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Russian Spring? Part 3

More Voices of Russia’s Progressive Opposition

by Al Berg

Valera PHOTO Albrecht Berg
Valera PHOTO Albrecht Berg

Moscow - The following is the third in a four part series on the recent demonstrations in Russia.  Al Berg recently spent two months in Moscow, meeting with many radicals and interviewing four young activists.


Valera [name changed] is in Pushkin Square where, the day after Putin got elected, the opposition gathered to protest what they considered a fraudulent result. Valera is around 30 years old and an active antifascist which in Russia is dangerous business. Beside heavy state repression resulting in many activists imprisoned, there is the threat of militant Neonazis who have murdered at least 15 activists since 2006. For his own protection Valera always carries a knife and a gas pistol, though he won't discuss how many times he has had to use them.

Valera grew up in an academic family, and is himself currently working on his PhD. He is a big guy, with broad shoulders, and like many Russian antifascists is dressed in subtle skinhead style.  Strolling across the square, he points out: "That guy there, is a typical Russian Nazi. Buzzcut, Adidas outfit, and a sports bag over his shoulder. You can pretty much assume that the younger ones will have knives on them and the older ones sport-guns, often modified to be lethal. Those are the kind of people that make up the nationalist block at the opposition rallies."

He explains that there is currently something of a ceasefire between Neonazis and the Antifa [antifacist movement] due to the elections, on which both sides have been focusing. An anarchist himself, Valera is very skeptical of the larger leftist factions in the opposition. "For me, the Reds, or almost all of them, are Stalinists, and in that no different from the Nazis themselves," he said.

Valera has sparse views on the recent rallies. “Personally, I do not usually go to public demos. It would be a perfect opportunity for the FSB [Federal Security Service], or for Nazis to take pictures of me.” But he does think they are a good thing. "Firstly to show that people feel discontent. And in the long run, I hope they will radicalize and lead to revolution."

Revolution, for him, is the way forward. "This isn't Europe. The government is made up entirely of bandits...trying to talk to them is a waste of time. In Russia things never get better that way. In Moscow, you see fancy cars and restaurants, and you may think, that with some reforms, this country would be alright. But in the provinces, its a different world, there's absolute misery. That situation has to be dealt with drastically."

Like many activists, Valera points to revolution as a solution to many of Russia's problems, though he doesn’t think people are ready for it. "Maybe ten years from now", he sighs.
Al Berg's four-part series on opposition to the Russian elects continues this week on the Media Co-op.  The first part can be read here and the second here.

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