Moscow is a ghost town today. Saturday was May 1, or International Worker’s Day, and it is part of a long stretch of May holidays, which culminates in Victory Day on May 9. That means three-day weekends, vacations, barbecues, and, yes, political demonstrations.
This year, however, was different. In an unprecedented show of largesse, the Moscow city government allowed all those who wished to do so to hold political rallies in town, blocking off major thoroughfares and summoning 4,500 police officers into the streets.
The Communists rallied against NATO members — former Allies — participating in the victory parade, United Russia and the labor unions rallied, even the marginalized and marginal Solidarity Party was allowed to rally in a state-sanctioned anti-Putin protest, as pigs soared overhead. All, told about 36,000 people came out, and, oh my goodness, nothing happened. It was all very peaceful.
There were also protests all over Russia — with over 1 million participants — but the best one was surely the annual “Monstration” of Novosibirsk. It started with 80 students in 2004 organizing an ostentatiously artsy and apolotical protest.
This year, perhaps as a result of the 2009 debacle, up to 2000 people participated in the Novosibirsk Monstration, with sister protests in Omsk and Beijing.
And, oh man, were these kids clever poster makers, taking nice jabs at Russian political jingoism.
Sample posters include: “Earth for earthlings,” “Smoking warning: the Health Ministry is a tattle-tale,” and my personal favorite, “Your armpit smells — change the rug!”