Гуляния за Навального в день рождения Путина / Marching for Aleksei Navalny on Putin’s Birthday

Navalny march participant

Audio content: Young people in Moscow explaining why they came out to support Navalny at a demonstration.
Visual content: Young protesters and some of the protest memes (ducks).

Video available at TV Rain.

The anti-corruption crusader Aleksei Navalny is running for president of Russia in the election scheduled for March 2018. His campaign is a quixotic one: Putin remains very popular across the country and is expected to run for another six-year term (although he has not yet made an announcement as of mid-November 2017); genuine opposition campaigns are suppressed with legal harassment and state control of the mass media; and Navalny is probably legally barred from appearing on the ballot because of embezzlement convictions in 2013 and 2017. The convictions appear to be politically motivated — the European Court of Human Rights declared the 2013 trial unfair and, in a sort of dark comedy, the Russian Supreme Court obligingly overturned the conviction, only for Navalny to be re-tried and re-convicted in 2017.

Nevertheless, Navalny is running an energetic American-style campaign. Starting in September 2017, he began travelling to weekend rallies in cities all over Russia, organizing them through his network of regional campaign offices. In Russia rallies in public spaces must be approved by the local government. The campaign’s opening series of rallies received this administrative approval, albeit usually for sites on the outskirts of town rather than in the preferred easy-to-reach central locations. Crowds of over 1,000 people came to hear Navalny speak and answer questions in Murmansk, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, so that over two weeks the politician criss-crossed Russia from the far north to the far east.

On the morning of September 29, however, just as Navalny was headed to catch a train from Moscow to a planned rally in Nizhny Novgorod, he was detained and charged with repetitive violation of the procedure for organizing public meetings. On October 2nd he was sentenced to 20 days in prison. He has since been released and the battle between Navalny’s campaign and its many opponents continues. As local authorities have been more frequently denying outright permits for public meetings, the campaign has taken to to organizing rallies on private property. When such a meeting occurred in Tambov in late October, several local campaign workers were arrested and given short sentences for violating administrative procedures. After a meeting in Irkutsk, the businessman who had offered his privately owned retail space for the rally was arrested. In Kemerovo, the boyfriend of Navalny’s local campaign coordinator was expelled from his university and her mother was fired from her job. Because Navalny is particularly popular among high school and university students, local leaders will sometimes conduct “prophylactic talks” (профилактическая беседа) with young people in advance of rallies, urging them not to be tempted by Navalny’s rhetoric.

The event featured in this post occurred on October 7 in Moscow while Navalny was serving his short sentence in prison. October 7th happened to be Putin’s 65th birthday

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Крупные акции протеста против коррупции / Major Protests Against Corruption

Schoolboy at protest in Tomsk

      Photo: Марат Хамматов, Tomsk.ru

Audio content: Voices from the March 26 anti-corruption protests in cities across Russia.
Video content: Images of the protests, chanting crowds, speakers, police detainment of protestors.

I’ve finally found time to put together a great selection of voices and images from the anti-corruption protests that occurred in cities across Russia on March 26, 2017. The protests, which drew more participants than any similar event in the last several years, were organized by Aleksei Navalny’s Фонд борьбы с коррупцией (ФБК, Anti-Corruption Fund). In particular, demonstrators were reacting to the recently released video Он вам не Димон (He’s Not “Dimon” to You — a reference to a very casual nickname for Medvedev, which his press secretary famously rejected), in which Navalny methodically — and with quite a bit of PR skill — presents evidence that Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has profited from numerous corrupt arrangements that give him access to magnificent vacation properties and luxury goods. The video is part of Navalny’s quixotic campaign to be elected president in the 2018 elections, an endeavor that is unlikely to end in his actual electoral victory but that nevertheless threatens to significantly undermine the political security of Putin and his circle.

Navalny’s video, together with details turned up by his foundation’s earlier investigations, is a pop culture phenomenon. The video seems to have appealed to young people in particular: many observers commented on the large number of high school students and college-age people at the protest events. Numerous “memes” related to Medvedev are visible in the videos below. They include ducks (a reference to a house for ducks located in a pond at Medvedev’s alleged secret dacha), athletic shoes (the first “thread” in Navalny’s investigation is a pair of colorful athletic shoes visible in Medvedev’s Instagram, which Navalny links to an Amazon order sent to an anonymous email account supposedly linked to Medvedev) and the phrase “сами вы держитесь!” (“hang in there yourself!!” — referring to Medvedev’s ham-handed response to a group of elderly people complaining about their meager pensions in 2016 — he told them to just “hang in there”).

Any group political protest in Russia is supposed to be pre-approved and assigned to a particular site by the authorities. Several of the March 26 protests were officially approved, but most were not. In Moscow, participants claimed they were just out for a “walk” (прогулка) near the Pushkin statue on Tverskaia street in the center. Although the vast majority of protesters attended the events without experiencing immediate repercussions, significant numbers were arrested, including about 700 in Moscow, according to the video from Телеканал Дождь below. Police also visited the offices of the Anti-Corruption Fund, initially claiming there were concerns about a fire, and took all employees into custody. Navalny was given a fifteen-day prison sentence. Authorities blamed him for leading the youth astray by encouraging them to engage in dangerous activities.

Four videos are linked or embedded below. They include images and participant comments from the Moscow protest (video one), speeches in Novosibirsk that give a taste of the protesters’ rhetoric (video two), an overview of events in multiple cities with chanting crowds and comments from individual participants (video three), and a viral video of a school-age boy’s short speech in Tomsk (video four). Also, Meduza compiled a photo gallery of events in numerous cities.

To learn more about Navalny, see this earlier post on his speech to an opposition rally.

Заметки о языке: Useful words include “вор” (“thief”), “воровать” (“to steal”), “митинг” (“demonstration”), “акция” (“rally”), “позор” (“shame,” commonly chanted at police who are detaining protesters), “коррупция” (“corruption”), “власть” (“power,” “the authorities”), “задержать” (“to take into custody, detain”), “молодёжь” (“young people”), “терпеть” (“to be patient, to put up with”).

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Russian Transcript

Video One

0:00-0:20

Ведущая: Я напомню, что в нескольких десятках городов России сегодня, двадцать шестого марта, проходят акции против коррупции, поводом для которых стало расследование Фонда борьбы с коррупцией Алексей Навального о премьер-министре Дмитрии Медведеве.

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Nemtsov March

I have a new post ready to go — it will appear in a day or two — but in the meantime, an earlier post about Boris Nemtsov is newly relevant. Today in Moscow and other cities thousands of people marched in memory of the assassinated politician. My earlier post featured a committed group of people who were participating in round-the-clock guardianship of the unofficial memorial at the site where he was shot.

 

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Немцов мост / A Bridge for Boris Nemtsov

2016Mar_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)

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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.

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Алексей Навальный на митинге / Aleksei Navalny at an Opposition Rally

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media - Navalny at rally in Marino

Audio content: A rousing political speech by leading opposition figure Aleksei Navalny
Visual content: Navalny speaking on stage

Video at tvrain.ru
20 September 2015

Aleksei Navalny has been in the news again lately as his organization Anti-Corruption Foundation / Фонд борьбы с коррупцией has been aggressively targeting Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika / генеральный прокурор Юрий Чайка. The Foundation recently produced a film charging that Chaika’s sons have ties with violent criminal organizations in the Krasnodar region, and the resulting scandal has garnered considerable attention. This is just the latest campaign by Navalny, who has a long history as an anti-corruption activist and opposition politician. It’s difficult to sum up Navalny’s activity in just a few sentences. He is best known for founding the above-mentioned website and non-profit foundation that seeks to expose corruption in Russian business and government. He has also run for office – in 2013 he received 27 percent of the vote in an election for mayor of Moscow, which is a much higher percentage than is usually received by politicians not affiliated with the dominant United Russia / Единая Россия party.

Navalny has also been the defendant in more than one criminal case. In late 2013 he was convicted of having embezzled funds from a state firm during his time as advisor to the governor of the Kirov region, and received a five-year prison term that was soon commuted to a probationary sentence. He is also currently under investigation for fraud committed against the Russian branch of the cosmetics firm Yves Rocher, and his brother Oleg is in prison for convictions related to this case. Most human rights organizations view these charges as unfounded and conclude that the criminal prosecutions of the Navalny family are part of an effort to suppress political dissent in Russia. As a convicted criminal, Navalny is now legally prohibited from running for office in Russia, but he continues to organize and speak at opposition political rallies. Although he is one of the most well-known and popular opposition figures, his support among opponents of Putin is of course not universal. He has been criticized for nationalist views.

Today’s video gives you a taste of Navalny’s persona and political convictions.

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Акция дальнобойщиков / The Truck Drivers Protest

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media - truck drivers outside Moscow

Audio content: A truck driver discussing his discontent with the new tax system.
Visual content: Two Russian truck drivers.

Video at tvrain.ru
4 December 2015

In November 2015 the Russian government instituted a new tax on truck drivers, who are popularly known as “дальнобойщики” (“даль” means “distance” and “бой” means “fight” or “battle.”) Under this system, known as “Платон” / “Platon,” drivers will pay 1.5 rubles per kilometer driven, with the amount rising to 3 rubles per kilometer in March 2016. Drivers are required to install a special mechanism in their trucks to track accrued tax. The money collected is supposed to be used to repair the damage that large trucks inflict on Russian roads. A private company partially owned by Игорь Ротенберг / Igor Rotenberg has been given a concession to operate the Platon system. Igor is the son of Arkady Rotenberg, a billionaire Russian businessman and sports trainer who made his fortune supplying equipment to oil and gas companies. This circumstance has given rise to the suspicion that “Platon” will just end up enriching the elite at the expense of working people. Truck drivers across Russia have been demonstrating against “Platon” since November, organizing protest gatherings, strikes and traffic blockages. The government so far has not backed down from its plans, but the fine for noncompliance was reduced from about 500,000 to 5,000 rubles. This move did not satisfy the truck drivers. A highlight of their protest activity was to be a blockage of the МКАД, the major ring road around the outskirts of Moscow, in the early days of December. There are conflicting reports about the degree to which the drivers actually managed to disrupt traffic. In fact the truck drivers’ unrest has been barely mentioned on the federal television channels. The above video, from the opposition channel TV Rain, was filmed in the hours before the planned action; it features a particularly committed member of the protest movement who explains his distrust of the Platon system and increasingly suggests that frustrated people might be ready to act out against a whole range of problems in Russian society. (It should be noted, however, that opinion polls indicate that a large majority of Russians continue to support the current Russian leadership.) The speaker uses a few folksy, expressive phrases, explain in asterisked notes below.

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0:00-2:55

Журналист: Поговорим с некоторыми участниками акции. Здравствуйте, коллеги. Как у вас настроение? Что вы собираетесь в ближайшее время делать?

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