The Atlantic reported about the "fate of Russia" and Russia's paranoia, deadlock and stagnation both among of white revolutionaries and Putin's counterrevolutionaries. The magazine says in particular:
"A 28-year-old Ilya Yashin is a key figure of the Solidarnost, or Solidarity movement.
"If I'm going to a demonstration", he said, "then I go with friends. Otherwise, it's important not to get paranoid". He casually opened his computer and showed vicious, profanity-laced threats he has received via his page on vKontakte, a popular Russian social networking site. "This has been going on for five or six years. I'm used to it".
He summed up the changes in fortune of the Soviet-era protest movement, which petered along in the late 1980s -- until 1991's reactionary coup attempt brought a half-million people onto Moscow's streets and effectively broke the Communists' grip on power.
"You can't run a marathon in a sprint, you have to pace yourself. We will have the next action in December, since we don't want to tire people out.
The Coordinating Council will be the legitimate organ of the opposition and will represent the demands of society to the government. Some 30,000 have registered to vote, and we have about 250 candidates for 45 seats. Putin has said there's no one to talk to in the opposition. Well, the Coordinating Council will be the one he can talk to.
The council was not to be just another committee staffed with that eternal bane of Russia, bureaucrats. We want to use the council to form a new kind of political culture. Those who want to be on it must show all the time that they are engaging in politics, not just that they have a well-known name. We have to keep our politicians in shape. It was not for nothing that Navalny said that we have to go to demonstrations as we go to our jobs.
We're now focusing on social justice, on the huge income disparity we now have. Seventy percent of Russians live on $ 500 a month while a few people buy yachts and airplanes. And we have constantly rising utility bills. We have to talk about the issues worrying average people. Before, the opposition talked about what worried it.
We have to find a balance between issues of social justice and political demands. Reducing corruption ("corruption cannot be eliminated but it can be cut back") and reforming the country's graft-seeking security organs will also be priorities. But we need a free media to fight corruption, and we don't have one. ... And the Duma still hasn't ratified the UN Convention on Fighting Corruption".
There is, to name a few of its top figures, the staunch nationalist Navalny, the former Stalinist Sergey Udaltsov, the democrat Kasparov, and, of course, Yashin, who described himself to me as a "European-style liberal". But they are not even trying to settle on a leader now.
According to a political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center, Masha Lipman (not to be confused with Masha Gessen, all these "Russian beauties" coyly call themselves Mashas but not Marias - KC), the state hopes it will intimidate protesters.
She spoke of the "pact of non-intrusion": the state rules with divine right without supervision from the population in return for the government's non-interference in their lives.
"This pact has been broken", said Lipman. "First the population broke the pact, coming out into the streets, but then Putin broke it himself, with his interference in Russians' daily lives by forcing the church on them".
60 to 70% of the population in fear of the unknown and a desire for stability forms part of the "deep reserves" Putin possesses, which otherwise include the military, the security services, and the courts -- all of which Putin has commandeered and which he can deploy against the opposition at will -- plus state-controlled media. Faced with such resources, the opposition's look puny indeed.
The absence of a single candidate of paramount stature, the abstract nature of the opposition's plans (free elections, in effect, being abstract in a country that has never had them, or not had them for long), and the lack of a gripping vision for a post-Putin Russia, to say nothing of a deep-rooted reluctance to confront a state considered, at least in the past, omnipotent and dangerous, all coalesce to provide powerful disincentives for the development of a truly country-wide opposition movement.
"The country needs an opposition, that would excite the provinces" -- where a majority of Russians live, and where the Internet is only just arriving -- "and not just the Moscow elite", Lipman said. "The young want to live as Europe does, as they see it when they travel. But most others, especially away from big cities, want to live as they always have, they want power to remain sacred".
She hesitated to use the word "opposition", but preferred the term "civil protestors". An opposition would "have people who come out and say I want power, I want to be president, vote for me. But they shy away from that".
A split that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev inadvertently engendered in the elite led to the breakup of the Soviet Union, and such a turn of events could theoretically force Putin out today, but given that the Kremlin still controls the security services and the courts, "It would be extremely risky for the elite to unite in public in opposing Putin", said Lipman.
There is a dilemma. If the opposition appears unready to transform itself dynamically and seize the popular imagination with a bold vision of a new Russia, or even put forth a single candidate willing to challenge Putin directly, and Putin's hope that he can edge Russians back into a Brezhnev-era quiescence is unrealistic, then a stalemate will come about.
Using force against the demonstrators would be problematic, according to Lipman: "Putin can't take Russia back, won't become a new Ivan the Terrible".
Times have changed and Russians have evolved. But she allows that, "if the state doesn't have the resources to launch mass terror, it could make a huge change if it arrested 30 oppositionists. The other oppositionists may not be bent on suicide and could decide to go abroad".
Change, then, will end up pivoting on unforeseeable, possibly catastrophic events -- a worldwide recession, for example, that sends oil prices plummeting and crashes the Russian economy.
Kasparov has voiced such an eventuality, telling me that "this regime cannot survive on oil at a barrel".
Yashin is agnostic about where change will come from: "No one knows what will finally make Putin go. In December the falsified elections set people off, but then we've haven't had real elections for 10 years (in fact, free elections never existed in this country - KC). We can't know".
Department of Monitoring