Anna Zhelnina (PhD Candidate) wrote about the election in Moscow in Metropolitics.org
Late on the night of September 8, 2019, when Muscovites checked the results for that day’s Moscow City Council election, they realized that their vote actually meant something for the first time in many years. The candidates backed by United Russia, the ruling party, had lost in 20 districts out of 45. United Russia kept the majority, but compared to the 38 seats they controlled in the previous city council, this result looked like a loss.
The Moscow City Council election was in the spotlight that day, but elections also took place at various levels across Russia: several governors, city councils, regional parliaments, and municipal deputies. This election differed from the previous electoral campaigns in Putin’s Russia because of “smart voting”: an idea and technology developed by the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a nonprofit headed by Aleksey Navalny, one of the most active and notable opposition politicians in Russia. “Smart voting” had one goal: to topple as many United Russia candidates as possible, at all levels of elections. Instead of picking an ideologically “correct” candidate, it suggested a single candidate in each district for opposition voters to support based on the candidate’s likelihood to win, calculated by an algorithm based on previous election and polling data.
We will soon celebrate the 30th anniversary of the epoch-making opening of the Berlin Wall. The “fall” of the Wall was followed, in unexpectedly speedy fashion, by the unification of the two parts of Germany that had been divided during the Cold War. With the approach of unification, many assumed, as former Chancellor Willy Brandt put it, that “that which belongs together is growing together,” and that it would take roughly a generation for the two sides to complete the process. How has that worked out?
Well, not, at least in considerable respects. It is important to recall how different a society “really existing socialism” was. The ethos was egalitarian, “workerist,” and unhurried. Social hierarchies were flattened compared to what existed in the West. Even the Communist political elite, distant though it was from the mass of the population, lived far from luxuriously. Women, whose labor power was needed in the factories because little immigration was allowed, found themselves in a much more equal position relative to men. Forty years of separation produced different outlooks and attitudes. In short, the effort to cultivate a new “socialist person”—whether one likes it or not—was not entirely unsuccessful.