On The Creativity Of Protest And What It Tells Us

20 June 2012

By Tatyana Shamsova

"The endless lies coming from this 'Putin' and those who are behind him are an insult even to those who have nothing to complain about" – Bolshoi gorod magazine  

I’ve picked up this slogan among a huge variety of creative protest signs at the June 12 rally as a vivid example of the huge gulf that exists between the young urban professionals who make up the backbone of the ongoing opposition protests and the authorities. The difference is “primarily stylistic in nature", as a Soviet writer, Andrey Syniavsky, put it, speaking about his disagreements with the Soviet authorities.

These young people grew up free of ideological pressure, received a good education, have decently paid jobs, and have travelled freely outside Russia. A life full of opportunities seemed to be unrolling before them. They belong to the world to the same extent as they belong to their country. And they stayed out of politics until in December 2012 their sense of freedom and self respect collided with authoritarian system of Vladimir Putin, outdated, inflexible, and intolerant.

A jazzy, witty and friendly atmosphere has prevailed over the sober determination of Left Front, nationalists, anti-Americans, and other numerous anti-Putin opposition groups at almost all the protest rallies. Eduard Limonov, the leader of the prohibited National Bolshevik party and organizer of the Strategy-31 movement, blames liberals for what he calls the futility of the protests. But a new lively spirit of freedom is so contrary to the dead boredom of the Russian state, that by its mere existence it is irreversibly corroding the system.

It is natural to enjoy life, as the young participants in a pillow fight flash mob in St.Petersburg so obviously do. This facetious peaceful battle took place on June 10, just 2 days after Putin signed into force the new Federal Law on Assembly. Police detained 10 people for participating in an unsanctioned gathering. They could face charges up to $10,000.

The absurdity of what is happening speaks for itself. In comparison, in the notorious case of the brutal massacre at Kushchevskaya, Mr. Tzepovyas, whom the court found guilty of covering up for the killers by destroying evidence, was given a $5, 000 fine.

Here are just some of the protest signs from the opposition rallies: 

Freedom to Galley Slaves - a reference to Putin’s words: he compared the hardship of his presidency to that of a galley slavery.

2000 – PutIn, 2012 – PutOut

Don’t Rock The Boat, Our Rat Is Sick - a reference to Putin blaming the opposition for “rocking the boat of state,” and his resemblance to a rat

A Prison Is Not A Sanatorium, Sit There Yourselves.

A guy dress in a surgeon’s uniform held a sign:

I am carrying to Kremlin
pills for greed
drops for remorse
anti-corruption vitamins,... and
a prophylactic enema

A guy in a Russian Civil war hat held up a sign:

Illegal President
Illegal Prime minister
Illegal Parliament
"Down with the Occupants”