A diary of Russian political activist

Wednesday 20 December 2006

The hot season

Winter is the hottest time for Russian opposition. The schedule of street actions for the last seven days looks like this:
December, 14 - picket against the war in Chechnya
December, 15 - picket in support of political prisoner Michail Trepashkin
December, 16 - 'March of Dissent'
December, 17 - march in memory of the journalists who have been killed
December, 18 - picket against deportation of Georgians
December, 20 - picket timed to the Day of officials of Cheka and a sort of performance in honor of the same national holiday.

A special feature of all the pickets is the staff of people taking part in them. You'll never see famous politicians on a picket against the war in Chechnya. The only thing which really bothers them is the quantity of TV cameras. So all the pickets are organized by several small movements such as Committe of Anti-war Activities or a movement 'For human rights'. All these organizations support each other's initiatives. As a result the same people always meet each other during the same actions. And if I tell anybody that I know by sight most of political activists in Moscow, it will be true. For example our small, but very active libertarian movement Free Radicals took part in six actions from the list. So did the Committee of Anti-war Activities.

One of these actions is really worth speaking about because it was the first really great rally which united our right and left opposition. I mean the 'March of Dissent'. One can say that two or four thousands people is ridiculous for Moscow. But we should keep in mind that every participant of this rally was ready to spend his day off in police, because the Moscow government exerted every effort to prevent the demonstration. Reaction of our government is really funny. I can hardly imagine a way to show all the fear and stupidity of authorities better than to prohibit the march and to declare almost martial law in Moscow for the whole week-end. From press one can learn about 8,5 thousands policemen and one helicopter who had to keep order during the rally. But perhaps it'll be interesting to know what our authorities are speaking about when they want just to keep order.

(Moscow in the state of martial law. The 'March of Dissent' © Ekaterina Konstantinova)

My only contribution to the 'March of Dissent' is a night spent with my friends in sewing flags for this action. Nevertheless my parents had to answer several calls from police and Office of Public Prosecutor. Such a great number of people wanted to talk to me before the rally! Later I had a chance to make sure that our authorities were interested not only in me.

(Producing hand-made flags as a specific feature of small liberal and libertarian movements in Russia © Sergey Konstantinov)

Let me speak only about the facts that took place with people I know. At about 9 o'clock in the morning a young man from Youth Human Rights Movement was arrested at Yaroslavski station building, where he had arrived in order to participate in the 'March of Dissent'. Earlier, at about 4 o'clock a bus was arrested on the way to Moscow from St.-Petersburg. In the bus there were 27 activists from different movements in opposition. All of them aimed to take part in the rally. I am acquainted with the part of them. About half past ten five activists of movement 'Oborona' ('Defense') were arrested near the entrance into the metro station on the way to the rally. One of them, Oleg Kozlovski, was a member of coordination committee of the march. Without any legal reasons they had been held at a local police office until the action was over. And finally the last case which illustrates the methods of our authorities better than all others. The story below is a rough translation of the most interesting extracts of a post of Anton Tarantei, a political activist from Samara:

15:00. I go out to the platform in Syzran in order to buy some patties. But at the same moment a crowd of policemen barges into my carriage. They push me back into the carriage and demand documents from me. After collating my passport with a paper on which
six names are written the policemen nod their heads and turn me out of the carriage. Gan and George are the next. After the train departs from Syzran, the policemen lead us to a local police office. Two FSB agents in elevated mood are already waiting us there. <...> In an hour the policemen from the city's police office arrive and take us away. <...>

The policemen change each other, but the questions are always the same. Each policeman demands from us a confession that we were going to the prohibited march and tries to explain us that except rights our Constitution makes provision for some duties and one of these duties is cooperation with agency.

I had to talk with the policemen a lot. It must be mentioned that even Hegel could be envious of idolization of the State, which they tried to show us. One of them even declared: 'How is that? But you were born thanks to our State!' If I have been standing at that moment, I'd have to sit down. Evidently sex in a family is now a question of state politics... <...> I should mention that three of us were held by the force of at least ten policemen. <...> At the table of one of them I read a paper that the struggle against extremism and with arrival of extremists in Moscow is carried on according to an order of
Samara Region Police Department. It's interesting that there was no formal arrest with protocol, but we were held there for ten hours. How, what for, according to whose order - all these trifles do not exist at all for Putin's agency.

Monday 11 December 2006


This blog is aimed to describe the life of a political activist from Russia.