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Solidarity Movement Rises Again, But This Time in Russia

By December 19, 2008

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Last weekend's formation of the new peaceful anti-Kremlin movement that borrows its name for the Polish anti-communism trade movements pits opposition leaders, including chess legend Garry Kasparov, directly against Russia's fresh crackdown on dissent. The Other Russia, an umbrella opposition organization that incorporates a wide range of views across the political spectrum, reports that the conference on the 13th and 14th included about 200 delegates from 40 Russian regions, hoping to "peacefully dismantle what they describe as the illegitimate regime ruling Russia." More:

    "Kasparov, who chairs the United Civil Front party, said it was impossible to reform the Putin-Medvedev regime, and that it needs to be completely dismantled. The economic and financial crisis was putting Russia 'on the edge of catastrophe,' Kasparov said, adding that the Russian authorities would have trouble keeping power as economic problems grew.

    Independent politician Boris Nemtsov urged participants to actively engage trade unions as a lever of influence. Rising unemployment as part of the economic crisis, Nemtsov said, was creating a new base of people who were more inclined to being politically active.

    Solidarity encompasses Russian democrats of various stripes, including former members of the Union of Right Forces (SPS) party, human rights activists, and members of the Yabloko party. Human rights defender Valeriya Novodvorskaya called on the group to avoid past mistakes, and to cut close ties with leftist radicals and communists."

The Other Russia also reported that the meetings were met by pro-Kremlin youth hecklers, who pulled stunts including tossing on the road dying sheep with "Solidarity" painted on their sides. Directly following the conference, at least 150 people were arrested in Kasparov-organized demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Kasparov has also been receiving phone threats.

It will be important for this Solidarity movement to be clear on its alliances, goals and methods. In the face of Putin's continuing popularity -- and no intention to release his grip on power -- it may be hard for the movement to gain traction, depending on how the economic situation plays out and how Russians grasp the erosion of their freedoms. Thankfully, new media such as the Internet will also give the world a window into what happens from here on out. It would be impossible for Kasparov to fall victim to the Putin-Medvedev regime without a massive global uproar.

(Photo by Dima Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images)

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