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Egypt's “People's Revolution” in the Eyes of Russians

The protests that have rocked Turkey, Brazil and Bulgaria this summer have finally spilled into Egypt, where massive demonstrations against the Islamist policies of President Mohamed Morsi have led to a second revolution or a cynical military coup (depending on who you ask). Morsi was ousted and arrested, the constitution suspended, and the liberal Mohamed ElBaradei has been appointed interim prime minister. Morsi's supporters, many of them members of the Muslim Brotherhood, clashed with police and anti-Morsi protesters, leading to widespread civil unrest with at least 30 deaths and over 1000 injuries. With the unrest showing no signs of abating, on July 7, 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Egypt was on the road to civil war.

A small rally heading to Tahrir square to joint the 30 June protests against MB and President Morsi of Egypt. Photo by Zeinab Mohamed CC 2.0

A small rally heading to Tahrir square to join the protests against President Morsi. By Zeinab Mohamed CC 2.0

As with past protests [GV] in the region, Russians have been actively following the events in Egypt. Many take a positive view of the army's actions in removing Morsi, or entirely elude references to the military, viewing the proceedings as a people's revolution. For example, Kirill Goncharov [ru], a Moscow student involved in youth politics, was particularly impressed with what he saw as the non-hierarchical nature of Morsi's removal, writing on his facebook [ru]:

Самое крутое в Египте, что там не было никакого координационного совета оппозиции. Люди просто взяли власть в свои руки, без всяких лидеров.

The coolest thing about Egypt is that there was no “Coordinating Council of the Opposition [GV]” there. People simply took power into their own hands, without any leaders.

This view was seen as naive by others. One user [ru] replied laconically:

Люди в погонах просто взяли власть в свои руки, да.

People in uniform simply took power into their own hands all right.

Alexander Ivanov [ru], a self-identified Communist, was also in favor of what he referred to as “the revolution” and hit back [ru] at suggestions the army was not acting in the people's interests:

ну армия у арабов вообще очень важное место занимает. Тем более, что они поддерживают народ. Посмотрим что будет происходить.

well in the Arab world, the army occupies a very important position. In addition, it supports the common people. We'll see what will happen.

Some Russian liberals like journalist Dmitri Bavyrin [ru] also had no problem [ru] with the removal of a democratically elected president, as long as that president was an Islamist. Bavyrin bitingly argued that Islamism was antithetical to the childish “hipsters” who started the first revolution, but eventually lost control of the democratic process:

Победил исламист и стал работать в пользу исламистов, что в корне противоречило хипстерскому пониманию демократии. Хипстеры опять вышли на улицы – и вот тут, наконец, военным всё надоело. Военные отобрали демократию… потому что либо демократия, либо эль-Барадеи, но не всё сразу. Люблю военных.

An Islamist won and started to work to the benefit of Islamists, who contradict the basic hipster understanding of democracy. The hipsters once again took to the streets and that's where the military got sick of it all. The military took away democracy… because you can either have democracy or ElBaradei, but not both at once. I like the military.

The views of Bavyrin and Ivanov were echoed by Anton Kapshuk [ru], a rock musician and Communist, who wished his “Egyptian comrades” success [ru] in their endeavor:

[Мурси] не стал добиваться улучшения жизни народа. Цели Революции тогда, так и не исполнились. Вместо этого началась исламизация страны. Это вызвало массовые протесты. Была принята исламская конституция, которую назвать демократичной никак нельзя. Стало понятно что дни Мурси сочтены.

Главную роль в революциях обычно играют военные. Пока солдаты не перейдут на сторону повстанцев, свержение строя маловероятно. Тогда, во время прошлой Революции, решающую роль сыграли военные. Тоже самое случилось и в этот раз. Переворот совершён. Исламисты от власти отстранены и даже многие из них арестованы. Военные обещают новые демократические выборы.

[Mursi] didn't work to improve the lives of the people. The aims of the Revolution were not realized at that time. Instead, the country began to be Islamicised. This brought about massive protests. An Islamic constitution was adopted, which could in no way be called democratic. It was obvious Morsi's days were numbered.

The main role in revolutions is often played by the military. If the soldiers don't go over to the side of the uprising, the overthrow of the [old] order is unlikely. During the previous Revolution the deciding role was played by the military. The same happened this time. The overthrow is complete. The Islamists were removed from power and many even arrested. The military has promised new democratic elections.

Others were less optimistic. Blogger Aleksandr Chernokozov [ru] believes that Morsi's removal was attributable to “the virus of revolution” that had taken hold in Egypt since Mubarak's ouster and that what was happening called to mind “the start of a civil war” [ru]. Writing on his LiveJournal, Chernokozov warned:

Уже арестованы лидеры «Братьев-мусульман». Есть информация, что в списках на арест — сотни, а по некоторым данным тысячи активных участников движения. «Братья-мусульмане» серьезно готовятся к акциям протеста. Похоже, самая массовая из них уже начинается. Самое главное здесь то, что все они готовы пожертвовать жизнью…

The leaders of the “Muslim Brotherhood” have already been arrested. There are reports that the list of those arrested reaches hundreds, and according to some, thousands of active participants in the movement. The “Muslim Brotherhood” is seriously preparing itself for protest actions. Indeed, the biggest one of these actions is already starting. The most important factor here is that they're prepared to sacrifice their lives…

Twitter user Aleksandr Barbashov seemed to be one of the few RuNet bloggers to respect democratic institutions, tweeting [ru]

Хоть исламист Мурси мне и не нравится, но он был ЗАКОННО избранным президентом! Опасный для себя прецедент создают египтяне. #Египет

I don't like the Islamist Morsi either, but he was a LEGITIMATELY elected president! This is a dangerous precedent for Egyptians to set for themselves. #Egypt

Morsi's removal by the military speaks to the failure of formal politics in Egypt. Weak democratic structures, a highly polarized electorate and an entrenched military elite meant such an outcome was probably sadly unavoidable. While Russia's hard-left opposition usually makes no secret that it views parliamentary democracy as a sham, the fact that many of Russia's self-professed liberals approve of such a coup speaks to the failure of a genuine liberal tradition in Russia.

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