Staunton, February 13 – On August 23, 1989, millions of residents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined hands in the Baltic chain between Tallinn and Vilnius to show their determination to recover their de facto independence. Shortly after this, the residents of Moscow copied this.
In the intervening period, the only major protest actions that employed the human chain approach were in Moscow in February 2012 where Russians surrounded the old KGB headquarters to protest its influence and in Zelenogorsk in Moscow Oblast in May 2015 when residents joined hands in a four-kilometer-chain to mark the line of the city’s defense in 1941.
But now the Baltic chain has again become a model for protesters in the Russian Federation, journalist Yekaterina Runova of MBK News says, describing recent cases in Oryol, Yekaterinburg, Surgut, Nizhny Tagil, and Kazan where Russians have formed human chains to advance their cause (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/protestnye-obnimashk/).
Dmitry Gromov, a folklorist at the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, says that Russians aren’t doing so to provide themselves with security in numbers: “If the powers want to disrupt any measure, they will do this in any case,” he says. Instead, they have adopted this measure to attract the attention of journalists, society and the authorities.
Protest meeting all too often take the same form and thus are ignored or dismissed, but human chains are different: they are something out of the ordinary, show that the issue being raised has broad support, and tell passersby that those taking part are truly committed to their cause.