“It is just another proof that Estonia is a European country, and the Russians living there did just what the European citizens would do. The Dutch, British or French citizens would do just the same.” This synthesis from one theorist has set me thinking.
So, when the Estonian authorities were about to pull down the monument to the Soviet soldiers who died in the World War II, Tallinn dwellers went further than discussing the situation – they offered resistance. In some forty years children in Estonian schools will learn that April 2007 was a turning point in the formation of the country’s civil society. And the situation won’t be seen as a Russian revolt against insults from the part of the Estonians. The fact that the majority of the discontented were the Russian-speaking residents of the Baltic capital testifies only that they were more responsive to the situation than their Estonian-speaking countrymen. But the Russian mass media represent the unrest as an ethnic conflict, only perpetuating the existing controversies between the Russians and Estonians.
However, the number of the dissenters is not the key element – what really matters is the qualitative differences between the social protest movements in Europe and in Russia.
As for political leaders, their active role in “Dissenters’ Marches” is another telling distinction of our protest expression from their spontaneous grass-roots level actions. Of course, the majority of protest actions in Western Europe are orchestrated. But they are not staged by the leading opposition politicians. Europeans hit the street when they disagree with some event and feel that the politicians cannot or don’t want to represent people’s will. Our situation is a paradox: it is not the citizens who search for the way out of the political stalemate but the politicians themselves, acknowledging their impotence, are trying to imitate the European-like social movements.
The game of the “Other Russia” is to form a “broad coalition” and use the existing social protest for its own profit. It is nothing more than political manipulation. And though it might have relative success in the instantaneous political game, it is an obstacle for further development of the civil conscience in our society, for it doesn’t intend to turn the crowd into citizens, but to make a crowd out of citizens.
Simply, in small Estonia these processes evolve quicker than in big Russia. Boris Kagarlitsky is Director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements