MOSCOW — Fifty years ago, in May 1968, France was swarmed with such powerful mass protests that the government feared a full-fledged civil war or revolution. This popular unrest became a turning point in the history of modern France, and eventually brought about serious changes in the French state.
Vladislav Inozemtsev, a scholar writing for the Moscow-based RBC Media, looks at parallels between the situation in France in 1968 and today's Russia, finding some lessons that can be drawn from the "Paris spring" to help understand Russia's current prospects:
"The May 1968 events showed that, despite economic prosperity and growing quality of life that sharply contrasted with the hard post-War years, citizens can still rise up against the authorities if they lack personal freedoms and suffer from stagnation in social development. As for Russia in recent years, it is similar to France in the 1960s in the following respect: economic factors and the fact that the population has become richer in comparison with the 1990s can no longer compensate for the degradation of social and political spheres.
The authorities cannot control human minds.
"Secondly, the example of Charles de Gaulle demonstrated that a leader's popularity tends to evaporate if there are no reforms meeting the needs of the times. De Gaulle was the architect of the new French state after World War II just like Vladimir Putin is for today's modern Russian state. After World War II, de Gaulle was one of the most popular figures in France enjoying universal popularity and respect. However, by 1968 it had become clear that France was not responding to people's needs and aspirations, which resulted in a uprising.
"Thirdly, the example of France illustrates that the authorities cannot control human minds and maintain a certain moral order amidst globalization and a widespread access to information. Despite governmental censorship that existed in France in the 1960s, people revolted. So, it is very unwise of the modern Russian regime to try to impose a distorted worldview and so-called traditional values on its people.
"None of this necessarily means that there will be a revolution in the near future in Russia, but the French case certainly should be taken into account in trying to understand our country's current situation and possible scenarios of its future."