Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Five Faces of May Day in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 2 – For many years, analysts focused only on what the authorities announced were the official slogans of May Day; then, they tended to evaluate the holiday in terms of what the balance was between those who took part in officially organized marches and those who were identified as the opposition.

            But now May Day has become a holiday in which the official slogans and the balance between official and opposition may be less instructive about what is going on in Russia than the ways in which various groups have used the day to promote their cause and how the authorities have responded.

            Five cases seem especially interesting:

·         LGBT activists in St. Petersburg staged a protest calling for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to be dispatched to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Not surprisingly, they were quickly rounded up by the police (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/301992/) who were supported by Russian anti-gay activists (meduza.io/feature/2017/05/01/davay-tebya-vylechim-budesh-normalnym-chelovekom).

·         Long-haul truck drivers in Volgograd who were denied the opportunity to take part in the official May Day celebration there because of their strike staged their own alternative: they ran model trucks through the city to make their case against the Plato system (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/301978/).

·         Marchers in the Northern Capital carried signs declaring that Putin’s war in Ukraine is “a crime without a statute of limitations” (facebook.com/groups/682332398502639/permalink/1286836078052265/).

·         Opponents of transferring St. Isaac’s to the Russian Orthodox  Church and supporters of the creation of an Ingria Republic in northwestern Russia marched together (freeingria.org/2017/04/1-maya-aktivisty-grazhdanskogo-dvizheniya-svobodnaya-ingriya-projdut-s-flagami-ingrii-po-nevskomu-v-sostave-kolonny-marsha-v-zashhitu-peterburga/  and freeingria.org/2017/05/pervomaj-v-zashhitu-peterburga/).

·         And activists in Novosibirsk staged their latest “monstration,” a gathering committed to making fun of the bureaucratism and officialism of most Russian government holidays. Among the many delightful signs they carried this time around was one declaring “Big Brother is watching you – and he is bored” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=590713B199DFD and meduza.io/feature/2017/05/01/prekratite-oskorblyat-chuvstva-voruyuschih).

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