Do the Russian Protests Mean a ‘Slavic Spring’ Is Near?

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Do the Russian Protests Mean a ‘Slavic Spring’ Is Near?

Protests broke out across Russia on Sunday, from St. Petersburg on the western border to Vladivostok in the Far East. The demonstrations marked the largest outburst of antigovernment sentiment since 2012. Demonstrators from 99 Russian cities participated in the rallies, chanting such mantras as: “Down with the Tsar!”, “Putin the thief: Go away!”, and “Russia will be free!”

The protests were triggered by a report published earlier this month by opposition leader Aleksey Navalny, which apparently exposes corruption in Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The report said, “Through his puppet ‘charity foundations,’ Dmitry Medvedev owns real estate around the country, controls giant lots of land in the most elite districts, enjoys yachts and apartments in prerevolutionary mansions, and receives profit from the agricultural companies and vineyards both in Russia and abroad.”

Navalny published the details of his investigation on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms and included a call for Medvedev to resign. Navalny also called on his fellow Russians to come out on Sunday for a peaceful “anticorruption walk.” By rally day, the report had been viewed some 12 million times. An estimated 70,000 Russians across 11 time zones responded by participating in the rallies.

The demonstrations were about more than the largely enfeebled Medvedev’s corruption. Moscow-based journalist Joshua Yaffa said that they “were also about a creeping mood of public dissatisfaction and fatigue, a sense that, after 17 years, Vladimir Putin’s political system was running out of arguments to justify its continued monopoly hold on power.”

Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of the protests was the youthfulness of the participants. A notable percentage were in their teens and early 20s. Unlike their parents and grandparents, these young Russians have never known any other Russian leader besides Vladimir Putin. They don’t remember the Soviet doldrums that the president steered the nation out of. “Never before have schoolchildren and students participated on such a massive scale in opposition protests,” independent Russian news outlet Meduza wrote in a photo essay.

Also significant is that so many people turned out in Russia’s “regions,” meaning everywhere outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg. These less-developed areas are typically more pro-Putin and more conservative than the nation’s two largest cities and have not generally taken part in previous protests. The participation of people in these areas means dissatisfaction is not just limited to the country’s educated urban liberals.

By the end of Sunday, the Kremlin had detained more than 1,000 protesters in Moscow alone. Most were arrested for merely being present. This was far more than were arrested in the 2011 and 2012 demonstrations. Among the detained was Navalny, who was given a 15-day jail sentence and fined for organizing the unauthorized protests. This gives the Kremlin a window to reevaluate its approach to Navalny, and to decide whether he will be permitted to run against Putin in a 2018 presidential race that Navalny could not realistically win.

A Threat to Putin?

The Russian leadership has reason to view these protests warily. As the Atlantic wrote: “The fact that thousands and thousands in areas outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg came out despite this tremendous risk, to participate in rallies that were, with few exceptions, not permitted by the authorities, means a few things, and none of them are good for Putin.”

The protests showed that Kremlin critics, particularly Navalny, have greater political power than Moscow calculated, that social media can break through government efforts to control what Russians hear, that a populist message resonates with many Russians, and that efforts to channel the energy of Russia’s youth into a pro-Putin direction have not been universally successful.

As the 2018 election draws near, the movement could end up ousting Medvedev or others in the Russian leadership. But Sunday’s protests should not be mistaken for the opening rounds of a revolution that specifically threatens Putin.

As Nikolas K. Gvosdev wrote in the National Interest:

[W]hile the protests may seem to be directed against the Kremlin, the anticorruption sentiment that is motivating the demonstrators can just as easily be co-opted by the Kremlin. In the run-up to the 2018 election, we are likely to see younger cadres advanced to more senior positions within the Russian government, while corruption charges are always a useful tool to remove recalcitrant officials who refuse to retire or who have failed to deliver for Putin. Under a slogan of renewal, the energy of the protests can be harnessed to support the advancement of a new generation of patriotic technocrats. … Thus, any revolution may be directed less against Putin and instead be the instigating factor for a major reshuffle in the Russian political establishment—conducted under Putin’s supervision.

The security of Putin’s position is also evident in his popularity ratings. Although his approval rate has slipped slightly since the wave of patriotism unleashed by his 2014 annexation of Crimea, a February poll by the Levada Center shows that an astounding 84 percent of Russians still support his work as president. Meanwhile, only 49 percent of Russians approve of the overall Russian government. And an abysmal 42 percent approve of the State Duma.

When Putin’s domestic popularity is placed alongside his ongoing crackdown on his most threatening critics, and his almost complete power over Russia’s courts, local legislatures and electoral commissions, it looks unlikely that his reign will be challenged in a threatening way in 2018 and beyond.

In 2014, many analysts were saying the end of Putin’s rule was nigh. What the Trumpet said then, we can repeat now: “Putin Won’t Just Survive, He’ll Thrive.”

How Can We Know Putin Will Survive?

The Trumpet can make such assertions with confidence because they are based on specific forecasts from a reliable source: the Bible. The Bible contains detailed foresights that say a Russian strongman will rise and exert enormous power on other nations.

Revelation 9:16, written around a.d. 90, describes an Asian army that will amass 200 million men: “And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.” That is a force that contains more people than were even alive at the time that was written.

Revelation 16:12 labels the leadership of this massive military as the “kings of the east,” indicating a bloc of Asian countries. Ezekiel 38 shows specifically which nations would comprise this bloc and details about its leadership: “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, ‘Son of man, set thy face unto Gog, of the land of Magog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy concerning him” (Ezekiel 38:1-2; kjv, Young’s Literal Translation). Anciently, Rosh or Rus was the name of Russia. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary and several other Bible sources recognize this.

The passage then describes the campaigns of this force led by this “prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.” Who is the “prince” steering this massive army?

A careful examination of these scriptural passages and others, matched to the framework of modern current events, makes the answer visible.

In the September 2014 issue of the Philadelphia Trumpet, editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote:

I strongly believe Vladimir Putin is going to lead the 200 million-man army. Just look at the power he already has. Can you think of any other Russian politician who could become so powerful and have the will to lead Russia into the crisis of crises? I see nobody else on the horizon who could do that. And only a tiny few years remain for the prince of Rosh to appear! … This much is absolutely certain: The restoring of Russia’s power by Vladimir Putin—the prince of Russia—was prophesied! He has already solidly allied Russia with China. The prophecy about the prince of Russia includes that main alliance. … The only question is whether or not Putin personally finishes the entire prophecy.

Since the Trumpet has this vital understanding of Vladimir Putin’s role in end-time prophecy, we believe it unlikely that a “Slavic Spring” is on the horizon for Russia—at least not one that would take Putin out.

To understand more, watch Mr. Flurry’s recent Key of David episode “The Prophesied Prince of Russia.”