Russians protest against election fraud (Snow Revolution), 2011-2012

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Timing
Time Period:  
December
2011
to
June
2012
Location and Goals
Country: 
Russia
Location City/State/Province: 
Moscow, Russia
Goals: 
1. Freedom for political prisoners

2. Annulment of the election results

3. The resignation of Vladimir Churov, head of the election commission, and an official investigation of vote fraud

4. Registration of the opposition parties and new democratic legislation on parties and elections

5. New democratic and open elections

 

Russian politics have long consisted of a close relationship between the state and United Russia, the dominant political party in Russian politics since 2000. United Russia is a centrist party that political elites created to support their favored candidate, Vladimir Putin, who held the post of President from 2000-2008, Prime Minister from 200-2012 and won re-election for the 2012-2018 Presidential term.

On 4 December 2011, elections for the national legislative body were held, and United Russia won 52.88% of the seats. That evening, reports quickly spread of a variety of types of election fraud. State employees stated that superiors pressured them to vote for United Russia, poll watchers claimed that election officials stuffed ballot boxes and purposefully miscounted votes, and representatives of United Russia took some individuals to multiple polling locations so that they could vote more than once. Exit polls reported two to three times fewer United Russia votes than the official results in some locations.

Over the next several days, individual opposition groups organized small-scale protests that attracted between 100 to 500 protesters each in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. In order to present a more united front, political activist leaders from anti-establishment groups created a Facebook event, “Saturday at Bolotnaya Square,” for a mass protest against the election results that officials were to announce on 10 December. The government gave the group a 300-person protest permit for Revolution Square instead, despite the fact that 35,000 people had already signed up to attend. After negotiating with authorities, the organizers managed to receive a 30,000-person permit for Bolotnaya Square.

Despite threats from government officials, the protesters remained peaceful, though the police arrested over 100 people, allegedly for participating in disorderly conduct. The government still acted aggressively to undermine the protest by requiring students to stay in school all day Saturday, warning protesters against air-borne illnesses, and notifying the protesters that authorities would search for draft dodgers at the protest. Journalists also reported that the government cut off phone and Internet service in Bolotnaya Square during the protest. However, the organizers stated that 50,000 people attended the protest in Moscow, and activists organized protests in 88 other locations around the country. Famous authors, politicians, and artists spoke to the gathered protesters, many of whom wore white ribbons. The color white became a symbol of truth, sincerity, and solidarity for the protestors. Protesters also carried anti-Putin signs and waved the flags of their respective political parties. During this protest, the groups stated their demands, which included freedom for political prisoners, annulment of the election results, the resignation of the head of the election commission, an official investigation of the vote fraud, registration of more opposition parties, new legislation on parties and elections, and new democratic and open elections.

Another protest took place on 24 December, under the slogan “For Free Elections.” Protesters carried signs saying that their vote was stolen, and many protesters wore tape over their mouths that read “нет голоса”, which means “no vote.” Organizers claimed that 120,000 people attended the protest in Moscow, and the former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, sent a message of support that called on Putin to resign.

On 3 February, the Central Election Commission published a report stating that, overall, the irregularities reported were not concerns, though they acknowledged that a very small number of the irregularities represented fraud on the part of a few individuals. The next day, another mass “For Fair Elections” campaign took place in Moscow to protest these findings, and another one took place two weeks later. At both, protesters waved Russian and party flags and held up banners and signs that decriedthe level of corruption in Russia. In early March, Vladimir Putin was reelected President with 63.64 percent of the vote. Similar allegations of fraud emerged, followed immediately by a 25,000-person protest in Moscow. Angry protesters expressed their outrage with chants while remaining peaceful. Police arrested 50 protesters. On 6 May, the day before Putin’s inauguration, another mass protest came to a head when police attacked protester soon after the start of the protest, arrested 400 of them, and injured 80. The violence of this clash frightened many protesters and citizens, and organizers held no more protests in most Russian cities.

A month later, the government enacted laws that limited protests and highly penalized unauthorized actions and protests. On 12 June, 50,000 protesters in Moscow gathered to defy this new act of repression. The same day, police raided the houses of several protest organizers and called them in for interrogation. Police have since arrested and convicted several leaders on false charges.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Influenced by the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, 2004-2005. (1)

Sources: 
Anon. 2011. “Russian Election Protests – Saturday 10 December 2011.” The Guardian. Retrieved (https://web.archive.org/web/20151102025601/http://www.theguardian.com/global/2011/dec/10/russia-elections-putin-protest).

Anon. 2011. “География Митингов.” Коммерсантъ. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1834402?stamp=634591462392270016).

Anon. 2012. “Russians Rally As Putin Hints Reforms, Warns of Regime Change.” Sputnik News. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (http://sputniknews.com/society/20120204/171125937.html).

Barry, Ellen. 2013. “As Putin’s Grip Gets Tighter, a Time Of Protest Fades in Russia.” The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/world/europe/in-russia-a-trendy-activism-against-putin-loses-its-moment.html)

Barry, Ellen and Michael Schwirtz. 2012. “Arrests And Violence at Overflowing Rally in Moscow.” The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/07/world/europe/at-moscow-rally-arrests-and-violence.html?_r=0)

Herszenhorn, David M. and Ellen Barry. 2012. “Large Anti-Putin Protest Signals Growing Resolve.” The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/world/europe/anti-putin-demonstrators-gather-in-moscow.html)

Ioffe, Julia. 2011. “The Decembrists.” Foreign Policy. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151102025742/http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/12/09/the-decembrists/).

Ioffe, Julia. 2011. “Snow Revolution.” The New Yorker. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151202160542/http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/snow-revolution)

Ioffe, Julia. 2011. “‘Tomorrow, They'll Shoot Us.’” The New Yorker. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151202160623/http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/tomorrow-theyll-shoot-us)

Parfitt, Tom. 2012. “Vladimir Putin Inauguration Shows How Popularity Has Crumbled.” The Telegraph. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151202160711/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/9250729/Vladimir-Putin-inauguration-shows-how-popularity-has-crumbled.html).

Schwirtz, Michael. 2012. “Thousands Ring Central Moscow In Anti-Putin Protest.” The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/27/world/europe/thousands-join-anti-kremlin-protest-in-moscow.html?_r=0)

White, Gregory L. and Rob Barry. 2011. “Russia's Dubious Voice.” The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 2, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151202160840/http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203391104577124540544822220)

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Irina Bukharin, 01/11/2015