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RSC Spotlight
May 11, 2016

Degrees of Risk

by
Henry Jackson Society

Conflict with the government in power is never-ending. The less a regime is beholden to the community, the more grounds there will be for conflict. There have been variations. At one time, when there were tsars and nobles, popular discontent was voiced by jesters, later by the educated gentry, then by an emergent and disaffected middle class, by students and revolutionaries. At a turning point in Russian history, armed resistance to the Bolshevik regime came, not from those marching under red banners, or the White Army, or Cossacks but from striking workers and from pesants rising in revolt. In the brooding Stalin period, discontent smouldered deep in people’s hearts, only rarely, in moments of total desperation, bursting out in open protest. During the ‘herbivorous’ Brezhnev era, intellectuals, enthused by the recent thaw and hopes of change, came together in the democratic movement and again went public.

Today, when civil liberties have not yet been completely crushed and society is trying to assert its rights, the burden of confrontation with the regime has been assumed by a political opposition. Thirty years separate the last days of the democratic movement in the Soviet Union from the current regime of one-man-rule under Putin. During that time, the communist system and the Soviet empire have collapsed, democracy in Russia has been born and swiftly stifled, there has been a succession of presidents, but the never-ending conflict with the government in power continues.

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