Mobilization protests eat away at Russia like rust – DW – 9/27/2022

Makhachkala residents gathered at the mobilized people collection point, September 22, 2022
Makhachkala residents gathered at the mobilized people collection point, September 22, 2022Photo: Stringer/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

A week has passed since Vladimir Putin announced “partial mobilization” in Russia. This decision exploded the Russian public space. Hundreds of thousands potential soldiers fleeing across land borders, and neighboring countries are beginning to discuss it as a humanitarian catastrophe.

In Chechnya, Dagestan, Yakutia – protests and the federal center is forced to renounce the right to shave soldiers there without permission from the local authorities. It has already achieved attempts to kill the military commissar and self-immolation. Society seems to be moving again for the first time in decades.

Half a million evaders of refugees

Neighboring countries no longer know what to do with Russian men fleeing mobilization across the land borders of the Russian Federation. More than three hundred thousand are said to have arrived in Kazakhstan alone. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has ordered the government to humanely help these people and wants to discuss the issue with Russia. However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan reported that conscientious objectors who were on the wanted list in their home country for committing a criminal offense, will issue. On the border with Georgia, the Russian authorities are solving the problem by opening a mobile recruitment center.

Ivan Preobrazhensky
Ivan PreobrazhenskyPhoto: Peter Steinmetz/DW

In general, all this is reminiscent of the mass exodus of men from Russia. The number of people who left this week clearly exceeded half a million, if we only summarize the official statistics of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Finland. And there are also flights, and not only to conditionally Yerevan and Istanbul, where for a long time there are almost no tickets and prices are going through the roof, but also to the cities of Central Asia, the existence of which many dodgers running there just now found out. The imperial pride of the Greater Russians has been crushed, forced to hide among those whom many refugee deviants looked down on before the war.

We can safely multiply the number of evaders verified by the border authorities by five, if not ten. These are those who sit outside in dachas, apartments of friends and acquaintances, left their cities. And this, of course, is also a protest, just with their feet.

Women against Putin

All most effective direct anti-mobilization protests they are now, judging by the news, about women: in Chechnya, Yakutia, Dagestan. And in regions populated mainly by Russians, the mood among women is changing noticeably. They have traditionally been Vladimir Putin’s main voters.

They are now breaking the pattern. Propaganda promised them for years “not to drink like Putin”. Now this non-drinking ideal of a man drives war even drinking, imperfect, but their native peasants: sons, husbands and fathers. And women are dissatisfied, although they are not willing to take to the streets everywhere and protest.

But those who were already in an unstable psychological state are ready – they set themselves on fire, they try to kill the military commissar. The general change in the atmosphere in Russia leads to tragedies such as: attacks on a school in Izhevsk. With his decision to mobilize, Putin shook up society. Someone he just confused or scared. But the obedient masses of the past seem to have gotten what they lacked after February 24 – a model of collective action. In the atomized Russian society, a simple general idea suddenly appeared – survival.

It unites businessmen from Moscow with tractor drivers from small villages and creates an unprecedented social unity. This is the first step towards the birth of a common resistance, but no one knows whether the second will be taken or whether the war will “normalize” again.

Riot of regional elites

The Kremlin already has to make concessions now. The authorities themselves started talking about ‘excesses on the ground’. Obviously, this is a tactic to reassure the Russians. But some concessions are of a strategic nature and are unlikely to be recovered. We are talking about concessions to regional elites who are using the protests to increase their influence. Among the conditional Russian regions, such an example is the Magadan region, where the governor Sergei Nosov fired for that very “excesses” of the local military commissar.

But this is much more pronounced in the national republics. The first to refuse Chechnya’s participation in the mobilization campaign was Ramzan Kadyrov. Behind him, Aisen Nikolaev, in fact, curtailed the mobilization, declaring that it was practically completed in Yakutia. There are rumors that there is already an order from the military commissar of Dagestan, where the protests do not stop.

Overall no one more active than Kadyrov in recruiting volunteers for the warprobably wasn’t. But he and many other regional leaders, to whom the Kremlin, by the way, has entrusted the responsibility even during the covid pandemic, want to manage their territory themselves and prevent the Ministry of Defense from meddling.

Their residents are their vassals, not the federal center, and it is up to the local authorities to decide whether to convict or pardon them. And this is already reminiscent of the beginning of the ‘parade of sovereignties’ of the 1990s. Protests, such as erosion, are rapidly eroding the body of the Russian state, and it is clearly not united, though generally still subservient to Vladimir Putin.

Author: Ivan Preobrazhensky, political science candidate, expert on Central and Eastern Europe, columnist for a number of media. Writer of a weekly column for DW. Ivan Preobrazhensky on Facebook: Ivan Preobrazhensky

The commentary reflects the author’s personal opinion. It may not correspond to the opinion of the Russian editors and Deutsche Welle in general.

Also see:

Mobilization – a threat to the collapse of Russia?

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By Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at