The stage is set for a major confrontation on the streets of cities all across Russia, as protesters mobilize for a march in response to alleged election fraud.
In one corner is the protesting middle class. In the other is the authoritarian regime and supporters of the United Russia party. Independent of what will happen in Moscow on Saturday, the event will mark a significant historical point in Eurasian democratic movements, effecting global politics for generations.
Following the widely recognized fraudulent election returns earlier this week, the refusal of the Russian judiciary to accept video evidence clearly showing the illegal activities of election officials, and now a series of open statements by Hillary Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev calling for an annulment of posted results and for a new election, more that 30,000 people on Facebook have signed on to take to the streets of Moscow on Saturday morning. The Russian authorities have responded using the old Soviet playbook: blame America and mobilize troops. It is my sole desire that the modern day troops will show restraint.
When I was growing up in the old Soviet bloc, we were taught that the Soviet flag was red because of the wounded revolutionary being wrapped in the cloth as he bled from a wound caused by gun fire of the tsarist troops. The current Russian flag is the well-known tri-color that indirectly serves as a reminder of the three young men crushed by tanks in the tunnels of Moscow in the freeing coup of 1991. Tomorrow, I hope that there will be no bloodshed to serve as a reminder of the price of liberty and democratic growth on the Eurasian plateau. However, the Kremlin has showed that it is willing to play old Soviet ideological games and playing the muscle game may be in the works as well.
Should Vladimir Putin try and subdue the revolt by force, this will be yet another stain on the already stained modern Russian history that includes the Katyn massacre, Soviet suppression in Hungary in 1956, and the current bloodbath in Chechnya. However, these methods are outdated and will not serve to prolong the life of a dying political strategy of force. The voices of opposition have spread like wildfire using blogs, social media, and text messaging. Not only does this serve to inspire people within Russia to action, but it will serve to highlight the probable human rights violations on a global scale.
While the United Nations will be unable to effectively deal with this crisis, émigré communities around the world are planning protests in solidarity with the Russian opposition parties and those demanding change. Such action goes to show that people do not have to wait for international institutions to act and voice our concerns, but we as free people must show support with those seeking their rightful ownership of their own country, a right that only democracies fulfill.
In New York, the protest will start at noon at the door of the Consulate of the Russian Federation, located at 9 East 91st Street.
Change in Russia and Russian politics is an act that will have lasting repercussions for all of us.
Photo Credit: Daniel Beilinson