Skip to main content

Moscow protesters want 'free elections, not revolution'

By Phil Black, CNN
December 11, 2011 -- Updated 0111 GMT (0911 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police estimate 25,000 gathered in Moscow to protest recent election results
  • Demonstrators dispute the victory of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party
  • Protester: 'We just want free elections. And that's all. We don't want revolution'

Moscow (CNN) -- Among the tens of thousands of people happily enduring the freezing temperatures in Moscow's Bolotnaya Square is Alexey, an international lawyer. He tells me he's never protested before.

"I'm not a political person," says Alexey, who asked his full name not be used. "I'm just a simple Russian citizen."

Alexey says the day after Russia's parliamentary elections he asked his friends and colleagues who they voted for. Not one said United Russia. "It was some kind of astonishment for me to understand how a party for whom nobody voted could win the elections," he says.

It was enough to inspire Alexey to protest. His story is not unique. Police estimate 25,000 people gathered in Moscow; protest organizers told the crowd they thought some 80,000 gathered.

There are many in the crowd who until recently chose apathy over politics. But the elections on December 4 changed them. The protesters are demanding an annulment of the election results - which saw Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party win 238 seats - and a new vote.

Protests erupt in Russia over elections
Anti-Putin protesters rally in London
Nude protests, large rally in Moscow
Russian protests on social media sites

Writer Dmitry Glukhovsky says it was the first time he voted. The experience transformed him into another first time protester. "I decided to try to influence the destiny of my country. I came to the polling station, I cast the ballot and it's stolen," Glukhovsky says.

Another man in the crowd, Vyacheslav Zhmakin, vents similar feelings.

"I'm a little bit angry because they told me, 'give us free time to hear our positions' and so on. And then 'give us your free time to come and vote'. I see my country does not really need my vote," Zhmakin says.

"So you want new elections. Do you want anything else?" I ask.

"Me personally? No," he replies.

It's another point often repeated by the protesters -- they don't want a revolution. Tamara Mamedova and her friends laugh when I use the R-word. "We just want free elections. And that's all. We don't want revolution," Mamedova says. "We just want our rights back and that's all."

But the protest movement of this Russian winter does appear to have one thing in common with the Arab Spring. Social networks played a vital role in mobilizing these educated, middle class people to stand in the snow and demand political change.

"I think without the Internet, without Facebook and without Russian parallel social network services, this would not have been possible," Glukhovsky says.

Many in this crowd are politically inexperienced. None of them is naive. No one here believes this one gathering will convince Prime Minister Putin to annul the vote and hold new elections. But it has inspired hope and the protesters say that's a profound change.

"I feel one, a union, with all these people," Mamedova says. "I believe we can do something. Something really great that can change the whole political situation in Russia."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT