Playing the parallels: 1905 not 1917

“Revolutions are rarely fair fights. Those in power usually have more firepower; they lose not because they are outgunned, but because they will not or cannot use it against their enemies.”

My latest column in the Moscow News , ‘Not 1917, but maybe 1905?‘ picks up where my last blogpost on Moscow’s Praetorians left off, considering the arithmetic of power and also playing the usual historian’s game of looking for parallels. There are some excitable suggestions around that Russia is currently in ‘1917’ mode, but it is important to remember that tsarist may well have been moribund, losing its last plausible opportunity for modernizing reform when Stolypin was assassinated in 1911, but what really brought it down then was the hammer-blow of the First World War. Without such a dramatic systemic shock, inertia and aristocratic self-interest may well have kept it lumbering on for a while longer, a zombie regime dead but still mobile. Russia today is, I think, in distinctly better shape. If anything, I would suggest the parallels are more with 1905, when an accidental massacre triggered a nationwide explosion of violent but incoherence anger and protest, one the state could ultimately suppress piecemeal, but a harbinger of greater troubles ahead. I certainly don’t think Putin is yet willing to abdicate…

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