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Country Conditions In Russia: Treatment Of Putin's Political Opposition

Author: Alena Shautsova

The Russian Federation practices a semi-presidential system of government with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as President and Mikhail Mishustin as Prime Minister. Vladimir Putin has been in office as President since 2012, after shifting between being President and Prime Minister since 1999.

The major powers of the Russian government are the President, the Prime Minister, and the Federal Assembly of Russia which constitutes the Council of the Federation and the State Duma.

For every sitting political power of the world -legitimate or not- there is an opposition. This is as well true in the case of Russia.

However, how has the Russian opposition fared so far? What does the Russian opposition aim to achieve? How have they made their voices heard? How has the opposition been treated by the Putin administration? These are some of the questions this article aims to find the answer to.

Opposition To The Putin Administration In Russia.

The opposition in Russia can be referred to as "resilient" in every sense of the word. It can be put in two categories namely, the systemic opposition and the non-systemic opposition.

The systemic opposition is parliamentary opposition parties having seats in the State Duma. This makes them a part of the government since they are represented in government. Just like any opposition, they are more or less not loyal to the government or current administration.

The non-systemic opposition, on the other hand, does not have seats in the State Duma. Therefore, they are not represented in government. Most of these non-systemic opposition parties are unregistered and unable to contest elections. Prominent amongst the opposition parties are Yabloko, the People's Freedom Party, Russia of the Future, Libertarian Party of Russia, the Russian Opposition Coordination Council, The Other Russia, and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Since the opposition lacks unity, they do not have a stronghold yet. Their lack of unity can be linked to their differences in political ideology, ranging from monarchist and nationalist to liberalist and socialist as well as apolitical. The factor that unites them is the common opposition to Putin's administration and the perceived prevalence of corruption that characterizes the administration.

Treatment Of The Opposition

So far President Putin has taken drastic measures to quiet down the opposition, all to no avail. There are laws set in place to restrict the participation of these opposition parties in the political arena. There is hardly any room for free speech and peaceful assembly. Possible political opposition faces the nonacceptance of enrollment by the Ministry of Justice. The media as well is expurgated.

Putin's actions (or actions undertaken under his administration) depict him to be less of a democratic. This is evident in his dealings with the opposition.

More recently, the police violently attacked pro-democratic protesters, arresting more than 1,300 persons. Cases like this have shown the brutality of Putin's administration, yet the opposition still is not silent. Opposition leaders still fight for a Putin-free Russia. Chief amongst these leaders is Alexei Navalny.

Who Is Alexei Navalny?

Alexei Navalny is a Russian lawyer turned campaigner. He was born near Moscow and is considered the most fearsome opposition leader against Putin. His Anti-Corruption Foundation is dedicated to investigating the wealth of President Putin's inner circle.

In 2017, he released a documentary accusing the then Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, of corruption. This documentary garnered more than 30 million views on Youtube.

Alexei Navalny is the main leader of Russia's democratic opposition. One that has been a thorn in the Kremlin's flesh. Although he has been arrested and jailed multiple times, yet his voice has not quieted down in the least. Considered as the biggest threat of Putin's administration, not even assassination threats have kept him out of Russia.

In 2018, election officials barred Alexei Navalny from running for the Presidency. This was due to alleged embezzlement convictions levied against him. Alexei denied them and claimed they were politically motivated to quell his opposition force.

After shuffling between jail and the hospital (due to a case of poisoning) for years, he was hospitalized again in a German hospital in 2020, where he was diagnosed of been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. The poison was said to have been planted in his pants. Assessors of the situation concluded that an operation such could only have been granted permission by President Putin.

Alexei was sent to jail again in February 2021 for 2 years and 8 months. This act triggered a large protest which resulted in the arrest of over 1000 persons. By April 2021, Alexei Navalny was described as being seriously ill by his doctors.

While the strength and resilience of Alexei Navalny have ignited the spirits of fellow Russians. How the Putin administration has treated him only further buttresses the tyrannical attribute of his rule.

The Opposition's Approach Vs Putin's

The opposition's way of seeking the good governance they desire is by holding an open protest and demanding a system with justice. Such as the Alexei Navalny-inspired protest and the white ribbon. Putin on the other hand has responded by forcefully quelling such endeavors. Even as far as restricting internet and media access. Thereby further abusing the fundamental human rights of the Russian populace.


Simon Tisdall, Putin’s treatment of protesters and rivals shows weakness, not strength. 2019

Samuel A. Greene and Graeme B. Robertson, Putin’s new war on the opposition suggests he sees it as a real threat. 2021

Alex Ward, Alexei Navalny, the Russian dissident challenging Putin, explained. 2021

Georgina McCartney, What do Russians really think of Putin and Navalny? 2021

Steve Rosenberg, Russia election: Opposition crushed ahead of managed polls. 2021

13 December 2021
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