Elena Omel’chenko and Nastya Min’kova, MYPLACE team members at Centre for Youth Research, Higher School of Economics (St Petersburg) on the latest from Russia’s ‘Snow Revolution’ (27th December 2011)
The snow revolution in Russia continues. The pro-Kremlin movement activists are still searching for evidence of the involvement of the US State Department and the residents of Russia’s cities are attending protest meetings for the third Saturday in a row. Among them are many young people. Among them are many who regularly engage in street politics. But among them too are many who have never taken to the streets before. The following blog collates links to all communications about protest meetings in Russia and abroad which took place on 24 December:
Moscow is beating all records: http://zyalt.livejournal.com/499063.html. On 24th December on Sakharov Square 50-100,000 people gathered. The figures provided by the city police and the by the meeting’s organizers vary significantly and this has become the source of much humour. The web columnist (at ru.net), Aleksandr Pliushchev, published in his blog photographs of various events from Sakharov Square (http://www.flickr.com/photos/plushev/6564495887/). In the first case, the police estimated that there were more than 50,000 participants of the pro-Kremlin movement ‘Nashi’ while in the second, they claimed there were 29,000 participants at the opposition meeting.
The Moscow protest set the town for people’s creative input. Many placards took up the theme of ‘Putin and his condoms’ because, a day earlier, the Prime Minister had likened the white ribbons, which have become a symbol of protest against the dishonest elections, to contraceptives. On the 15th December, during a live TV broadcast and in response to a question about whether the ribbons might become a symbol of a new ‘colour’ revolution, Putin said, ‘Even though it is a little unseemly, I will tell you honestly that I thought they were promoting the battle against AIDS, that they were some kind of contraceptives’. At the meeting a group of young people distributed condoms under a sign saying, ‘You didn’t like that rubber?’ Pick another! You have a choice!’ [Translator’s note: in the original Russian this is a play on words since the word for ‘elections’ (vybory) is the plural form of the word for ‘choice’ (vybor).]
Another humorous theme have been source of humour has for jokes has been the ‘bandar-logs’ in reference to the same direct address to the people on the 15th December when Putin explained how he would work with the opposition by equating them to the ostracized anarchic ‘monkey people’ of Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’: ‘All citizens must be treated with. Of course there are people who have Russian Federation passports but who act in the interests of a foreign state and using foreign money. We will also try to establish contact with them although often it is pointless or impossible. “Come to me, Bandar-logs”. From childhood I have loved Kipling.’ The news site newsru.com created a selection of the funniest protest materials:
http://newsru.com/arch/russia/25dec2011/saharov_creo.html (select ‘all photos’/ ‘ВСЕ ФОТО’).
On the tide of these feelings, there appeared on the official Russian prankster site, a recording of a conversation conducted by the prankster nicknamed Vovan222 with the head of the Central Electoral Commission, Vladimir Churov. The young man introduced himself as a well known Kremlin official and, on behalf of the ‘twins’ [Medvedev and Putin], told Churov he had been sacked. Judging by the conversation, the prank worked; Churov, whose responsibility it was to deliver the vote count at the elections, believed he had been fired. The audio file was quickly disseminated via the diaries of Live Journal contributors (http://www.livejournal.ru/themes/id/42793?from=twitter).
The authorities have responded already; some representatives of the Presidential administration have called people attending protest meetings ‘sympathetic’ or ‘worthy’. And recently Putin’s deputy, Sergei Ivanov, declared recent events to indicate ‘genuine freedom of speech’ in Russia. However, despite the protestors finally having been noticed, and even shown on central TV channels (previously the subject had been ignored), the authorities remain deaf to their demands. Dmitrii Medvedev has promised the people that he will restore some of their power to elect regional governors, but so far nothing more.