Foreign and Defense Policy, Europe and Russia

Why Russians protest

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

One year ago today, Vladimir Putin formally returned to the Kremlin to serve a third term as Russia’s president. And the day before his inauguration, Moscow witnessed the most violent demonstration of the Putin era, which by nearly all accounts was spurred by police brutality; over two dozen protesters remain in prison twelve months later. The rally was first and foremost held to protest Putin’s brazen job swap with Dmitry Medvedev (now prime minister). Since then, however, the Kremlin has given the opposition even more reason to assemble. Leon Aron writes extensively about the protest movement but here’s a very truncated list of what’s happened in Russia over the last year and why the opposition staged a large rally yesterday.

  • April 2013: Trial of corruption crusader and prominent opposition leader Aleksei Navalny began in the city of Kirov; Navalny is essentially accused of embezzling $500,000 worth of timber.
  • December 2012: Dima Yakovlev law adopted in response to Magnitsky Act in the US; bans the adoption of Russian children by American parents and threatens to close NGOs that receive American funding for “political activities” per the Kremlin’s definition.
  • October 2012: Treason law enacted; broadens the definition of treason to include “financial, material and technical, consultative or other assistance to” not just a foreign state but also “an international or foreign organization” (read: Western NGOs).
  • October 2012: Opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov charged with the intention to incite “mass riots” and placed under house arrest; his alleged co-conspirator Leonid Razvozzhayev was abducted in Kiev, transferred to Moscow, and forced to sign a confession.
  • September 2012: USAID expelled from Russia.
  • August 2012: Members of the punk band Pussy Riot given two-year prison sentences for their performance of “Virgin Mary, Get Putin Out” at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.
  • July 2012: “Foreign agents” law adopted; NGOs that engage in “political activity” must label themselves foreign agents, which in Russia is a thinly veiled reference to spies.
  • July 2012: Internet restrictions law enacted; although nominally aimed at the prevention of child pornography and suicide promotion, this law establishes mechanisms that allow the Kremlin to block websites and censor the internet in Russia.
  • May 2012: Fines drastically increased for those who hold rallies without Kremlin approval or violate rules for public events; the maximum penalty for individuals rose from $165 to $9,700.

2 thoughts on “Why Russians protest

  1. Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t corruption and tyrannical government a several century tradition in Russia? It’s rather built into their culture.

  2. You speak of tyranny, corruption, poverty, obscurity and slavery as if it is something wrong. We, Russians are proud of these things very much! The only thing we pity of is that the West won’t import them.

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