What Happens After

Another good article by Konstantin von Eggert, this time in the Financial Times:

Life will not return to 2007, when Mr Putin presided over unprecedented economic growth and was acclaimed by a majority of the population (including many of those now taking to the streets in protest against his policies) as a leader of all Russians. What we have witnessed in the past three months and will continue to witness in different forms is a classic case of a regime beset by a crisis of legitimacy. To overcome it, Mr Putin and his team have to accept that times have changed and that the growing protest movement is not a product of big city, middle-class boredom or a malicious foreign (read – American) plot. Recently we saw some of Russia’s ruling bureaucracy (including outgoing president Dmitry Medvedev) trying to engage with the protest movement. But Mr Putin himself made a point of doing nothing that could be construed as legitimising the protests. On the contrary, in a series of articles and public speeches he made it clear that he sees the protesters as disoriented at best, or agents of foreign powers at worst. Mr Putin’s support base consists disproportionately of those who in different ways depend on the state for a living and thus cherish his brand of “stability at any cost”. He believes this base is wide enough for him to ignore the increasingly politicised and independent-minded citizens of big cities, Moscow chief among them. However, historically, those rulers who lost support of Russia’s capitals could not go on governing as usual for much longer. Mikhail Gorbachev was the last to learn this hard lesson 20 years ago.