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Every meek pointless protest in Russia is a nail in the regime’s coffin

The OMON detain a protester in Moscow. Photo: Evgeny Feldman for the project “This is Navalny
Every meek pointless protest in Russia is a nail in the regime’s coffin
On 12 June 2017, the Day of Russia, massive opposition protests were held in many cities of the country, with tens of thousands taking part, and the OVD-info NGO reporting 600 detained in Moscow, and 500 in St.Petersburg. Skeptics say these protests, which all follow the same seemingly hopeless scenario, won’t change anything. Here is the answer of a Russian activist who has seen Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution from the inside which he shared on his twitter.

Every Moscow protest is followed by an avalanche of such seemingly witty comments ridiculing its apparent pointlessness:

This does seem pointless: go to Tverskaya, chant slogans, calmly go into the paddy wagon, take a selfie, rinse, repeat in a few months.

Post-protest selfies in paddy wagons (or in burger joints, if you are luckier this time) are a part of a new vogue. Protesting is cool.
However, one should realize mass protesting wasn’t a thing in Russia for two long years after the 2011-2015 surge. Since then, authorities have grown bolder in denying Russians their right to protest. Old venues for 2011-2012 rallies are now off limits. Taking the streets back and normalizing protesting again is a long and painful process, but we are getting there.

The non-violence to the point of meekness is another cause to ridicule protesters, especially when compared to Ukraine’s 2013-2014 uprising. But violently resisting police isn’t going to spark a revolution, the numbers just aren’t there. It will just get more people jailed.

You may have missed this, but a handful of people have already been jailed after the last March 26 mass protest for “causing pain” to police.

Revolutions happen when the time is ripe.

I’ve been at Ukraine’s 2012 post-election protest, seen riot police beat protesters. I’ve been at a court hearing jailing a Ukrainian on same BS “police harm” charges Putin jailed Russians that year. Nothing happened. Many thought Yanukovych regime was there to stay. In a year, the revolution happened and that regime was no more.

I do believe a revolution, not an election, will topple Putin’s regime. The seemingly meek 2017 protests are building momentum to that. And you know what? We are doing it well. In 2012, just one city in my region protested. In March this year, there were 2. Today? 5.

Hundreds go out to protest in cities where protests were unheard of since 1991 – or, in some cases, 1917. More importantly, I feel like relative turnout in those cities is comparable with progressive places like Novosibirsk, if not Moscow.

The social media generation is less affected by the capital-provinces alienation. We are closing this gap, making protests truly national. This is why Putin fears. This is why he arrests organizers and activists from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad and now Moscow. This is why school and universities hold lectures on the perils of protesting. This is why regime tries to coopt popular youtube bloggers.

After today, though, they know none of that is working. Fear and indifference are gone for good, and the discontent is here to stay. Sooner or later, this meek, ridiculed movement will be their end and they know it now. More importantly, we know it too.

Final note: on the much-ridiculed practice of Instagramming at protests. Well, guess what, they are millennials, that’s what they do. These people like being cool, enjoy getting likes. And in modern Russia, protesting gets you likes. Youtube views. Shares. Social capital. Post-protest selfies in paddy wagons (or in burger joints, if you are luckier this time) are a part of a new vogue. Protesting is cool.

You know what’s not cool? The regime and a million of its mouthpieces treating you like toddlers who don’t know what’s best for them.

But those selfie-prone youngsters know what’s best for them: a new Russia where they get respected like citizens and have opportunities. Putin’s regime is not giving them said respect and opportunities. And this is why it is eventually doomed.

And every of those meek pointless protests, each one a bit larger, a bit bolder, is a nail in the regime’s coffin.

The slogan “we will be back” chanted as defeated protesters leave squares is often ridiculed. But you know what? We will be back.

We will be back, each time in larger numbers and in more places, and one day, Russia shall indeed be free.

Girl arrested during protests on 12.06.2017 with sign "Russia will be free." Photo: Georgy Markov
Girl arrested during protests on 12.06.2017 with sign “Russia will be free.”
Photo: Georgy Markov
[hr]More photos from the Moscow protests by Evgeny Feldman for the project “This is Navalny:





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