Occupy Putin and Russia

Vladimir Putin has reared his ugly head yet again, not that it really ever went astray. His presence always loomed over current President Dmitri Medvedev, and it has been highly speculated that Putin never stopped calling the shots.

Stepping down after serving two terms as President of the Russian Federation, Putin lived only miles away from the Kremlin, and has had the high title of Prime Minister. To many, President Medvedev served only as a marionette puppet to the power-hungry Putin while he was forced to step down due to term limits. While Russia’s future now looks to be plagued yet again by years of Putin’s domineering ways and by his shifty and crooked actions, it looks as if unhappy Russians are attempting — though not in the most structured way — to tackle the issue known as Putin.

However, from what I have seen since Putin’s debauched victory in the race for president, the planned marches and protests against him have been anticlimactic. I felt greatly titillated when last week I read in the newspaper that a large part of the youth and the middle-class were planning large opposition rallies. My heart began to flutter with excitement for the down-on-its-luck country, and images of the Arab Spring began to conjure up in my mind.  I was thinking, “They’re going to overthrow Putin and get him out of office before he is even inducted in!”

Despite highly publicized plans of large protests in the major Russian cities, the number of protesters has dwindled staggeringly to less than 20,000 people compared to much larger crowds when protesters were attempting to deter Putin from running for office. Protesters in the past week’s events have been targeted, as expected, by police forces, and arrested over any miniscule act that wobbles out of legal boundaries, including unsanctioned marches — or marches that last longer than legally agreed to. The Russian people are becoming disillusioned and made unsure of what actions to take, and it seems that if this lack of action continues to transpire, Putin will yet again play the pawns in his game of power.

This man, who possesses the Hemingway/Chuck Norris complex, who enjoys fighting bears, flying jets, shooting guns and practicing judo, and who makes this tough man activity all highly public knowledge (through my own speculation to get people to fear him), also likes playing the master of Russia. He has already served Russia in eight years of governmental exploitation and has failed to help his greatly impoverished people. He limited freedom of expression and the rights of speech, he rid of Russia’s independent national TV channel and it was on his watch that Chechnyan people suffered horrendously in the war on Chechnya that he declared. He has failed any attempts at making Russia a democracy, a country of its people.

I love the protest spirit that is sweeping throughout international borders, and it has proven to be successful in places such as Libya and Egypt even though some countries struggle to execute efficient and successful protests.

Just as the Occupy Wall Street movement, however, these Russian protests are quickly losing steam. The people are too divided on what they want to accomplish, with some supporting a Communist approach to the country while others want to rid of land, while others want less of a privatized government. Nobody is united in Russia, and unless people quickly rebound from their consternation over Putin’s victory, and began to organize and work toward some agreed-on, common goal, nothing will continue to happen, and Putin will have his way with the country.

So, to the Russian people, hopefully you can assemble in democratic fashion and either get Putin to play fair or that you force him to step down through Arab Spring-esque style. And to Putin … you never really left, so we cannot really ever have missed you!


Stephanie Weldy is a third-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at weldys@uci.edu.