Is anti-Maidan important for Putin?

Also with the support of Russian state media we have seen the anti-Maidan gatherings in Russia. How important is for the Putin’s regime seeding into Russian society the perception that Ukraine’s Maidan was something bad? read few comments?

Andrei Kolesnikov, Senior Associate, Chair of the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program, Carnegie Moscow Center

This is really important for Putin and his administration to make an impression that Maidan is possible in Russia. The ukrainian Maidan was the reason why Putin became so tough in his domestic and foreign policy. Because of that his political stuff is speculating on the fear of coulored revolutions (which are impossible for the moment in Russia).

Andrei SoldatovEditor of Agentura.Ru

iIt is extremely important, because it plays on the feeling of insecurity, which is important for the middle classes. Remember Putin is supported now not only by the regions, on government payroll, but by the middle classes, and the primary reason for them is that they are very concerned with security for them and their families. Many of them used to support Navalny, but now turned to the Kremlin because he guarantees there would be no revolution etc.

Taras KuzioResearch Associate, Centre for Political and Regional Studies, Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta

Well let us not forget that these kind of “protests” by Putin’s regime and by Yanukovych and the Party of Regions were done by either pressuring state employees to attend or to pay people (see video here by Novaya Gazeta). Nevertheless, there would be some who attended voluntarily because Russian TV propaganda is at a high pitch level unseen since pre-detente days in the 1950s and 1960s, which is why the level of anti-Americanism is so high (I receive daily surveys by BBC Monitoring of Russian TV).

Russian and Party of Regions/Communist Party of Ukraine propaganda draws on Soviet ideological attacks against Ukrainian “bourgeois nationalists” who were allegedly Nazi collaborators in World War II and then had become agents of “Western imperialism” (CIA, Mossad, etc).

This has been passed on to current ideological campaigns against democratic revolutions which are Western organised “putschs” (see my long article about Conspiratologia) and political forces which do not wish to be part of the Russian World (Russkiy Mir)/Russian sphere of influence being “fascists” and “agents of NATO” or “agents of the West” (since the Eastern Partnership was formed this has included hostility to the EU). For this mindset there are only two types of Ukrainians: good Ukrainians (Little Russians) and fascists (see nationalist Dugin calling for the latter to be killed).

Putin, Yanukovych, Donbas separatist leaders, some people in the Donbas (but not all) and the majority of Russians in Russia believe these Soviet era views that the Rose and Orange Revolution were Western backed putschs that brought anti-Russian fascists to power and that the ultimate objective is to overthrow Putin. In other words, because Ukrainians are not a real nation (the view of Russian nationalists) they cannot be their own masters and are only puppets of the West (e.g. Putin’s comment there is no Ukrainian military only a “NATO Legion”). See the placards at the Moscow rally.

None of the above is even remotely understood in Brussels or Washington.

David J. Meadows​, Research Fellow, Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, Dalhousie University

First I would say that in regards to the conflict in Ukraine, Putin and much of the state-directed media has been waging an effective information war. One of the key themes often spreads blatant lies – such as that the Ukrainian government and military forces loyal to Kyiv are American-backed fascists, for example, or are committing near ‘genocide’ against the Russian speakers of eastern Ukraine.

This was necessary for Putin in order to distract the Russian populace from the fact that Russia’s covert and overt support to the rebels was crucial in financing, equipping, providing personnel, and supplying intelligence to the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

I would say that it is evident that such propaganda has had the effect that Moscow desired, as such messages appear to be more readily accepted by large numbers of the Russian population, seen with high public approval ratings for Putin. Certainly, Putin’s message also played on a latent anti-western bent that was already present in Russian political-cultural attitudes. Such messages also make it easier for Putin to justify to the Russian populace that such expenditure of men and material are justified, if they can frame the fight as being not against Ukrainians per se, but against so-called Western ‘aggression.’

In the grand scheme of things, I would say that what most seriously threatensPutin is not the relative military threat that NATO and the EU pose, but the fact that the expansion of these clubs into Eastern Europe has historically brought a general trend towards both democratization and economic liberalization. Such trends threaten Putin’s authoritarian order in Moscow. This is why Putin is fighting so hard to keep Ukraine destabilized, because Putin views this as his best chance of keeping Ukraine from moving Westward.

Luke March, Senior Lecturer, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Very important for several reasons a) to keep the public mobilised against the Ukrainian authorities and supportive of the Eastern separatists; b) to deny legitimacy to the Kyiv authorities as ‘illegitimate’ fascist/Western stooges and therefore not deserving of any support; c) perhaps more important in my view to deny legitimacy to grass-roots movements which can remove corrupt regimes with implicit or explicit Western support (a variant of the ‘coloured revolution virus’ argument that Russia has been propagating for the last decade). Therefore the arguments combine to portray what is going on in Ukraine as an alien import of Western machinations, rather than something endemic to Ukrainian domestic politics (and therefore potentially possible in Russia as a fraternal country, where public concerns about elite corruption are latent, but potentially politically explosive).

Most balanced analyses would not see Maidan as either heroic revolutionaries or fascist coup-plotters, but would still focus on the largely domestic causes to this – discontent with Yanukovych regime’s switch in foreign policy and repressive atittude to demonstrators that radicalised them. I still think that if Yanukovych has decided to let the demonstrators demonstrate, and largely ignore them, he would still be in power….

Stephen BittnerProfessor of History, Sonoma State University

I read about the anti-Maidan protests earlier today in the Moscow Times. My sense is they’re not terribly significant. Their purpose is not to underscore the supposed treachery of Yanukovych’s ouster, but to distract popular attention from Russia’s increasingly brazen military involvement in eastern Ukraine. Even in Russia, there’s only the thinnest veneer of deniability that Russia has not invaded Ukraine. Of course, there’s overwhelming evidence now to the contrary, and in a world of internet and Twitter, young, urban Russians have access to this unfiltered news. The anti-Maidan protests help distract attention from the reality of Donetsk and Luhansk.

John BesemeresVisiting Fellow, Centre for European Studies, Australian National University

I would say that Russian society under its KGB leadership seems to be careering in an ever more Orwellian direction. Organising the freebooters and imperial soldiers of Russian society into an ‘Anti-Majdan” stormtrooper association (as if more instruments of state coercion were required) is one symptom of this. The latest bomb in Kharkiv is apparently another. The phoney peace in Minsk is a third. The ‘two-minutes hate’ of Rossiya 1 TV which has morphed into an all-day hate seems to be another. The fact that the Russian state is trying to erect its ‘little brothers’ into the primary object of mass hatred is telling. Despite the monstrous policies of Moscow towards Ukraine in the Stalinist era, resulting in the execution of the Ukrainian leadership of the 1920s, then the destruction by a policy of starvation of many millions (the numbers of course remain unclear) of the Ukrainian rural population – despite these policies, ordinary Russians and Ukrainians and Russians got on pretty well in Ukraine and elsewhere until Putin and his imperial camarilla found it necessary to invade Crimea, and artificially inseminatae a civil war into East Ukraine. As a Russian emigre scholar at the Australian National University very aptly characterised the situation several months ago, for Russia to initiate an undeclared war on its closest neighbour is as bizarre as if the Australian state of New South Wales had launched a war against the state of Victoria (or vice versa). It would be grotesque were it not so serious. And unfortunately the West’s reaction still seems to consist largely of pleas to Putin to be nice. All Ukraine really needs from Russia is a velvet divorce.

Mitchell Orenstein, Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, Northeastern University, Associate, Center for European Studies, Harvard University

Russia is constructing a parallel universe with its propaganda, making it very difficult for Russians to interact with people in the West and preparing them for confrontation.

Gerard Toal (Gearóid Ó Tuathail), Professor & Director, Government and International Affairs, Virginia Tech

In research on perceptions of EuroMaidan 2014 in 6 oblasts SE Ukraine and Crimea, my colleague John O’Loughlin and I found that:

60% of respondents in Crimea and 39% in the 6 SE Ukrainian oblasts felt that the changes which happened in Ukraine after Euromaidan significantly worsened the situation in the country. 27% in SE Ukraine said it worsened it somewhat, thus a strong majority hold a negative perception even in an area where Putin is not popular.

Thus, the dominant perception in contested Ukraine and Russia is that EuroMaidan was something bad. This is a view held even by people who oppose Vladimir Putin. It is important that people who view this as a positive event for Ukraine recognize that many see it quite differently.

 

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