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Russia

Two Years That Changed Russia: What Even A Putin Victory Cannot Undo

Op-Ed: A few years ago, even if its people didn't realize it at the time, Russia was poised for a new wave of civil action. Though Sunday's elections may not bring new faces, the nation is forever changed.

The movement swells (Andyindesign)
The movement swells (Andyindesign)
Stanislav Kucher

MOSCOWThe launch two years ago of Kommersant FM, our newspaper's radio station, coincided with some marked changes in Russia. No longer willing to be sheep, many Russian citizens began taking to the streets. There was a wave of protests around the country, which led to rallies on March 31, 2010 that attracted a record number of people and led to a change in the governor of Kaliningrad.

Our editor-in-chief prefers that we don't repeat things. But with Sunday's nationwide election nearly upon us, I thought I could make an exception and remind our readers of what Kommersant said back when we inaugurated the radio station.

"People, we need to have a serious societal discussion of everything that is new: new values, new heroes, new politics and new possibilities. If you can write on the Internet, then write. If you can discuss these themes in a club, then participate, argue, prove your points. To our colleagues on television, it is high time to allow live programs, create a space, invite new people, find new heroes and leaders."

We were by no means the only people to come up with these ideas. If you will excuse the modesty, we were like surfers, just catching the wave. And we rode that wave up to the current presidential elections.

Over the past 24 months, Russian society has matured to such an extent that it may only be years from now that we're really able to appreciate the scope of the changes. True, the opposition has failed to rally around one, united leader. But many people who were still sheep five years ago have now woken up to their own power and ability to change the world. I am an optimist: I think the people will eventually achieve what the opposition has not yet managed to do.

A case for staying "calm and stubborn"

Over these two years, the government has also shown us two very important things. The first one is certainly negative, but the second one is positive. First of all, and this is the bad news, the ruling regime has shown on several occasions that it does not want to make changes of its own accord. But it is clear now that under pressure from below, the regime does eventually budge. Moreover, everything that those of us who want to live in a normal, modern country with a decent government have achieved was accomplished without bloodshed. And that is also an achievement that is probably impossible to correctly appreciate at the moment.

I mention this particular accomplishment as a reminder that a spoonful of tar ruins a jar of honey. One person can ruin the mood for a dozen cheerful people. The coming days will be a serious challenge for anyone who cares. Even Prime Minister Putin has spoken about the possibility of "victims," meaning there are people out there who want to spill blood. People should do what they can to avoid becoming victims. It is easy to provoke, but violence could erase all of the advances we have made in the past two years.

That is why I urge everyone to be "calm and stubborn" over the next couple of days. Don't be afraid of anything, think positively and act in such a way that later, when you tell your children about it, you can hold your head up high.

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Geopolitics

The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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