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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

A newly politicised Russian public

One in five Russians is ready to take to the streets in protest as civic consciousness rises and discontent bubbles beneath the surface.

Growing numbers of people are realising what they are entitled to and taking to the streets to claim it after years of civic inertia through the Soviet Union.

Man the ramparts

Although ruling party United Russia enjoys powerful polling results and a monopoly on power, 53 per cent of respondents told the Public Opinion Fund (FOM) that they were unhappy with the way things were and 21 per cent said they would be prepared to take to the streets on the coming weekend.

Bones of contention have been varied over the last two years. The construction mafia, who ride rough shod over historic city sites and public convenience with the alleged collusion of corrupt officials, has brought hundreds onto Russia's streets in recent days

Migalka-weary motorists likewise have been rallying in an ongoing complaint against officials' blue lights and sirens pushing ordinary drivers to the side of the road. Angry protestors marked the anniversary of the Lukoil crash in February.

Throw hard-up expectant mothers, unhappy anglers, hunger striking teachers in Ulyanovsk and political demonstrators from Strategy 31 into the mix and you have the growth of civil activism.

Although human rights say this growth has been slow political scientists explain it as a noticeable reaction to dissatisfaction with the current regime and with life in Russia, gzt.ru reported.

Corruption threatens

"We are now witnessing how a stage of citizens' political inertia is giving way to political activism and developing into both an interest in politics and higher voter turnout," Alexander Kynyev, head of Foundation for Political Development told gzt.ru.

He denied the Levada Centre's claim that a corrupt government was the greatest threat to this. "Corruption does not hurt civil society as such, it prevents the public from influencing the government. But these are different things," he said.

Poised on a precipice

A corrupt system means one-sided courts and this means conflicts are difficult to resolve, the Levada centre found.

This in turn raises the chances of outbursts of discontent, as experienced across the country in 2005, in Vladivostok in 2009 and Kaliningrad in 2010, gzt.ru reported.

Personal touch

Today's highly specialised world has many individual faces but people are united by their personal interests and this presents the basis for many action groups.

This is the age of networking and people are more united than they were 10 or 20 years ago. "The essence of reforming civil society, the acquisition of new features, these are becoming more apparent," says Kynev.

"We are witnessing the birth of a new society," he maintains.

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