26 January 2021
Dmitry Bykov, writer, poet, journalist
The main result of Saturday’s demonstration was not even the comeback of protest activity (it’s still a long way to the numbers from 2012), but namely clarity.
It’s not necessary to be on Navalny’s side, and indeed people turn out mainly who do not see him as an ideal leader. These are demonstrations not for, but against: against unlawful jailing, abuse of the Constitution, bald-faced lying at all levels.
It’s excellent that total aesthetic clarity has arrived for the camp of supporters of the eternal Putin, and if not everyone has yet resolved to be against them, being for them is already suicidal for the reputation. And not even reputation–simply for self-esteem. They squeal so on television and social media, threaten their own population so shamelessly, incite people to physical violence against peaceful citizens so openly, that the predictions of the Russian Federation spiraling into North Korea are coming true before one’s very eyes. And North Korea is putting it mildly. The film “Ordinary Fascism,” which was shown on Channel One for the 120th anniversary of [film director Mikhail] Romm, looked like a call to action.
What the result will be is hard to say. Pessimists predict that fewer and fewer people will turn out for demonstrations, and that’s understood. I’ll say even more—not only Putin supporters (of which there are relatively few) but ordinary people will hate the demonstrators more and more. They will hate the demonstrators because the latter have overcome their fear—it is a pleasant and enviable feeling—and ordinary people haven’t, and therefore they hate those who present them with an uncomfortable choice. This is where the accusation against Navalny comes from that he is a “political pedophile,” bringing out the children.
Navalny and his staff specifically warned children not to come out, but what can you do? We live in a time when children don’t really obey anyone, including Navalny. I personally saw on Tverskaya very few schoolchildren, and I, as opposed to many ordinary people, know these schoolchildren. It’s hell to force them to go somewhere they don’t want to, and hell to talk them out of something they want to do. It is difficult to explain to a 10th grader today that he is not allowed on a weekend to go out onto a central street. He doesn’t have any Soviet experience.
And it’s really not that important how many people turn out the next time. It is important that those who sit at home, those who watch television, those who gave the Navalny film 85 million views (data as of 13:00 on 25 January), don’t believe this government, are afraid of it, don’t like it, and don’t go out to defend it, even at a paid demonstration. As one OMON officer said to me: “Put yourself in our place.”
A Pyrrhic victory is not when you pay too high a price for victory. It is when you win but don’t respect yourself and, most important, don’t know what to do. Pyrrhus was a great warrior and understood that.
Translated by John Tokolish