Election Fallout

December 6, 2011

After Sunday’s elections, United Russia lost its two-thirds majority, which had given it the ability to change the constitution. In fact, it lost even a simply majority, winning just under 50% of seats in the Russian parliament, the Duma. Despite this seemingly exciting news for opposition parties, the large variety and number of election irregularities have prompted an array of protests in Moscow.

Living in the center has its advantages, but not when it also represents the most convenient place for these protests meetings and demonstrations to gather. On Sunday night, Triumphal Square (several blocks from my apartment) was cordoned off by police, removing vehicles using large cranes in preparation for planned demonstrations. As I went for a walk today, I reached Pushkin Square, again, literally a skip and a jump from where I live. This was around 2:00, and side streets along Tverskaya Boulevard and next to Pushkin Square were cordoned off for opposition “meetings.” The police presence was heavy and ominous – large grey metal trucks, resembling canisters lined the square. At the top of Tverskaya Boulevard, two large groups, both of around 50 people, were lined up, apparently awaiting a signal to cross the main street, Tverskaya–Yamskaya over to the square where the statue of Pushkin stands. The first twenty or so men in the first group were wearing army fatigues and black combat boots. Needless to say I gave them a wide berth. Despite (of course) curiosity, I have no desire to end up in a crowd at a demonstration – the accounts of police response, i.e. throwing protesters in vans and taking them to prison, sounds like a not-so-pleasant way to end the semester.

Moscow Police Clash with Anti-Putin Demonstrators (NPR)

Here, the interior ministry denies that extra police and troops are present in the city, calling it simply a “rotation.” I spend a lot of time around these key places in Moscow, like the two squares where protests are occurring today – I have never seen the big gray canister trucks before, nor more than 4 or so policemen in pretty light gear….

Protestors Defy Rally Ban in Moscow (BBC)

More updates sure to follow,

Hillary

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6 Responses to “Election Fallout”

  1. James Bellingham said

    Hi Hillary, It is great to hear your perspectives on these amazing events. The international news is reporting that most Russians are not aware of the protests because the Russian news is not reporting them. Do you think that is true? Thanks for the posts!

    • I would say it is accurate that the Russian news is not reporting the protests, but that doesn’t mean that Russians aren’t aware of what is going on. My host mom (who watches a lot of TV) and I have yet to see a single mention of the protests on the TV news – logical, considering all the main TV stations are somehow owned or controlled by the Putin’s clan. Echo Moscow, a radio station, has been reporting everything, but as in the US, TV is the main artery through which people here get there information. However, as my host mom gleefully remarked, “but we have the internet!” Social networking sites like VKontakt have certainly spread the news among young people. As with the Abramovich and Berezovsky case, little information is available in the Russian-language media, although for the young and educated who have access to English-language media, there are other options. Minimal to nonexistent media reporting aside, no one in Moscow can miss the massively increased police presence, which is not confined to the main squares in the city center, but can be noticed around the city. Last night, my friend dropped me off after soccer practice where she usually does, right at the bottom of Triumphalnaya Square. Police vans lined every side of the square, and then a block in either direction along Tverskaya street. I was with three other girls from the team, and in the space of the 20 seconds it takes to kiss on the cheek and say goodbye, two police whistled at us to disperse. 4 short girls representing a threat? Barriers and a mass of police lined the area around the metro entrance. In my brisk walk around the side of the square toward home, I saw 5 or so police in full-out riot gear. Lots of police, but no people (at least not in that square, on that night). Although for the average Muscovite, accurate details of the protests might be hard to obtain, people know something is up.

  2. sarahinthegoldencircle said

    Oh my gosh…. Please stay safe, Hillary!

    Two Cents from Yaroslavl: People here are using VKontakt to organize a protest as well. My host mum and I haven’t seen anything on the any of the demonstrations, either. I actually mentioned them this morning, and her first reaction was surprise that people were protesting, and then her second reaction was, “well, this isn’t a democracy.” It seems like the younger people (and I suppose, people who have internet in general), are not surprisingly a lot more in tune with what’s going on here.

  3. This article from The Economist definitely offers the most accurate and detailed explanation I’ve seen of the elections, the election fraud, and the subsequent fallout and protests. It also likens Putin to a rat, in its conclusion.

    Voting, Russian-Style (http://www.economist.com/node/21541455)

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