Russia Direct’s new Brief provides a comprehensive analysis of the current political sentiment in Russia and offers a detailed look at the state of both “systemic” and “anti-systemic” opposition forces.

It remains to be seen how the murder of Russia's opposition leader will reshape Russian politics in 2016. Photo: RIA Novosti

The murder of the prominent liberal politician Boris Nemtsov - a crime that shocked everyone in Russian society - is likely to become a landmark event in the political life of contemporary Russia. The tragedy, which brought to the streets thousands of people to rally in support of Nemtsov, raises questions about the ability of the Kremlin and its opposition to deal with issues related to foreign and domestic policy.

The new Russia Direct Brief “Mapping Russia's political landscape after Nemtsov” will be of great interest to all those concerned not only with Russian foreign policy issues, but also its domestic political and social developments.

The author of the Brief, Yury Korgunyuk, the head of the political science department at the Moscow-based Information Science for Democracy (INDEM) Foundation, shares his perspective on the options available to the Kremlin after Nemtsov’s murder, explains how the event changed the existing political landscape and explores the prospects of Russia’s opposition parties in the 2016 elections.

Over the past year, the liberal opposition has grown accustomed to living in an atmosphere of hatred and direct threats, but never did it expect that its opponents would move so quickly from word to deed,” starts Korgunyuk.  No one among the opposition ranks could have predicted that soon they would become a live target.

This situation, as the author describes, poses serious challenges to the Kremlin. Will it be able to make the right step? Korgunyuk suggests that there only two possible options available: “Either backwards towards reconciliation with the opposition and the restoration of ‘peace’ in the country, or forwards over the edge, whereupon Russia’s version so-called ‘sovereign democracy’ will morph into outright dictatorship.”

Neither of these options, however, is acceptable for the Kremlin, says the author.  The only thing that the Kremlin is ready to do in the near future is “to balance on the edge.”

As for the state of the current opposition forces, the political science expert shows why the parliamentary (“systemic”) opposition cannot be taken seriously. He thinks that “the Kremlin effectively brought it to heel, and did so less through intimidation and bribery than through hijacking its agenda.”

For example, consider the so-called “Dima Yakovlev law,” which was initially lobbied for by the Communist Party, or the law on NGOs as “foreign agents,” which fits well into the worldview of the Communist and the Liberal Democratic parties. Korgunyuk also proposes that the highest point of this co-opting of agendas was the incorporation of Crimea.

Speaking about the “anti-systemic” opposition, the author provides evidence that the killing of Nemtsov led to a bifurcation in its ranks by provoking two different reactions. The nationalists followed the parliamentary opposition’s reaction by “condemning the murder, but immediately began to talk about the scheming of the West and the harm caused by Russia’s liberals,” while the liberals, on their part, went as far as organizing the march in memory of their ally and spoke of the need to unite against the current regime.

Finally, Korgunyuk looks into the electoral chances of Russia’s opposition in the 2016 State Duma elections. Casting aside the nationalists and the non-systemic left in general, Korgunyuk seems to think that it is the liberals that have a much better chance, if only, of course, they can consolidate their efforts.

Does the general public think that Russia is going in the right direction? What happened to Alexey Navalny? Why has the famous billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov left his political party? Subscribe and download the full version of the report to find out. The report is free and will be available only for subscribers today at 2:30 p.m. (EST).