“Our Governor”: Lessons from the Protests in the Russian Far East, One Year Later
Is there an explanation why these protests were possible in this region? A demonstration erupted last summer – and for a year it has been smoldering, flames up again, but does not disappear. Can this be explained by certain regional specificities?
The protests with several hundred participants took place before the onset of the cold, but I think four months of big street protests – July, August, September, October – is a lot. Then the Saturday protests took place, and in January fireworks were launched in honor of Furgal near the Moscow prison where he is being held – a very touching New Year’s action. signatures were collected after Furgal’s health deteriorated. He was diagnosed with COVID-19.
As for regional specificities, we understand a lot from the analysis of the results of the 2018 regional elections, which shows a significant electoral divide between “European Russia”, on the one hand, and Siberia and the Far East, on the other hand. . The regions dissatisfied with United Russia are mainly found in Siberia and the Far East. There are, of course, other socio-economic justifications for this, but in principle Khabarovsk is a middle region – less subsidized by the federal center, but not particularly advanced either.
One of the most interesting findings from your research is how two different accounts emerged during the protests: one describing Furgal as “our” governor. – that is to say an independent elected representative – and another who presented him as a “good” governor, that is to say, an efficient civil servant.
The relationship between “our” and the “good” governing discourse is dialectical. The strength of Khabarovsk’s protests lies precisely in the fact that these speeches, on the one hand, are different and, on the other hand, interdependent.
At the same time, experts and outside observers often see only one side of things: the claim of “our” governor is very noticeable, political commentators mention it, it penetrates the media. “Our” governor is a governor whom “we” have elected, and only we can decide his fate. The demand that the Furgal trial – a public trial – be held in Khabarovsk belongs to this block of ideas. If we chose him, then we want to judge him here, because Furgal is “ours”, and Moscow has come and taken him away.