“The poisoning of the opposition leader, Mr Alexei Navalny, has shocked all of us. We can expect that this will have an impact on European Union-Russia relations.” This is how the EU Vice-President Josep Borrell addressed the EU Parliament last September. Navalny’s poisoning is yet another episode of the EU-RU relations saga, adding up to tensions stemming from the Belarus protests, conflicts in Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh, clashes over energy and particularly the start of the Nord Stream 2 operations.
Over the last few years, environmentalism has proven to be an increasingly pressing civil society issue. However, Russian environmentalism hardly has common traits with its Western counterparts. While 2019 was the culminating year of Greta Thunberg and the youth movement Fridays For Future in the West, similar initiatives did not enjoy such popularity in Russia, they did not gain importance within the public discourse and they had virtually no influence on policymaking processes.
With the international attention focused on last August’s poisoning of Alexey Navalny, the most famous opponent to Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia, an analysis on the composition, current role and future influence of Russia’s opposition is needed. This dossier looks at the major groups forming opposition—both those operating within the formal institutions and the major players outside it. Who are they? How influential are they and what are their requests? What challenges do they face in an increasingly authoritarian Russia?
The protests ‘For Fair Elections’ in 2011-2012 exposed the role of social media in Russian domestic politics. International social media platforms such as Facebook mostly helped to mobilise protesters; however, the government was also effective in countering protests with information and communications technologies.
The year 2020 marked 20 years in power of President Vladimir Putin and yet, in a way, could also be dubbed as the year of Russian opposition. It started off with the heating up of talks of succession, which had been going on for some time already, even before the end of the Putin-Medvedev tandem era.
Asked about which national idea his country most needed, Vladimir Putin responded on multiple occasions that “Patriotism is the only possible ideology” for Russia. In the Russian political glossary, “patriotic” is almost synonymic to “nationalism”, adding a nuance of some kind of supremacy and/or victimization of the nation compared with competing countries, rather than just a generic love for the motherland.
Since 11 July of this year, protests against the arrest of former popular regional governor Sergei Furgal have continued in Khabarovsk, one of the largest cities in Russia’s Far East. The protest has neither leaders nor organization. It originated as a spontaneous civil protest, but very quickly turned into a political and anti-Kremlin one. The sleepy society very quickly turned into a civil society.
Russia’s political trajectory from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the present can be seen as a movement from political pluralism to ever strengthening authoritarianism. In general, elections as such were fair in the 1990s, yet the suddenly-emerged political pluralism took place in circumstances that lacked institutional foundations.
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) has long been considered little more than part of the country’s fake opposition, playing its role in a stage-managed theatre of politics. Yet now there is speculation of some kind of alliance with Alexei Navalny, the poisoned opposition firebrand.
In his recently-published memoirs, Egypt’s former foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, painted a clear picture of the prevalent mood inside Egypt’s ruling establishment concerning the country’s stance towards great powers. In the 2000s, he explains, former president Hosni Mubarak and many of his aides “came to believe” that the United States was pushing for a regime change agenda in Egypt.