A protest action that has taken place today all over Russia took an absolutely sudden turn in St. Petersburg. A protest organized by opposition was spontaneously turned into mass protest led not by political figures, but by people themselves. The police was at last forced to intervene and detain about 130 persons to stop the action. All this strongly resembles the events that took place in St. Petersburg (then Petrograd) 100 years ago and led first to the abdication of Nicolas II and further to the Russian Revolution.
On March 2, the Moscow-based Fund Against Corruption published an investigative movie revealing secret assets of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The Prime Minister, who worked as a President of Russia four years in 2008 – 2012, didn’t react to the investigation, and the fund’s head, Alexey Navalny called his followers to take to the streets to demand comments from Medvedev.
More than 100 cities and towns across Russian organized protest gatherings. In St. Petersburg, the action took place at the Marsovo field where those killed during the 1917 February revolution were buried.
Our correspondent attended the event. More than 10.000 people gathered to express their dissatisfaction with Medvedev’s behavior and the problem of corruption in the country. The organizers asked not to claim any slogans and do any other activities which could force the police to intervene, but the protesters were chanting radical slogans:
«Putin is a thief!»
«Government must resign!»
«Medvedev must answer!»
«Russia without Putin!»
«Russian without corruption!» and many others.
The police were standing still as no violence or riots were taking place. The rally was rather peaceful, about two hours later after the start the protesters began leaving the field. But as it turned out it was just the start. A lot of people, mainly very young, headed for the Dvortsovaya (Palace) Square where the Bolsheviks invaded the Winter palace (the State Hermitage museum) to overthrow the Provisional government in 1917.
About the same amount of people went along the Nevsky avenue chanting the same slogans, primarily «Putin is thief!» They gathered at the square and continued chanting without taking any radical actions. The police seemed to be a bit foggy as the move came as a pure and great surprise for them (and for many protesters too) and were just standing nearby and trying to tell the people via loudspeakers installed in cars that the gathering is out of law. That was, in fact, not any news to the protesters who didn’t react to the police.
About forty minutes later, the crowd returned to the Nevsky and headed for the Vosstaniya (Uprising) square, the place which got its current name after the events of February 1917 which ended up in abdication of the Emperor Nicolas II.
The protesters reached the square and that’s where the special police forces decided to intervene. They blocked a part of the crowd which had reduced to about 1.000 persons by that time and detained a few protesters. The local media reported a total of 130 have been arrested.
Alexey Navalny was also detained during the action in Moscow.
By the way, we warned that taking part in political actions in Russia may cost you much nerves and it’s better to keep oneself far from the event. Read our safety tips for visiting St. Petersburg.
Interestingly, protesters in other Russian cities gathered at one place and didn’t take any steps for marching protests.
How can all this influence the tourism industry and the Confederation Cup 2017? We don’t have a crystal ball, but think that even the revolutionary 2017 year could hardly bring anything to disturb your stay at St. Petersburg.