Немцов мост / A Bridge for Boris Nemtsov


Audio content: Moscow residents describing what motivates them to watch over the memorial at the site where Boris Nemtsov was murdered.
Visual content: Images of the bridge memorial and of the procession on the one-year anniversary of Nemtsov’s death.

Main videos at TV Rain (interviews with the guardians of the memorial)
Additional video at TV Rain (anniversary procession)

SUBSCRIBE using the form in the sidebar. You’ll receive an email every time there’s a new post.

On the evening of February 27, 2015, the Russian politician and activist Boris Nemtsov was shot to death as he was crossing the Большой Москворецкий Мост (Large “Moscow River” Bridge), located right next to the Moscow Kremlin. Nemtsov was a charismatic figure known for his commitment to freedom in both the political and personal realms. He remained consistent in his political beliefs (classically liberal, pro-democracy and pro-free market), regardless of whether those beliefs brought him a high post in the federal government or temporarily landed him in a jail cell. Nemtsov rose to positions of political responsibility at a relatively young age. In the mid-1990s, he was governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast; by the late 1990s he was a Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and then a leading figure in the Duma as a member of the free-market-oriented party Союз правых сил (Union of Right Forces).

After Putin came to power in 2000,  Nemtsov’s party gradually lost its standing, as was the case for most factions not affiliated with Putin’s Единая Россия (United Russia) party. Nemtsov had briefly voiced support for Putin’s presidential candidacy in 2000, but from the mid-2000s became one of Putin’s most outspoken critics. In 2008 he co-founded the pro-democracy movement Солидарность (Solidarity) and in 2012 joined the opposition party РПР-Парнас (RPR-Parnas). Working with allies in these movements, Nemtsov published a series of reports sharply criticizing Putin’s leadership, such as “Путин. Итоги. 10 лет” (“Summing Up Putin: 10 years”) (2010) and “Путин. Коррупция” (Putin – Corruption”) (2011). During this period he also participated in numerous anti-regime street protests and was occasionally detained by the police. Another controversial stance in the later part of his life was his support for the Western Europe-oriented factions in Ukraine; as a result, he criticized Russia’s annexation of Crimea and at the time of his death was working on an investigative report gathering evidence of Russia’s involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine.

All of this meant that Nemtsov had many political enemies at the time of his death. At a time when most Russians supported Putin and celebrated the acquisition of Crimea, Nemtsov could be seen, by those with more extreme orientations, as a traitor and an agent of the West. But he was loved by many others, and even those who disagreed with him respected his history as one of Russia’s most prominent and popular politicians.  Immediately after his death, numerous theories emerged about who might be behind the assassination, with suggestions ranging from jihadist terrorists to agents of the CIA who wished to destabilize Russia. Several men of Chechen background have been arrested in connection with the murder, but as of March 2016 the “заказчик” (person who ordered the murder) has not been found.

On the one-year anniversary of Nemtsov’s death, an estimated 20,000 people took part in a march in his honor in the center of Moscow. Meanwhile, the bridge where he was murdered has become the site of an ongoing memorial to him. Those who wished to honor Nemtsov began bringing flowers and candles to the Bolshoi Moskvoretskii Bridge as soon as news of his murder spread. Such a reaction to tragedy is not at all unusual; the remarkable thing, however, is that this informal memorial has persisted for more than a year now. The memorial has been destroyed multiple times, whether by opponents of Nemtsov’s politics or by city sanitation officials, but it is soon replenished. Responding to attacks on the memorial, supporters of Nemtsov organized a round-the-clock watch at the site, staffed entirely by volunteers. Nemtsov’s allies are also calling for the bridge to be renamed in his honor, but city and federal officials have not supported this proposal. In the videos of today’s post, we hear from some of the people who have volunteered to stand watch over Nemtsov’s bridge memorial. They tell us what motivates them to devote their time to this cause. Some great links for additional visual context are given after the main videos.

Update, February 28, 2017: Two years later, the standoff over the bridge memorial continues. Articles from Meduza and Настоящее время


SUBSCRIBE using the form in the sidebar. You’ll receive an email every time there’s a new post.



TV Rain does not allow embedding. Click on the links to view the videos in another window, follow along with the transcript below, and scroll down for an English translation. (Use my transcripts — they are a bit more accurate than what TV Rain provides.)

Link to videos at Телеканал Дождь




This is the SECOND of the five videos on the webpage.


Максим Кац, депутат муниципального собрания Щукино: Мэрия первый раз убрала цветы тридцатого… на 30 дней… через 30 дней после убийства. Просто увезли все, что здесь было: все цветы, все портреты, все свечки – их было очень много. Я приехал сюда через там 15 минут после этого, был рядом и был очень расстроен. Казалось, что такого не может быть, что власти взяли и с места убийства увезли цветы, свечи и портреты.

Александр Тукин, студент: я думал, что мемориал он с цветами, он будет только 40 дней, и считал это уместным, потому что это – дата. Но потом 40 дней прошли, а цветы остались, и более того их начали убирать часто достаточно, но люди приносили всё снова и снова.

Кац: Вчера ночью зачистили опять, здесь всё увезли. И уже через пять часов москвичи принесли цветы и назаказывали столько цветов, сколько их не было до того, как унесли.

Тукин: Цветы здесь, мемориал,  должны лежать здесь до тех пор, пока как минимум не будет установлена памятная табличка о том, что действительно было такое убийство и это огромная потеря.

Кац: Пока кажется, что это продлится долго. Сколько это продлится на самом деле – я не знаю. Но пока мои две гвоздики не останутся тут последними, я буду этим заниматься.

Тукин: Надо постараться, чтобы что-то изменилось.




This is the FOURTH of the five videos on the webpage.


Наталья, москвичка: Это единственное место, где можно высказать свое внутреннее состояние. Отдельное спасибо людям, которые здесь находятся на мосту круглосуточно.

Павел Такмаков, волонтер: Почему я прихожу сюда? Потому что другие люди сюда приходят, потому что это очень важно – помнить, потому что основная задача мемориала – это память.

Ольга Лехтонен, волонтер: Была такая огромная потребность как-то выразить отношение к происходящему. А после этого начались налеты.

Такмаков: Это битва, здесь происходит битва. Она так или иначе есть. То есть, они убирают, они грабят – мы делаем, они грабят – мы делаем, посмотрим к чему это всё приведет, кто первый устанет.

Сергей Киреев, волонтер: Мы, в своем сообществе, установили примерный график для ночных дежурств, чтобы каждый человек дежурил раз в неделю ночью по шесть часов.

Такмаков: Да мало того здесь за последнее время помимо основных дежурных, есть еще просто сommunity – то есть люди приходят и просто говорят, говорят на мосту, потому что они знают, что сюда можно приехать в любое время суток, здесь всегда будут люди, которые рады тебе, которые могут поговорить с тобой, которые разделяют с тобой одни и те же ценности, имеют одни и те же идеалы.




This is the FIFTH of the five videos on the webpage.


Карине Кохваева, волонтер: Здесь своя особая атмосфера, дышится свободнее, чем в любом другом месте Москвы. Здесь, несмотря на то страшное преступление, которое здесь произошло, здесь психологически для меня очень комфортно, наверно, именно из-за ощущения вот этой свободы. Нельзя дежурить ночью одному человеку. Это явилось одним из основных мотивов, почему я дежурю ночью. Я попала под первую из последних трех зачисток, то есть нас вот как раз с этого места и увезли с напарником с Иваном в ОВД «Китай-город». Даже если вдруг произойдет чудо и завтра разрешат установить табличку, то все равно ее придется охранять в нашем таком неспокойном мире. Поэтому даже если вдруг произойдет чудо, во что я не верю, и табличка будет установлена, дежурства не прекратятся.


SUBSCRIBE using the form in the sidebar. You’ll receive an email every time there’s a new post.



For more visual context, you may wish to watch this short video at телеканал Дождь; it shows the procession to the bridge on the one-year anniversary of Nemtsov’s death. You’ll hear the police urging protestors to move quickly with phrases such as: “Уважаемые граждане! Убедительная просьба не задерживаться!”; “Убедительная просьба не скапливаться! Вы мешаете проходу по тротуару.”; “Проходите, пожалуйста, побыстрее. Не задерживайтесь! Вы мешаете людям проходить по тротуару.” Translation: “Respected citizens! We earnestly request you to not linger!”; “We earnestly request you to not pile up! You are impeding passage along the sidewalk.”; “Pass through more quickly, please. Do not linger! You are impeding people from passing along the sidewalk.” One indignant women replies: “Это не тротуар! Это память человечества!” (“This is not a sidewalk! This is a memorial to humanity!”) At 1:10 you can see a challenging sign on the memorial with the text: “Москворецкий мост будет носить имя БОРИСА НЕМЦОВА, как бы вы, там, не мешали этому.” Translation: “The Moskvoretskii bridge will carry the name of Boris Nemstov, no matter how you people there might stand in the way of it.”

There is a great photo gallery of the one-year anniversary march at gazeta.ru.





Maksim Kats, deputy of the municipal council of Shchukino: The mayor’s office cleaned away the flowers for the first time on the 30th… on 30 days… 30 days after the murder. They simply hauled away everything that was here: all the flowers, all the portraits, all the candles. There were a lot of them. I came here about 15 minutes after that, was right next to it and was very upset. It seemed that something like that can’t happen, that the authorities would up and haul away the flowers, candles and portraits from the site of a murder.

Aleksandr Tukin, university student: I thought that the memorial with flowers, that it would exist for only forty days, and I considered that appropriate, because that is the set date. [Forty days is a standard mourning period in the Orthodox and Slavic folk tradition.] But then forty days passed and the flowers remained, and, what is more, people started clearing them away fairly frequently, but people brought new ones again and again.

Kats: Last night they cleaned it up again, hauled everything away here. And already five hours later Muscovians brought flowers and ordered up such a quantity of flowers that wasn’t even here before they carried it away.

Tukin: The flowers here, the memorial, should lie here until the point when, at a minimum, a memorial plaque has been installed about the fact that there really was such a murder and that it is an enormous loss.

Kats: For now it seems that this will go on a long time. How long it will last in actual fact, that I don’t know. But as long as my two carnations are not the last ones remaining here, I will be doing this.

Tukin: We need to make an effort so that something will change.



Natalia, Moscow resident: This is the only place where it’s possible to express one’s inner state. I give a special [lit. separate] thanks to the people who are located on this bridge around the clock.

Pavel Takmakov, volunteer: Why do I come here? Because other people come here, because it is very important, to remember, because the fundamental task of a memorial is memory.

Olga Lekhtonen, volunteer: [I experienced] such an enormous need to somehow express my attitude about what was happening. And after that the raids started [presumably referring to the clearing away of the memorial].

Takmakov: It is a battle, there’s a battle going on here. One way or another that’s what it is. That is, they clear things away, they steal — we do our thing — they steal — we do our thing. We’ll see what all this leads to, who gets tired first.

Sergei Kireev, volunteer: We, in our community, established a model schedule for nighttime watches, so that every person is on duty once a week at night for six hours at a time.

Takmakov: And beyond that, here over a recent period of time, in addition to the basic people on duty, there’s also simply a community — that is, people come and just talk, talk on the bridge, because they know that one can come here at any time of the day or night and there will always be people here who are happy to see you, who can have a conversation with you, who share your very same values, who have the very same ideals.



Karinye Kokhvaeva, volunteer: This place has its own special atmosphere, one breathes more freely here than in any other place in Moscow. Here, in spite of the terrible crime that occurred here, it’s very psychologically comfortable for me here, probably precisely because of the sense of that freedom. It’s not allowed for one person to be on watch at night [alone]. That happens to be one of the basic motivations for why I keep watch at night. I happened to be caught up in the first of the three latest clean-ups, that is they hauled us away, right from just this spot, me and my shift-partner Ivan, to the Kitai-gorod police station. Even if suddenly a miracle happens and tomorrow they allow a plaque to be installed, all the same it will be necessary to guard it in this so unsettled world of ours. Because even if suddenly a miracle happens, which I don’t believe in, and a plaque is installed, the watch here will not cease.

SUBSCRIBE using the form in the sidebar. You’ll receive an email every time there’s a new post.

Leave a Comment