Anti-Vaxers, Russia's real opposition
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The mandatory rules surrounding the Qr-Code are systematically disregarded. A powerless government, fails to contain Covid-19 infections. Bans resulting from the coronavirus have awakened the "apolitical" population, more so than Naval'nyj's anti-corruption campaigns.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The rules for the presentation of the Qr-Code (Green Pass) in Russia are being systematically disregarded, preventing the country from reacting adequately to the new wave of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. More than 20,000 people have been hospitalised in the last 24 hours, double the number of the previous day, worsening the pandemic emergency. The government appears powerless to contain this new form of mass protest.

The pandemic has transformed millions of Russians into opponents of the regime, far exceeding the levels of social dissatisfaction already evident last year, which began with the arrest of Aleksej Naval'nyj and the street protests, which were followed by increasingly articulated forms of repression. This time the discontent is not about the low standard of living and the lack of social services, the corruption of politicians or the deprivation of rights, but about the severe sanitary restrictions that are provoking reactions all over the world, and in Russia they are capturing the strong impatience of the people towards the government.

The introduction of compulsory Qr-Codes in many regions has generated total conflict, without there being any real effect in increasing vaccinations. Fake certificates are being sold en masse on the dark web, and the social groups of 'antivaksery' (no-vax) and no-pass, especially on Telegram channels, are gathering hundreds of thousands of followers or simply sceptics. Many show-business stars speak out against the restrictions, along with retired officials and politicians, or those who have been exonerated in recent times.

In some regions the opposition has taken on particularly excited forms, such as in St Petersburg, Russia's most 'western' metropolis, where internet maps indicating all the businesses that freely admit customers without asking for a Qr-Code, which is only seriously checked in theatres, are widespread. The authorities at all levels are very timid in responding to protests. Only in sporadic cases are arrests made of opposition leaders, such as the businessman Aleksandr Konovalov, who had led people onto the streets and to clandestine meetings in bars willing to break the rules.

Lawyer and human rights activist Anastasia Burakova notes on that "these protests are widespread in many countries such as the Netherlands, Britain, Australia, the United States and many others, sometimes with strong levels of conflict with law enforcement. The motivations are varied, ranging from conspiracy theories to impatience with restrictions, and these are also present in Russia, where the lack of trust in the State and its institutions is the most common".

The strictest rules are also disregarded out of complacency on the part of the control bodies, and this was a widespread habit even in the grey Soviet years. It is not only a Russian phenomenon, also linked to widespread corrupt and illegal practices, but mostly it is a matter of what is called in Russia 'legal nihilism', the poor rooting of the principle of legality.

As long as only a few dissidents or so-called 'foreign agents' were arrested and subjected to repression and torture in prisons and camps, the mass of the population largely watched inertly, out of habit, the more or less invasive regimes of Russia's ancient and recent history. The intrusion into private and family life with the Qr-Code has awakened the consciousness of personal dignity even in the indifferent, who see the prick on the shoulder as an example of state torture. All the more so since a large part of the power caste is equally intolerant of health rules, not to mention the clergy and intellectuals.

In Russia the vaccine is causing what the marches, the falsified elections, the arrests and closures of associations, magazines and publishing houses failed to do. One can oppose it 'apolitically' and en masse, without the state having the courage to impose itself by force: the anti-vaxxers are not evacuated by 'avtozak' (police trucks) and they frighten the men in power much more than the denunciations of Naval'nyj and his followers.