Russians are protesting! Part 3: Putin has options, so don’t expect change

Symposium introduction: On Sunday, the unexpected happened in Russia. Across the country, coordinated anti-corruption protests drew tens of thousands of people. Ostensibly these were not directed not at President Vladimir Putin (although as you’ll see below, opinions differ.) Rather, opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for the protests in a video released online accusing Prime Minister (and ex-president) Dmitry Medvedev of a spectacular, and corrupt, accumulation of wealth, demanding an investigation. Protests struck in dozens of cities, widely dispersed, led not just by pensioners but also young people.

To understand these surprising protests, I asked experts on Russian politics to join an online symposium, answering:

Do the protests that took place across 99 cities in Russia last Sunday signify a meaningful change in Russian politics is likely? Why or why not?

For this post, the third in the symposium, we hear from Sarah Wilson Sokhey, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

— Joshua Tucker

The Russian protests that recently took place are unlikely to signify a meaningful change in Russia politics unless they also create opposition to Putin. The protests were organized around a documentary — “On Vam Ni Dimon (Don’t Call Him Dimon)” — produced by Alexei Navalny and his supporters implicating Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in wide-reaching corruption and a web of high-end real estate including a vineyard in southern Russia.

Although the allegations are shocking, long-standing complaints about elite corruption in Russia have not, to date, sparked a successful opposition movement in Russia. Notably, the corruption accusations omit Putin, at least…

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