December 10, 2011

This column was written by Leonid Radzikhovsky for Ekho Moskvy, just hours after December 10th’s meeting on Bolotnaya square had ended. This column captures the spirit of the day very well. It is also very positive. A position I’d like to ascribe too. I normally translate the Russian word ‘vlasti’ in ‘the authorities’,  rather than ‘power’ or ‘the powers that be’, because I like to be pragmatic. This time however it seemed more appropriate to use the more abstract ‘power’, as today wasn’t only about protesting against the authorities, but also about overcoming fear in society and in people themselves.


First impressions from Bolotnaya

First of all, I saw very many young people. Forgive me. They were in the majority. It is not true that only the Nazi’s [sic] have young people. No, there are also young people among the ‘normal’ political movements.

Second. In general the people could be characterized as the intelligent middle class. Reasonable, quiet, NORMAL people. I didn’t see madmen, nor revolutionaries and none of the notorious ‘provocateurs’.

Third. The mood was – for as far as I could see – peaceful. Absolutely not aggressive, much less aggressive than the slogans chanted in the meeting.

Fourth. It all felt much more like a national holiday, a festivity. What’s more, not even a ‘festivity of disobedience’, but simply a festivity.


Sixth.  A threat to power, because these people do not ‘hate’ power. They do not ‘despise’. They do not fight power. They have overcome power. For them power is simply something from yesterdays world. ‘Shadows know your place’.

That’s what poses the real challenge for power!

They hate you. You hate them. They fight you. You fight them. They despise you. You despise them. You may loose, but you also have the CHANCE to win.

For such a fight power is prepared – albeit theoretically.

Seventh. What is to be done?

For these people power is something of the past.

But for power these people CANNOT BE SOMETHING OF THE PAST!

When such people become the majority (not an mathematical majority, but an ENERGETIC majority) then power will become something of the past. This is as inevitable as the change from night to day.

But even when these people do not become an energetic (and moreover not an mathematical )majority, then still power will NOT KNOW how to ‘live’ with these people.

Because power has become used to being power. That it is Important, Loved. Even being hated is still better than being ‘of the past’, than being nothing. This feeling – even among a part (but considerable part!) of society – is painful, intolerable for power. It doesn’t fit in the worldview of power, in its self-image.

Eight. The consequences.

When power will ban further meetings – it will risk serious repercussions.

Because these people are NOT REVOLUTIONARIES. These are peaceful people. YOU CANNOT SUPPRESS THEM.

A revolutionary is PREPARED to be suppressed. He WANTS to be suppressed. That is his goal. “To fight and to seek, to find and to hide.”

A peaceful person does not understand ‘HOW HE CAN BE SUPPRESSED’ ?! How can he be prohibited to gather peacefully? What are we? Prisoners? Slaves to power? Is Putin perhaps a Tsar? Or Stalin?

And a ban on SUCH meetings, NOBODY in the country will understand. SUCH A ban is no longer part of the unwritten contract between people and power.

And revelations about ‘the agents of that old woman Clinton’ will have no effect. These 35.-40.000 agents of Clinton will not believe such revelations. Nor will their 4 million friends and friends of friends.

Ninth. This is why power is now facing its most serious challenge. Because this challenge is not REVOLUTIONARY, because this challenge is PEACEFUL.

These people without words KNOW that it is THEIR city. THEIR country. Here THEY are not guests, not lackeys, not slaves to power. If they are to be clearly explained: ‘No guys, you are seriously mistaken! You are our ‘slaves’. You are our lackeys. You are nobody and we have not called upon you to appear. Then the reaction of the people, tens, hundred thousands, will be simple.


Tenth. These people do not want a Revolution. They don’t think of a revolution. And they do not support revolutionaries. As long as power will not provoke them – the people.

Which brings me to the conclusion.

When power will react responsibly (and I know very levelheaded people in the echelons of power) then it will adopt a formula of peaceful coexistence. Peaceful meetings. 24/7 if necessary.

And from there it is only one step to ‘A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT COUNTRY’.

The best of that what has been growing in this country in all these years has freed itself and has come out into the streets. Now power needs to ADAPT [to the intelligent middle class it helped to create, JM] Otherwise, otherwise, see the above.

And ‘to adapt’ will mean TO SCALE DOWN.  To understand clearly that power isn’t Tsarist at all. That it isn’t absolute. And that power by far is NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT part of society. Even when it usurps 90% of the TV broadcasts and has a lot of money.

Eleventh. When power does realize that, then a completely peaceful, even BENIGN evolution of the regime and deconstruction of the vertical will begin or should begin.

It is impossible to estimate how many years that process will take. 

But I hope that it will be IRREVERSIBLE

Because these changes in the mentality of the people – of many people – has ALREADY become irreversible. And power has seen it for the first time.

And not only power. I for example was also pleasantly surprised with what I saw today.

The original can be found at

  • Kalle Kniivilä

    Good text. I agree with much of what he is saying. But вменяемый is not exactly “adaptive”, as you translate it, it is “rational” or, juridically speaking, “sane, responsible for one’s actions”.

    The post scriptum on Surkov is a bit interesting, by the way, maybe you could even translate it?

    • Joera Mulders

      Thanks Kalle, I made some changes.

      Speaking of Surkov .. What do you think about

      • Kalle Kniivilä

        Well, it is obviously not him. Also, not very intelligent, so definitively not him. Or have I missed something obvious?