Women central to anti-mobilization protests
As the war continues, women are playing an increasingly active role in anti-war mobilization
across Russia, including in the Caucasus. On September 22 in Baksan, a small town of around 40,000 people in Kabardino-Balkaria, several dozen women gathered
to protest mobilization. And in the capital, Nalchik, protesters – also mostly women – engaged in heated arguments
with the local authorities who had come to talk to the crowd. In one video circulated widely
on Telegram channels, a woman is seen shouting at the official to “not send our kids away,” accusing him of being a “PR manager [just] promoting himself.”
Surprisingly, protests extended even to Grozny, the capital of quasi-totalitarian Chechnya, where women gathered on September 21 to protest against the mobilization. According to opposition activist
Ibragim Yangulbayev, some 130 women were arrested and interrogated, and their male relatives – if they were not already in Ukraine – were taken and forced to sign up as “volunteers” to fight.
In Dagestan, instances of police violence
against women protesting – which were captured on video and circulated widely – have sparked a particularly deep sense of moral outrage. Such information appeared to be both more viewed and
more commented on than other protest-relevant information on Telegram channels, even extending to attempts to identify the individual police officers involved. ‘Moral shocks’
can spark widespread unrest, but by their very nature it is hard to predict what these will be. Protest activity and police violence, however, certainly create space for such shocks to occur.#3 No elite defection, but murmurings of unease
As Marlene Laruelle explains
, the apparent consensus around Putin belies a more complex competition taking place between various ideological and elite camps. As of yet, there have been no signs of the sort of elite defection
that would seriously threaten the regime, but there have been some signals suggesting a sense of unease among Russia’s regional elites.
Acutely aware of the need to prevent mass protests spiraling out of control, officials have drawn upon a variety of approaches when dealing with the current wave of unrest. On September 25 the Head of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, admitted
that mistakes had been made, declaring the need to address instances where “those who weren’t on the list were mobilized.” Yet the next day his position hardened, claiming
that protests in Makhachkala were planned from abroad.
In Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov’s announcement
that the republic would not carry out any further mobilization – claiming that Chechnya had already fulfilled over twice its quota – was made in the aftermath of the women’s protest in Grozny. By bringing the topic of regional disparities and inequitable burden-sharing into the public sphere, Kadyrov has given a veneer of legitimacy to those elsewhere with grievances against mobilization in their communities, while making it harder for local elites to fall back on the argument that they are simply implementing the law – as the protests in Nalchik