On Sunday, some 50,000 people marched through the boulevards of central Moscow—from Pushkinskaya Square to Sakharov Avenue—in what turned out to be the largest protest in the capital since last summer. Perhaps the most emotional of all the rallies held since the rise of the Russian protest movement in 2011, the “March Against Scoundrels” drew not only committed Kremlin opponents, but also people who have never attended such events in their lives. The reason was too important to sit out: the march was held in protest of “Herod’s Law,” which banned adoptions of Russian orphans by American citizens in response to US visa sanctions against crooks and human rights violators among Russian officials. “The borderline between good and evil is not always evident in politics, but in this case, the distinction is obvious,” wrote columnist Alexander Podrabinek.
“Only terrorists exchange children for criminals,” read one of the posters in the crowd. Another read simply, “A mom has no nationality.” Protesters carried the photographs of the legislators who voted for “Herod’s Law,” and of President Vladimir Putin, who signed it, with the word “Shame!” pasted across their faces.
Nationalists and most leftists—regular participants of previous protest rallies—purposefully boycotted Sunday’s march. Indeed, Eduard Limonov, the well-known leftist firebrand, publicly sided with the Kremlin, accusing “bourgeois” opponents of “Herod’s Law” of organizing an “openly pro-American march in the [Russian] capital.” He was duly rewarded with a complimentary reference on state-run television.
The “March Against Scoundrels” was organized not by opposition leaders (although some, including Boris Nemtsov, provided a great deal of support), but by grassroots activists. Russia’s renowned cultural figures, including film directors Eldar Ryazanov and Vladimir Mirzoev, actors Oleg Basilashvili and Lia Akhedzhakova, writer Viktor Shenderovich, and poet Lev Rubinshtein, publicly backed the idea. This was not so much an opposition event as a civic demonstration; the only way in today’s authoritarian Russia for citizens to speak out against a crime committed by an illegitimate Parliament supposedly on their behalf. This was not a political, but a moral protest; a loud shout for all to hear: “Not in my name!”
Photo Credit: Bogomolov.PL