Will the Russian Winter turn into an Arab Spring? In 1991, the world watched as the Soviet Union disappeared after a failed coup to overthrow President Mikhail Gorbachev. During the past month, the world has been wondering if Russia is in the middle of another government upheaval that may change the course of history. It is too soon to determine whether Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev will continue to hold their country's top two leadership positions; however, I predict that they will not lead as long as they had anticipated.
On February 11, 2011, I discussed some of the underlying reasons why Egypt's President Mubarak was forced from power. I stated: "[i]t was a combination of Mubarak's dictatorial rule, routine police brutality, a suspended constitution, and poor living conditions for the average Egyptian that fueled the revolution. However, social media platforms and technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and texting enabled the Egyptian people to political crowdsource and communicate with each other to discuss their unhappiness with Mubarak's 30 year reign and to coordinate a strategy to try to create change."
Russia has some of the same problems that plagued Egypt. Former President Putin and current President Medvedev are seen as dictators, there is rampant police brutality and political corruption, recent constitutional changes that have benefited Putin and Medvedev, and major economic challenges. These issues plus social media missteps by Medvedev and Putin have fueled anger that may foment change. According to published reports, Medvedev/Putin may have also utilized the Russian secret police to try to block protestors from using social media. This is the same tactic that Egypt's Mubarak tried and it failed miserably.
The international community first noticed that the Russian people may have finally grown weary of Putin's stranglehold over the Russian government in late November during a mixed martial arts fight between Russia's Fedor Emelianenko and America's Jeff "The Snowman" Monson. After the fight Putin stepped into the ring to congratulate the winner and the crowd booed Putin. According to the BBC, the scene was uploaded to YouTube and subsequently viewed more than 2.5 million times.
In Russia, booing Putin during a public event was seen as a major signal that there may be underlying problems with his iron grip on the country. Subsequently, during the recent election there were numerous allegations that Putin's party may have participated in electoral fraud. Widespread anger and protests against Putin are increasing daily and instead of properly addressing the concerns of the Russian people Putin is generally ignoring them and acting as a Czar. Therefore, I would not be surprised if the Russian Winter turns into an Arab Spring.
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Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.