New gen­er­a­tion lead­ing protests against pres­i­dent

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Nataliya Vasi­lyeva Nataliya Vasi­lyeva is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

MOSCOW — When al­most all the protesters at re­cent anti-gov­ern­ment ral­lies across Rus­sia went home, teenagers and young adults were the only ones left on the streets.

“In my cir­cle, more and more peo­ple are get­ting protest-minded,” said 20-year-old theater stu­dent An­drei Zabara, one of about two dozen youths who ended up stay­ing camped on the streets of Moscow last Sun­day. “The girl who was stream­ing it on In­sta­gram last night — her mom was help­ing, she brought us food. But as far as the ral­lies go, (the par­ents) are afraid to come out.”

Many born dur­ing Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s 18-year-long rule, young Rus­sians like Zabara have long been con­sid­ered one of his most loyal con­stituents. But in­creas­ingly, the gov­ern­ment’s anti-West­ern agenda and re­ports of wide­spread cor­rup­tion are turn­ing young Rus­sians against the leader.

In the decade af­ter the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, street protests were led by 50and 60-year-olds, dis­en­chanted by the free­wheel­ing cap­i­tal­ism while their chil­dren were busy rein­vent­ing them­selves in a new mar­ket econ­omy. In 2011, when Putin an­nounced his re­turn to the pres­i­dency, it was the bud­ding mid­dle-aged mid­dle class that took to the streets to protest what they saw as an un­fair and ar­chaic po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. But the vi­o­lent crack­down on a rally in May 2012 and en­su­ing crim­i­nal per­se­cu­tions of a dozen protesters have scared off the 40-year-olds.

Mean­time, their teenage chil­dren have taken the lead. With Rus­sia’s rigid po­lit­i­cal sys­tem of­fer­ing no other out­let for dis­con­tent, young peo­ple have turned to un­sanc­tioned street protests, ig­nor­ing of­fi­cial bans and un­afraid of police bru­tal­ity.

“Young peo­ple are tak­ing to the streets on be­half of their par­ents, not against them,” said Moscow po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Eka­te­rina Schul­mann. “Those kids en­joy the sup­port of their par­ents who may be wary of the risks, may be afraid (of com­ing out) ... but they share the same val­ues.”

Zabara says his par­ents are sup­port­ive of his ac­tivism but are too afraid to join him on the streets, fear­ing reper­cus­sions for their jobs.

Yevgeny Roiz­man, who served as mayor of Yeka­ter­in­burg, Rus­sia’s fourth-largest city, and is con­sid­ered one of the most pop­u­lar op­po­si­tion lead­ers, said he found last week­end’s protest crowd in Yeka­ter­in­burg sub­stan­tially younger than he ex­pected.

“Young peo­ple are com­ing out for us and tak­ing the hit,” he said in a video blog, adding that older peo­ple should “feel ashamed.”

Dmitry Sere­bryakov / As­so­ci­ated Press

Young protesters carry a bar­ri­cade at a rally Sept. 9 against re­tire­ment age hikes in Moscow. Young Rus­sians were long viewed as some of Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s most loyal sup­port­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.