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WHITE REVOLUTION. Two Russias clashed in Astrakhan

Publication time: 20 April 2012, 12:04
Financial Times published a report from Astrakhan of its Moscow correspondent Courtney Weaver, entitled "Caspian discontent lures Moscow activists".

"After a long Moscow winter, Russia's opposition activists have slapped on the sunscreen and are leaving the capital for 30 degree sunshine and a fresh audience of protesters on the shores of the Caspian sea", the newspaper writes.

Weaver describes a situation in the city, where opposition activists are going in from the capital, to support Oleg Shein, who for more than a month continues hunger strike in protest against the results of elections of the mayor of the city:

"Celebrities of the Moscow opposition movement, such as the glamorous socialite Ksenia Sobchak, began descending on this sleepy shipping city last week, bringing droves of the capital's 20-something hipsters with them.

"My father refers to it as political tourism - people travelling to wherever there is outrage", jokes Yuri Suetin, a young computer specialist who, like many of the activists, had opted to travel 28 hours to Astrakhan by train, paying the fare out of his own pocket.

Exporting Moscow's so-called "revolution of the satisfied" to impoverished corners of Russia would appear to be a risky bet, especially in a region such as Astrakhan where the average monthly salary is just Rb17,000 ($ 575).

Yet so far the caravanning opposition members have been surprisingly well-received. Last weekend they helped stage a two-hour rally and march near the Astrakhan Kremlin, attracting a crowd of about 3,000 - a victory given the city's population of half a million - while locals joke that the Muscovites' pocketbooks will soon help it replace St Petersburg as Russia's second biggest tourist destination".

Mr. Shein himself, who lost 12kg during the strike, has taken on near-martyr status. "He is our Jesus Christ", the newspaper quoted Oktai Magomedov, a local business owner. Another woman, according to Weaver, bursts into tears at the mention of Mr. Shein's name.

The newspaper quoted local residents who told how they had been forced to attend a rival rally in support of Mr. Shein's opponent. They also told the newspaper about how the business leaders of the city asked its employees to show photos of ballots with the "correct" markings, filmed on mobile phones.

However, the main problem of the opposition in Astrakhan is the mood of the supporters of Shein, who with great pessimism have attitude not only to the possibility of appointing by re-elections the head of city government, but also in general the possibility of change.

Alexsei Navalny told the newspaper that this pessimism "is a problem of all Russians. They don't believe in their own power".

"In Astrakhan two Russias have clashed, Oleg Shein said in an interview with Financial Times. - The Russia of swindlers and thieves, and the people who want order. People are ready for a change".

It is to be recalled that Astrakhan (aka Haji-Tarkhan) is Russian-captured Muslim land, which does not need any Russia at all.

Department of Monitoring
Kavkaz Center



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