I was in the cities in the Urals and asked the Russians about Putin

In Perm we were in a public holiday the Russia Day and saw demonstrations against Putin and city carnival, which is quite kind of reminded about the Russian successes.

The organizers of the opposition rally in a local city Park was lucky. Just an hour ago a heavy rain, which could make most participants to stay at home. But at five o’clock in the evening everything started as planned.

Came mostly young people. Some brought Russian flags and yellow balloons with a picture of ducks. It was a clear reference to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Recently, opposition politician Alexei Navalny, whose supporters and people gathered for this protest action, issued a video received from the drone, with footage of “giving” Medvedev.

The video got a huge area on the Volga river with a private boat dock, ski slope, greenhouses, housing for workers and, finally, with a private lake on which is built a separate house for the ducks.

So the yellow duck became a symbol of opposition protests, and already ridiculed Medvedev has become a symbol of corruption. “Corruption is terrible, and I see it everywhere, including in our plant”, explains to me in broken English, 29-year-old Sergey.

Sergei works at the local arms factory, which produces torpedoes. Plant state, and manage their state-appointed managers. Sergey says that instead of investing in the company, they put money in his pocket and build a luxury Villa.

“Even if they knew that I came to this protest, and I would have a problem, I don’t care. It’s a matter of principle”, — says Sergey.

For observing the rally, dozens of police. Unlike the shares, which the same day took place in Moscow and which was controlled by the much harsher in Perm took away the banners, no one was arrested and did not check the documents. They remained unperturbed even when the crowd began to chant: “Putin, go away!”

This protest reminded me a bit of speech in Slovakia in front of the complex “Bonaparte”. Reigned the same relaxed atmosphere on the stage were replaced by politicians from different opposition parties, which in Russia are the Communists.

People act against the Kremlin and government, and against local officials. Speaking about one of them, details they listed, what luxury car he recently bought.

They said that if real alternatives to Putin and his party “United Russia” no, it’s just the new tsars. “This autocracy must end,” — shouted into the microphone of a local politician Mikhail Kasimov. “Autocracy must end,” chanted the crowd.

I met people of different professions: a young PR-Manager, employee of the oil company and the law student. He held before him a caricature, which depicted Putin and the globe.

On the globe were visible black arrows, which were pointed at Russia, and the blue arrows in the opposite direction. “Because of Putin other States against us, and I don’t like it,” said the student.

Generally, international politics was not discussed. When I asked the participants, who, in their opinion, belongs to the Crimea, and received different answers.

Some have argued that in Crimea live Russian, he is Russian. Others said that it is necessary to hold a new and real referendum. Others only waved his hand, saying that they do not need the Crimea.

“If I had to choose between Crimea and lifting of sanctions, I would choose the second”, — says Ilya, who is in her 20s.

In Russia, the spread of the so-called Crimean consensus. Even those people and politicians who actually criticize Putin, I agree with Putin’s annexation of Crimea. Or, at least, they do not see it as a fundamental problem.

Less than two hours, the meeting ended and people went home. They were about 1.5 thousand. It’s a lot or a little?

In just a few hours earlier on a nearby street went the procession in honor of the 294-th anniversary of the founding of the city. Passed down the street, allegorically decorated cars, which resembled a socialist First of may. Look at what is happening came the whole families with children. There were tens of thousands of spectators.

Although formally the carnival was apolitical, something he reminded the audience about the successes of the Putin regime. Often, for example, photographed the car, dedicated to the upcoming next year the world championship on football which will pass in Russia.

“Imagine that we are playing with Germany, the score two to two. How will you support our team?” — excited guy in the car. The audience applauded and photographed on mobile phones. On following the carnival, the opposition protest, few of them went.

This was a holiday Monday 12 June in Perm — the cities in the Urals, about 1.5 thousand kilometers East of Moscow.

Life in the Khrushchev

Life in Perm is very different from life in Slovakia only a few things. Mortgage here take at least 10% in the water flows to the drinking water (need to boil or buy in cans), and at half past nine evenings these days even light.

In each train or the bus, except the driver, there is also a conductor, immediately after the entrance sell you a ticket. “Otherwise, people simply would have forgotten about the tickets,” he told me one of the local residents.

The surrounding area of panel apartment buildings, called blocks, look more neglected than ours. Almost no grass to mow, and the facades often repaired with only those sides which are visible from the main road.

Much more frequently than in Slovakia, you can see people drinking alcohol on the street. In institutions, it is two to three times more expensive than in stores, so it is cheaper to drink on the street.

In fact, in stores you can buy all the same as us, and even for Slovak prices. This is what locals consider the most serious consequence of sanctions: the prices rose, but wages do not. A simple worker earns the equivalent of about 470-500 euros.

“Increased prices on different things: from food to electronics,” he told me at the rally working Ilya. Rose and the rest abroad, especially in Europe.

“The ruble is too weak. Before the sanctions, I was vacationing in Italy and in Norway, and now there already and did not get”, — he added.

Most of all the effects of the sanctions felt by pensioners. Their pensions barely reach 200 euros. However, pensioners, as noted by one friend, at opposition rallies do not go.

One of the seniors — Rifkat. He is 66, and in life he has seen a lot. In the Soviet Union he served in East Germany, he worked at the plant in Kharkov, built a dam in Irkutsk region, mined gold in the Altai, and then returned to Perm.

According to him, the worst of all lived in the 90-ies. Hearing the name of Boris Yeltsin, he symbolically spits. “It was a terrible time. We were paid only a small part of the salary, and we had nothing to buy food. I didn’t have money even for school canteen for children,” recalls Rifkat.

His story illustrates one great paradox of modern Russia. In 90-e years Russia was dominated by perhaps the greatest freedom of speech, but between political parties was a real competition. But the 90s was the largest period of decline, which cannot be compared even to the post-revolutionary chaos in Slovakia.

Rifkat worked at a local factory for the production of aircraft engines where shipped products in cars. In addition, he also had to go to work on building that his family had to live on. “At the time, I slept three, maybe four hours a day. The wife was afraid that I won’t survive”, — said Rifkat.

“Of course, for Putin!”

Plant at least allocated to employees areas outside the city, where would be possible to make small gardens and grow potatoes. “I couldn’t pay for the kids clubs, and we were happy that at least we have potatoes,” — said Rifkat me.

When I asked him who he would vote next year in the presidential election, he replied without hesitation: “of Course, for Putin”.

With Vladimir Putin, he connects the period when he began to receive regular salaries, and in stores you could buy at least the basic products.

“If you come to power some other Yeltsin, I will be deprived of the pension that I receive. See this I don’t want”, — Rifkat govoriat.

Many older supporters of Putin, with whom I spoke, see the situation just that — simplistic. Under Yeltsin or Gorbachev they lived poorly, and when Putin appeared a no welfare.

The fact that Putin has been in power for 18 years, they issue is not considered, rather the contrary. “When you have a king that is in power for life, he thinks for the future and could develop the country. If someone comes just for a couple of years, he will be concerned about only how to steal,” said I 50-year-old Robert.

He supported Putin precisely because he restored Russia’s dignity. And this is another aspect that is extremely important for the Russian.

After all, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, they lost not only the small social benefits, but also a sense of self-worth. “Under Putin, we again become a nation,” said Robert.

Military adventures, the Putin — another proof. The operation in Syria? There are Russian soldiers allegedly kill the terrorists with whom the West can not cope. Ukraine? There is Russian only prevented the American invasion.

“Where the Americans came, everything ended badly, whether in Ukraine or in Libya,” said Robert.

“Operation Barbarossa” in the Baltic States

I tried to explain that America is no invasion on Ukraine is not planned, and that in Libya there was the usual civil war, while at the request of Arab countries, it has not interfered with the West.

Robert, however, has its own information derived primarily from television. Despite the fact that Russia is independent and opposition media, such as radio “Echo of Moscow” or “New newspaper”, for older Russians, the main source of information — television dominated by Pro-governmental TV channels.

Every day these people look journalistic programmes in which they assert that the main threat for them is US and NATO.

On Saturday afternoon, for example, I saw on the TV documentary that started shots of German tanks, who in 1941 went to the Soviet Union. Immediately this was followed by footage of modern tanks of the Bundeswehr in the Baltic States, which appeared there after the agreements reached at the NATO summits.

What conclusion do from this audience? Russia continues to threaten the aggressors — as well as more than 70 years ago.

Still alive the memories of glorious victory in world war II, and it is no coincidence that these memories are actively drawn to the Putin regime.

The celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in 2015 and a military parade on red square. At stops of public transport, in buses and in parks throughout the country were plastered with a solemn inscription “Victory”.

Popular words “Thank you grandpa for the Victory” I even saw a Mercedes car, imported from Germany.

The memories of the victory, many Russians condescending attitude towards Stalin. Recently even Putin, conversing with an American Director Oliver stone said about the mass murderer that he was just a product of its time.

“It seems to me that the excessive demonization of Stalin is one of the ways of attack on the Soviet Union and Russia. To show that today’s Russia bears some birthmarks Stalinism”, — Putin said.

I asked Robert what he thought about Stalin. “Thanks to Stalin, we won the war,” he said.

I said that the Soviet Union won the war not by Stalin, but in spite of it. “If it were not for his mistakes, you would be less victims,” I argued. “History does not know if the word,” replied my companion.

August 1968? No matter

Robert worked as a rescuer in the mine, and now works in a factory for the production of the cable. But about Stalin, he says almost the same as the 30-year-old Nadia, who studied at the Perm University history, and now teaches it in high school.

According to her, the Stalin era was its bright and dark sides. The black pages are clearly part of the repression and sending people to the camps. “On the other hand, the prisoners in the camps were built, for example, railway lines that served everyone,” Nadia described the alleged bright side.

Nadia agrees that during the war Stalin made mistakes, for which he paid the whole country. “For example, he until the last moment believed that Hitler would attack the Soviet Union and will respect the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact,” said Nadia.

I asked if she tells the lessons of a secret Protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact under which Stalin and Hitler invaded Poland and divided Eastern Europe.

Nadia said no. As a rule, the school is not talking about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. “We parse this only if you have time. For us this is not so important,” said the teacher.

What she thinks about the occupation of Czechoslovakia? “I wouldn’t call it occupation. Perhaps I would say that it was the expansion in the framework of the cold war.”

So Nadya also belongs to the voters, who in the future probably will again vote for Putin. “We like that he has a strong personality and was able to maintain stability at home and abroad,” explained Nadia.

I asked how she sees the fun we have photos and videos, which Putin posing as a hunter with a naked torso, scoring goals on the hockey pulls antique vases and extinguish forest fires.

Nadia is particularly thought about it. “In Russia, he must show that he is close to people, so Putin does,” replied she.

Smartphone is not enough

However, judging by the current opposition protests, it is clear that in Perm is changing. Analyst Vasily Kovin from the local branch of the Academy of Sciences told me that even 1.5 thousand people rallying against Putin by the standards of the Perm is quite a lot, because in recent years, there was nothing like this.

“In the late’ 80s passed the anti-Communist demonstrations for a new Russia, and they came tens of thousands of people. On the other hand, if today’s demonstration comes more than 500 people, is already a success,” said Kovin.

According to him, an important signal was the participation of youth. Policy, according to Covina, believed that young Russians will be just a smartphone and Internet access, and interested in politics they will not. However, it is not so, at least for part of the youth.

“Unlike the older generation of Russians they remind us how hard life was in the 90-ies. On them is not valid. They don’t watch TV, and they have other sources of information,” said Kovin.

These include social networks — especially “Vkontakte”. Some time ago it took control of an oligarch close to Putin, however, according to Covina, the network is still free space for exchange of information. In the end, even on an opposition rally in the Park people were gathered through a social network “Vkontakte”.

“The young people who took part in the protest, could live much better. According to them, Russia is rich enough for this,” said Kovin.

The youth loves to remind the opposition politician Navalny, who at the beginning of June has opened in Perm one of their offices. Then he asked the young people, one of them gets at least 38 thousand rubles per month (calculated as — € 600), because according to statistics, the average salary in Perm. Almost no one gave an affirmative answer.

After a few days it is for this reason that the opposition rally came Ilya, who little Yes 20. Although he graduated from the University in Humanities, a job he managed to find in the oil company “Rosneft”.

“I only make 30 thousand rubles, and know that without corruption, the salary would be much higher”, — said Ilya. But, according to him, the situation will not improve until the change of power in Moscow.

“Money from Perm first sent to Moscow, where they redistribute back to the people come back. While in Moscow, nothing will change, there will be changes here,” said Ilya.

Can protests actually change something? For example, to force Putin to withdraw from the post criticized Medvedev?

The analyst Kovin doubt. “Putin is not going to make any concessions under pressure,” he said.

According to him, everything will depend on oligarchs or, as expressed by the community, from “the political and economic elite of Russia”, which now fully supports Putin. “While the representatives of this elite, just watching how events develop,” — said Kovin.

A closed city in the Urals

Perm — not the most famous Russian city, although many Slovaks, this name may be something to say.

Based on data from geological excavations Perm gave the name of one of the periods of the Paleozoic. Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous and Perm — these periods are studied by the students of geographical faculties.

Here are not playing in the KHL, however, the city famous football club “Amkar” Perm, which played Slovak Martin Jakubko. The town also has a famous theater, which regularly performs at the Bratislava Small stage.

Perm is familiar to fans of Russian literature. The fact that in Perm unfolding of the events of the novel of Boris Pasternak “Doctor Zhivago” (in the Roman town called yuriatin).

In Perm there is the historic centre. It is an industrial city in the Western Urals. In the surrounding area produces oil and other minerals. During the war in Perm had several weapons factories. It produces, for example, rocket launchers, small arms, rocket motors and engines for aircraft.

In 1940-1957 years the city was called Molotov in honour of Stalin’s Commissar for foreign Affairs. Because of its defense enterprises of the city were among the so-called closed cities, which did not allow foreigners.

For tactical reasons the Perm was removed from Soviet maps. It is not even shown on TV during the weather forecast on the territory of Russia.

Political analyst Vitaly Kovin from the local branch of the Academy of Sciences says that because of this he had no special motivation to learn English. “Back in the late 80-ies, I thought that probably never met a foreigner. So I thought that a foreign language I don’t need,” said Kovin.

In 90-e years in Perm was dominated by a very liberal atmosphere here was established several civic associations and non-governmental organizations.

“The liberal party has always enjoyed here a little more support. For example, in the last parliamentary elections in 2016, the opposition Yabloko scored seven percent, and his overall result of Russia reached only three,” said Kovin.

Not far from Perm, opened a unique Museum of Gulag “Perm-36”, which is posted directly on the site of the former camp. A short distance means a two-hour drive from the city, because we are in Russia, where distances are perceived differently.

As in any large Russian city Perm, has its oligarchs. One of them is Dmitry Rybolovlev, who owns the company Uralkali, the mining of minerals for the production of fertilizers. Rybolovlev bought his daughter a Greek island of Skorpios, and a controlling stake in the football club “Monaco”.