From, April 18, 2023, Condensed text:

It is expected that, as a result of several meetings, the first of which will be held in Berlin at the end of April, Russian opposition forces will find a format for unification and meaningful discussion of their plans. . . .

The main strategic goal of this process is to build democratic rule of law in Russia. This is the main topic, because the common position regarding Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has long been formulated and is well known.

The unification process has been delayed. There are a lot of reasons. Let us contemplate some of the ones around which we have set practical tasks.

First. Public discussion of the opposition’s tasks is now decisively based on the opinions of those outside Russia. This is because millions of people in Russia are forced to remain silent so as not to be prosecuted. This is especially true for those who continue to carry out vital human rights work in Russia, which in some cases is more important than public statements. The participation of such people in anti-war meetings abroad and their influence on the content and outcomes of these meetings is now almost impossible.

This problem can be partially solved if we ensure that meetings dedicated to the unification of the opposition are attended by representatives of public forces and leaders in Russia, including in places of detention. These representatives should be listened to carefully, and their positions should be taken into account in the documents produced by conferences.

Second. As a result of the natural development of political events in Russia, the most prominent oppositionists were previously associated with the Yeltsin or Putin regimes, and actively pursued their careers in the 1990s or early 2000s. At the same time, a lot of civic initiatives were suppressed during these years, such as trade union and environmental movements. And in the last prewar years, there was also an active increase in the participation of young people in politics and the creation of youth opposition, journalistic and human rights projects, which the authorities have functionally defeated. Therefore, almost none of these forces are represented in foreign opposition circles.

In particular, left-wing democratic antiwar forces have been weakened. The left-wing movement in opposition to the Russian Federation Communist Party has been split, and the stratum of the RFCP that does not support the war is being subjected to pressure and repression by both the authorities and party leadership. It is known that antiwar, democratic-minded left-wing forces are now uniting, for example, under the project “Socialists Against War.”

It is critical to ensure that the most prominent representatives of these forces – youth antiwar movements, anti-authoritarian leftists – take part in forming the coalition.

Why is this so important, when these forces are poorly formed and, it would seem, should not be able to influence Russians’ views? The fact is, in the opinion of people of left-democratic views, that those who have been and remain in power are the oligarchs and “liberals” who have ensured the formation and stability of Putin’s regime. Having broken with Putin’s elite and now opposing them, they are natural members of the coalition of antiwar forces. But among Russians, there is a noticeable distrust of people from this elite, even though they strongly oppose the regime. And the emerging opposition coalition should take these circumstances into account.

It is obvious that the radical positions of some opposition representatives are most likely harmful to the formation of a broad coalition. Namely, direct calls for armed resistance, as well as proclamations of the need for Russian territory to be divided. These issues should not be used to destroy the unification processes, and a compromise should under no circumstances sacrifice the interests of the mass antiwar movement to a radical minority.

To know the opinion of democratic and antiwar Russians on the most key issues of the upcoming coalition, we have appealed to the signatories of the petition “No to War!” In the first days of the war, this petition was signed by 1.3 million people who stated that they have antiwar and democratic views. We conducted two anonymous surveys among the signatories: “People Within the Democratic Movement” and “Goals, Methods, Consequences.” In some respects, the results were unexpected.

Our first survey questioned 2,088 people. Conclusions.

First. It turned out that 78.4% of respondents remain in Russia. This is a very important point.

Second. The data clearly confirmed the demand for a real unification of the opposition. Thus, when asked, “What topics do you consider the most urgent for discussion within the opposition?” the majority (more than 70%) chose the response “consolidation of democratic forces.” Many wrote about consolidation/unification in open-ended responses to the question “what do you think the antiwar movement needs the most?”

Third. According to responses to the question “Which democratic forces do you focus most on?” Navalny’s team (Anticorruption Foundation) took first place with 26.3%. Maksim Kats and his team are slightly behind in second place (21.7%). Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Garry Kasparov with the Free Russia Forum are in third place (13.8%).

Fourth. About 45% of respondents, most of whom are in Russia, noted a decrease in support for the war to one degree or another. At the same time, 32.8% said that they personally had managed to convince a certain number of people in their environment.

Our second survey questioned 1,197 people. Conclusions.

First. The responses showed that there are more right-wing democrats (32%). While there are fewer left-wing democrats (20%), their numbers cannot be ignored. And 48% are focused on specific programs of parties or politicians. It follows that the unification of right-wing and left-wing democrats is highly desirable.

Second. One of the most pressing questions now, which has become worse since the murder of “war correspondent” and propagandist [Vladlen] Tatarsky [see Vol. 75, No. 14, pp. 3‑7], is: “Should a broad coalition of antiwar forces include representatives of organizations that publicly support actions like the murders of [Darya] Dugina [daughter of Russian ultranationalist thinker Aleksandr Dugin; see Vol. 74, No. 34, pp. 3‑8 – Trans.] and Tatarsky?”

The responses showed that it should not (62.8%). Nevertheless, a significant percentage (29%) believe that they should be represented in a broad coalition.

It would seem that the picture is similar to the previous question, and a broad coalition should be based not only on the majority, but also on the minority, if it makes up a significant part. But in the second case, the question is not about uniting people with different political positions, but about uniting people with different moral ideas. Therefore, it is obvious that if a broad coalition includes people who allow for terrorist attacks as a method of political struggle, this will contribute to a sharp reduction in the coalition itself.

Third. The last important question we want to address is: “How should the democratic opposition express its attitude toward the possible collapse of Russia?” which divided the sample almost in half.

[Among respondents,] 55.8% believe that the democratic opposition should declare the goal of preserving Russia with maximum federalization and guaranteed rights of cultural and ethnic communities. And 41.8% believe that it should not prevent the free secession of national republics from Russia.

The initiative group of the Sakharov Movement for Peace, Progress and Human Rights:

Lev Ponomaryov
Yelena Kotyonochkina
Oleg Yelanchik