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Could Russians Take to the Streets and Fight Back Like in China?

U.S.-Russia Relations
Image: Creative Commons.

Vladimir Putin must be suffering through sleepless nights in his bunker.

First, in 2020-2021, the Belarusians took to the streets to call for freedom. The Iranians followed suit in 2022, and they have not yielded despite a savage crackdown.

Now, it’s the Chinese. Not the Hong-Kongers, who are well known as troublemakers in the Middle Kingdom. No, this time it is the mainland Chinese, protesting in their thousands to question the wisdom of the Communist Party and its supreme leader, Xi Jinping.

Who’s next? The North Koreans? Or, worse, the Russians?

Unstable Authoritarianism

Putin’s authoritarian allies are facing a remarkable degree of instability. That wasn’t supposed to happen. After all, Russia’s supreme leader knows that authoritarian rule beats democracy every time.

So, why the protests? Why these weird demands for freedom, of all things? The Ukrainian revolutions of 2004 and 2014 were of course the handiwork of the vile West and its leader, the United States. But while it’s perfectly possible for the Central Intelligence Agency to bamboozle those foolish Ukrainians, a people who lack the good sense to realize their country doesn’t exist, can the CIA’s grasp really extend into those bastions of people’s democracy, Iran and China?

What is the world coming to?

What worries Putin most is the possibility that a Russian insurrection may now be just as probable as the uprisings in Iran and China. The Chinese case is especially troubling for him. After all, in contrast to Russia’s elites, the Chinese Communists have delivered a high standard of living for many of their people. They’ve also played the nationalist card extremely well, seemingly persuading much of the population that democracy was neither necessary nor desirable. 

Russia’s Turn to Turn on Dear Leader

Now the ungrateful Chinese are not only protesting the Party’s COVID-19 policy  – they are also demanding freedom. The Chinese looked prosperous, passive, and peaceful.

If even such people could be dissatisfied enough to risk their lives by challenging Xi’s iron-fisted rule, then why not the Russians?

Lord knows, their sons and husbands are dying by the thousands in Ukraine. The Russian economy is contracting, and all that Putin and his minions can suggest is that still more Russians should be sent to the front as cannon fodder.

China’s rebellion may be snuffed out, or it may lead to change. But the movement, along with the Belarusian and Iranian uprisings, shows that the world’s authoritarian regimes are in serious trouble.

In all three cases, the demonstrations were sparked by random events that outraged people. Russia’s turn to rebel will come when the Russian army’s creeping defeat in Ukraine generates the spark that ignites a conflagration. 

A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Dr. Alexander Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, including Pidsumky imperii (2009); Puti imperii (2004); Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires (2001); Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities (1999); Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism (1993); and The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929 (1980); the editor of 15 volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Nationalism (2000) and The Holodomor Reader (2012); and a contributor of dozens of articles to academic and policy journals, newspaper op-ed pages, and magazines. He also has a weekly blog, “Ukraine’s Orange Blues.”

Written By

Dr. Alexander Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, including Pidsumky imperii (2009); Puti imperii (2004); Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires (2001); Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities (1999); Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism (1993); and The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929 (1980); the editor of 15 volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Nationalism (2000) and The Holodomor Reader (2012); and a contributor of dozens of articles to academic and policy journals, newspaper op-ed pages, and magazines. He also has a weekly blog, “Ukraine’s Orange Blues.”



  1. Ben Leucking

    November 28, 2022 at 5:49 pm

    The rulers of communist China, Iran and North Korea have not hesitated to brutally suppress dissent. If Putin is ever faced with an internal rebellion, he will respond in the same manner. These four despots share many things in common, not the least of which is moral depravity.

  2. Walker

    November 28, 2022 at 6:47 pm

    The best part for Putin is that he wasted the same military he needs to hold down a rebellion in Ukraine. His tank is pretty empty, and just a T-55 at that. Perhaps he can get these Russian keyboard warriors here on this site to beat up their unpatriotic compatriots.

  3. TheDon

    November 28, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    I hope they do revolt. The US population had to to end various wars where politicans just can’t let go and never have a definition of win.

    I hope they take Putin, Krill, and Lukashenko to high crimes trial against the state. They are destroying Russia, the Orthodox religion and future of Russia in one year, to say “we won”. They would own a destroyed state and continue to take more Russian lives and billions to fix the infrastructure? And Krill is a Patriarch? Supporting Putin’s missile launches on innocent people? He should also meet number one.

  4. Gary Jacobs

    November 28, 2022 at 8:40 pm

    As nice as it would be to see Russians rise up, I fear that Putin has done such a “good” job of pumping out the propaganda that there are too many Russians willing to follow him into the abyss. They are used to immense suffering under the Soviet System after all. Even many who fled mobilization brought their support for the naked aggression against Ukraine with them to their new countries.

    As well, Imperial Russia has a long history of invading its neighbors and I just dont see enough of their people being ready to confront their ugly history the way Germany did [with mixed results] after WWII.

    But make no mistake, Russian history is every bit as bad. From the Pale of Settlement and Pogroms against 4.5 Million Jews, to Holodomor – also known as the Terror-Famine – a man made famine imposed by Stalin on Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians. Credible estimates have it at about 7-10million people.

    I think much of the world is simply fed up with centuries of Russian imperialist behavior and many countries are willing to persist at fighting until Russia’s military is significantly more degraded…unless they decide to simply leave Ukraine.

    There are clearly Russians like Sergei Magnitsky willing to die for a better Russia… just not enough of them. When they protest the war in Ukraine, it’s usually because they want better equipment before they go fight.
    Not a good sign.

    I think Russia just has to do a lot more losing on the battlefield…with a lot more dead Russians…before the gravity of the disaster that is Putin Era Russia begins to sink in for more of their population. Maybe then they can also confront their bloody history as well.

    Have a liberating day.

  5. Commentar

    November 28, 2022 at 9:22 pm

    Putin can’t follow china or iran model.

    He needs to get out of his comfort (very extremely comfortable & ultra hi luxury) zone now and dust off his buttocks and fight the global fascismo bloc like he’s never done before.

    Putin needs to immediately end the fighting in donbass by employing use of nukes.

    Biden and NATO won’t dare reply, as they would have to also attack and wipe out china, iran, north korea and cuba and in the process, witness the destruction of totally loyal minions like japan & australia.

    Putin is probably fully unaware of the extent of the sufferings endured by nations like iran and cuba long hit by severe crippling sanctions and thus lacking in urgency.

    In iran, so-called protests have been orchestrated by imperialist groups supported by external powers in charge of anti-iran sanctions and so a focused effort to isolate and neutralize them should be made.

    In china, the PLA needs to get rid of xi jinping, biden’s family benefactor and the mikhail gorbachev of china who has failed to abandon his dumb & stupid globalization vision.

    His globalization vision has enabled foreigners to enter china in droves while locals suffer unending lockdowns and foreign subversives like AFP & reuters roam freely especially in major cities to churn out seditious incitement against the authorities.

    Today, agencies like reuters, AFP, bloomberg, bbc and aljazeera in china behave as if they are extensions of US state dept and CIA or MI5.

    Thanks to xi jinping and his nightmarishly stupid global outlook for china.

    The ‘protests’ in china are actually small but greatly magnified to present a picture as if revolution in china is just right around the corner.

    China needs to GET RID of xi jinping and also the deadly cancerous cells currently operating or doing their business in all the major cities.

    Nobody’s magnifying the killing and shooting massacres in US which should be legit enough to start armed revolts and reuters and AFP have been SMART to tamp down their news and avoid trouble.

    All in all, putin needs to get out of his stupor right now and end the war in donbass by using nukes and throwing down the gauntlet at the feet of the global fascismo bloc which also includes their foot soldiers like reuters, AFP, bbc and aljazeera and others.

  6. 403Forbidden

    November 28, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    Russia needs to be aware that anti-russia sanctions instituted before and after the start of the 2022 ukraine conflict will remain effective and in place until after the arrival of judgement day on Earth or until russia is split completely apart and torn up or balkanized.

    Thus russia must react accordingly to such a state of confrontation and endgame scenario presented by one-world fascisto globalist forces.

    China needs to overhaul its current outdated paramount leader in charge of everything system which opens it to blackmail of all sorts by the rampaging globalist forces.

    The president or paramount leader must not be involved in all matters related to foreign affairs and cannot be at the beck and call of foreign leaders. He must be forbidden by law to even meet with foreign dignitaries.

    Only the premier can deal with foreign matters and foreign leaders like during premier zhou enlai’s era and all decisions by premier and his foreign ministry must be validated by the NPC or else become void and illegitimate.

    This will put a heavy dent in the globalists’ dream of a one world government dominated by uncle sam whose hidden stalwarts own virtually all the share rights in the banks, legal firms, big businesses, arms or weapon manufacturers, trading firms and media firms and internet giants and almost everything in between.

  7. Jimmyf40

    November 28, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    Could russia and china fight back like what they did in ww2.Take to the streets and high ways and byways and fight their opponents. Fight them to the death.

    Few people are ready or able to immediately relate the very mysterious sept 2022 nordstream blasts to the similar aug 2015 port of tianjin blasts but there’s heavy suspicion in many intelligence circles both the series of blasts were ordered and carried out by the same groups of people.

    Now, will russia and co finally fight back, or will it be business as usual.

    Looks like business as usual, as the costs of the series of blasts are deemed acceptable, since the cost of directly fighting their opponents is highly unpredictable and likely to be at least one massive order of magnitude greater than the blasts themselves.

    So, russia is unlikely to take to the streets unless abrams tanks and leopard 2 tanks and stryker APCs and bradley APCs are heading straight for the red square in moscow.

  8. Jimmyf40

    November 29, 2022 at 12:23 am

    Western nations and their pressitude media, especially the anglosphere ones from USA to australia, are making a big ‘wave’ out of the strict covid policy in some countries like china.

    But there’s little or even no wave at all over the million plus covid deaths in US. Totally surprising. Even when not taking into account rising flu rates and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases in US hospital wards today.

    It is best not to get too carried away by other countries’ covid policies, as in 2023, world is expected to face either a man-made or a naturally occurring solar or outer space event which could disable or wipe out most or maybe all satellites in LEO and MEO.

    Such an event, if it ever comes to pass, will lead to complete global chaos as all financial systems will grind to a halt and later ending in total armageddon.

    Countries of the world should now prepare for such an eventuality and stop worshipping electronic money and cashless payments and uber digital banking systems.

    Efforts should be made to safeguard physical money, limit number of denomination notes, limit printing, limit maximum size of largest denomination value and increase the quality of all paper and ploymer notes.

    Also, nations should do the same on the problem of coinage issuance, limit types of coin denominations and avoid perennially artificial coin shortages.

    Covid policies are mere kindergarten stuff compared to a worldwide financial system collapse or meltdown.

  9. from Russia with love

    November 29, 2022 at 6:14 am

    strange why Motyl overlooks the protests in the EU, the US and Canada? (nothing strange?). Motyl does not want to talk about how the bloody totalitarian regime that seized power in the United States killed people on January 6, 2021? does not want to talk about how the totalitarian regime of Canada arrested and imprisoned Canadian drivers who suddenly protested against COVID-related restrictions? maybe he wants to talk about the protests in France that have not stopped for 6 years? Or maybe about the protests in Germany? in the Czech Republic? Maybe in the Netherlands or Belgium? In the Netherlands, by the way, it will soon be even more fun. ? there, the government passed a law on the forced purchase of 3,000 farms.
    it looks like Matyl is an ordinary pizdabol and 1 gram of objective reality destroys his delusional fantasies.?‍♂️

  10. Johnny Ray

    November 29, 2022 at 9:32 am

    Russia has been waging brutal, evil imperial war for hundreds if not thousands of years under the leadership of despotic, violent autocrats. It’s what they do. It’s their normal.
    The west has let it go due to physical and thus emotional, political and economic distance.
    The Ukraine War is one time of very few the West didn’t stay asleep. However, the Russians are counting on, as a strategy, the west tiring of the war before Russia runs out of men and ammo. They may be right.
    As for an awakening in Russia to freedom and democracy…nope. Not going to happen.

  11. Gary Jacobs

    November 29, 2022 at 9:48 am

    From Russia with Hate:

    LoL… there are HUGE differences in the protests in the west.

    -Some of the protests are clearly Russia stirring up its paid troll farm livestock – like you – to do its bidding…and no one is changing policy over any of that.

    -protesting in the west is actually allowed. When protesting is done peacefully in the west, It is generally not crushed violently the way it is in Russia, China, Iran, etc.

    There have been plenty of peaceful anti war protests in the west in the 20+ years since 9/11. Especially when invading Iraq in 2003. It wasnt illegal to be against those wars the way it is in Russia.

    As well, we have peaceful transitions of power. Plenty of protests against Trump, then we had an election and got a new President. Even the Jan 6 riot was a minor blip on the screen of our 200+ year democracy…and it took that level of law breaking for people to go to jail. It’s the exception that proves the rule for the acceptance of peaceful protestors not going to jail.

  12. Gary Jacobs

    November 29, 2022 at 9:52 am


    LoL, your “one-world fascisto globalist forces” schtick makes me laugh every time. you are projecting your Putinism onto everyone else. Putin literally supports every right wing loon from Le Pen in France to Orban in Hungary and the Russian Imperial Legion that is actually fighting with Russia in Ukraine… but you are still here pretending it’s everyone else that’s fascist?

    The FSB troll farm must pay its livestock like you very well.

  13. Jim

    November 29, 2022 at 10:41 am

    The good professor is throwing a Hail Mary…

  14. Jiri Novacek

    November 30, 2022 at 4:16 am

    Russians are completely brainwashed today as they were during soviet times. A poor russian goat herder in a village without drinking water or a toilet believed that he lived better than majority of the people in the “West”. When in 2016 a meteor came across Europe and landed in Russia damaging some windows, Russian media seriously reported that it was a new secret Nato weapon. Mothers of russian soldiers who invaded and died in Ukraine are writing letters to Putin believing that he is a god man and would do something.

    It is like the germans who believed in Hitler until the very last moment of WW2, considering him good, a genius, someone who cares about them.

  15. from Russia with love

    November 30, 2022 at 4:38 am

    crazy Gary Jacobs:
    are evil russian trolls fomenting protests in the EU?? ooooh… really this is very different from the direct funding of coup d’état that the US is doing. The United States recently took pride in having invested 5 billion in the implementation of the coup d’etat in 2014 in Ukraine. direct participation of European countries in the coup attempt in Belarus. organizing and coordinating riots. Do you consider this civilized? Should Russia do the same? interesting idea.??
    Are protests in the West actually allowed? you are sure? do not deceive yourself and others. ? Only those protests that can be ignored are “allowed”. if you try to block roads like Canadian drivers, at best you will be arrested and, like in Canada, your bank account will be blocked, depriving you of your livelihood. they did not smash shops and did not organize pogroms, but this did not save them from suppression. Maybe the EU is better? watch the video of the suppression of protests in France. the police beat everyone who comes to hand with rebar, both protesters and just passers-by. By the way, also in the US.
    in 200 years of democracy, a couple of small incidents?? Are you sure you live in the USA? go to google and type “riots in the usa”. for 200 years, over 300 riots that the army suppressed! and recently, BLM riots again and many people were killed. the National Guard is called in again. then the “peaceful transfer of power” as a result of which more than 1000 people were sent to prison and 5 people were killed. the national guard has been stuck in Washington for several months. Are you a naive idiot or are you so uneducated that you don’t know the history of your country??

  16. Gary Jacobs

    November 30, 2022 at 9:16 am

    From Russia with Hate,

    LoL, that tired trope about US supposedly fomenting the 2014 Maidan Uprising against Russian interference in Ukraine is so silly it makes me laugh. Total inversion of reality

    $5 Billion is pocket change compared to the $15+ TRILLION EU economy Ukraine was supposed to join until Putin attempted his coup to get Ukraine to sign a deal with Russian instead of the EU at the last moment, after 3 years of Ukraine negotiating that deal with the EU and their President getting elected specifically on a platform of signing said deal with the EU.

    As well, the EU+US trade relations are the single largest in the entire world with the US having a roughly $20 TRILLION economy. Adding that together with the EU, you have a combined $35 TRILLION worth of economies Ukraine would have access to vs. Russia’s $1 Trillion maybe…and much of that is oil and gas. Russia doesnt make much of anything else worthwhile.

    It’s pretty basic math really.

    Beyond that, you have the centuries of Russian imperialist oppression against Ukraine as an extra incentive to look west instead of east.

    Your silly troll farm talking points have zero value here. My knowledge base is far beyond anything you’ve dealt with. In part because my family tree has experienced Russian oppression 1st hand.
    And I know my enemy well.

    Have a liberating day.

  17. RyanKC

    November 30, 2022 at 9:25 am

    North Korea
    All unarmed citizenry under dictators.
    NEVER give up your natural right to bear arms!

  18. Bertram

    November 30, 2022 at 11:54 am

    There are no shortage of weapons in Russia.
    Putin is handing them out to every man they can drag off the street and ship to Ukraine.
    At what point do these kidnap victims in Ukraine with their rifles and hand grenades, turn around and board trains for Moscow.
    As far as nukes go. It is highly more likely that nukes will be used within Russia against other Russians, than against Ukrainians.
    Putin’s control is like a clock that is ticking down.

  19. Злой русский пьяный медведь с балалйкой

    December 1, 2022 at 3:20 am

    From Russia with love.
    How far are you from reality. Studying the historical atrocities of the “WEST” could give you a picture of how criminal the “WEST” was, is and will be.
    Who inspired you with the “angelicness” of the “WEST”?
    Who gave you the right to decide the fate of peoples ? Have you brought happiness to many peoples by destroying their moral states and foundations? You are mired in greed, hypocrisy, theft, robbery and murder! You have no idea how much the “WEST” is hated by most of humanity!

  20. Злой русский пьяный медведь с балалйкой

    December 4, 2022 at 2:42 am

    If the lawlessness that was observed in the United States during the elections and after, the ban on the statements of the elected president in the media. there is an example of Western “gemocracy”, then those regimes are better. which are in China and the Russian Federation.

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