For the last two days, Muscovites have been taking to the streets to protest the recent (and rigged) Russian parliamentary election results. They have been joined by many people from other Russian cities who have dropped everything to join these unprecedented protests.
For a summary of the activities that took place on Monday and Tuesday, click here and here. The WaPo also has some good photos. You can also see my Twitter feed, where I’ve been re-tweeting the live tweets directly from the streets.
Here are a few important takeaways:
- Many of the participants are first-time protestors. Before this, they considered themselves too cynical to participate in oppositional activism, let alone vote in elections they knew to be rigged. Thousands upon thousands are meeting in the streets despite the heavy (and predictably violent) presence of police and special forces.
- People are very active online, on Facebook for events, and on Twitter (the hashtag for Monday was #5dec or #5дек, but I’m not sure what they are using now). Some are drawing comparisons to Tahrir Square.
- There are widespread (and deeply-held) rumors that Americans and other foreigners are paying Russians $$ to participate in such protests in order to tarnish Russia’s image. Putin has said things to spread this type of belief in the past. Even activists are wary of American support (as evidence by the tone when I wrote an English-language message of support on Facebook).
- Putin’s response has been to organize massive rallies of supporters for the “United Russia” party. People are being bused to Moscow, and one woman, when asked why she was joining, replied: “I don’t know–they just put us on a bus.”
This LiveJournal user (reminder: LiveJournal or Живо́й Журна́л is a serious blogging platform in Russia) posted some great photos. I’ve translated some of the signs in the images:
- Photo #3: Police attempted to keep #s low by using metal detectors. So many people showed up that they spilled onto neighboring boulevards.
- Photo #5: “These elections are a farce” and “UnitedRussia in the trash” (except the Russian has great word play that I can’t translate).
- Photo #4: “Russia Will Be Free” and “We’ll Return Power to the People.”
- Photo #6: “Gays and Lesbians Against Crooks and Thieves.”
- Last photo reads “United Russia is the party of crooks and thieves.”
Let’s see what comes of all this. And don’t forget that the presidential elections are coming up in March, when Putin is expected to take back his old job (how convenient).