So just as I and many others predicted, Russian officials and media sources have already started comparing Electro Yerevan to Euromaidan, and alleging that it’s orchestrated by the United States. It can’t possibly be the 16% increase in electricity prices, as the protesters claim. Surely they are on drugs; drugs that make you protest.
Would that it were only the paranoid Russian officials making this claim, however. Sadly, anti-Kremlin types have also been feeding the fantasy by comparing the protests to Maidan in spite of the fact that these protests have very little in common. For one thing, the cause is really clear and concrete- electric bill hikes. What is more, some sources have told me that in Armenia most people actually believe the Russian version of events when it comes to Maidan. Obviously people might use these protests as a forum for many other grievances, a common practice in many protest movements the world over, but I highly doubt any significant number of people decided to overthrow their government over something as simple as electricity prices.
I guess it’s inevitable that such obsession with “Maidans” is going to cause the Kremlin and its media minions to see every organized protest as a Maidan, including protests aimed at governments Russia sees as hostile. What I find funny, however, is that they never seem to wake up and learn why you don’t see these government-toppling protests in the US, UK, or even basketcase EU countries like Greece. It’s almost as if they have some kind of…immune system against things getting out of hand.
This isn’t too hard to figure out. Take the US for example. You have the Tea Party and Occupy. What happened with both of those movements is that they each had a connection to mainstream politics, though this was certainly more the case for the former. Even with Occupy, however, the Democratic party tried to siphon off votes. Virtually every election you see this debate between radical leftists, the debate as to whether voting makes a difference. A large chunk of people will always find some key issue that makes it worth voting- it could be fear of the opponent’s Supreme Court nominees, food stamps, or reproductive rights. Regardless of how one feels about these arguments, this kind of thing happens, and it works.
Put simply, liberal democracy has a release valve for venting pressure. Also the relative lack of censorship is a second release valve, one which is probably much more important. Sure, life can really suck for a lot of people in the States; it did for me. The nice thing, however, is there are just endless ways for you to vent this rage with impunity so long as you don’t commit any illegal acts like threatening bodily harm to public officials. In fact, the Russian government ought to be aware of this given their associations with groups like the Texas secessionists. Somehow the fact that this group is actually allowed to freely disseminate its message is totally lost on the “geopolitical experts” who think they’ve found a useful 5th column in the States, and it is precisely that freedom that keeps groups like that from getting any serious influence.
Russian society doesn’t have that release valve, which is part of the reason why its elite are constantly quaking at any protest movement that successfully removes a government. Hopefully Armenia isn’t like that. It would be better if Electro Yerevan doesn’t turn into a Maidan. So long as the government is cool-headed and makes an effort to respond to protesters’ just demands, and so long as they don’t take boneheaded advice from their Eurasian Union partner, this protest movement could be over in days. That being said, those of us not on the Kremlin side don’t do anyone any favors by comparing this to Maidan.