Roy Jankelowitz

Who are the Professional Oppositionists?

LENIN from
LENIN from

Who are the Professional Oppositionists?

Part 1 – Russia

How networks of professional oppositionists from Russia and Ukraine operate within and against Israel. We are starting a series of publications on the topic of “professional oppositionists” and their role in “managed chaos” in Israel and Russia.

Lenin’s Case and “Professional Oppositionists”

In his work “What Is to Be Done?” (1902), Vladimir Lenin described the role of professional revolutionaries in the revolutionary struggle. Lenin wrote that a successful revolution requires the creation of an avant-garde party of professional revolutionaries. This party would consist of highly conscious, disciplined, and dedicated individuals who would direct and organize revolutionary activities.

But while Lenin dreamed of a “world proletarian revolution,” nowadays the talk is more often about “color revolutions.” And “professional revolutionaries” have turned into “professional oppositionists.” Instead of the “iron Felix,” we see “Julia Navalnaya”. However, just as in the early 20th century, the technologies of the “world proletarian revolution,” so in the 21st century, the technologies of the “world color revolution” are also effective for eliminating geopolitical adversaries. And in conditions of acute geopolitical confrontation, “professional oppositionists” become a tool of “managed chaos.”

But if there is an “oppositional elite,” then there must also be “oppositional masses.” The Leninist concept of the avant-garde party implied a close connection with the masses and a claim to represent the interests of the people. In modern conditions, “professional oppositionists” find it difficult to count on the support of the people, and more often than not, their “mass” becomes the creative class and other knowledge workers.

Managed chaos of color revolutions

In the context of geopolitics, the term “managed chaos” refers to a strategy where a state or non-state actor intentionally destabilizes or destroys existing power structures in another country or region to advance its own interests.

It’s not always clear whether “color revolutions” lead to genuine democratic transformations or simply create a new elite. “Color revolutions” are often presented as spontaneous expressions of popular will seeking democratic change. However, these movements often rely on the support of existing elites and external forces pursuing their own interests. Many scholarly studies question the positive outcomes of “color revolutions” and the altruism of their vanguard – “professional oppositionists”. Researchers cast doubt on the transformative potential of color revolutions. Several factors can be noted here: the limited scope of reforms, the influence of elites and external forces[1], the weakness of civil society[2], regional disparities, and socio-economic factors[3] may only lead to a change of ruling groups without profound societal transformations. Instead of liberal democracy, “color revolutions” lead to a change of ruling groups without deep societal transformations, “managed chaos” led by “professional oppositionists” and their sponsors. The victory of “professional oppositionists” disrupts the system of state governance, brings negative consequences for society, and effectively leads to the collapse of the country. A prime example is the “Arab Spring,” a series of color revolutions that brought chaos and destruction to a significant portion of North Africa and the Middle East.

The experience of Maidans in Ukraine, protests in Russia, and Israel shows that “professional oppositionists” seek to strengthen practices where political and economic relations are built on personal connections, “ideological conformity,” and mutual services. It is evident that slogans and changes in leadership often do not lead to an improvement in the society’s life and the enhancement of its socio-economic level.

The protest can lead to Kiev.

There are amusing historical coincidences. The first revolution in Russia in 1905 and the final victory of “professional revolutionaries” in 1917 very accurately coincide with the dates, results, and consequences of the Maidans in Ukraine. The Maidan of 2004 and the Euromaidan of 2013-2014 clearly demonstrate the controversial results of “color revolutions” for the peoples of the countries where they occur. The fair discontent of the people with the corrupt regime of Yanukovych was exploited by the pro-Western opposition for a forceful change of power. In 2004, this happened peacefully, while in 2014, it occurred through bloodshed and civil confrontation.

In both cases, numerous NGOs sponsored from abroad, media controlled by local oligarchs and grants from donor organizations, and politicians involved in processes of external financing actively participated in the protests.

As a result of the latest Maidan, the country plunged into political chaos and civil confrontation. However, just as after Yushchenko came to power as a result of the Maidan of 2004, and after Poroshenko, and then Zelensky after the Euromaidan, the technologies of “managed chaos” did not disappear, and the quality of life of the people did not improve. Under the pretext of “fighting Russian aggression” and “cleansing from pro-Russian elements,” repressions were unleashed against any dissent. “Professional oppositionists” from the Maidan moved into bureaucratic and parliamentary seats, while ordinary protesters turned out to be expendable material in the hands of Ukraine’s new masters.

Ukraine is an example of a successful seizure of power by professional oppositionists. The main sign of this success is the fact that there is now no opposition in Ukraine, and any protest movement is immediately labeled as a Kremlin project – Maidan 3. Perhaps that is why many Ukrainian “oppositionists” of various levels are now in Israel and are engaged in the same activities of organizing protests but already far away from the country that won the “color revolution.”

Nevzlin and his “IIARH”

Israel has long been an important center for professional oppositionists from all countries of the former USSR. Chief among them is undoubtedly Leonid Nevzlin. The former Russian oligarch, following the start of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict, created a unique “Information-Ideological Anti-Russian Hub,” uniting anti-Russian activists and “professional oppositionists” from Russia and Ukraine.

Publications by Nevzlin’s media outlets, such as the newspapers “Ha’aretz,” “Details,” and “Liberal,” are part of this instrument of “managed chaos.” The foundational structure of this IIARH is the ANU – Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, headed by Irina Nevzlin, Nevzlin’s daughter and the wife of Knesset deputy Yuli Edelstein.

A notable event in the development of the IIARH was the visit of Alexey Arestovich[4] to Israel on May 23, 2023[5]. In June 2023, he already traveled to Brussels in an attempt to unite the Russian opposition under the Ukrainian flag. On June 5, 2023, a meeting of “professional oppositionists” in exile was held in Brussels at the European Parliament building, which was supposed to become a “unifying congress of oppositionists.” However, it didn’t happen – Alexei Navalny supporters refused to attend the forum. The only Ukrainian speaker at the conference was Alexey Arestovich.[6]

On June 12, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Ilya Ponomarev were at Nevzlin’s base in the ANU Museum, where the “SlovoNovo-2023”[7] Free Culture Forum took place. However, the initiator of these forums, Marat Gelman, was sidelined, and the forum turned into another tool of “managed chaos” based on IIARH.

Moreover, it acts as a tool of managed chaos not only against Russia but also against Israel. According to his posts and publications in his newspapers “Ha’aretz,” “Details,” and “Liberal,” Leonid Nevzlin holds a pronounced anti-government and pro-Ukrainian position.

For example, in his column on the Ukrainian resource “Gordon,” he stated that “Netanyahu may have dreamed of being a ‘strong leader’ like Putin, who spat on laws. But he is becoming Yanukovych and will get his own Maidan.”[8] It is evident that such a powerful tool of managed chaos cannot remain idle amidst political confrontation.

And the fact that Nevzlin is well aware that the Israeli Maidan is a very real tool for overthrowing legitimate power in Israel.

It creates the impression that Nevzlin has a dual loyalty. He is so passionate about Ukraine that he is willing to orchestrate a coup in Israel for its victory. His connections with pro-Ukrainian organizations in Israel, which have united “professional Maidan activists,” as well as joint projects with the Embassy of Ukraine in Israel, confirm this “dual loyalty.” The Ukrainian direction in the activities of IIARH primarily involves technologies for information warfare, which are part of the technologies of “managed chaos.”

On February 20, the ANU Museum and the NGO “Israeli Friends of Ukraine,” with the support of the NADAV Foundation, held a meeting titled “Between Two Wars” with military analysts, political experts, and representatives of the civil sector. The event was dedicated to the anniversary of the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. Ukrainian professionals in information warfare participated in the Ukrainian delegation at this event. For example, Igor Solovey, the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security director [9]. His department was authorized by the Ukrainian government to defend the country on the fronts of information warfare.[10] Ukrainian Maidan technologies and Ukrainian information warfare technologies are crucial for Leonid Nevzlin’s IIARH and extremely dangerous for the Israeli authorities.

The Protest Pyramid or “All are Equal, but Some are More Equal”

It can be said that the Maidans have effectively demonstrated the essence of the “protest pyramid,” which, like any financial pyramid, yields dividends only to the top. All others become the feeding ground for the “mighty clique of demigods.”

At the top of the “protest pyramid”, whether in Ukraine, Russia, or Israel, are the “professional oppositionists.” Being oppositionists is their job. They are movement leaders, founders of NGOs, and businessmen who oppose their governments’ actions. They are well-known figures, often appearing in the media, receiving funding from abroad, linking them to structures responsible for promoting “soft power” and “managed chaos.” And it’s not always the intelligence agencies of interested countries.

The second, lower level of the pyramid consists of “professional activists,” little known beyond their city or region. They may act alone or in small groups. These are people who disagree with the state’s policies, expressing their views through the media and social networks. They engage in volunteer projects, participate in flash mobs, and collect donations. This category also includes “deconstructive oppositionists” who choose forms of protest that violate legislation and increase hype on social media.

The third level of this pyramid – the lowest class of oppositionists – consists of “ideological romantics and idealists”, whose enthusiasm sustains any opposition movement. They attend demonstrations, receive fines, and are the first to be detained by the police. And the leaders then tell stories of “police abuse” in their popular blogs.

It is precisely this category that sacrifices money from their modest salaries to support large opposition organizations. They are used as “cannon fodder” by those they trust. And they create the viewership statistics on YouTube channels that leaders show to sponsors to demonstrate the effectiveness of their activities. They are the first to be caught in the meat grinder of civil strife and military conflicts if the “professional oppositionists” win.

After the victory of the Collective West in the Cold War, foreign financing of civil society was not even concealed. On the contrary, for many years, it was considered an important indicator of the development of social relations in post-Soviet countries.

With the escalation of geopolitical confrontation, more and more countries began to pay closer attention to foreign agents. Moreover, the concept of “foreign agent” was introduced into US legislation as far back as 1938 with the enactment of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Foreign agents and external instruments of “soft power” operate in Israel and Russia as well.

No Money, No Revolution

The history of the Russian Revolution, by analogy, allows us to see the mechanisms of “color revolutions” and serves as the most important “example to follow” for “professional oppositionists.”

Research shows that the financing of revolutionary activities was carried out from several sources:

Membership dues and donations:

Revolutionary parties collected membership dues and donations from their supporters. Today, this would be called donations and private contributions.

“Expropriations” as “revolutionary redistribution” of wealth:

Certainly, the privatization of the 1990s could be considered a mass expropriation. But law enforcement agencies should deal with these sources of funding for modern “professional oppositionists” like Leonid Nevzlin or Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Support from sympathetic businessmen:

For example, the well-known industrialist Savva Morozov provided financial assistance to the Bolsheviks.

Nowadays, quite a few businessmen actively finance “professional revolutionaries.” A good example is Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, who actively financially participated in the removal of Yanukovych from power, sponsored nationalist battalions, and led President Zelensky to the victory. Now he is in a Ukrainian pre-trial detention center. Apparently, hiding from Ukrainian conscription.

Foreign sources:

Some experts claim that several American financiers and companies supported the Bolsheviks in hopes of future economic benefits.  British spy Sidney Reilly  and European socialist Alexander Parvus  also actively participated in financing “professional revolutionaries” and their equally professional opponents. And this is only the tip of the financial iceberg of the Russian Revolution.

Modern sources of funding for the work of non-governmental organizations and their struggle for democracy are well-known:

Government funding:

Many Western countries, such as the USA, UK, Germany, and others, allocate funds to support NGOs through development agencies (USAID, DFID, GIZ, etc.), as well as through special funds and programs.

International organizations:

The UN, European Union, Council of Europe, OSCE, and other intergovernmental structures provide grants to NGOs for projects in the field of democratization, human rights, and the rule of law.

Private foundations:

Large charitable foundations such as the Soros Foundation (Open Society Foundations), Ford Foundation, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and others are important sponsors of human rights and democratic NGOs worldwide.

Corporate sponsorship:

Some companies, especially in the technology and media sectors, provide financial and technical support to NGOs as part of their corporate social responsibility policies.

Crowdfunding and individual donations:

NGOs are increasingly turning to the general public for support through online crowdfunding platforms and individual donations from private individuals.

[1] Hale, 2013; Levitsky & Way, 2010; Feklyunina & White, 2011; Finkel & Brudny, 2012

[2] Beissinger, 2007; Stewart, 2009

[3] Bunce & Wolchik, 2011; Kalandadze & Orenstein, 2009; Polese & Beacháin, 2011; Radnitz, 2010








About the Author
Hebrew University Masters Graduate in the sports journalism industry for Israel Sport with a passion for Political Science.
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