Reality Check

I can’t summon any interest in following the Moscow protests. What was interesting in 2011-12 (when I covered the Bolotnaya protests in detail, and produced what is perhaps the most comprehensive popular English language account of Russian electoral fraud), and a novelty for me personally in 2017 (when I personally attended a couple of those protests in the interests of zoological observation), repeats as farce today. No, this gaggle of marginals isn’t going to overthrow Putin.

If elections were to be held next Saturday, 54% of Russians say they’ll vote for Putin – 1% for Navalny [Levada].

июл.13 июл.14 май.16 авг.17 янв.18 окт.18 мар.19 July.19
Putin 43 64 59 60 70 56 55 54
Zhirinovsky 5 4 4 2 5 5 6 4
Grudinin 6 4 5 4
Zyuganov 10 5 7 3 1 2 2 1
Navalny <1 2 <1 1 1 1
Shoigu 2 1 1 1 <1 <1 1 1
Medvedev 2 2 1 <1 1 <1
Other politician 5 1 2 2 2 3 4 2
Don’t Know 33 22 26 30 15 29 25 31

Moreover, 61% in Moscow agree that unsanctioned meetings should be dealt with as provisioned for by law, even if it involves harsh measures (and 69% in Russia as a whole). [VCIOM]

And yet my feed from foreign journalists in Moscow is chock full of these protests, and they constantly occupy the front page on /r/worldnews (though Hong Kong has largely stolen the thunder). Take from that what you will.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    If you are new to my work, start here.

  2. The bbc has now taken to calling Lyubov Sobol ‘opposition leader’ and not Navalny.

    Lawyer it seems: a big problem as it suggests that a non trivial chunk of the urban profeasional class subscribes to ‘neoliberalism.txt’. Even if their numbers as a proportion of the population are low, that masks much higher influence. Maybe it would be better for the kremlins to use ‘western’ techniques on these guys (destroy their careers) , if they’re serious about avoiding Yelsin ii in a few years time.

  3. Yes, liberals and a few Russian svidomist freaks.

  4. For local election in Moscow. This is a case of “Moscow is not Russia”, but some kind of strange, rapidly embourgeozing, political scene attached to Russia.

    • However, all over the political conscious, Navalny will be becoming a lot more influential in the last 1,5 years.

    I think it’s as trivially simple that he became a YouTuber, and now ordinary people, to the extent they use YouTube and their cookies are not only orientated for makeup tutorials or cat videos, have to watch his videos.

    It’s impossible to be interested in politics, and also using YouTube, and avoid his videos now, although probably around 1/3 of the audience the videos are suggested to will click away the moment they see his face.

  5. And yet my feed from foreign journalists in Moscow is chock full of these protests, and they constantly occupy the front page on /r/worldnews (though Hong Kong has largely stolen the thunder). Take from that what you will.

    That the harder is it to get a message across the more budget is applied i think.

    Right now, from the straits of Hormuz to the Ujghurs, more and more people are highly sceptical of what they read. A few months ago I heard John Humphreys, a top top BBC broadcaster, spend several minutes of air time explaining just how we really don’t know quite what is happening in Venezuela.

    To get a message over the media writers are working overtime everywhere. A lot of money being spent I think. It’s backfiring.

  6. Liberal clowns made just noise.

  7. AnonFromTN says

    And yet my feed from foreign journalists in Moscow is chock full of these protests, and they constantly occupy the front page on /r/worldnews (though Hong Kong has largely stolen the thunder). Take from that what you will.

    The simplest explanation: the same forces finance Western MSM and these “protests”. Same goes for HK “protests”. As Holmes used to say, “it’s elementary, my dear Watson”.

  8. AnonFromTN says

    If she or Navalni is a “leader”, I am the Emperor of the East.
    If the BBC and other MSM of the same ilk call either of these nonentities “leaders”, they must be scraping the bottom of the barrel. So much money is spent on propaganda, with such a pathetic result.

  9. Anonymoose says

    By the way wasn’t that the LGBT female weirdo activist who was murdered by her Kyrgyz boyfriend also involved in some nationalist activities before she became fully devoted to LGBT. These types and Moscow liberals seem to be strange bedfellows.

  10. Richard S says

    The rich irony of London media accusing other states of behaving undemocratically!

    The new British head of government, Boris Johnson, has just been appointed by the queen after an anti-democratic inner-party coup and lacks a majority in the legislature. Western propaganda, nary a peep…

    But some hippie long-hairs in Moscow getting lifted by the cops – WORLD NEWS HEADLINES!

  11. Kent Nationalist says

    Why do they bother arresting people?

  12. How would you respond to people disregarding important rules in public spaces?

  13. If I were a Russian I wouldn’t vote for any pro-Western liberal candidate but I can perfectly understand why Western media are giving so much cover to these protests. They confirm their favorite talking point about Russia: that the Putin regime is repressive and undemocratic.

    And, incredibly, the Russian authorities are all too happy to provide fodder for those accusations by preventing pro-Western candidates from running in local(!) elections. Why? Even if these unpopular candidates were to win, would the Kremlin really feel threatened by a liberal heading some municipal council in Moscow and perhaps just another couple of localities in Russia?

  14. Haruto Rat says

    ‘Liberal opposition’ is one of Russia’s most innovative and successful export industries.

    Nothing ever happens, it produces little noise and even less pollution, but hard currency keeps flowing.

  15. My understanding is that the ‘preventing‘ is based on the candidates not submitting enough ‘valid signatures‘. This is an issue all over the world – from Germany to US, people have been disqualified after officials check submitted signatures and find discrepancies.

    Two possibilities:
    1) enough signatures were valid and someone in the hierarchy decided to use ‘administrative’ methods to keep these particular liberals of the ballot – there are other liberals who qualified and are on the ballot
    2) enough signatures were invalid and the local bureaucrat just followed the rules.

    Realistically there is no way to know, the hand-written petitions are literally a sh..t document that anyone can interpret in any way they wish – that’s the beauty of it, why it still exists in 2019 with digital technologies is a bit of a mystery. But it does exist, from New Hampshire to Moscow, from Dresden to Brno – people get on the ballot by submitting enough valid signatures – established parties are often exempted. Another way is to overwhelm the system with so many signatures that it gets approved – they use a statistical sampling method and a simple calculation.

    The illegal demonstrations – without a permission to take over public spaces or block traffic – are a natural result. If they are allowed, can I and my friends find a nice square in front of the British Parliament, or a busy intersection, and take it over by waving a few placards? We could stay on the square for a few days, after all, the f…ing chickens are still getting slaughtered, Brexit is looming, and the Turkish-Cerkess refugee descendant with a fake name is about to take over the country. Time to stop the traffic. Can we? Would BBC approve?

  16. How is growing political influence of hostile political groups in the capital not a threat?
    Where would the power that be accept such a thing if they had an opportunity to prevent that?

  17. Bored observer of neo- liberalism says


    The head of the electoral commission that verify the documents – is a liberal.

    This person verified other liberals to stand – they got 3,000 signature – which in my view is very low in a city of over 14 million. Should be at least 10,000

    I can’t recall the persons name but I’m sure it can be found.

    But it’s not really about elections – it’s about creating negative headlines about the tyrannical regime blah blah.

    These people could have a legal protest but insist on Doing this illegal action.

    The authority’s should make this as painful as possible by high fines and long prison sentences 6 months
    They need to make the cost of these traitors high

  18. It is indeed very difficult to know whatever happened in those obscure Muscovite electoral offices so I defer to our host AK’s superior knowledge:

    The liberals are probably right (about unfairly not being registered).

    In any case, for me there is a before-Skripal and after-Skripal era. With so much demonization of the Russians in the Western media and their obscene concealment of what our new partners the Ukrainians have been doing to the Donbas civilians I wasn’t willing to believe anything they would tell me about Russia. Besides, what possible motive could the Kremlin have for a such a nonsensical assassination attempt?

    Yet the evidence is what it is. To any objective observer there is no way Petrov-Borishov are not GRU agents Mishkin-Chepiga. I think that both Izrael Shamir and AK conceded as much on this website. And even before that there was ample evidence that the Kremlin is quite adept at lying blatantly even when it’s hardly necessary or beneficial: Crimean “little green men” being spontaneous local forces, Donbas rebels not receiving any Russian military help, MH-17, …

    So yes, in spite of what Western correspondents spout about these protests in Moscow, the sad truth is that most likely these liberal candidates were illegitimately banned and some people in Moscow are unsurprisingly upset about it.

  19. Where would the power that be accept such a thing if they had an opportunity to prevent that?

    From the top of my head, Madrid for example. The anti-monarchist, Bolivarianist Podemos has been ruling the city for the past four years after winning the local elections. Last time I checked the Spanish king was still on his throne, Catalonia still belonged to Spain and, just like the Russian liberals, they have no chances of winning the general elections but they did scrape a narrow win in the municipal elections so they got the local government for one term. It’s called democracy.

    Now, having lived in Latin America, I do not think that democracy is the best political regime for all societies. But the Russians probably deserve better than this. To me there is a world of a difference between Russian authorities enacting legislation to ban certain candidates from office (for example those who promote the interests of the foreign powers that are sanctioning Russia and encroaching it militarily) and those authorities pretending that these candidates are legitimate but then banning them arbitrarily on made-up grounds.

  20. Gerard1234 says

    If he is not that popular now , despite all the inflated publicity…I don’t see how on earth he can possibly be popular in 1.5 years. In fact, if he cant even be popular in a relatively poor, ethnically slavic area as Kostroma ( he got about 1% in a Duma election there 3 years ago)

    As well as being a liar, a cheat and a fantasist the opp Sobol has the added “bonus” of her being a child neglecter admist all these arrests and “hunger strikes” . Leonid Volkov , Nalvalny’s deputy- the “King of Liechtenstein”…. I can’t see where any sizeable “popularity” will come from

    Amid the sewage of Navalny the one thing he didn’t need was Stanford University giving his daughter a scholarship – a ridiculous and self-discrediting thing in a number of ways

    Medvedev is as comfortable in his job as PM as he has ever been. So what has been the net effect of Navalnys supposed corruption video on him? nothing!
    I don’t think anybody gains any knowledge from watching his infantile videos – and don’t forget that many millions of ukrops are spamming his videos and watching them.

    The authorities have the further buffer of anti-Russian stories in the west that nobody in Russian believes in ( except these liberast morons) – Ukraine, Skripal, Litvinenko, hacking, chemical attacks in Syria , “war crimes”, Montenegro, Panama leaks – the only anti-Russia thing a few people may believe in ( and that only partly) is over the BS doping/Rodchenkov…..but even that is diluted by what many think is a grossly disproportionate ban anyway – all these stories give them a cushion

  21. Gerard1234 says

    numerous liberast politicians have been allowed to stand – strong allies of Gudkov ( one ally in particular got significantly more signatures than Gudkov) and Navalny and Yabloko party members. Indisputably these candidates have used dead people in their signatures…..and indisputably the electoral commission is appreciably more transparent, professional and completely fair now then even a few years ago -…making Ella Pamfilova head of the EC should have put an end to any of the moaning about elections – she was anti the authorities in numerous issues – but instead these hamster freaks have just attempted to target her.

  22. If we don’t have conclusive data, to go with a hunch that ‘liberals are probably right‘ is not very different from accepting that we don’t know. Nothing about this suggests a conspiracy to keep liberals from running – others have been qualified, in open elections liberals get barely into double digits, etc…

    I also think you oversimplify Crimea, Donbas, Skripal cases. I have no idea what the two hapless Russian dufuses were doing in Salisbury the day Skripals disappeared – what I do know is that the narrative pushed by UK is either a lie, or it is so incomplete that it might as well be a lie. The narrative – from a cheap party in London, to poison on a door-knob, to a complete lack of statements from the alleged victims – it doesn’t add up to a coherent story. I think as in most of these intelligence games, the key is to know that everybody is lying: UK, Russia, Skripals. ‘Little green men’ is also a non-event: Russia had bases in Crimea, they had ‘men’ there, whether they were short or green makes no difference.

    Based on the above one has to assume that Western media is applying the same standard to the election story – in other words, they selectively lie for a cause. So I dismiss it, half-lies are not that much better than full in-your-face lying. West has become enamoured of its clever lies, the only way to deal with it is to ignore it as a whole. If there are nuggets of truth in it somewhere, they are covered up with so much bs and propaganda that I simply don’t bother to dig for it.

  23. Reality check: VCIOM poll is not scientific or rigorous as it uses a biased loaded question. Levada poll with a neutral question shows that the majority of muscovites support the protesters’ demands.

    Karlin’s intentional ignorance of this exposes his support for a corrupt autocratic regime, which beats up and illegally imprisons peaceful protesters and activists.