In Russia today, 10 December 2011, human rights have come of age. No one should be surprised that a clash has occurred between the regime led by Vladimir Putin and Russian society. Today, Vladimir Putin and society talk to each other from different historical epochs. Over the last twenty years society has changed enormously, but the political regime and its masters have remained stuck with a mindset that is closely linked to Soviet traditions. In Vladimir Putin ‘s vision of the world, to strengthen political power you need to control television and the press, manipulate elections, and resist the development of civil and political rights. Those in power accept as a matter of course that elections should be manipulated to deliver the required results. But Russian society has changed. On 4 December a large number of people suddenly woke up to the fact that the elections were fraudulent, and they did not like it. Just as nothing succeeds like success, so nothing fails like failure. Not only did the extensive electoral manipulation fail to produce a better result for the authorities, but it was exposed for what it was. For many Russians, this has been a ‘Wizard of Oz’ moment, and they have lost their respect for, and fear of, the regime led by Vladimir Putin. Today, as demonstrators fill the streets of Moscow and other Russian cities to protest against the denial of their electoral rights and in support of the basic norms of democratic governance, human rights have come of age in Russia.
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