The portrait of a protester: To go or not to go?

Will Russians attend the Feb. 4 protests? Source: Reuters / Vostock Photo

Will Russians attend the Feb. 4 protests? Source: Reuters / Vostock Photo

Will Muscovites take to the streets for the next scheduled protest on Feb. 4? Russia Beyond the Headlines’ Dmitry Zaika tried to find out.

Sonya, 16, student

I am at high school and I didn’t go to the previous rallies. That day, all schools had unplanned Russian and math tests, and my parents asked me not to go – but they took part in the protests themselves.

But our schoolteachers came out with an open letter to all underclassmen calling on everyone who considers themselves to be citizens of our country to go to the rally. Many of my friends participated and they were shocked to see, next to them, highly educated and cultured people rather than outrageous lowbrow individuals. I think they are likely to take to the streets on Feb. 4, too. If I hadn’t been asked to be cautious on that day, I think I would probably have taken part. I cannot say for sure about Feb. 4, though.

Unidentified Suvorov military school cadet

I did not go to any protests and I’m not planning to. Apparently, it was important for the protesters. But I think this is going nowhere. It’s not even worth trying.

Alexander, 24

My father is a lieutenant colonel. Together with my companions in distress – let’s put it this way – with other officers and their families, I am forced to take part in such protests. We are arranging rallies and group protests. I am now in a solitary protest action and it’s not the first time. Also, yesterday, we went on a hunger strike.

I use different social network services, mostly, but I also have a Facebook account. We share information, links to various protests and social events with our colleagues.

24-year-old Alexander  a poster whcih reads "Homeless military officers go on hunger strike."

I think I should go to the Feb. 4 rally for fair elections, and I will certainly do so if the circumstances permit – if I am not involved in another hunger strike at the time.

Zina, 33

I work in Moscow, in a food store. I didn’t go to the rally and I won’t go to this next one either, most likely. There are always certain problems, at any time. There were some problems 5 years ago; there are problems now.

I don’t think it could all change in a moment. My opinion alone is not enough.

Irina, 27

I consider myself to be middle class. Most of my friends went to the Bolotnaya Square [rally], but I didn’t. I am not planning on going to the rally on Feb. 4 either, but I am keeping tabs on developments from a distance anyway.

I’m studying information processes and I understand information wars in our society. In my opinion, the rallies on Bolotnaya Square and on Sakharov Avenue clearly demonstrated that there are educated people in Moscow who can take a firm stand on civil rights.

I am waiting for the right moment when my own participation will make a crucial difference.

Polina, 23

I’m a journalist. When I went to the first rally on Dec. 10, it was not an editorial assignment but my own decision.  I went because I didn’t vote for United Russia and I could not make anything out of the election results. As a journalist, I cannot ignore such events, so I went to find out what makes Moscow – and Russia – tick.   

The most interesting part is that many of my friends who have nothing to do with political journalism or human rights went as well. I believe it’s because they were young four years ago, but now they have become independent and developed independent thinking. People are beginning to assess the situation. I mean people my age, but even my parents went to the rally with their friends – an older generation.

I am going to the Feb. 4 rally as well.

Artem, 28

I work in public relations; I’m an ad sales agent. I didn’t go to either of the rallies and I can say one thing: the protests are pointless. My friends went there and they have not achieved what they went there for.

Marcel, 35

I went to the first protest for fair and free elections on Dec. 10. Since it was the first time I had taken part in such an event, it was interesting for me to see how it would go.

I was on Revolution Square where people assembled before joining the main rally. As a Frenchman, I was excited to see Russians mobilize in a peaceful movement, especially since it all went well. I am an active supporter of the movement and I will definitely go to the next rally.

Takashi, 21

I’m a trainee here, studying Russian. It’s been four months since I came here. I was in Europe from December until early January and I didn’t get too much information about it, but some of my Russian friends took part in the demonstrations. I’ve also been invited to go to the rally. But the Japanese have received a notice from our embassy in Moscow that the rallies are dangerous and we shouldn’t take part, so I won’t.

However, I saw my friends’ photos on Facebook - I could see that a great many people attended the rally and it also gave me an idea of what went on there. It seems to me that, unlike Japan, my friends in Russia are really into politics. We in Japan also have demonstrations once in a while, but never on such a scale. I even felt that the interest in politics in Japan is artificial in some sense.

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