Staunton, January 31 – One of the most dramatic developments in the new wave of protests in the Russian Federation is that they are not concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg alone but are taking place in cities and settlements far from the capitals, many of which have never had demonstrations before.
It has been almost obligatory for Western reporting about the Navalny protests to mention this even though, to no one’s surprise, this has focused not on the regional dimension of the protest movement but on Moscow where the numbers of demonstrators, siloviki and Western journalists are greater.
And most Russian news agencies are similarly Moscow-centric and therefore mention the geographic scope of the protests but seldom do more than that. As a result, the diversity of the protesters and the variations in the response of officials, from tolerance to brutal repression, are often missed.
A happy exception is the 7x7 news agency which monitors developments across the country. In a 7500-word, richly illustrated and footnoted report, it reports on demonstrations in dozens of places and notes that “in the majority of regions of Russia, unsanctioned actions of protest in support of Aleksey Navalny and other political prisoners took place (7x7-journal.ru/articles/2021/01/31/kak-v-regionah-prohodyat-nesoglasovannye-protestnye-akcii).
Summing up its coverage, the agency says that the number of people taking part in the January 31 protests was “several times fewer” than the size of the crowds that gathered in most of the same places eight days earlier but that “the number of those detained today was just as great.” As a result, the costs of taking part in many places have risen dramatically.
What makes the 7x7 reporting especially valuable is that in many cases, it provides hypertext links to news outlets in the regions, allowing those interested in the way the protest movement is developing and the powers that be are responding to see how these events are being covered regionally.
As any number of commentators and Navalny supporters have pointed out, the number of those taking part in demonstrations is critical not only to show the powers that be that Navalny and other causes have popular support but also to show those not yet doing so that the tide is running in a different direction than the Kremlin wants to suggest.