Elena Omel’chenko and Nastya Min’kova, MYPLACE team members at Centre for Youth Research, Higher School of Economics (St Petersburg) write about protests following the recent parliamentary elections in Russia.
For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE
The protest actions against the parliamentary election results in Russia have been dubbed ‘the snow revolution’. It has been announced that meetings will be held on 10th December in Moscow, St Petersburg and other major cities. Many are unauthorised but this is already insignificant for those preparing to participate in them. People believe that taking part in a act of civic protest will not be met by repression from the authorities.
The protest actions began spontaneously and are ongoing. Meetings on Chistie Prudy and on Triumfalnaia Square in Moscow immediately after the elections gathered several thousand participants via the social network site Facebook. Drummers of the pro-Kremlin movement ‘Steel’ tried to oppose them (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_7YT22oJ1Q), acting under the protection of the police, but with little success. The movement’s site even published a news item claiming that one of their activists had been beaten during the protests (http://www.nashi.su/news/37691). No protesters have been injured but about a thousand have been arrested in Moscow and St Petersburg.
By the end of the week following the elections social networking sites were awash with groups calling people to come out in protest on 10th December. One such group developed into the movement ‘White ribbon’ (http://www.belayalenta.com/); it called on citizens to wear white ribbons as a sign of protest. They recommended carrying copies of your identification documents, being polite to the police and each other and not reacting to provocation.
According to media publications provocations were being organised by pro-Kremlin movements. On the site of the journal ‘ Big city’ there appeared a letter seeking to recruit provocateurs including a list of what was necessary, when and how much you would be paid for it (http://www.bg.ru/stories/9763/). Targets for recruitment were young people, preferably men from 16-25 years of age with basic skills in hand to hand fighting. The tasks listed varied from distributing printed material to the organisation of disturbances at the meeting; for example, pushing demonstrators into the police, spoiling banners and provoking fights. This could earn you from 2-4,000 roubles (£40-80).
In addition to calls to attend protest events many voices against ‘white ribbon’ resound on the internet. The authors of the posts are the self same participants in pro-Kremlin movements (http://imperiya-ru.livejournal.com/106255.html). They distribute information about the supposed organisers of the ‘white revolution’; according to them, the ‘white ribbon’ is financed by the US State Department of the USA and follows the agenda of people with (dual) Israeli citizenship. The protest actions may end in a bloody tragedy, warn the Kremlin bloggers.
Of course there hidden warning in these statements but nonetheless the fact is the organisers of the protest meetings cannot en visage how events on 10th December will pan out and are not ready to take responsibility for everything that takes place. The protest venues have not been approved either in Moscow or in St Petersburg which means many citizens simply can’t decide where they should go and there are no clear instructions, beyond ‘be polite to the police’ and ‘don’t give in to provocation’. We will follow how events develop.