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Why Do People Take to the Streets,
Despite Threats of Criminal Persecution?

Greg Yudin for OVD-Info
Translated by the HereWeStand team
Originally Published by OVD-Info
Professor of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (MSSES) Greg Yudin has told the OVD-info media about the changes in protest moods [in Russia] and the reasons why people are ready to take to the streets despite the risk of becoming defendants in criminal cases.
Why Do People Participate in the Street Protests?
Most people who take to the streets are not concerned with the change of power.

The thing [that bothers them] is where the country is heading. Nowhere. And there is no doubt about that fact. All the [political] agenda remains negative and for more than seven years people [have been told] to defend and protect our "fortress". Anyone would get tired of it. [People] don't understand what comes next in this context. They aren't being offered any positive ideas. And the fear of destroying their habitat arises.

[When] people in power are totally unaware of the kind of the country [Russia] should be. These people can only waste the country's resources. Fear that it could lead to irreversible consequences emerges in the society.

Feelings emerge that things that were not tolerated before are going to happen now - as in case of the journalist Ivan Golunov. We all know that people have drugs planted on them and that people get thrown in prison [for that]. But when it happens with a famous journalist, it gets scary. Because it is obvious that if it happens now (an investigative journalist will be sentenced to a real jail term out of the trumped-up case — OVD-info), it will also happen in the future. The repressions' boundaries will grow wider. That is why there is a desire to set the boundaries and not let anyone through them.
On Authorized & Unauthorized Demonstrations
Nobody (among the participants of protest rallies) believes that there are authorized and unauthorized rallies. There are two types of rallies: the ones where people get beaten and the ones where they don't. This is easy to read. If people are ready to go where they will be beaten - this is a breaking point.
Lately, we have seen a fair amount of people who are ready to join such protests, knowing that they will be beaten and thrown in prisons. It is connected to the fact that society is slowly becoming politicized. Seven years ago, people were truly surprised when the government imprisoned innocent people. Now the attitude to the government has changed, it is the way it works — it will imprison people. And people who go to the streets today know they are taking risks. It is another level of awareness. As a result, it brings opposition to another level as well because it is hard to intimidate those people.

In Moscow one can hear: 'We are not afraid.' It is the negative motivation. It is the strongest one, but its mobilization capability is limited. There is also a positive motivation – that is why this whole story with Moscow Duma (regional parliament) and political force build-up [has occurred]. People are ready to invest in this – people who are concerned with what will happen to the country. Recently, there is a growing number of such people. It can be seen clearly by the youth [activist] groups. The number of discussion clubs is growing. The questions of how to live in the future are raised there.
"The majority has never supported [the current regime], the majority has usually stayed silent. But this needed to be brought to light – that there is no majority support"
Greg Yudin
PhD in Philosophy. Professor. Head of MA Program in Political Philosophy, MSSES
On Rallies for Fair Elections & Their Participants
In today's Moscow agenda the question of registered permanent residence is of no importance (officials claimed than over a half of the people who attended July 27 rally are from outside of Moscow – OVD-Info). People who have lived in Moscow for years, who rent apartments here are facing concrete problems. They want to have their own representatives in the Moscow Duma. If people who inhabit Moscow are deprived of their vote for some reason, they will try to support [their] candidates by other means.

The Moscow Duma elections are discredited from the beginning to the end. It is a quite important story, since the power's legitimacy in Russia rests on the diffused assumption that the majority supports it. That is not the case and has never been in Vladimir Putin's regime. The majority has never supported [him], the majority has usually stayed silent. But this needed to be brought to light – that there is no majority support.

There are authoritarian measures that are brought top-down in a forced manner. Today, this becomes obvious. Muscovites are the people who are used to considering themselves to be the most free. For them, this experience matters. I think that the Moscow politics will change [following the summer protests].

A new group of people with completely different boundaries of fear, reasonable understanding of the situation, serious self-organization skills and with enough politicization has emerged.