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Specter of "velvet revolutions" in Russia


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vasily Kononenko.)

For months politicians wondered if "color" revolutions could spread to Russia, but the probability was viewed as minimal. Now we can say that it has grown immeasurably.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who tried to avoid making statements on this delicate subject, has admitted that there is a danger of destabilization in Russia. He said firmly at a meeting with members of the Council for Assistance to Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights: "We are against external financing of political activities in Russia... No self-respecting state permits this, and we will not permit this either."

The report of a participant in the meeting did not mention political organizations or color revolutions, but the inherent idea of attracting foreign funds to public activities in Russia was apparent, and the president spoke about the danger of bringing incendiary revolutionary bombs to the country. "Foreign money is allocated for specific political activities in Russia, including with regard to the most acute problems," he said. "Alexander Zhukov [vice-premier of the government] has informed me of this."

The meeting participants later admitted that Putin was near irritation when he spoke about this.

I can understand the president's emotions. The elite groups of the former Soviet states were shattered by the revolution in Georgia and especially by the "orange" events in Ukraine. Such brazen interference in the affairs of a major European state [Ukraine], not a banana republic, was impossible to imagine even in a political detective story. Democratic slogans were used there to seize power in an undemocratic manner, as the Russian Foreign Ministry said soon afterwards.

Roman Bezsmertny, the Ukrainian vice premier and a manager of Yushchenko's presidential campaign, has said to the Guardian: "Our goal was actually a peaceful coup d'etat... The US State Department spent $67 million in Ukraine in the past two years."

Valery Khomyakov, the general director of the National Strategy Council who witnessed the change of power in Ukraine, told RIA that the Ukrainian opposition was financed and guided through the office of the U.S.-based Freedom House.

The events in Kyrgyzstan confirmed that money and young people fomented by the demand for their contribution were the catalysts of revolutionary explosions.

The recent summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization gave a consolidated reply to the challenge of political subversion experts. It called on the U.S. in no uncertain terms to set the date for its withdrawal from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The six-state organization clearly wants not so much to get rid of foreign military bases as to preclude the interference of American non-governmental foundations in the affairs of sovereign countries.

Has Russian society been prepared for such social experiments? The recent polls show that over 40% of Russians think a "color" revolution is possible in their country. An explosion can be provoked by the people's disappointment in the inability of economic growth to improve their life. The polls also show that 3-4% of the population might participate in public disobedience street actions.

If the figures are correct, the modest 3-4% actually means millions of people, or more than enough for "the color revolution technology." Power in Ukraine was changed by fewer than 100,000 supporters of the "orange" opposition who gathered in the main square of Kiev.

But the Russian political scientists with whom I have talked do not dramatize the situation in the remaining months before the 2007 parliamentary election and the 2008 presidential race. They say that the Russians' historical and genetic memory of the past wars is still fresh and will prevent millions from plunging into the madness of "a third Russian revolution."

Vladislav Surkov, deputy chief of the presidential staff, spoke without panic in a recent interview about alleged preparations for a revolution in Russia: "This is true, but I do not view this as a serious threat."

Psychologists and historians are convinced that it is almost impossible to bend the mind of Russians whose deep patriotic roots run for generations. An attempt to bring revolution to Russia under the guise of "the import of democracy" will provoke only a negative reaction, anti-Americanism and anti-anything else.

But politically active Russians still cannot forget about "the specter of the revolution" despite the concerted assurances by respected experts, probably because there is no unifying idea or an understandable development goal in society. Russia's future will ultimately depend on the solution of this problem.

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