Muscovites on the march

Prominent Russian novelists and poets led a street protest in the Russian capital Moscow without obtaining the required permit, and police did not intervene.

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    Moscow poets and writers led a "controlled walk" on Sunday across the centre of the capital to exercise their right to march without harassment. True to their word the police held back. To avoid a confrontation, nobody carried any placards or shouted much in the way of slogans. 

    A Mexican wave of applause rippled along the road from Pushkin Square to Chistiye Prudy as the walkers realised with a frisson of excitement just how many of them were in step. 

    Contrary to official police figures of 2,000, the actual number was likely far greater because at one point along Petrovsky and Rozhdestvensky Boulevards, the crowd stretched as far as my eyes could see. 
    Moscow poets and writers led a "controlled walk" on Sunday across the centre of the capital to exercise their right to march without harassment. True to their word the police held back. To avoid a confrontation, nobody carried any placards or shouted much in the way of slogans. 

    A Mexican wave of applause rippled along the road from Pushkin Square to Chistiye Prudy as the walkers realised with a frisson of excitement just how many of them were in step. 

    Contrary to official police figures of 2,000, the actual number was likely far greater because at one point along Petrovsky and Rozhdestvensky Boulevards, the crowd stretched as far as my eyes could see. 

    I caught up with Boris Akunin, a celebrated writer of detective fiction. 
    "I'm overwhelmed completely. A writer's job is a solitary profession. But when you walk out on to the street and you see how many people are worried, are anxious about the same problems that worry you it's a shock".
    The daily street actions since President Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin have angered his supporters, who have sought to portray participants of the anti-Putin movement as troublemakers. 

    In an article, United Russia deputy Vladimir Burmatov said the marchers were "legal nihilists" clogging up the traffic. 

    "Who is responsible? Who is responsible for the gathering on Chistye Prudy, which has turned into a site for homeless people"? Who can guarantee riots will not be provoked once again? 

    "The actions of the opposition are a threat to both citizens and their own representatives." 

    One Kremlin-watcher I spoke to said that President Putin was watching the street movement closely. For now the protesters "wouldn't be touched, as long as they don't break the law", but that eventually he would be compelled to move against them. 

    The Kremlin may be hoping that Muscovites' newfound enthusiasm for mass gatherings will wear off. Because the longer it continues it's hard to imagine how confrontation can be avoided.

     

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