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Russia’s Riots

- December 20, 2010

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor “Graeme Robertson”:http://www.unc.edu/depts/polisci/faculty_pages/robertson.htm sent along the following comments in response to last week’s “Russian potpourri”:https://themonkeycage.org/2010/12/russian_potpourri.html and the “Moscow riots”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12003385:

bq. While Vladimir Putin was “crooning along to Blueberry Hill”:https://themonkeycage.org/2010/12/russian_potpourri.html with Sharon Stone and Gerard Depardieu in St.Petersburg, a less appealing tableau of life in Putin’s Russia was being played out in Moscow. Riots “involving up to 5000 young men”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12003385, many of them soccer fans, some of them Russian nationalists, took place in an upscale shopping mall right in the center of Moscow (think 5th Ave crossed with the National Mall). The riots broke out following the death of a young Spartak Moscow fan, allegedly during a fight with youths from Russia’s southern Caucasus region. “At least two people were killed in the rioting”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/13/two-dead-football-racist-riot-moscow?INTCMP=SRCH, which led to a nationwide crack down with “1700 arrests across Russia”:http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/cops-averting-riots-heave-sigh-of-relief/427009.html in an effort to prevent copy-cat ethnic rioting. For those who like their politics in neat packages, the riots in central Moscow were the perfect counterpoint to Putin’s schlock-fest sing-a-long in Petersburg. In the corridors of power life is all glitz and glamor, while on the streets Russia’s youth fight it out. Some blame the Kremlin directly for inciting nationalist fervor. However, while it is perfectly clear that the Kremlin has played a major role in nurturing nationalist-minded youth groups, it is a stretch to imagine that they are carefully orchestrating youth gangs with signs saying “Down with the Jewish regime,” such as we have seen in central Moscow in the last few days. Instead what we have is a closed regime that provides ample rewards for those elements of the elite willing to go along, while politics on the streets is completely isolated from power and intensely polarized. For “the kids”, politics is about economic dislocation, competition and localized violence. The result is intensely polarized youth politics, with some following proto-fascist Russian nationalism, and others anti-fascist neo-Bolshevism or anarchism, or some bizarre admixture of the three. Violence around these issues has been a feature of life in Moscow and other Russian cities for a long time. For a Kremlin that represents order and stability, both the nationalist soccer fans and the anti-Kremlin anarchists are a threat to the panorama that Putin/Medvedev try to promote.

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Update: Pictures from the riots “are available here”:http://zyalt.livejournal.com/330396.html. [Hat tip to “Tim Frye”:http://www.columbia.edu/cu/polisci/fac-bios/frye/faculty.html for the link to the photos.]