Tag Archives: Moscow

Alexei Gaskarov. Bolotnaya Square, Moscow. May 6, 2012


This is what our comrade Alexei Gaskarov looked like after riot cops got done with him on May 6, 2012, on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow. Yesterday, almost a year after the ominous events that took place there and the arrests, persecution and, in some cases, exile of several dozen opposition activists and ordinary citizens who were also there that day (and some who weren’t), Gaskarov was arrested while out buying food for his cat, transported to the Investigative Committee for questioning, charged with “rioting” and “violence against authorities,” and jailed. A Moscow district court will hear his case today and decide whether he will remain in police custody.

Thanks to an anonymous Facebook comrade for the photo.



April 23, 2013
Russian Commission Blames Authorities For Bolotnaya Protest Violence
by RFE/RL’s Russian Service

MOSCOW — An independent investigation has blamed the Russian authorities and police for the violence that erupted at an opposition protest on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square last year.

The investigative commission, composed of leading public figures and rights advocates, released its findings late on April 22 at a public event in Moscow.

The report blames riot police for “excessive use of force” against demonstrators on May 6, 2012, resulting in numerous injuries.

Authorities have only recognized injuries sustained by police officers.

More than 20 demonstrators have been charged with participating in “mass unrest” and assaulting police.

Fifteen remain in pretrial detention and four are under house arrest. All face prison if convicted.

Georgy Satarov, the head of the INDEM think tank in Moscow and a former aide to Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, co-authored the report.

He told RFE/RL that the demonstrators’ reactions were understandable.

“They defended themselves and they defended others. Many of those who were not arrested and are now free would have done the same,” Satarov said.

The report says riot-police officers beat up “helpless, unarmed people,” including women and elderly people.

It blames police for deliberately creating bottlenecks by blocking the protesters’ path, contributing to tensions.

‘Agents Provacateurs’

It also accuses the authorities of sending a “significant number of provocateurs” into the crowd to spark clashes — a claim backed by witnesses as well as the Kremlin’s human rights council.

Satarov said the pieces of asphalt that some the defendants are accused of throwing at police had been placed on the square ahead of the rally.

“Bolotnaya Square was cordoned off overnight, it was surrounded by a tight fence inside which the asphalt was cut into pieces,” Satarov said.

“This circumstance was fully used by provocateurs. There are a multitude of other signs that indicate a planned provocation by authorities.”

One of the defendants in the so-called Bolotnaya case, Maksim Luzyanin, has already been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty and cooperating with investigators.

Authorities say their probe into the other defendants is nearing completion.

Investigators are still tracking down some 70 other protesters they suspect of disruptive behavior at the rally.

The investigative commission plans to send its report to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Parliament, and the United Nations.

It was formed by the opposition party RPR-PARNAS, the December 12 Roundtable civil group, and the May 6 Committee. It includes top rights activists like Lyudmila Alekseyeva and a number of prominent public figures such as economist and former Economy Minister Yevgeny Yasin.

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Russian Anti-Fascist Alexei Gaskarov Arrested


Well-Known Russian Anti-Fascist Alexei Gaskarov Arrested


On Sunday, April 28, 2013, the well-known Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov was arrested in Moscow. He is an elected member of the Russian opposition’s Coordinating Council. The Russian Investigative Committee has accused him of involvement in riots and violence against officials on May 6, 2012, when OMON (Russian riot police) attacked a peaceful, authorized demonstration in Moscow.

May 6 was the day before Putin’s inauguration, and a mass demonstration had been called by the opposition. The winter and spring of 2011-2012 saw the biggest wave of political demonstrations in Russia in almost twenty years, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest election fraud. May 6 was also the first time authorities had moved to crush these protests. According to the opposition, more than 600 people were arrested that day, and 28 people have subsequently been charged in connection with these events, remanded to police custody, placed under house arrest or forced to emigrate.

On May 6, 2012, OMON officers beat Alexei Gaskarov with batons and boots. He filed a complaint against the officers who beat him up, but no one was charged. Now, a year later, and just a few days before the anniversary of the May 6 demonstration, as Gaskarov was preparing to lead a left-wing and anti-fascist column at May Day demonstrations, he has had a set of absurd charges brought against him and been arrested.

Alexei Gaskarov was born on June 18, 1985, and has been politically active since his school days.

Gaskarov gained fame in summer 2010, when, during the protest campaign against the destruction of the Khimki Forest, he was  arrested along with Maxim Solopov and accused of orchestrating an attack by 300 to 400 young anti-fascists, who supported the environmentalists, on the Khimki city administration building. In autumn 2010,  Gaskarov and Solopov were released from prison, thanks to a massive international campaign on behalf of the “Khimki Hostages.” In summer 2011, Gaskarov was acquitted of all charges.

Gaskarov has been actively involved in the mass demonstrations against electoral fraud in Russia since they began in December 2011. He was one of the speakers at the largest of the demonstrations, on December 24, 2011, on Sakharov Boulevard in Moscow. He was in charge of the security for that rally, where he had to stop neo-Nazi provocations.

Gaskarov is being held in the police jail at Petrovka, 38, awaiting a court hearing, scheduled for 11 am, April 29, 2013 at the Basmanny district courthouse in Moscow. Pending the court’s decision, Gaskarov will be remanded or released.

Additional information:
Svetlana Sidorkina (Gaskarov’s lawyer): +7 (926) 557-9016

Editor’s Note. We have slightly edited the original article to make it more readable.


August 1, 2012

MOSCOW, August 1 – RAPSI. Opposition activist Alexei Gaskarov has filed an application with the investigative authorities, claiming that he was beaten up by riot police officers during the March of Millions, the Agora human rights organization told the Russian Legal Information Agency on Wednesday.

Gaskarov has also provided a video of the beating to the investigators.

Agora reported that Gaskarov went to the Interior Ministry’s Internal Security Department to speak with investigators about the Bolotnaya Square riots. During the questioning, he gave the investigators a four minute video demonstrating how he was beaten by police officers.

According to Gaskarov, the investigators said they would look into his statement within a month.

Gaskarov sent a statement about his beating to Moscow Investigative Department head Vadim Yakovenko.

Clashes with the police flared up on May 6 during an opposition march across Moscow, which had been granted official permission. Tens of protesters and police officers were injured. The police detained over 400 rally participants.

After May 6, the opposition continued its protests in the form of “people’s promenades.”


Filed under anti-racism, anti-fascism, leftist movements, political repression, protests, Russian society

Thatcher’s Britain and Putin’s Russia: Separated at Birth?

The Battle of Orgreave (June 18, 1984):

There were 95 miners arrested at Orgreave and prosecuted for riot, a charge that carried the potential for a long prison sentence up to a maximum of life. But a year later, on 17 July 1985, all 95 were acquitted. The prosecution withdrew, from the first trial of 15, after police gave unconvincing accounts in the witness box: it became clear that the miners had themselves been attacked by police on horses or with truncheons, and there was evidence that a police officer’s signature on a statement had been forged.



The Battle of Bolotnaya Square (May 6, 2012):

According to a report by the newspaper Izvestiya, which cited a statement issued by the working group of the Presidential Human Rights Council: the events of May 6, 2012 on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow were provoked by the police and cannot legally be deemed to be riots. By the evening of Thursday, January 31, the statement had been signed by about half of the Council’s members. 

According to Izvestiya’s information, the statement had been signed by the journalists Leonid Parfenov and Ivan Zasursky, civil society activist Irina Khakamada, and head of the Russian Aid Foundation (Rusfond) Lev Ambinder. Having completed an investigation into the circumstances of the incidents at Bolotnaya, the human rights activists decided that the opposition protesters had been compelled to act the way they did. The statement calls for all the accused in the “Bolotnaya Case” to be released from custody. 

“Neither before nor since 6 May, have the police created such unbearable and provocative conditions for demonstrators,” the working group declared in their statement. Notably, the statement specifically drew on evidence provided by members of the Human Rights Council, who had been present at Bolotnaya as public observers. They stressed that the disorder arose as a result of the pressure caused by the huge police cordons, Lenta.ru noted. 


In May, at Bolotnaya Square the “March of Millions” escalated into clashes between protesters and the police. At present, twelve people involved in a criminal case pertaining to the alleged riots are awaiting sentence in custody. Investigators want to send one of the alleged rioters for compulsory psychological treatment and another five are under house arrest. The only sentence in the case – 4.5 years in prison – was handed down in November against Maksim Luzyanin, who confessed to attacking the police. 

Previously, in May 2012, Federal Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin had declared that there had not been any rioting at Bolotnaya Square, but merely isolated clashes between demonstrators and police. In November, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group proposed that a public inquiry be held based on Lukin’s findings. But on January 30, 2013, it emerged that an independent group consisting of people opposed to the government had already interviewed around two hundred witnesses to the disturbances and presented this information to independent experts.



Now check out the surprise ending:

Putin Decrees 2014 as Year of British Culture
09 April 2013
The Moscow Times

With an eye on further improving ties with Britain, President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree designating 2014 as the year of British culture in Russia.

The decree, which is aimed at fostering closer relations between the two countries, also calls for a celebration of Russian culture in Britain next year, the Kremlin said in a statement Tuesday.

The head of the organizing committee on the Russian side will be Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, Interfax reported. Committee members will include Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, Kremlin cultural aide Mikhail Shvydkoi, and the heads of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters and the Pushkin and Hermitage museums.

Relations between Russia and Britain have shown a revival in recent months after falling to a low point after Moscow’s refusal to extradite State Duma Deputy Andrei Lugavoi in connection to the 2006 poisoning death of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced in mid-March that Russia and Britain had agreed to set aside 2014 as a year to celebration of the other country’s culture.


Photos courtesy of John Sturrock/Socialist Worker and politzeki.tumbler.com. Thanks to the invaluable Comrade Agata for the heads-up. Read her timely 2010 interview with artist Jeremy Deller, who re-enacted the Battle of Orgreave in 2001, here.

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Mark Knopfler Is a True Friend of the Russian People

This is what everyone who is in Mark Knopfler’s position should do. Not “try and talk some sense” into fascist homophobes like Vitaly Milonov, as the otherwise admirable Stephen Fry recently did. Or “stand in solidarity” with political prisoners Pussy Riot on a Moscow concert stage, as Madonna did, all the while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in concert fees. The first tack violates the old anti-fascist “no platform” rule, while the second does that, too, while also generating tons of buzz for the Milonovites. More important, it rewards the relatively well-off strata of the Russian urban populace, the people who can afford tickets to Madonna and Knopfler concerts and the like, who are in fact the real bulwark of Putinism (rather than some imaginary post-Soviet “conservative” provincial “grassroots” post-proletariat), at least (but only at least) insofar as these people have been mostly absent from the fight against Putinism or any of its manifestations. In fact, if nothing else, Knopfler’s one-man boycott of their cities might alert otherwise “blissfully” unaware Petersburgers and Muscovites to the recent prosecutorial raids against NGOs in the country, which have included not only (as Knopfler mentions in his statement) Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but hundreds of lesser organizations like the Finnish Institute in St. Petersburg, the Caritas Catholic charity’s support center for disabled children in the city, the Petersburg rights organizations Citizens Watch and Coming Out (Vykhod), as well as the NGO Development Center, the German-Russian Exchange, the Centre for Independent Social Research, the Institute for Information Freedom Development and the offices of the LGBT film festival Side by Side (to mention only a few), as well as branches of Alliance Française in several other major Russian cities.

We recently reflected, so to speak, on the odd news that Manifesta, the ultra-progressive European biennial of contemporary art, had chosen Petersburg—once the “cradle of three revolutions,” now a depressive semi-fascist dump ruled over by dreary officially titled bandits in bad suits who think that legislative homophobia and “Cossacks” are a terrific way of preventing their subject population from noticing the really obvious drawbacks in their continuing “governance” of the city—for its super-serious high-brow art hootenanny next year. Upon hearing this same news, Russian contemporary art curatorial doyenne Olga Sviblova commented, “[T]here’s no reason to get all stirred up about it being in St Petersburg. We have already spent 20 years living in a normal, free country, just the same as any others.” This is manifestly not the case, and it is only by pulling (temporarily, we hope) the plug on their supply of entertainment and cultural labor that people outside Russia who are in a position to do so can show real solidarity with Russian political prisoners, local NGOs, and other people and groups targeted by the Putinist police state.




Russia dates cancelled

Thursday – Apr 04, 2013

Mark’s June 7 show in Moscow and June 8 date in St. Petersburg have been cancelled. Ticket holders should contact their point of purchase for refunds.

Please see Mark’s official statement below:

Given the crackdown by Russian authorities on groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, I have regretfully decided to cancel my upcoming concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg in June. I have always loved playing in Russia and have great affection for the country and the people. I hope the current climate will change soon.



Filed under activism, critical thought, international affairs, political repression, protests, Russian society

International Women’s Day in Moscow: Police Attack and Arrest Our Comrades

The Moscow police celebrated International Women’s Day in style yesterday. First, they arrested our comrade, journalist and activist Vlad Tupikin, for the criminal act of distributing a special Eighth of March/feminist issue of the newspaper Volya (Liberty) at a permitted IWD rally. Then, when other activists and rally attendees tried to demand Vlad’s release, the police went after them as well. All in all, a couple dozen people were arrested for the apparently insane attempt, in Putin’s ultra-reactionary Russia, to bring some of its original meaning back into what has just become a commercialized, chauvinist “celebration of the weaker sex.”


Filed under feminism, gay rights, film and video, political repression, protests, Russian society

Nineteen, in Kyiv, and in Danger: An Interview with Filipp Dolbunov


February 23, 2013

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
— Yegor Letov, “We’re Getting Stronger”

Until recently, the habit that young left-wing activists have of dreaming up conspiratorial nicknames for themselves seemed mere child’s play, a tribute to a red romanticism long out of fashion. I spoke with Filipp Dolbunov, better known as Filipp Galtsov and whom I’m used to calling just plain Filippok, the day before the latest pogrom-like police search took place in his Moscow apartment. He is nineteen years old, in Kyiv, and in danger. The Russian government wants to put him in jail. He is a revolutionary.


Filipp Dolbunov


— First of all, I wanted to ask whether you’re safe.

No, I’m not safe now. I’m experiencing unhealthy attention from the Russian and Ukrainian security services. In particular, as I’ve learned, I’ve secretly been put on the wanted list in Russia. My parents are visited once a week by the police, people from Center “E”, and perhaps the FSB. In Ukraine, I am being followed by the SBU.

I also don’t feel safe because the UNHCR does not respond to my requests for asylum.

— Are you afraid you could be deported?

Yes, that possibility exists. After Leonid Razvozzhayev’s abduction in Kyiv and considering that the Ukraine’s statistics for deporting refugees are high, it’s quite possible. And knowing what close friends the SBU are with the FSB and Center “E”, I would raise the likelihood of this several times.

— You say you’re being followed. What does that look like?

On February 6, for example, I was followed from the building of the Ukraine Migration Service right to the place where I’m staying. Three men bearing a strong resemblance to police investigators followed me at a distance of forty meters. They periodically stopped and pretended to talk. In the subway, they got into the car next to mine and glared at me the whole way. They got out at the same station as I did and took the same street as I did. Only when we were approaching the house did I shake them. I saw one of them running after me, but I managed to escape. Kyiv police officers are now periodically staked out near the house.

oon fil

“Honor the UN convention on the rights of refugees”

— Why do you think the security services are so interested in you?

I think the security services are now paying special attention to people with leftist views. If a person defends his position not only in theory but also in practice, this interest often leads to something unhealthy from their point of view. The economic situation in Russia is now rather dodgy. The government is cutting spending on education, health care and other social needs. Unlike the liberals, who are enthusiastic only about “Russia without Putin,” the left speak loudly about these problems. The authorities are most afraid of a societal explosion. Hence the persecution, crackdowns, and intimidation on the part of the security services.

— What did you personally do to annoy them?

Lately I’ve been active in social movements, for example, the defense of the Khimki and Tsagovsky forests, support for workers’ dormitory residents [facing eviction] in Moscow, and the movement for fair elections. I have also been involved in some unsanctioned protest actions, but of course I didn’t do what they’re charging me with.

— What was your real role in the events of May 6, and what are you accused of doing?

As the lawyers and civil rights advocates tell me, I might be facing the charge of “organizing a riot.” The investigation is seriously basing itself on Leonid Razvozzhayev’s confession of guilt [whose authenticity has been disputed, first of all by Razvozzhayev himself], where I was identified as someone who allegedly led a column of anarchists. In fact, that day I marched in the column of the Russian Socialist Movement, of which I’m a member. I used no violence against police officers, all the more so because there was no “rioting” on Bolotnaya Square.

— You were a witness in the case of another person charged in the Bolotnaya Square case, Stepan Zimin? Have you been pressured in this connection?

Yes, I volunteered to be a witness in Stepan’s case. On October 25, I was abducted from my home by several Center “E” officers, who tried to force me into testifying against Konstantin Lebedev, Razvozzhayev and Sergei Udaltsov [during an interrogation] at the Investigative Committee. My apartment was searched. The same day I was released, with them telling me my procedural status was not clear. That is, it was difficult to understand whether I was a witness or a suspect. A week later, I finally received a [legal, written] summons from Investigator Marukyan. In my testimony, I said that Stepan had not thrown stones, had not used violence against police officers, and had not taken part in any rioting. During the questioning, Markuyan threatened to send me to the army if I didn’t, to borrow his expression, “stop talking nonsense.”

— Why did you decide to leave Russia right at this moment?

They had begun pressuring my relatives — my mother, grandmother, and grandfather. During the October 25 search, the eshniki [Center “E” officers] threatened that if my relatives continued to interfere with their “work,” they would be sent to the Investigative Committee for questioning. I left because too many facts had piled up that pointed to the possibility of my being arrested. From November to early January, people from Center “E” and the FSB came to my house once a week: they would ask where I was and threaten and intimidate my relatives. And recently, on February 12, they dragged my grandmother, who is seventy years old, in for questioning.

— How did you become a leftist? What influenced you?

I once was at a Grazhdanskaya Oborona concert, where I met really interesting people who were wearing hammer and sickle or anarchy patches. Then I gradually started reading, following the news, and looking at what was happening around me, and I realized that it was not even the country that had to be changed, but the whole world, the [entire] system of economic, human and spiritual relations.

— What’s your favorite Yegor Letov song?

Well, I have two favorites: “Sing, Revolution” and “We’re Getting Stronger.”

— You are applying for refugee status? How are things going?

At the moment I’m looking to be resettled in a third country, because I absolutely don’t feel safe here. Things are going badly, because the UNHCR does not react to reports of persecution on the part of the Ukrainian authorities. I don’t know how to explain this. The head of the local UNHCR office has said in the press that Ukraine is not a safe country for refugees. But considering the circumstances that I and other political refugees from Russia find ourselves in, I cannot understand why they can’t provide us with additional protection.

Besides me, Other Russia activist Alexei Devyatkin, journalist Jenny Kurpen, and Solidarity activist Mikhail Maglov are in Ukraine [applying for political asylum]. You can help us in this situation, first of all, by drawing attention to the problem of Russian refugees, especially at the international level.

— What would you wish or advise your comrades in Russia? Both those who are free and those already in prison.

I would like to wish my comrades success in the struggle. I wish a speedy release for the prisoners. You guys are such a big help. I really miss you and hope to see you soon.

— Probably somewhere in Switzerland.

No, in Russia.

Interview prepared by Ivan Ovsyannikov


Filed under interviews, leftist movements, political repression, protests, Russian society

Victoria Lomasko, 2012: A Chronicle of Resistance

vika & vlad

Victoria Lomasko
2012: A Chronicle of Resistance

2012 was marked by heavily attended protests by the Russian opposition. For the first time since the early 1990s, the protest movement in Russian attracted worldwide attention. Many people anticipated an “orange” revolution.

Beginning with the elections to the State Duma, on December 4, 2011, and until November 2012, I kept a graphic “chronicle of resistance” in which I made on-the-spot sketches of all important protest-related events. I will try now to recall and describe the protests, in which I was involved as a rank-and-file albeit regular participant.

United Russia election observer

December 4, 2011.
On election day, I worked as a artist/reporter in Khimki. At my polling station, journalists and all observers, except those from the United Russia party, were removed under various pretexts, but the female artist was allowed to stay as an amusing oddity. I witnessed one bus after another bringing people who voted with absentee ballots. The people were from various enterprises and quite often from other towns. The drivers shouted at them to vote faster because they had to get them to the next polling station. Ordinary residents who had come to vote on their own were unable to get through to the table where ballots were issued.

By evening and in the days to come, the Internet was chockablock with photo and video evidence of election fraud. Observers wrote about gross violations. Coupled with Putin’s decision to become president again, this evidence undermined any illusions about civil liberties in Russia and hopes for change.

Women on phone: “We’re yelling at an opposition rally.”
Man with megaphone: “Russia! Putin! Medvedev!”

December 6, 2011.
I missed the December 5 rally at Chistye Prudy. The same evening, protesters created an event on the social networks—a rally on December 6 on Triumfalnaya Square. Protests in defense of the freedom of assembly, launched by [Eduard] Limonov, have taken place on Triumfalnaya since 2009. Although the December 6 rally was not allowed by the authorities, thousands of people gathered for it. At the exit from the subway, people were greeted by Nashi members pounding drums and battalions of police in “diving suits.” Police were rough when detaining protesters. Security services officers in plainclothes and Nashi members videotaped the proceedings from the other side of the barriers. I stood next to them: I was taken for a Nashi member and praised for my talent. I added the speech bubbles later at home.

“We’re fucking tired of them”

December 10, 2011.
News of the arrests on Triumfalnaya added even more fire to the desire to protest. Around forty thousand people signed up for a “Rally for Honest Elections” on Facebook.  Revolution Square was the meeting place. On the Internet, in kitchens and offices, people discussed the possibility of revolution and the likelihood that the demonstration would be dispersed by force of arms. Liberal leaders (Nemtsov, Parkhomenko and Ryzhkov) made a deal with the authorities that the rally would be allowed if the protesters were moved to Bolotnaya Square and away from the Kremlin. On December 10, the first opposition rally since the early 1990s involving tens of thousands of people took place, and the police did not detain anyone. I think many people were so excited to be present in the throng of the one-hundred-thousand-strong demonstration and so impressed by the beauty of the march under flags of various colors that they ceased to critically evaluate what was happening.

Woman on phone: “All of Moscow is here.”

December 24, 2011.
The December 24 rally on Sakharov Avenue was memorable because of the clear presence of the “common people”—folks without iPhones, poorly dressed, and without party allegiances. The “people” took to the streets without creative placards and used foul language when commenting on Ksenia Sobchak and Alexei Kudrin, who addressed the rally from the stage.

Caption (upper left): We beat Hitler, we’ll beat Putin!

February 4, 2012.
On a frosty afternoon, the March for Fair Elections proceeded from Bolshaya Yakimanka to Bolotnaya Square in four columns—a non-aligned “civic” column, liberals, right-wingers and leftists.

February 26, 2012.
The grassroots “White Circle” flash mob resembled an unwitting reprisal of the 2007 action “White Line,” when artists from the so-called Trade Union of Street Art enclosed the Garden Ring in a white chalk line. During “White Circle,” protesters sporting white symbols joined hands along the entire length of the Garden Ring. White clothes, white balloons, white flowers, white toys, white dogs, white ribbons waved from passing cars, and the falling snow: the mood was bright. It was spoiled only by Nashi members holding placards that read, “Only 8 days left until Putin’s victory.” After “White Circle,” Sergei Udaltsov and his supporters led protest round-dances on Revolution Square.

Election observers observing the vote count

March 4, 2012.
Thousands of activist observers worked during the presidential election. I was part of a mobile group organized by the Citizen Observer project. Shuttling between polling stations, we saw rows of buses from Belgorod, Vladimir, Saratov and many other towns; at the polling stations themselves, we saw lines of provincial workers and students with absentee ballots. A festive concert on Manezh Square awaited them in the evening.

Despite the fact that all opposition forces were mobilized in the сapital, Putin mustered 48.25% of the vote in Moscow, and 63.6% nationwide.

We will begin carrying out peaceful acts of civil disobedience

March 5, 2012.
The next day, Pushkin Square was the site of another For Fair Elections rally. There were fewer creative placards and more anger—people shared their impressions of the election. We stood in the cold, knee-deep in snow under a full moon. Udaltsov urged protesters not to go home “until Putin leaves.” Police dispersed the several hundred people who heeded his call and stayed. Many of them were sentenced to fifteen days in jail.

Valentina, 73 years old
“Well done, Pussy Riot! I’d sing ‘Mother of God, Drive Putin Out!’ with them.”
Placard: What a talent for treating the people like idiots

March 10, 2012.
The last For Fair Elections rally took place on Novy Arbat. Maxim Katz and other victors in municipal district council elections urged the crowd not to despair and switch to solving social issues. Speakers mentioned the political prisoners from Pussy Riot, and the first placards supporting the group appeared amidst the crowd. The next protest was scheduled for May 6.

Nadya Tolokonnikova: “I wish those who put us here a life like ours in prison.”

In between the thousands-strong rallies, “Pussy Riot Court Festivals” were held outside courthouses where hearings in the Pussy Riot case took place. Artists were heavily involved in these protests, producing leaflets and placards, and organizing performances.

Woman on left: “I’m trying to dissuade my husband from emigrating—I want to raise the kids here.”
Placard: It’s important to believe in a happy future
Woman on right: “I want to live in Russia.”
Placard: Changes have already taken place in our hearts 

May 6, 2012.
Despite the start of the summer dacha season, around fifty thousand people gathered for the March of Millions. For the first time during the recent large rallies, the police dispersed people with billy clubs and tear gas. Right in front of me, police hit a young man over the head, and he fell to the ground bleeding. “They have murdered him! They have murdered him!” women wailed. Several protesters overturned portable toilets, and the shit from them flowed under policemen’s feet.  The police divided protesters into groups, drove them through the streets, beat and detained them, but they were unable to force people to leave the area between Bolotnaya Square and the Tretyakov Gallery until nightfall. At present, nineteen people who attended the rally, arbitrarily chosen by the police, have been charged with organizing a riot. Twelve of them are in jail. One of the so-called prisoners of May 6, Maxim Luzyanin, has already been sentenced to four and a half years in a penal colony.

Woman: “Why are there riot police everywhere?”
Policeman: “Because of the folk festivals.”

May 7, 2012.
Putin once again became president of Russia on this day, but disgruntled citizens began holding round-the-clock “folk festivals” in downtown Moscow in protest.

Pushkin Square (Moscow), May 9
Veteran: “We defended the motherland!”
Riot Cop: “And we’re clearing the square.”

May 9, 2012.
On May 9, it seemed like Moscow was celebrating Police Occupation Day, not Victory Day.

By midday, the opposition—people from the “folk festivals,” mainly—had begun closing ranks at Chistye Prudy. In the evening, paddy wagons appeared on both sides of Chistoprudny Boulevard. The police for some reason did not disperse the fifteen hundred activists. Despite the threat of arrest, at least a hundred people spent the night at Chistye Prudy around the monument to Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbayev.

Lecture on civil disobedience

May 10, 2012. The Occupy Abai camp took shape at Chistye Prudy the next morning. It was organized by civic activists, liberals, leftists, anarchists, nationalists, members of the LGBT community and others. The core Occupy Abai activists almost never left the camp during its existence; they slept on the ground in sleeping bags. They took responsibility for cleaning the camp, running a people’s kitchen fueled by donations, and maintaining order. Other members of the protest movement also tried to spend as much time as possible in the camp; many of them blew off classes or took a vacation from work. Every day, activists gave free lectures on political and social issues. Some people came to the camp with guitars and organized improvised concerts: they sang about freedom. Poets held a reading of civic poety, Theater.Doc performed a play entitled “BerlusPutin,” and I had a show of drawings, Everyday Occupy Abai. People of different political persuasions discussed the prospects of the protest. Occupy Abai was crowded even in the cold and rain. Everyone regarded the camp’s existence as a miracle.

On May 13, tens of thousands of people joined the “Test Stroll” organized by writers, which went from Pushkin Square to Chistye Prudy. At the end of the stroll, many people remained at Occupy Abai.

Man: “I left my business six months ago to take part in the protests with my girlfriend.”

May 16, 2012.
At five o’clock in the morning on May 16, Occupy Abai was dispersed by the police. The pretext was a suit filed in the Basmanny District Court by several residents of house no. 9 on Chistoprudny Boulevard, who complained of “noise, filth and trampled lawns.” Occupy moved to Barrikadnaya, but it proved impossible to organize a kitchen and sleeping space at the new location and thus live in the camp round the clock. Most activists came only in the evening for the general assemblies, during which further plans were discussed; everyone could express their opinion, and decisions were made by voting. Unity among people could still be sensed at Occupy Barrikadnaya. I remember a young woman who would come with plastic bags stuffed with sandwiches to feed the hungry activists.  Her sandwich gave me the strength to continue drawing for another couple hours. Another time, it started to rain, and nationalists gave me a raincoat. It was the police who poisoned life in the Occupy camp: they detained people, stole food, and once they seized a donations box for the camp. On May 19, Occupy Barrikadnaya was also dispersed by the police. In the following days there were attempts to reestablish the camp, but each time they were stopped by the police. Some protesters relocated to the Old Arbat, where Occupy degenerated into street gatherings involving peaceful songs accompanied by guitar, flirting, and idle conversations about various topics.

People on right: “Antifa are fags!”

June 12, 2012
. The second March of the Millions started on Pushkin Square. Columns of anarchists and nationalists marched on opposite sides of the boulevard ring, with the neo-Nazis shouting insults at the antifa. The march ended on Sakharov Avenue. The Interior Ministry estimated that 18,000 people attended the event, while organizers put the number at around 100,000.

Policeman: “Citizens, keep the peace!”
Crowd: “Mother of God, drive Putin out!”

August 17, 2012.
The verdict in the Pussy Riot case was announced in the Khamovniki District Court. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in prison. Hundreds of the punk group’s supporters surrounded the courthouse, and a spontaneous demonstration began. Police pulled people from the crowd—teenagers in colored balaclavas, old women with placards, and prominent opposition figures—and threw them into paddy wagons.

Nationalists: “Moscow without wogs!”

September 15, 2012.
After a summer lull, the third March of the Millions, the least well attended, took place. It repeated the route of the previous march. A fight between nationalists and anti-fascists broke out. People in the communist column blamed liberals for the petering-out of the protests. Liberals expressed their fear of both rightists and leftists. The event was scheduled to last until ten in the evening, but by five o’clock people had already begun to go home.  Sergei Udaltsov urged the hundred or so protesters who remained to organized a Maidan or veche. Udaltsov was arrested at 10:01 p.m.

2012 was an eventful year in Russia politically. What did the thousands-strong rallies and marches, the Occupy camps in Moscow, and the Pussy Riot trial change?

We have the trials of the “prisoners of May 6,” one of whom has already been sentenced to prison; the new laws on rallies; opposition leaders who are inscrutable (and unpleasant) to most of the Russian population; and the provinces, practically untouched by the protests. On the other hand, we see a growth in social activism and political awareness, which would hardly have been possible without the massive involvement of citizens in opposition rallies and protest actions. I feel that involvement in the protests has greatly changed me, and I see that my acquaintances who were involved in the protests have also changed.  The overall growth of civic consciousness cannot be measured in numbers, but we can hope that it will make itself felt again.

Editor’s Note
. Originally published (in Russian) in Volya 8 (40), December 2012; subsequently published on Liva.com.ua. Photo of Victoria Lomasko (with Volya editor Vlad Tupikin on her left) by Vlad Chizhenkov. Thanks to Victoria Lomasko for her permission to translate her chronicle and reprint her drawings here.


Filed under activism, contemporary art, political repression, protests, Russian society, urban movements (right to the city)