Sorry, Johnny, we had Tahrir 20 years ago

Foreign observers are viewing Russia’s post-election protests as a Slavic version of the Arab Spring. But domestic analysts say Russia had its pro-democracy protests 20 years ago, and the middle class they ushered in is in no hurry to see a repeat.

Among those who envisage Russia’s current government being overthrown by protesting crowds is US Senator John McCain, reports RT’s Anissa Naouai. In a tweet to Prime Minister Putin, he declared: “Vlad the Arab Spring coming to a neighborhood near you.”

Dream on, says Russian MP Robert Shlegal.

“McCain and Hillary Clinton really would like this to happen and you can see it in their relations to other countries where these revolutions benefit the US, and of course they are pushing for this, but I don’t think it will happen,” he commented.

There were Tahrir-like protests during the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Hundreds of thousands were out on the streets. The majority of present-day Russians remember all too well that those protests brought them no instant solution to their problems.

“People who actually suffered all the horrors and hardships of the 1990s will never want to go back,” believes political analyst Aleksandr Selivanov.

It is noticeable that most of the few thousand who came out on the streets of Moscow in the wake of the elections looked young enough to not remember the events of 20 years ago, or to be able to compare.

“It’s funny how it worked out. The middle class that exists today does so because of the politics of this government. They rebuilt the country. Four years ago there was a much smaller middle class, if any,”
commented Shlegal.

A middle class is what Egyptians can only dream of. The Tahrir revolution was praised by the West as democracy in the making. But the people who risked death and injury to rise up against President Mubarak found themselves in the grip of a military take-over.

"We have only one demand: that the Military Council and the army go back to their barracks and start protecting the country. They've demonstrated they are incapable of leading the country over the last nine months," says Armani Salaha, one of the Tahrir Square protesters.

Tahrir certainly proved Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools when planning protests. Some 30,000 have already signed up online for a Moscow demo at the weekend. Tens of thousands of young people are preparing to come out onto to the streets and voice discontent.

However, millions won’t. It’s a safe bet many of them remember all too well the turbulent 1990s and what chaos means for such a large country. They aren’t willing to go back or start over.