Aleksandr Podrabinek: On the protest movement [a text published in Grani in 2012]

Aleksandr Podrabinek

18 January 2024

Source: Facebook


I published this text in Grani exactly 12 years ago. Now I sit and wonder whether if people had listened we might be living entirely differently now. Some might not have had to go to prison and many might not have had to flee abroad.


Readers reproach me, saying that while criticizing the regime and the opposition I’m not suggesting anything constructive. ‘Well, the goal is obvious.  But what means are there for achieving it?’ I’ve read quite a few responses like that lately.

What would I have done in the place of the social protest leaders? First, I would have admitted that time has been let slip to a significant extent. Second, I would have stated with regret that the opposition hasn’t managed to be a catalyst of social protests. A victory strategy requires an escalation of demands and actions. Six-week intermissions put the brakes on protest activity. Foot-dragging on resistance plays into the authorities’ hands. It gives them time to collect their thoughts, get used to the new political reality, and work up a set of measures in response. They take measures to demoralize the opposition and infiltrate it with their own obvious and less-than-obvious supporters. The regime tempts society and the opposition with deceptive offers that have but one purpose: to lead opponents away from their demand for free and fair elections.

A protest movement will fade away if it doesn’t put increasingly intensive pressure on the regime.

Given this situation, I consider the following actions correct:

The consolidated refusal of all political protest forces to participate on 4 March in the Putin version of presidential elections as certainly unfair and therefore unacceptable for society.

The cessation of any and all political games with the regime. The authorities should be given an ultimatum supported by the readiness to hold thousands of rallies to gain implementation of the resolutions approved on Bolotnaya Square and Prospect Sakharov.

The holding on 3 and 4 March of a continuous protest rally on Red Square in Moscow and on the central squares of Russia’s other cities.

At a 4 February rally, a call to Russia’s citizens to join a civil disobedience campaign.

The minimal measures of a civil disobedience campaign could be the following:

  1. Refuse to participate in all undertakings initiated or carried out by the regime;
  1. When participating in public events (concerts, performances, sports competitions, conferences, symposia, and so on), before they begin, declare support for the civil disobedience campaign and demand the holding of free and fair elections;
  1. Entrepreneurs should stop paying taxes to the federal budget (“No taxes without representation!”);
  1. Those who hold state honors, prizes, titles, and other signs of gratitude from the state should publicly return them to the government and president, demanding the holding of free and fair elections;
  1. Those mass media participating in the civil disobedience campaign should deny top state officials the opportunity to express their point of view.

This is what I see as the minimum program.


Translated by Marian Schwartz


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