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Russian protesting movement is not on decline, but becoming less politicized

January 14, 2013, 15:29 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

The protesting movement in Russia is not on the decline, but its nature is changing, and it is becoming more generally civil and less politicized. This conclusion can be drawn from the first 2013 opposition action, the main slogan of which became the protest against the law, which bans the US citizens to adopt Russian children. The last Sunday march in Moscow turned out to be unexpectedly massive, bringing together representatives of different social groups and ages.

The law on the measures of impact on people, who committed the violations of the fundamental human rights and freedoms, the human rights and freedoms of the Russian citizens that bans the US adoptions of Russian children entered into force on January 1, 2013. The law became some kind of a response in retaliation to the Magnitsky act, which the United States enacted to impose sanctions against the Russian citizens, who are, according to the US authorities, are involved in the violations of human rights.

The ban on Russian children’s adoptions stirred up a massive response in the Russian society. The opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta gathered over 100,000 signatures against the anti-adoption law. The signup lists were submitted in the State Duma. This fact did not hamper the lawmakers to approve the law, after over 100,000 signatures were gathered with the demands to dissolve the State Duma at the initiative of the same newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Last Sunday, the opponents of the newly enacted law staged their actions in Moscow and other cities. The organizers named the Sunday action challengingly as “The March against Scoundrels”, referring to those, who allegedly bear direct responsibility for the enactment of the law on the ban of Russian children’s adoptions, or supported the law. Contrary to the March of Millions held in the previous year the users of the social networks rather than the opposition leaders initiated the March against Scoundrels. The Opposition Coordination Council earlier intended to make an interval in massive actions over falling activities of the protesters and was not planning any new marches at least until the spring of this year.

At first the protesters did not have the political slogans at all, and the main demand was to cancel the law on the ban of Russian children’s adoptions, and only at the stage of an application for a march the demand was added to dissolve the State Duma, which approved the law. The main slogan of the march has changed, and it became not a traditional slogan for the opposition actions “Russia without Putin!” but “Shame on You!”

The reports about the numerical strength of the Sunday march differ. The oppositionists reported about over 50,000 people, the Interior Ministry stated about 7,000 people. Nine bloggers with the counters estimated the numerical strength of the protest action at 24,000 people, counting all people passing through the metal detectors at the entry to the Rozhdestvensky Boulevard.

The Russian opposition failed to gather such a massive crowd already for half a year. The analysts believe that one of the reasons for such a massive march is that the March against Scoundrels was contemplated as the first general civil action without any political underpinning. There were almost no party emblems at the march, and most demonstrators were representatives of the middle class that are non-partisans of any movements.

Judging by the composition of the march, the march could hardly be called as an event of only “the creative class” this time, the journalists noted. Certainly, not only those people, who were participating in other opposition actions, but also those, who came to protest for the first time, were among the Sunday marchers. Even large families with little children and pensioners were marching next to the students.

“This was a very calm sea of people, as no one staged any disorders, did not set anything on fire, did not beat the OMON riot policemen, did not tear off their helmets. The marchers did not have aggressive faces. The most general impression is that decent people came out in the street. Such people carry out velvet revolutions, but nothing like bloody revolutions,” the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily commented on the event.

The marchers showed their indignation with the ban on the adoptions of Russian underage orphans and hurled the portraits of the deputies that initiated the law in the specially prepared recycle bins. Russian President Vladimir Putin was the special target of criticism. The media reported that Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov even burnt down the portrait of the president, but his colleagues in the Opposition Coordination Council did not support him.

However, in general the March against Scoundrels passed without any incidents. No well-known oppositionists were detained, even Udaltsov.

The Kremlin gave a moderate response to the event. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov noted that Vladimir Putin was informed about the protest action. The Kremlin shared the concerns over the problems of orphans, about which the Sunday marchers wanted to state, Peskov said, hoping that the marchers are aware about those measures, which are being taken and will be taken by the Russian leadership to boost the process of adoptions of Russian children in this country.

People, who protest against the enactment of the law on the ban over the adoptions of Russian children by the US citizens, have the right for expressing their opinion, but they should put up with the fact that they are in the minority, Peskov said in an interview with the television channel Dozhd.

He did not rule out an opportunity for dissolution of the State Duma, naming such appeals as “those not deserving any attention.” “We cannot take them with respect. The State Duma is our parliament, we elected it at the general elections, and we have nothing to discuss with those people, who take the legislative authorities with disrespect,” Peskov stated.

For his part, State Duma Vice-Speaker Sergei Zheleznyak assured the Kommersant daily that the multi-thousand action in downtown Moscow will not affect the position of the deputies over the recently enacted law. “A candidate needs to gain 120,000-130,000 votes on average to acquire a mandate of a deputy in the State Duma. Thus, the number of those people, who came out for the protest action, is not important, no matter whether there were 10,000 or 20,000 of them, it would not even be enough to elect just a deputy, saying nothing about the replacement of the whole State Duma,” he said.

Vice-President of the Centre of Political Technologies Rostislav Turovsky, who is cited by the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, expects much more massive protesting actions in the spring of this year, when the common growth of discontent and economic problems will be added to the common slogans.