By Anna Borshchevskaya, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Anna Borshchevskaya is an assistant director at the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. The views expressed are solely her own.
On September 15, another wave of anti-Putin protests shook Russia – the latest in a series that started in December 2011, making these the largest and most enduring protests in Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Only three days later, the Kremlin expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from Russia, depriving civil society and pro-democracy organizations of funding they depend on, revealing how frightened Russian President Vladimir Putin really is that Russians prefer freedom over his authoritarian rule.
As I walked past the orthodox synagogue on Bolshaya Bronnaya in Moscow this month prior to the protests, I recalled that around the time I left Russia as a refugee, after the Soviet Union collapsed, vigilante anti-Semitic groups carried out several attacks on the synagogue, including a failed bombing attempt. For many Russians, freedom carries a risk of disorder that they look to their government to uphold, and the government exploits that fear.
In many respects, Russia is a different place than it was when the Berlin Wall fell, and many understand now that they live in a country where corruption and lawlessness starts at the top, from a small ruling elite; that ultimately it is this problem that Russia needs to overcome if it is to evolve into a stable, prosperous, developed nation.
But many also do not see how taking part in a protest will change the situation. Nor do they see many alternatives – either accepting the status quo and hoping for the best, or leaving the country – something so many Russians, especially the younger generation, are doing.
Historically, Russians view political activism with suspicion. Since the time of the czars it was not only safer for an average person to stay out of politics – it was also more proper. Politics was for the less pure of heart. The idea of freedom, in the Western sense, is also foreign and frightening, particularly for the older generation, and carries the risk of dangerous extremist sentiments.
So I could not help but feel glad to see so many people peacefully demonstrating in Moscow on September 15; to see that they are willing, despite the centuries of history to the contrary, to demand basic human dignity and respect from their government, that they are no longer willing to be fooled into sacrificing their freedom under the slogan of stability and order.
In the end, Russian people have to take responsibility for their country. Respect from others ultimately comes from self-respect, and those Russians who are peacefully demanding a Russia without Putin – who have been doing so since last December – show just that.
True, such sentiments are so far more prevalent in large cities, and a small minority among the protestors has less than peaceful aims. But ultimately, it is impossible to accurately access across the country the level of support for Putin, although some of the latest polls show a steady decline.
The majority of Russians get their news from Kremlin-controlled television. If they had easy access to truly independent news sources, particularly television, which is easiest for most Russians to access, it’s highly possible that over time this situation would change.
Putin knows this. This is why he expelled USAID from Russia, and why he wants to silence pro-democracy voices among his own people.
And he feels he can, because Western leaders were largely silent regarding USAID’s expulsion. The Obama administration still thinks that private conversations and public silence will win true cooperation from the Kremlin. But everything Putin has done since the U.S.-Russia “reset” shows that they will not. Without public pressure, the Kremlin only cooperates on issues that are in its own interest, to the detriment of the Russian people, but also American interests.
Astonishingly, when the Russian Foreign Ministry publically criticized USAID’s work in Russia as raising “serious questions,” the U.S. State Department said little or nothing in defense. Western silence shows Russian civil society organizations that they cannot rely on Western support. This kills their hope and erodes American values and traditions, and shows other authoritarian leaders that U.S. leadership is a pushover. The sustained protests in Russia show that Russians themselves increasingly wish to see a democratic and peaceful Russia that respects its citizens. This ought to be reason enough for the West to speak up.
"Democracy, free speech...." boring to hear that coming from Americans.... It sounds like an old broken vinyl record....
I think that USA Aid needs to focus their attention on USA and Europe where civil liberties are totally eroded and CNN, Fox, NBS and BBC etc have nothing to say. Just look at the treatment of OWS Protestors. Where is the coverage and Government tolerance. I check Aljazeera, CNN, BBC and RT and can tell you that RT is the only one that is non-biased.
US will not allow organisations like USAID to propagate hate and anti-patriotic ideas on their soil!
OWS is a bunch of cry babies. The rest of America can agree. Why feed into bad behavior. It seems like people don't care to see the big picture or the problem from all angles. Perhaps they are selfish... only seeking the gratification from peers or to to fill some void in there life. There are somethings in life you can not cry and whine about. OWS is an example of this.
"another wave of anti-Putin protests shook Russia" seems more like a wishful thinking than a description of reality.
Here is the quote from one of the opposition figures:"This rally gave a clearly negative answer to the most important question: whether the opposition movement can make a comeback after the long summer pause. The protest movement we see today quite visibly lacks the dynamics, the mood and the drive we witnessed last December...They don't know what to do next. All they can do is chant their old anti-Putin incantations instead of offering a program of action. "
It's autumn and soon it'll be winter in Russia – not only in meteorological sense. The Kremlin is intensifying its crackdown on protests, to reinforce its control. In a clampdown on dissent, the lawmaker Gennady Gudkov was expelled from the Parliament and ordinary citizens were charged on flimsy evidence. Putin maintained the opposition was not a target of the police, it would just have to comply with Russian law. It's sad that he is no longer an unifying figure, a leader of all Russians. On the contrary he's increasingly suppressing his own people.
"This kills their hope and erodes American values and traditions, and shows other authoritarian leaders that U.S. leadership is a pushover". The Russians had overthrown their tyrannical tsars in 1917. So if they are determined to get rid of their leaders, they could. It just takes time to build a bomb and blow it up.
US is authoritarian. US has to go down the wire soon. The problem for the world right now is US non other country in the world. Why in the world US is trying put fingure in every bodys ass in the world
""another wave of anti-Putin protests shook Russia" seems more like a wishful thinking than a description of reality."
What Anna meant to say was: "...another wave of anti-Russian santiment shook US and Israel..."
Today Russia is a strong and prospering country is Just because of Putin. Everyone knows what happened in 90's in Russia. US and EU started robbing Russia on the name of free market supporting all sorts of oligarch and criminals. After Putin came to power it got stopped. The EU and US are so angry with Putin that he is not allowing them robbing Russia, rather he is working to stabilize that country. in 90's on the name of free market all the well, prospering companies are sold. Even the aircraft manufacturing industry which use to be the biggest in the world before the fall of USSR, the EU and US made it go bankrupt. Any country can prosper if the industries are doing well, and people can get jobs. if they collapse that part of the country then everyone gets un employed and unrest will happen. Putin is able to stop that disaster and now the companies are growing. For instance in the parliament and president elections happened US and EU tried to manipulate the election and say those elections are fraud. That is why Putin put webcams in the pooling stations. Are the elections in US and EU that transparent. No one knows what is happening in those countries elections, if they are good or fraud. They have to first clean their ass before cleaning other peoples ass. I recently voted in Quebec elections, i voted to PQ i don't know French and when i saw the media they are writing all sorts of lies only. I voted previously to liberal party and they became rubber stamp for American policy and then i voted NDP they did not get change to become rubber stamp for US. In the Quebec Conservative party media did all efforts to defeat PQ but people like me protected PQ. In US people are slaves to Media and media is owned by few dirty people and they are manipulating the opinion polls to manipulate minds of the people. US and EU talks about democracy, human rights, free speech. they don't have democracy in those countries. If anybody talks or does which they don't like they are labeled as terrorists. US and EU are involved in numerous human rights violations, killing millions of people in middle east, and developing countries if they speak against them. Simple example is my wife is Russian and Canadian embassy in Moscow refused her visa numerous times knowing i am Canadian. recently they refused my mother in laws visa also. Not only her, they are refusing 90% of visas to manipulate the peoples minds and so that people will go against Russian government. Is that honesty, that is fraud. To get visa for my wife i have to drag the Canadian embassy in Moscow and the Stephen Harper to the street then only he gave. I know if i tell the truth, they will paint me as terrorist, but i don't care. That is what is US, EU and Canada is standing for. At least if they open their eyes and stop spending money for wars and killing people in other countries and manipulating other governments, instead of reducing benefits for their own citizens US, EU and Canada will go bankrupt.
a lot truth in that
"... I recalled that around the time I left Russia as a refugee, after the Soviet Union collapsed, ..." – lets see, you have left Russia as a refugee AFTER the Soviet Union collapsed. But as a refugee running away from FROM WHOM? Communism/KGB/etc were no longer a factor, and in fact irrelevant at that moment. So the new excuse for seeking political asylum was the alleged raise of antisemitism in Russia in the beginning of 199x. Which basically a straight lie - there was no raise of antisemitism there at that moment; some raise of anti-semitic moods in Russia became noticeable only toward the very end of 199x and continuing into 200x after it became clear that all economic power and property was seized by people like Berezovsky, Abramovich, Khodarkovsky, Vekselberg, Friedman, Deripaska, ..., you name them, but at that time you was safely in the United States - however this lie was convincing enough for INS to give you political asylum.
Let me make it straight: you left Russia at that moment because you got an opportunity to do so and you believed that there were better prospects in the United States. As simple as that. Seeking political asylum was merely a technicality, a ticket to go there. It has nothing to do with politics, KGB, Communism, Antisemitism, whatever. I do not blame you for that: you want a better life - there is nothing wrong with pursuing it.
However, now, 20 years later, you are trying to pretend being an expert on Russia and found a new role for yourself and no scapegoat to blame: Putin and his assault on democracy. The truth is that you know nothing about modern day Russia and nothing about Putin. You cannot even make expose and make correct accents about what is right and what is wrong with Putin and his team, resorting to the general phrases about "The majority of Russians get their news from Kremlin-controlled television. If they had easy access to truly independent news sources, particularly television, which is easiest for most Russians to access, it’s highly possible that ... Putin knows this. So he expelled USAID".
Get lost. Forget Russia. Find something POSITIVE to do in your life. There are plenty of better opportunities in the United States about what to do in your life. Sitting and complaining about Russia/Putin/Democracy (or lack thereof) is not the most attractive was of them.
To deny that anti-Semitism in Russia is a problem is to lie. To be Jewish in Russia has been difficult for centuries, and it still is a very real reason for thousands of Jews to seek to live elsewhere. But, it's not the only reason people leave Russia and try to make a better life. Thousands of Orthodox Christians and Muslims and atheists realize that they can live better elsewhere, and that until the pervasive corruption at every level in Russian society is eliminated, the prospect for future freedom and prosperity remains dim.
Here is the viewpoint from chief rabbi in Russia .
“Politicians in today’s Russia “would not risk taking anti-Semitic or a so-called anti-Zionist stand,” Berel Lazar, one of Russia’s two chief rabbis in Russia said. “Any impartial observer should acknowledge Putin’s big role in this.”As president and prime minister, Lazar said, Putin “paid great attention to the needs of our community and related to us with a deep respect.”Thousands of parents send their children to Jewish schools and camps, and new synagogues and community centers are being added every year. There even are new museums opening in Moscow.
Although I am one of those who left USSR 20+ years ago, I have to agree with most of your points here. No matter how we dislike (or like) the current state of affairs in Russia, we should not pretend to be experts on this subject and teach other what to do.
There are two distinctly different groups of modern Russians: small number of those who understand, what mess they are in right now, and the majority who don't get it and don't care. Explaining it to the first group is preaching to the choir, trying to talk to the second is a waste of time.
I thank G-d every day I don't live there anymore, but I am not going to push my personal opinion down anyone's throat.
Things could only change when Russians themselves will change, and no convincing from outside will help. There is no point to discuss taste of strawberries with those who never tried them. Same thing is true for democracy and civil rights.
Russia and the West have more common positive relationships that bounded the Two Countries together.
However, the flame makers are some Jewish, who uses anti-semetism as a cover-up and as excuse to cause war.
During the late 1960's, the Jewish Complaint anti-semitism to get accesses into the 'Manhattan Project'. Once they got accesses, they stole most of the secret formulas and Nuclear Components. Then, they installed Nuclear in MidEast and they sold some Nuclear components to China and North-Korea, to put America and Americans at risk.
Jewish are the difficult Foster child. They were problems to God, and now for.....
the person who handed over jesus is a jew. they are not to be trusted. you just name it, first world war happened becasue of jews, second world war happened becasue of jews. the peroblems in middle east are not solved because of jews. They are insane, the problem fo US is not its policy it is because of the jew's supportive policy
The first people who left after the fall of USSR are jews. ordinary russians are not very wealthy. The jews in russia become rich by cheating and robbing the country. If you see in the oligarch 70% of them are jews in russia. Why, is that the ordanary jews are useless or they are good for nothing. The ordanary russians are honest and trustwothy people, they dont cheat or robb others.
Politics, politics, politics! Just starting to write on a mess like this makes one sick. Those who are well off are the last ones to rock the boat. It's the ones who are have-nots that protest. That is the truth about Russia and about the Easterm Europe, today. The only reality that few seem to notice. It has been like this for thousands of years in these areas! Is it worth even writing on a case that is unsolvable? Let the Russians have the rulers they deserve! I mean the haves. The others, want we or not, will continue to suffer for another thousand years! That's the way those "cultures" are. The have nots are are at the mercy of God and of fate! They survive because there is a God!
I have reevaluated the thesis that "less is more" in a political context as applied to India and continue to agree with its premise. Empowering subjugated minorities in India by splitting it into smaller states would trigger Uber economic demand for western nations who have given so much financial and technological aid to India with no return to show for the investment. Central Asian States (CAS) are a case in point on this successful approach. The Russians strongly endorse the breakup of India.
You seem to be talking BJP language. You dont know any thhing about indian history. Cast system is a devil and at any time if india has to break up nothing else than cast system for india. Russia is a good friend of india. West always robbed india. Till second world war British robbed and now it is US turn to rob india. Russia never expected any thing in return from india it also sent the first india into space be proud of it dont try to be a slave for US policies since you live in US
India is still trying to shed its communist skin but we will never let it forget that india stood against the western world by siding with Soviets in the cold war.
While the West stood with nuclear Pakistan. Another fact the world will not forget.
The author works for, among others: "[s]he also provides monthly analysis for the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth’s Operational Environment Watch." (Her bio at the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council). In other words, US military intelligence. I believe this should answer some questions related to her bias. I get the larger point of the article, but throwing around phrases like: "I left Russia as a refugee" in the 90's does not help. There was no anti-semitism in Russia in the 90's – that's for sure. I knew an aquaintaince in the US who used to write fake accounts of persecution for modest pay to help gain refuge status for some of the new jewish immigrants. He does not do that anymore, and does well now with other pursuits, but that was he did back then. I think the US goverment kind of knew it was not really true, but they closed their eyes on it at the time. The US government does not grant refuge status to jewish people from Russia on the basis of persecution any longer.
...I am sorry for the US Military Intelligence. They should hire more competent people next time. Otherwise too many false expectations about how people would respond to certain actions, and ultimately too many screw ups. Especially in Middle Asia.
As far as making fake horror stories to gain political asylum, it was a standard mode of operation for Immigration lawyers back in the beginning of 199x, perhaps earlier as well, but I am too young to judge. INS was backlogged for several years any way, so anyone can claim it, get a temporal work and residence permit, live, and hopefully nothing happens for the next 7 years. After this statutory limit has passed, write an application and get a green card automatically. Not just Jewish people, but all kind of people took advantage of it. Sometimes resulting in very comical situations, e.g., a daughter of a prominent Soviet geologist who spent a significant portion of his life working in various expeditions in Siberia claimed that she spent most of her life in Siberia ...which is actually 100% true. As word "Siberia" by itself brings horrors to INS, she got a political asylum, no questions asked. Eventually she ended up being a movie producer in Los Angeles.
The political asylum industry came abruptly to the end in 1996, when Clinton's reforms were implemented. Since then all asylum claims must be filed withing one year after the person arrives to the United States, and are adjudicated on merits very quickly (within a year after filing). No more automatic temporal work permits.
As for the expulsion of USAID, at least it saves some money for US taxpayers. The efficiency of its work in Russia was pretty much close to total loss during the last several years any way, so nobody needs to cry now. It US wants to have some influence (in good sense of this word) in Russia, there are better ways to achieve it. Through business, or cooperation, for example. Besides it is under way already, so nobody needs to cry about USAID.
Anna Borshchevskaya! There is such profession – the Homeland to sell (есть такая профессия – Родину прОдавать)...
Anna Borshevskaya is a traitor to Russia who makes a living working against Russian interests.
USAID looks for ways around Russian ban http://bit.ly/PC2qPX
This is a blatant attempt to exploit the American desire to patronize other countries and feel superior. Borshchevskaya is preying on the narcissistic delusion that America - Omniscient, God-like, Born Without Sin - must Save the World. Saving the World usually takes the form of bombing the world, overthrowing popular leaders like Putin, killing countless innocent people, and dictating Fredomocracy to the survivors.
The "demonstrations" against Putin are of steadily diminishing size, and are more like picnics than protests. Borshchevskaya want us to believe that Russia is being "shaken" by these picnics. Well, shaking with laughter maybe. Russia has more freedom than America, these days, and the standard of living is rising. Borshchevskaya may be secretly envious.
Установление демократии в России национальная еврейская забава.
Не так ли?
Did I miss the UN meeting where the US was given political and moral authority over the rest of the world? What in the Hell business of yours is it how Russia is governed. It is NONE of our business. We not only do not need to speak out, we have no right to do so. Your arrogant assumption that the American way is the only legitimate way reminds me of "the white man's burden" which our grandparents used to make so much trouble in the world.
Well said. THIS is exactly the problem. America is in no position, morally or economically, in Russia. Go protect your interests in the Middle East and gtfo of Russia. Oh wait, you did.
Неуважаемая Анна, читая вашу статью, не могу отделаться от мысли, что читаю передовицу в "Правде". Американские массмедия все больще напоминают советский агитпроп, тупая пропаганда, никаких идей. Достали уже!!! Придумайте что-нибудь новое, смените методичку.
Интересно сколько ж ей платят за эти высеры?)))
The author writes about a free elected president. What is that she wants! A new revolution? In what times has she been living?
Негодует, что её соплеменников из оппозиции оторвали от распиливания американских бюджетов. Столько денег мимо проплывает, и неповоруешь теперь/
Евреев хоть мацой не корми, а дай Россию превратить в процветающую страну. Спасибо, в семнадцатом году уже превратили.
"Мы стали хозяевами лавочки, равной одной шестой части суши". Лейба Троцкий.
И так, и эдак перечитывал этот абзац, пытаясь отыскать то рациональное, что хотела сообщить славная беженка своим читателям. Понял немногое:
1. Память Борщевской несколько странновата, представляет некий симбиоз генететической и механической.
2. Помнит, что является еврейкой, помнит только ужас без начала и конца. Ужас связан с Россией.
3. При виде синагоги ужас накатывает с такой силой, что хочется бежать протестуя и протестовать на бегу.
4. Помнит такие слова, к примеру, как "государство", "эксплуатация", "USAID" и "Кремль".
5. Помнит Путина.
6. Помнит место своей работы и дорогу к кассе.
Все перечисленное считает достаточным для написания статей с выводом.
Достали эти колбасные беженцы...
Так старались перед миграционными властями США доказать свои страдания, что до сих пор не могут остановиться швыряться дерьмом и выдавать самих себя за истину в последней инстанции. Уехала "беженка"? Давай, досвиданья...
Только вот почему-то (сам не знаю почему, может кто из путинцев объяснит) уважения к Путину у меня прибавилось, а от некоторых лиц правозащитной национальности меня все сильнее и сильнее тошнит.
Agreed. However, Russia is now a backwater, Europe's backwater. When Putin and this ruling elite decide they actually want to be more European, they will have to show restraint and maturity. Russians can be quite classy and intelligent, but with ruthless and crass leaders, the voices of everyday Russians are stifled.
For now, Russia is wild and lawless. It is a nation that lives in a frontier mindset much like the Wild West of days gone by in the USA.
America will be no help in this regard. We have our own "rodeos" to contend with. Americans are silent about Tibet to the Chinese. Americans are relieved that the Soviet Union is gone and honestly feel there are no REAL problems with Russia.
Russia and China are highly problematic societies, but Americans are more interested in attacking Muslim elites right now. They are easier to couch in good vs evil story lines. America just chooses battles it knows (or at least thinks) it can win.
Outside voices from the West are ineffectual in Russia and China. The people themselves must sacrifice and stand for something- freedom is certainly worthy. I am glad to see so many Russians protesting. It is re-assuring.
К Путину не очень хорошо отношусь, но к т.н. оппозиции отношусь гораздо хуже – особенно к Немцову и т.д. это именно они создали воровской класс в этом государстве, но их подвинули в сторону. А госпожа Анна вообще не в курсе состояния дел в России. Протестующие в Москве белые воротнички – это не Россия.
Why is this even America's problem? Let Russians deal with Russian problems. Let Israelis deal with Israeli problems. Let Arabs deal with Arab problems and so on and so on. We really need to stop sticking our nose in other countries' business.
I decided not to read the article. I still remember Anna's previous one: she was delirious and fulll of crap. Why to bother!
The more hate "news" about Russia CNN publishes – the better!
It does not really makes much difference for Americans: the cold war has never really finished for the majority of them. They can not be any more afraid of Russia or be less informed: so no harm there! But for Russians who know enougth English to appreciate that kind of "news" it is a valuable opportunity to see how "the beakon of freedom" paints them and how brainwashed "free and brave" really are! Thank you CNN!
Putin the diehard closet "KGB". I think this fellow simply cannot shed the old ways of politics. But I think he should know the eras have changed. Putin needs to come down from his loft – or risk being 'lynched" by fellow Russians , sooner, or later as he becomes an old man.
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