Vladimir Putin's election as
president on March 4 dealt a blow to Russia's middle-class-based
opposition movement. After a winter of massive street protests, a
protest on Saturday drew a comparatively small crowd.
Russia's democracy movement is searching for new directions after
Vladimir Putin's election to a six-year term as president.
Ksenia Sobchak, a television personality turned activist, told
demonstrators in Moscow that the movement has to clearly state positive
She says that the movement has to get beyond chanting "Russia Without
Putin." She says democrats have to say that they are for an independent
court system, a diversity of opinion on television, and a restoration of
direct elections for mayors and governors.
Protester Mikhail Makarov says that democracy advocates should spread
the movement across Russia.
An Internet user, Makarov says people in Russia’s far-flung regions
depend too heavily on state-controlled TV for their news.
Nearby, Olga Sergeyeva says that the expansion of civil society will be
key to building a more open system in Russia. She says Russian democrats
now need a real political party.
In the March 4 elections, Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire businessman,
got more votes in central Moscow than Prime Minister Putin. This week,
Prokhorov is building on this middle-class base to form a new political
Andrei Khoroshilov, an organizer, sees this party as a natural outgrowth
of this winter’s citizen poll-watching movement.
He believes that with the warm weather of spring, Russians will become
active in Prokhorov's party and in other grassroots movements.
Moscow has Russia’s largest concentration of universities.
Asya Shvydkova, a 20-year-old language student, came to the rally with
her boyfriend. She says young Russians have a new interest in politics.
“We just talk a lot and think what we can change. That's why we are
here,” Shvydkova said.
As the anti-Putin coalition prepares for spring, it is losing its
Saturday's rally lacked the black flags of the nationalists - and the
red flags of the communists.
nationalists were angry that their leaders were not allowed to speak to
They broke away, conducted an unauthorized march and were promptly
Sergei Udaltsov, a leader of the Left Front, spoke at the rally and
called for a “March of 1 Million” to protest Mr. Putin's inauguration on
He then led his own breakaway march. But he was followed by only a small
group, and he, too, was promptly arrested.
Within hours, liberal leaders broke with Udaltsov.
Determined to keep middle-class support, liberals say they will work in
the coming months for reform in Russia - not revolution.