Mass street protests by themselves won’t bring regime change in Russia, as Belarus and Venezuela showed, Golosov says

Protests in Moscow in 2019. Photo: Livejournal 

Russia

Mass protests in isolation wouldn’t be sufficient to overthrow Vladimir Putin and bring regime change, political scientist Grigory Golosov says. They would succeed in doing so if and only if there were other changes, including the appearance of divisions within the elite and a willingness of a significant portion of that elite to challenge him and his system.

The political scientist at St. Petersburg’s European University argues that this is the lesson of the events in Belarus and even more in Venezuela. If a leader like Putin retains control of the siloviki and the loyalty or at least subservience of the elites, he can withstand even the most massive forms of street protest.

Consequently, those who seek regime change must not assume they will achieve it by mass mobilization. Instead, they must consider the entire political scene and recognize that under modern conditions, a state can resist even the largest manifestation of popular unhappiness in the form of huge street protests.

At the same time, Golosov continues, such people and those in the regime they want to change must recognize two other aspects of this situation. On the one hand, shifts against the regime can be triggered by apparently minor and unpredictable events, a pattern that means when the situation begins to change, it can prove transforming very quickly.

And on the other hand, despite the pessimism of most that such change will lead even more nationalistic forces to come to power, there is good reason to think that that will not be the case because the nationalists have every reason to support the existing powers and thus are unlikely to be the moving force for change, except under the most unusual of conditions.

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