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“Test Walk” with Writers Brings More Than 10,000 to the Streets

Vera Vasilieva, 14/05/12


Electoral rights  Public protests  Moscow city & Moscow region

On 13 May 2012 at least 10,000 people took part in a demonstration that went by the name of “Test Walk” in the centre of Moscow. Participants walked “from one Aleksandr Sergeevich to another”, that is from the statue of Pushkin on Pushkin Square to the statue of Griboedov at Chistye Prudy. Prominent Russian writers acted as organizers of the event.

The event’s purpose was to find out whether citizens are able to walk freely around the centre of Moscow. This was necessary, given that the days following the inauguration of President Putin showed that for doing just that one could easily end up in a police paddy wagon.

Those taking part in the walk included the writers of fiction and poetry Boris Akunin, Dmitry Bykov, Sergei Gandlevsky, Viktor Korkiya, Aleksei Kortnev, Aleksandr Prokhanov, Lev Rubinshtein, Olga Sedakova, Ludmila Ulitskaya, Eduard Uspensky and Viktor Shenderovich, the journalists Evgeniya Albats, Marianna Maksimovskaya, Olga Romanova, Sergei Parkhomenko and Yulia Latynina, and the actor Sergei Yursky.

The march began at about 12:30. It was disciplined. Readers surrounded the writers to get autographs, discussing the latest events. People clapped and sang songs.

Photos by Vera Vasilieva,

When people saw a TV camera from the NTV network, which has received the nickname ‘Surkov’s propaganda’, they all began to chant together: “Shame!” But on the whole the atmosphere was very good-natured and happy. Many carried white ribbons and white flowers.

There were so many people taking part in the walk that it spread from the pedestrian zone on the boulevards into the roadway. However, there were no conflicts with drivers who calmly waited until the walkers had passed. Nor were there any conflicts with law enforcement officers. The traffic police controlled the traffic; drivers honked in greeting.

Only on Myasnitskaya Street and at the entrance to the Chistye prudy metro station were there police officers. They did not interfere with what was happening.

Afterwards a significant number of marchers made their way to the statue of the nineteenth-century Kazakh poet and thinker Abai Kunanbaev on Chistoprudny Boulevard that these days has become a symbol of peaceful protest against violations of civil rights. Since 7 May an opposition camp has been set up here, which has been called the “Russian Maidan”.

Over the past week life at the camp has become noticeably better organized: there is a daily meeting of the “assembly” (a meeting of all participants in the camp). There are lectures given, an information centre, a table for the distribution of free literature, food distribution points, toilets, and improvised raincoats made of cellophane to protect people from the rain. Police have forbidden the setting up of real tents, evidently because they consider them a more dangerous weapon than white ribbons. The area is very clean: the “Maidan” residents clear up the rubbish on a daily basis and also wash the statue of Kunanbaev.

Along with the writers and ordinary people, among those joining the walk were State Duma deputies Gennady and Dmitry Gudkov, the politican Ilya Yashin, human rights defenders Oleg Orlov, Elena Zhenkova, Ludmila Alekseeva and Elena Ryabinina, ex-political prisoner Sergei Mokhnatkin and many other well-known people.

Sergei Parkhomenko, speaking beside the statue of Abai Kunanbaev, which someone had decorated with a white lilac, said that by their walk the marchers  “restored the law”, securing the right of citizens to freedom of assembly as laid down in the Constitution.