Last Sunday has been unexpectedly “active” in Russia: Thousands of people gathered in the streets of multiple cities of the country chanting “It’s not your Dimon”. In their hands, protesters held posters, caricatures, and yellow rubber ducks. But how can one organize a nationwide protest and not even in the city where he lives? Let’s try to figure it out.

 

What happened?

Photo: Oleg Yakovlev/RBK, Moscow

On March 26th, unauthorized rallies under the slogan “It’s not your Dimon” were held/occurred in more than 80 cities across Russia such as Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Ekaterinburg, Krasnodar, and Makhachkala. The large-scale protests took place in Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

Alexey Navalny                                                              Photo: Alexey Abanin/Kommersant, Moscow

 

These public demonstrations were called for Alexey Navalny, an opposition figure, and leader of an anticorruption campaign who has announced his plans to run for the presidency in 2018. According to FBK, Navalny’s anticorruption organization, protestations happened in 99 Russian cities, while only 17 of them were sanctioned by authorities. Navalny praised the turnouts for their participations and shared photos of rallies and tweets about them from different parts of the country.

Photo: Oleg Yakovlev/RBK, Moscow

In those photos – people attending the actions and holding provocative signs and posters. Among these signs are sneakers and yellow rubber ducks – references to Navalny’s films that expose corruption in the Russian government. Some of the protesters carried placards with the demonstration motto “It’s not your Dimon”.

 

Inside The “Protest’s Technology”

Photo: Yury Maltsev/Reuters, Vladivostok 

The first procession started when the capital was still asleep: People in Vladivostok, the easternmost place in Russia where the time is 7 hours ahead of Moscow, took to the streets to show their displeasure to what is happening in the country. Next this tension moved further to the West, to the cities of Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk-on-Amur. After the protests kept breaking out in dozens of Russian cities till they reached Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

But how can one organize a nationwide protest which starts not in the capital city and not even in the city where the demonstration leader lives?

Alexey Navalny/LiveJournal  

Alexey Navalny, the 40-year-old politician, and the head of the Anticorruption Fund FBK, together with his organization conducts investigations into senior Russian officials and releases its findings in slick, irreverent videos on his YouTube Channel. On March 2nd, he posted a film named “It’s not your Dimon” which uses the diminutive form of the Russian name Dmitry to refer to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev about the ex-president’s “property empire”. According to this video, Medvedev had built himself large mansions in different regions of Russia, bought vineyards and yachts worth as much as a $1 billion. The investigation alleged Medvedev had built himself large mansions in different regions of Russia, bought vineyards and yachts worth as much as a $1 billion. The video has been watched by at least 9 million people, but authorities have ignored it.

 “It’s not your Dimon” Film

Few weeks after Navalny published another video on his YouTube channel agitating people to attracts governments’ attention to the problem of corruption by arranging demonstrations in different Russian cities on the last Sunday of March.

Photo: Oleg Yakovlev/RBK, Moscow

The clue to launch an investigation was lots sneakers ordered by Medvedev on behalf of others. This very fact is the reason why many protesters on March 26th were holding sneakers in their hands. Some of them had green faces – a reference to the incident in Barnaul where an unknown person poured Alexey Navalny “zelenka”, a Russian green colored antiseptic.

Photo: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Scanpix/LETA, Saint Petersburg

Why did they bring yellow rubber ducks with them? In the “It’s not your Dimon” video the prime minister’s cottages were shown from high. One of his private households has a large pond in the center of which a wooden small house is placed. Navalny jokingly called it “the duck’s house”. Protesters held rubber ducks as an allusion to this fact.

Photo: Oleg Yakovlev/RBK, Moscow

The motto “It’s not your Dimon” turned into the official slogan of the unofficial rally. Among other watchwords are “It’s time to respond, Dimon”, “There’s no money, but hang one in there” which is actually a quote from one of the Medvedev’s appeals to Russians. On the Internet, one of the popular mottos and hashtags is “No one showed up” – a people’s response to the dismissal of the demonstration by authorities and most Russian state-run media.

Photo: Stepan Losev, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

 

“Russian revolt”//“No one showed up“

The Internet invocation succeeded. On Sunday up to 10 000 people demonstrated in Saint Petersburg, and between 7 000 and 30 000 in Moscow. Many young people, pupils, and students have attended the “It’s not your Dimon” which evoked a much public reaction.

The total amount of participants is difficult to determine. The Moscow radio station Ekho Mosky assumed that almost 60 000 people in total had protested across Russia on that day. State-run news agency Tass wrote that 8,000 people attended the action in Moscow alone. Some people claim the youth was paid for attending the demonstrations. Young people deny this assertion.

Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS, Moscow

Media opinions about the protests were divided: Certain media called the meetings largely peaceful, other reported about clashes between turnouts and police, lots of detentions and use of tear gas. Some of them ignored the rallies, especially TV channels. However, the protests drew a heavy police presence.

A few days before, the Moscow Police Department made an announcement convincing people not to attend the actions, calling it illegal and warning of a high risk of provocative acts. On Friday, a senior Russian official police Alexander Gorovoy said that the authorities “do not bear any responsibility for any possible negative consequences”.

Photo: Oleg Yakovlev/RBK, Moscow

More is known about the police reaction in Moscow where protesters walked along one of the city’s main arteries Tverskaya Street and filled the Pushkin Square. CNN reported that police officers flanked crowds and plainclothes officers were moving among them telling people that the demonstrations are unsanctioned and illegal and asked them to consider possible consequences and to move on. Riot police sent a helicopter to the central Moscow to observe the masses.

Photo: Artem Lunev/AFP/Scanpix/LETA, Moscow

Meduza Project, a Russian-language online media based in Riga, Latvia, wrote that at least one officer was hospitalized. According to Meduza, towards the end of the rallies, a riot officer Evgeniy Gavrilov got hit on the head while trying to beat people back from the Tverskaya Street. He got a traumatic brain injury.

Photo: Yury Maltsev/Reuters, Vladivostok 

More than 1 000 protesters appear to have been arrested during the nationwide demonstrations on Sunday, most of them in Moscow. Police detained people with signs and posters and those who shouted out slogans. A reporter for The Guardian Alec Luhn tweeted that despite his showing press credentials to police, he was arrested and charged with “administrative violation for participating in the unsanctioned rally”. After more than five hours he had been released.

Alexey Navalny                                  Photo: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters, Moscow

Alexey Navalny, the leader of the “It’s not your Dimon” demonstrations, was one of the first detained in Moscow. He was “caught” by the police while walking from a metro station to the Pushkin Square. Some protesters unsuccessfully tried to free Navalny following his arrest by blocking police transport and obstructing its path with cars.

“Today we are discussing (and condemning) corruption, not the detentions. Well, I was detained. So what. It’s OK. There are things in life that are worth being detained for,” Navalny wrote on Twitter after.

Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, told that he had been placed under arrest until Monday when a hearing was to be held. On Monday Navalny fined 20 000 rubles and was arrested for 15 days for organizing a mass rally and violating public order. The office of Navalny’s Fund for Combatting Corruption (FBK) had also been raided by police.

 

What now?

The “It’s not your Dimon” demonstrations were the largest in Russia since 2012 when Vladimir Putin announced his willingness to run for the presidency again. The protests were so large-scale that it was impossible for the media and authorities to not react to them at all. Today it is still hard to say whether those rallies will lead Russia to changes. But one is clear: the Internet works and one video from trillions posted every day can evoke a large response and even promote people to block the most important places in different cities to express their opinion.

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