It seems to me that changes are coming. The opposition protests in Russia are something I really enjoyed over the last week. Even though I’m in Washington, about 5,000 miles away from Moscow, I stuck to my computer, watching the live broadcasts from the rallies and reading tweets and posts on other social networks.
It was really surprising for me because I couldn’t believe that Russian people, finally, took off a coat of dust from themselves and went to protest on the streets.
To my view, the recent protests showed the Russian people are on the way to a civil society. No, it’s not Peter the Great coming to them again to shave off their beards – it is that people started to wake up after they felt cheated. They came out to the streets, as it happened many years ago during the times of the tsars and three socialistic revolutions, to defend their rights and to express their opinions.
The mass media have already started to call the participants of the rallies the new Decembrists.
The first two protest rallies took place in central Moscow after the announcement of the parliamentary election results.
United Russia, the party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, got the majority of seats, 238 out of 450, in the State Duma.
The opposition believes the election was unfair. The government continues to defend the results, despite opposition rallies and growing international criticism.
I think the authorities are shocked. I think they are watching the situation and trying to figure out what to do. For now, they have chosen a tactic of ignorance. Both Putin and Medvedev commented on the situation unwillingly.
Putin blamed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week for “setting a tone” for some Russian activists to begin protests after she expressed concerns about the conduct of the election.
Medvedev, in turn, admitted there were violations, as the Russian “voting machine is not perfect.” He said these violations should be investigated.
The opposition believes the actual result for United Russia was much lower than the official 49 percent.
The preliminary report issued by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe documented numerous violations, including cases of ballot-box stuffing, people casting multiple votes, unlawful evictions of observers and journalists, and rewriting official protocols after the voting was over.
In particular, on the Internet there were numerous videos that showed stuffing ballots and failed attempts of Russian observers to correct problems. (Both are in Russian, but at the end of the video, a mass of ballots is dumped on a table, and people say they are all United Russia ballots.)
Some people reacted angrily to the election results. Some demonstrators carried frank posters, including, “We are not sheep.”
Even though the first rally was authorized, dozens, including opposition leaders, were detained, fined or jailed for 15 days. According to the Russian federal law No. 7, organizers of a protest or any other public activity need permission from the government about the number of protesters and what they can say.
On the second day after the election results were announced, the protests continued. A rally on Triumfalnaya Square in central Moscow drew about 5,000 people, including both opposition and a pro-Kremlin youth group called Nashi.
While Nashi chanted “Russia! Putin! Medvedev!” – during their authorized protest – opposition members answered the pro-Kremlin group’s slogans by saying, “Putin is thief! It’s shame! Give us the elections back!”
Some experts say it was the largest pro-democracy gathering in the Russian capital in more than a decade.
Social media have played a big role in organizing the rallies and informing people about what is going on. Many protesters tweeted about the situation. Some described how they were captured by OMON, the Russian Special Purpose Police Unit, and taken to the police offices across Moscow.
There were live broadcasts from the places where the rallies were held.
The next authorized rally took place Saturday on Bolotnaya Square in central Moscow. This was the best rally I have ever remembered from my life. People presented flowers to police. They had the cutest ever posters in their hands. Some of them showed a sense of humor – two men wore masks of Putin and Mevedev’s faces and held a poster that said: “We decided everything for you.” Other posters said: “There are elections, but there is no choice,” “The power to millions, not to the millionaires,” “Deputies, we haven’t voted for you.”
Some people carried the Constitution of Russia in their hands.
People were not violent. They were organized. Many opposition leaders gave great speeches, including Leonid Parfyonov, a famous Russian TV journalist. He blamed state TV channels for not covering the protests.
The protest wave has also reached other Russian cities, including St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.
The opposition seemingly is not going to stop protesting. The next protest is scheduled for Dec. 24. The presidential election is scheduled for March 4.