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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Oct. 7 Protest Cast Luzhkov As 'Godunov'




The protest and march of the trade unions on Oct. 7 by the Kremlin walls could have passed for a large open-air production of Alexander Pushkin's tale of the tsar, "Boris Godunov."


First, the organizers and speakers verbally demolished Tsar Boris for a couple of hours. Then, after the crowd had been suitably warmed up, came the culminating moment, the real reason the Moscow union chiefs had organized the demonstration. Having been bought off by City Hall, these, the noblemen of the production, then tossed the political slogan of the day to the crowd, urging them to cries of "Long live our new tsar, Yury Mikhailovich [Luzhkov]"


In Pushkin's play, the stage direction here reads "Crowd is silent." But the contemporary boyars got an even worse reaction than their predecessors 390 years ago. Instead of falling silent, this crowd responded with catcalls, whistling and hissing, a far cry from the kick start to the Moscow mayor's victorious presidential campaign that the producers of this demonstration had anticipated.


His numerous analysts and image-makers would do well to reflect upon this. The similarly cold reception received by the mayor in April in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk prior to the gubernatorial elections was plausibly put down to the traditional enmity of the provinces toward Muscovites. But to fail at a demonstration in Moscow is too alarming a signal to ignore. In true biblical fashion, the mayor was "weighed in the balances and found wanting." Clearly, this energetic, corpulent gentleman in the flat cap, with his simple Pickwickian temperament and build, is just too aesthetically challenged when it comes to appealing to the unfortunate millions that lost out during the reforms.


In the Krasnoyarsk region, the gubernatorial elections were won by someone who made no attempt to hide his disinterest in local problems; who is professionally illiterate to the extent that he can put his signature to two contradictory economic programs on the same day; and who is a professed fighter of crime and corruption yet doesn't hide his dependency on the millions of Boris Berezovsky and local crime bosses.


Alexander Lebed became governor simply because his rough muzhik's face, bony figure and coarse, gravelly voice stood out against all the smooth faces and rounded bellies of those who united against him: Luzhkov, the incumbent local governor, Valery Zubov, and the leader of the Communists, Gennady Zyuganov.


Since Peter the Great's time, Russia has been tragically split in two f the Russia of the muzhiki, or ordinary men, and the Russia of the lords. Far more than just class distinction, this was a metaphysical, civilizational and anthropological rupture.


Now the social inequality that has rapidly taken shape over the last few years has rekindled this enduring Russian schism. At the Oct. 7 protest, the most popular slogan was "All bosses are scum."


Tormented by the apparition of the tsar of the muzhiki headed for the capital from the Siberian taiga, politicians in Moscow are now feverishly searching for "left-centrist coalitions" and resorting to radical rhetoric. Today, Luzhkov demands "confiscation of the enormous amounts of property illegally privatized by the new bosses," as if to say that the empires of the Potanin's and Berezovsky's rose from the filth of corruption and theft, but the mayor's own pet holding company Systema rose from the foaming sea like Aphrodite ...