Friday, June 19, 2020

‘Change the Rulers Not the Constitution!’ – Russian Voices from Beyond the Ring Road

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 16 – The words of protesters in Moscow and to a lesser extent in St. Petersburg are routinely reported and assumed to reflect the views of Russians outside the ring road around the capital, but in the current environment, there is evidence that people in the regions and republics are becoming more radical than those at the center.

            The “Horizontal Russia 7x7” portal has assembled some examples of what the latter are saying and how the police are reacting, examples that suggest radicalism is spreading rapidly (

            The police in many places this week have been struggling to suppress this opposition, now sanctioning protesters against the amendments for failing to wear masks when they are in public and now doing the same thing when they do, an indication that the authorities take these protests seriously and fear that they may influence the opinions of others.

            In Penza, police detained a local deputy and Komsomol activist who were distributing broadsides against the amendments. They were charged with violating the isolation regime and face fines for not wearing masks.  In Ryazan, police tried to fine a protester for wearing a mask; but a local court sided with the protester.

            In Murmansk, feminists adopted a different strategy. They stood in front of decaying housing in order to make the point that while the rich in Putin’s Russia live well, everyone else lives increasingly poorly and that the country cannot afford to continue in this direction at least until 2036 as the amendments will allow.

            Local anti-extremist officials confiscated their placards and asked them for their phone numbers so that they could be in contact in the future and avoid conflicts when new protests arise. That gave the protesters confidence that they are doing the right thing and has led to plans for more such actions.

            One of the posters the police took away highlighted the fact that in 2005, Putin himself promised that he would not amend the constitution, a promise he clearly no longer is prepared to keep but that Russians remember.

            In Syktyvkar, protesters carried signs, some in Russian and some in Komi, declaring that “we are not second-class citizens,” as the amendments would make the non-Russians by declaring that the ethnic Russians are the state-forming people of the country. All the nations within its borders have made contributions.

            Similar protests took place in many other cities of Russia as well, the news agency reports. In Yaroslavl, protesters held up signs saying that the only thing that matters to the powers that be is to make Putin the eternal ruler of Russia, something the Russian people do not want.

            Similar signs appeared in Ivanovo, Kostroma, and Nizhnevartovsk; and the police responded by charging people either with wearing a mask and concealing their faces or not wearing a mask and violating the anti-pandemic regulations, a pattern that shows they will do anything to silence the voices of the people.

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