Behind the Russian uprising

What brought people out into the streets again this time was a viral YouTube video by Putin challenger Alexei Navalny, 40, who accused Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of having amassed a real estate empire.

To everyone's surprise, kids who shun Facebook and swap memes via messaging services turned out en masse. Some of them brought rubber ducks, a reference to Navalny's allegation that Medvedev keeps a house for raising ducks at one of his estates.

Russian journalist Kirill Martynov calls the young demonstrators "nobody's people" who have nothing to lose by protesting. "The experience of today's 11th grader is never-ending Putin and Medvedev, enmity with the whole world, crazy propaganda and grown-ups who lie," he wrote.

A video of Gleb Takmakov, a fifth-grader in the Siberian city of Tomsk, is emblematic of this new generation of protester. Dressed in a wool cap and a Converse sweatshirt, the boy takes to the microphone at a rally, explaining that it's not about Putin or Navalny but about changing the entire system.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reacted to the outburst of youthful rebellion skeptically, claiming that minors participating at the demonstration in Moscow had been promised monetary rewards if they were arrested.

Navalny, who was among hundreds arrested on Sunday, provides continuity with Russia's last mass demonstrations. He set those off in December 2011, when he was a relatively unknown anti-corruption blogger, after calling Muscovites to a rally following reports of vote-rigging in parliamentary elections.

Then, as now, he was thrown in jail for two weeks for not obeying the police.

But if Navalny was just one of many opposition figures during the rallies in the winter of 2011-2012, Sunday's protests have established him as today's undisputed leader. Many of the organizers five years ago had already passed their political zenith, including Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister who was assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.

Back then, Navalny emerged as a forceful, charismatic speaker who wasn't afraid to talk about storming the Kremlin if need be. Undaunted by fraud cases launched by the authorities against him and his brother, Navalny pursued a political career and won 27 percent of the vote in the 2013 Moscow mayoral race.

In February, two months after announcing his bid to run for president next year, he was convicted of embezzlement in a fraud case, casting doubt on his campaign.
There is more.

Navalny has been following a grassroots strategy by getting outside of Moscow and apparently the youth were impressed with his arguments. The current elites in Russia appear as out of touch with the peasants as the Czars were.


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