The “Active Core” of Russian Citizens

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Leon Aron of AEI comments on the changing profile of Russian protesters.

On April 3, Professor Evgeny Gontmakher, a leading figure at the Institute of Contemporary Development, the think-tank rumored to be favored by the dauphin Medvedev, claimed there is an “active core” among Russia’s citizens: those who believe that “we cannot live like this any longer” and who tie their hopes to the “European choice” of national development. Specifically, Gontmakher continued, these men and women believe that Russia needs real democracy, instead of an “imitation”; a market economy “with just and honest competition,” instead of the present “ultra-monopolized” and “archaic” system, based on the export of raw materials; and a “socially oriented” welfare state, which, Gontmakher added, Russia does not have either.

It is too soon to say for sure whether the protests of recent months support this proposition. Those who demonstrate are still a tiny minority of the population. Yet the decidedly middle-class bias in their demographics and in the issues that brought them into the streets or to the Internet sites appears to place them well within the constituency for change identified by Gontmakher. The nature of many of the new protesters’ demands is such that, as a Russian commentator points out, the Kremlin cannot satisfy them without creating an “entirely new system of power”–a system that, unlike the current one, “would not separate the interests of the state from the interests of its citizens.”