests that the level of awareness of citizens is prohibitively high, and it is unlikely that the situation is very different in other regions. It's just that Khabarovsk has already received its personal slap in the face, and the rest will have to wait a little longer.
Even if the Khabarovsk residents fizzle out, or achieve an acceptable compromise, or suppress the protest by force, this will fundamentally change nothing.
The authorities did everything possible to delay the explosion, but, returning to the metaphor with the atomic bomb, the fuel enrichment level reached the level at which auxiliary mechanisms are no longer needed to start the reaction - it is enough to gain a critical mass and everything will happen by itself.
It is believed that the critical mass is 3.5% of the country's population actively participating in the protests. In the case of Russia, 5 million people. In practice, the protests are likely to start from several regions and much more modest numbers, and the authorities, as usual, will aggravate everything.
At first glance, the number of siloviki of all grades and stripes in Russia is simply prohibitive, everyone is armed and well equipped (they do not forget to regularly report to the impoverished population from TV screens that new paddy wagons, water cannons, machine guns or something like that have arrived at Rosguardia). Couldn't they be able to handle the unarmed crowd?
They cannot. The omnipotence of the special services is a myth carefully cultivated by the authorities, helping to keep the people in check. In fact, the capabilities of the repressive apparatus are rather modest.
Look at how migrant workers beat off their own from the police in Moscow, how cheerfully at the Amur plant of Gazprom, shift workers chase riot police, how frightened the Rosguards huddle together in a bunch, surrounded by drunken airborne troops in Gorky Park, and you will understand a lot.
It is one thing to efficiently and skillfully load law-abiding hipsters into police vans, and quite another thing to confront truly embittered people who know that the truth is on their side.
Really combat-ready OMON and SOBR units throughout the country (according to open sources) are about 50,000 people. A typical National Guard looks like a dystrophic who can be marked by a granny with a stick, and it is not worth considering him as any serious force.
The experience of the Moscow and St. Petersburg rallies in recent years has shown that any mass events that last more than two days literally exhaust the security officials - they have to run around the clock without sleep or rest, and the bosses do not care about their problems.
A rally of under 100 thousand people (which is not so much for Moscow) is physically impossible to disperse. It is impossible even to arrest more than 1000 people in Moscow and 600 in St. Petersburg - there is nowhere to put them, there is no one to register, there is no one and no time to judge.
The psychological readiness of security officials to resist protests is also so-so. Why should they stand to death? During Putin's tenth term? For Usmanov's yacht? For Shuvalov's corgi flying on a business jet?
For many of them, sweeping the defenseless was a pleasure, of course, but not risking life for the sake of your favorite hobby! Moreover, most security officials have relatives who, as in Khabarovsk, may find themselves on the other side of the barricades.
It is pointless to even talk about armed confrontation, because no one has yet managed to win an open war with their own people. Without the introduction of military equipment into the cities, mass protests cannot be suppressed, and in which direction the tank towers will turn - this is not even a question for the authorities: remember how the FSO, before each parade on Red Square, requires the gates of the gallant defenders of the fatherland to be removed from the automatic rifles and shoots them the subject of the presence of live ammunition, because he is afraid of the army to hiccups.
The accumulation of critical mass is a process that can last for years without noticeable external manifestations. To those who do not understand this, it may seem that nothing is happening, and then, when a chain reaction begins and events develop at lightning speed according to historical standards, such people are surprised: nothing foreshadowed trouble!
Now we are in a situation where everything necessary to launch a self-sustaining chain reaction of protests in society has been created. We only need a mechanism to launch it, which, preferably, would work in several regions at once.
Well, as you can imagine, the authorities have already taken care of its creation. A single voting day will be held on September 13, 2020. Elections of heads will be held in 20 constituent entities of the federation, in 4 additional elections to the Duma, in 11 elections to the parliaments of the constituent entities of the federation, and there will be several dozen more municipal elections.
The Duma prepared a mechanism for their falsifications ahead of time, extending the practice of multi-day voting on stumps and all other elections, which was rolled back during the "zeroing", and the opposition - Smart voting. The result of their clash is more than predictable: the non-admission of opposition candidates, gross violations, stupid falsifications and a wave of mass discontent that will sweep through several dozen regions at once.
If protests break out in at least 3-5 of them, the authorities will find themselves in a very difficult situation.
In fact, for the authorities this is zugzwang - a position in which any player's move leads to a deterioration in his position. Not falsifying elections means losing control over the regions. Falsify - get a wave of protests. Not to disperse these protests is to show your weakness and signal to everyone else that it is now possible. Accelerate - get a response.
Of two evils, the authorities always choose the known. In this case, falsify and overclock.
The problem is that the security officials, as I have already mentioned, are also a part of society, they have friends and relatives, and they live side by side with other citizens, who pay for the maintenance of these security officials with their taxes.
Therefore, where the security officials manage to incite the protesters, dissatisfaction with the authorities will begin to grow rapidly, in some regions the security forces will sabotage the orders of the federal center, and in some they will obstruct the actions of colleagues sent from other regions.
It is quite possible that the authorities will try to awkwardly get out of their sleeve a greasy ace in the form of titushki, a mess in Belarus, or three waves of coronavirus, because of which everyone needs to sit at home and not stick out, but this number will not work.
For some time, the explosion can only be delayed by something more serious - Putin's resignation, the return of oil at $ 120 per barrel or something of a similar scale.
In any case, grandiose changes await the country, and they are already very close. The clock is ticking, the countdown has started.
Original is here.