Early in the 90s the
Russian Federation went through an economic crisis that was, worse in
comparison to the American Great Depression and German great depression
following the German defeat in the First World War.
Inflation affected the
ruble, while, in the government, smaller parties refused to collaborate with
one another which left the economic landscape in ruins. Economic changes also allowed a somewhat
illegal oligarchy with origins in the Soviet economic system. Directed by world
governments, the World Bank, and the IMF, Russia began the biggest and most
hasty privation of the markets that the world had never seen before. This was
done in order to as quickly as possible rid the countries from the communist
systems. By the time 1950 rolled around, services, trade, retail, and small
industries were in the hands of private corporations.
After half of the 90s
had passed, Russia implemented a political system with multiple political
parties expressing their presence. However, it was more difficult to set in a
place a representatives’ government due to two key faults of the government
system—the conflict between parliament and president as well as the chaotic
amount of parties.
All the while, the
national government lost control of the bureaucracy and localities; tax profits
had fallen. Following the 1998 economic crisis, Yeltsin was nearing the end of
his professional career. He resigned, and left the government in the control of
Vladimir Putin, who was at that point the Prime Minister. Russia could not bring
foreign investments and then experienced considerable capital outflows in the
past years. Russia’s longer term dilemmas also included a smaller growing workforce,
uncontrollable corruption, and public infrastructure lacking funds.
Political figure of Navalny as an outcome of Putin’s
Prior to Putin was
elected as the new Russian President in the year 2000, he believed that Russia
was a part of the European identity and he couldn’t see Russia separate from
Europe and he would therefore be the leader dedicated to bringing democratic
ideals, livelihood and liberty to the Russians. However, years later, Russia in
control of Putin had altered itself far from recognition from the anarchic, absolute
political mess it was during the control of Yeltsin. In the international
community, Russia faced separatio , economic sanctions, and even a cold war.
Back in Russia, despite economic decay, Putin enjoyed possibly the greatest rating
of any modern Russian leader. However, it is difficult to not recognize that
Putin has made a tremendous impact on Russia and Earth as a whole.
When Vladimir Putin
arrived in his office, Russia just emerged from the horrible market changes of
the 90s and the 1998 crisis. Putin had no large scale economic view: while Putin
cut taxes to assist business, he also nationalized certain sectors that were
formerly not nationalized. Regardless, unutilized manufacturing and prices
increasing for oil (Russia’s primary export) helped bring in an era of never
before seen wellbeing that Putin is still recognized for, with disposable
income increasing 200% between 1999 and 2006.
Putin may have swapped
on certain economic dilemmas; he has continually progressed toward more
powerful control of his authority. In mid-2004, Putin signed a law that gave
permission to the president to appoint regional governors, a right he mostly
retains in spite of changes prompted by city protests in 2011 to 2012. Putin’s infamous
“castling” with Dmitry Medvedev allowed Putin to become president once again in
2012. All the while, Russia’s dog on the leash parliament had passed a law
allowing the presidential term increase from 4 to 6 years.
The worldwide financial
crisis hit the growth like train, causing it to completely halt. While oil money
had caused growth, not much progress had been made in diversifying the economy.
Even prior to oil prices dropping and sanctions because of the Ukraine dilemma came
into effect in 2014, economists predicted long-term stalling of economic growth.
Although Putin called
his government’s response to the ruble dropping in late 2014 “good”, blame is
put on the central bank’s immediate interest rate rises, and a controversial bond
issued by state oil company Rosneft for bring down the Ruble.
With the imprisoning of oil oligarchs and
the murders of multiple prominent opposition proponents, Putin’s Russia was
already a place where dispute was not welcome. But the key changing moment arrived
during the winter of 2011-2012. Opposition protests for some time threatened a
Russian Arab spring in Moscow. Putin acted rapidly. Multiple criminal cases on suspicious
charges were opened against the anti-corruption proponent, Alexei Navalny, as
well as a couple dozen protesters from the mid-2012 Bolotnaya Square protest.
Since Putin’s returning to the presidential office in 2012, new laws have increased
the penalties for those participating in protests not sanctioned by Putin’s
Amid growing Russian
nationalism and ideas about traitors, Putin stated in December that opposition
voices, especially Navalny’s led movement, could be a part of the “fifth
column” undermining the authority. Putin started an uncompromising fight
against ideological opposition voices. Symbolically, one of the opposition’s leading
voices, former deputy prime minister, Boris Nemtsov, was assassinated right in
front of the Kremlin.
During Putin’s third
term as president, authorities have also tightened the screws on non-government
related organizations that acquire funding from elsewhere, which Putin has earlier
compared to “jackals” and traitors. Referencing to a 2012 law, these groups
must label themselves “foreign agents” in their written works and submit to
audits, with intense fees for failure to comply these strict regulations. Once
a haven for free speech, the internet in Russia is currently subject to unspecific
laws that permit the government’s internet watchdogs to blacklist sites that post
“extremist” information or content harmful to the children. Because of these
changes, several considerable opposition websites were banned in 2013.
According to a law written in 2014, anonymous bloggers must now register their actual,
legal identities with the government and face possible suits.
Despite a government campaign
fighting corruption, Putin’s Russia has not been able rid itself of accusations
of being dishonest in its core. In 2014, Russia was ranked 136th out of 175th
in the Transparency International’s corruption index, down from 127th in 2013
and 133th in 2012. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project named
Putin their “person of the year” after their investigations discovered that he
had collaborated with the mafia to craft what it called a
“military-industrial-political-criminal” complex to traffic money and promote Putin’s
interests abroad, including in the transfer of weapons to pro-Russian
separatists in east Ukraine.
When Putin became
president for the first time in 2000, he promptly set about ridding the power
of the oligarchs, who are the group of billionaires who had huge influence over
Russia’s government functioning and media. At the same time, criminal charges,
incitement to violence and the assaulting of various political activists are
pending against over 20 activists involved in disturbances at a protest in
Moscow on the eve of Putin’s third term inauguration in May 2012. It is not
only oligarchs and opposition politicians who have to fear Putin’s disfavor, journalists
and TV presenters, also now have to be conscious of insulting the Kremlin. According to Quartz Media, Vladimir
Putin is seen as godfather of the new populism movement. But is Putin himself defenseless
to a populist challenge? Not many groups are more “establishment” than Putin
and his crew who have been in power for already 17 years.
These few key political
presences in Russia have took control over popular frustrations with the hideous
corruption of the political class than anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny,
whose campaign bid has been blocked by the Kremlin on numerous occasions and
yet, his campaign brought over one hundred thousand people to the streets.
Navalny, like his populist counterparts in the western countries, dare to
discuss what the establishment does not recognize nor acknowledge. However,
Putin’s policy itself allowed the rise of Alexey Navalny and his supporters in
Russian politics making him one of the strongest opponents and organized
opposition leader. This is certainly due to the rule of Putin allowing Segway
for movement such as Navalny’s.
Alexey Navalny in Russian politics
Alexei Navalny, has been the most prominent face of Russian opposition to
President Putin and his cronies. Navalny’s name began to garner some media
attention around 2004 with his opposition to Putin becoming more and more
public. Navalny is Putin’s most formidable opponent in Russian Politics and the
most well-known protester in the country, having created the largest anti-Putin
protests seen in Russia. So who is Navalny and why has he become one of the few
political leaders in Russian opposition?
Navalny was born June 4,
1976 in the village Butyn, in the Odintsovo district in Moscow to a military
family. Alexey Navalny has two higher educations. In 1997 he graduated from the
Russian University of Peoples’ Friendship with a law degree, and in 2001 – the Financial Academy under the
Government of the Russian Federation. Navalny received a scholarship to The
Yale World Fellows Program at Yale in 2010.
Navalny started his
political activity in 2000, when he became the member of the “Yabloko” Party
from 2000-2007. In 2000, following the announcement of a new law that raises
the threshold for Russian Parliament elections, Navalny joined the relatively
new Russian United Democratic Party Yabloko. He was elected to the regional
council of the Moscow Yabloko branch party and then he served as the head of
the Moscow subdivision of the campaign for the parliamentary election. In 2004-2007,
Navalny became the Chief of staff of the Moscow branch of the Yabloko party. In
2006–2007, he served as a member of the Federal Council of the Yabloko party.
In August of 2005, Navalny was integrated into the Social Council of Central
Administrative of Moscow region, where he took participation as a candidate. In
November, he was one of the initiators of the Youth Public Chamber, and he intended
to help younger politicians take part in initiatives in the legislation.In the
same period, Navalny began one more youth social movement, “DA!–Democratic
Alternative”, which was not connected to Yabloko or any other political
party. In this project he organized debates discussing current political issues,
which quickly got big media recognition. In the latter part of 2006, Navalny
appealed to the Moscow City Hall, and asked for permission to head the
nationalist Russian March in 2006.
From 2000 to 2007, Navalny worked for Yabloko
party because, as mentioned in Konstantin Voronkov’s book, it was the only
consistent democratic party discussing their ideas. Despite Yabloko party
having a number of its own problems, according to Navalny, including the cult
of personality of its leader Grigory Yavlinsky leading to the party’s partial
transformation into a sect, and the lack of party’s management, the party
members were people who staunchly defended their political views. They had an
ideology and a set of core values which determined the way they acted.
Duma elections of 2003 were very unsuccessful
for Yabloko party. The only region where the party managed to do somewhat
decently (receive over 10% of the region’s votes), was the city of Moscow. This recognition in Moscow, however, allowed
Navalny to start working with the Committee for Protection of Muscovites, a
public organization that fought against illegal infill construction in Moscow,
led by Sergei Mitrokhin. Navalny quickly
worked his way through the ranks and became the Executive Secretary, where he
offered legal support to Muscovites by filing their complaints against illegal
construction, attended protests, and communicated with the press. Focusing on
the illegal infill construction in Moscow allowed the organization to
accumulate a lot of information and data surrounding the illegalities taking
place. However, drawing public’s and
media’s, or even city hall and prosecutors’ attention to the matter was
challenging due to limited capacity and support the Committee had. While Yabloko party attempted to confront
the largest development companies in Russia and fight the powerful construction
lobby of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, it was of little success due to the
limited financial resourcing. This work done through the Committee for
Protection of Muscovites, however, gained Navalny’s recognition and respect
among ordinary residents. Unlike promoting
ideological beliefs and ideas of the party, his work with the Committee actually
allowed him to take action and attempt to resolve the problem in that he fought
against corruption and illegal construction, and attempted to take it on the
specific people responsible for creation and development of this corruption.
It was rather
unexpected when in 2007 Navalny decided to quit Yabloko party in order to
co-found a nationalist movement NAROD (“The People”), which was Russian
national liberation movement. Unlike the
year earlier when representing Yabloko party at the Russian March, in 2008
Navalny participated in the march, now representing “The People” party. The reasons of his associating with
nationalists were not understood right away which led to shock and alienation
of many of his former colleagues and liberal-democratic supporters at
large. However, taking a deeper look
into the NAROD movement’s manifesto, it becomes more obvious that the common
reason behind it is a strong criticism of the existing regime and of the
Russian government, who, in the eyes of the movement’s members, are responsible
for bringing Russia to the edge of a national catastrophe.