Staunton, January 9 – The Clean Urdoma organization, which formed the core of the “Stop Shiyes” protests against the construction of a dump on their land for Moscow trash, have declared victory after two years of protests and are dismantling their encampment. A smaller group of activists disagrees, has left the group and will continue to stand guard.
The issue is whether Moscow can be trusted to live up to its own promises and legal decisions or not. The Clean Urdoma group believes that it can be in this instance because those involved in preparing the site for the dump have ended their work and begun a cleanup. The others don’t (severreal.org/a/31039829.html and mbk-news.appspot.com/news/shievvse/).
The winter cold undoubtedly has played a role both in ending any construction work and in causing demonstrators to leave the encampment they have lived in, many for more than two years. But this action is a victory for the environmental protests, and it is certain that if Moscow breaks its promises, the protesters will be back in large numbers.
The Shiyes protests have been both a rallying cry for environmental activists around the Russian Federation and a model for protests about other issues. That they lasted as long as they have may explain in part why demonstrations in Khabarovsk and other Siberian cities have continued for as many months as they have.
Shiyes showed that if the authorities don’t crush a movement early on, those engaged in protest may be able to wear the authorities down and thus not only win out for themselves but serve as a model for other Russians. As the Shiyes protest appears to have come to an end, that may be its most important legacy.