Russian Arab Spring?

Note February 2016. These were done for the Russia Profile Weekly Experts’ Panel which I cannot find on the Net now. Many were picked up by other sources and I have given links where I can find them.

The chance of a Tunisian scenario in Russia is something less than zero. The conditions simply don’t exist.

The popular revolt in Tunisia – I assume it was not a phoney revolution like the “Orange Revolution” or the “Rose revolution” or the now-forgotten “Tulip Revolution” – was a result of revulsion at years of hopelessness and stagnation.

In Russia, innumerable polls, over many years – see, for example, the Levada data at – show that Russians appreciate the steady improvement of their own living conditions and give the government a great deal of credit for it. They show no naïve belief that everything is wonderful, but they do show a steady increase in optimism (or reduction in pessimism) for the future and improvement of present circumstances. The Duumvirate is popular – most governments would love to have a constant 60-70% support in difficult times. The Levada data is especially useful because, with ten to fifteen years of results for a given question, one can make direct comparisons and observe trends. Other polling organisations show the same trends.

In short, the Putin Team has generally provided the things that people hire governments for.

Thus, the underlying conditions that sparked the Tunisian revolt do not exist in Russia. Observers who take the effort to analyse polling data rather than lazily phone up names on the Rolodex their predecessors bequeathed them would understand this.

But, nonetheless, those who predicted the collapse of the “Putin system” with Kushchevskaya, last summer’s fires, the expected collapse of the Russian economy in the global financial crisis, riots in Vladivostok, Beslan, the “Orange Revolution”, the Kursk sinking, the debt crisis, apartment bombings, the “virtual economy” (I keep a file of this stuff), will quarry the “Tunisian parallel” for indicators. Until the next thing pops up. Same story, new indicators.

I am dumfounded by the endless speculation about how Putin and Medvedev are struggling under the blanket and that Putin will re-appear as President. If Putin had wanted a third (and fourth and fifth) term, all he had to do was arrange for one little clause in the Constitution to be changed. And no one can doubt that he could have, and many wanted him to. But he didn’t. Why would he go through this elaborate charade to get back?

Perhaps he and Medvedev are part of the same team, carrying out the same program. As they say they are.

But what do they know?