Russians Take to the Street Five Times a Day

Russians Take to the Street Five Times a Day
The number of rallies this year is promising to become record-breaking. Estimates by experts of the Center for Social and Labor Rights show that in the period January-September, 1,443 protests took place in the Russian Federation, or an average of five rallies and marches a day. 2019 is the year of dramatic changes in the protest moods of people: from January through September, the Russians have attended the rallies, demonstrations, pickets and marches 1,443 times. Notably, the maximum number of protests -- up to 580 events -- fell on July-September. According to the research of the Center for Social and Labor Rights, over recent years, both indicators turned out to be the highest. The research titled “How Russians Are Protesting” is available to Kommersant and the portal Dailystorm. For comparison, in previous years, there were 1,200-1,500 massive protests per year in the country.

Anna Ochkina, the head of the monitoring group of the Center and the author of the study, associate professor of Penza State University notes that most Russians went for rallies in the third quarter of the year. Among the causes for that were medical workers redundancies, environmental problems, as well as the Moscow City Duma elections. The number of street protests in July-September increased by one forth compared to previous quarters: in January-March, Russians rallied 429 times, while in April-June already 434 times.

In addition, according to Ochkina, the leading cause was construction of a landfill for Moscow household waste near Shiyes railway station in the Arkhangelsk region. Eventually, it is planned to relocate ten million tons of garbage to the landfill, the cost of which totals 10.5 billion rubles. It is noteworthy that the garbage dumping protests have taken place not only in Arkhangelsk but also in Tyumen, Volgograd and Moscow itself. Moscow City Duma election became cause number two as regards street actions, and number one in terms of mass attendance. The largest of them, a rally in August, brought together 50,000 protesters at a time. This record has been partly leveled out by the small number of participants of the related meetings in other urban communities, where no more than 300 people took part.

Ochkina points out that the willingness of some regional residents to protest in solidarity with the people in other regions is very remarkable. Such unity of protesters became obvious after the protests against the pension age rise. Also in July-September, mass rallies of people sympathizing with the scandalous witchdoctor Alexander Gabyshev took place in Buryatia, as well as protest actions of medical workers in the northwestern region of Karelia, Penza, Orel and other cities against harsh working conditions and dismissal of a number of doctors. There were also protests of crane operators in Kazan. All of these incidents are indicating the unwillingness of Russians to endure negative social and economic factors, says Ochkina.

Meanwhile, there are no protest activities in Chechnya and Chukotka. In addition, in most regions of the Russian Federation one-person and group pickets remain particularly popular. The latter have become a new highly preferred form of protest activity. According to Ochkina, systematic pickets at subway stations will become a hit over the short term, and next year's rallies will also be held by ecologists and doctors. Protests against the construction of garbage dumps will be on the rise, aggravating the conflict of interests between the capital and regional residents.

Denis Volkov, the deputy head of Levada Center opinion research group, in his turn, believes that the protest activity will decrease in the fourth quarter. Moscow City election campaign has come to an end, and the desire of Russians to rally has weakened after the crackdown on unsanctioned Moscow actions. However, the hotbeds of discontent are still remaining in some constituent territories of the Federation. The situation with the landfill in the Arkhangelsk region has not been solved yet. But in general, the level of support for the president and governors has begun to grow, Volkov says.

It is expected that the Russians’ protest activity will be in the spotlight at the December meeting between President Putin and members of the Human Rights Council. Nikolai Svanidze, the chair of the Commission on Civil Liberties and Civic Engagement, said in an interview with that this year's protests have grown not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively. One of their driving forces was the solidarity of certain professional groups, such as medical workers and teachers, as well as the mounting discontent of young people with the lies by officials and inaccessibility of social growth.