Nick Shifrin (Nick Schifrin): In Russia began the season of discontent. President Vladimir Putin has formed a tacit agreement, in accordance with which people live their lives and not interfere in politics. But today, many Russians have come to the conclusion that this transaction has ceased to be profitable for them.
Alex Kotori: Until recently, people thought that politics is something very distant. But now people understand that politics can directly affect their life.
Shifrin: 38-year-old Alex Kotori and his neighbors thought themselves far from politics. However, they organized this protest, when the city, the Moscow authorities decided to evict them from their homes, which planned to demolish, and relocate them to high-rises. As always at this event there were a lot of police. However, fear of the Russians to the authorities, apparently, weakens, and their faith in their own strength gradually strengthened.
Shifrin: do you think you can change something?
Kotori: We can make a difference if we stick together. We need to stay active. It is very important to restore civil society. Over the past five years, civil society has virtually disappeared.
Shifrin: In the 1960s, the Soviet government built houses, like a house Kotereva as affordable housing…
Shifrin: This is your house?
Kotori: This is my home.
Shifrin:… to ordinary citizens were able to obtain separate apartments. Inside it’s pretty cute, and from the Windows of this apartment overlooks the river Moscow. Kotori accuses local officials that they want to seize valuable land in order to enrich themselves.
Kotori: This is a very important point. People begin to unite in order to convey their point of view to the government.
Shifrin: the Man who made the greatest contribution to the formation of this unity, was Alexei Navalny. This 41-year-old lawyer is the most influential in Russia, opposition politician and an active fighter against corruption. He calls the ruling party “United Russia” “party of crooks and thieves”. In March on YouTube, he has posted hour-long documentary about the mansions, yachts and lands, which, he argues, was unfairly acquired by the Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev.
Bulk: Medvedev can steal so much and so openly, because Putin is doing the same thing, only on an even larger scale. The system is so rotten, that it has no General healthy parts.
Shifrin: Navalny fights with Putin for six years. In 2011, he became one of the organizers of the mass protests against the fraudulent results of the parliamentary elections.
Bulk: It’s very simple: power to the people.
Shifrin: two years Later he ran for election of the mayor of Moscow, speaking out against Putin’s protege, but was defeated. Today YouTube Bulk is competing with the state media and has a huge number of subscribers. His film about Medvedev scored 23 million views.
Bulk: This is our country and these crooks are stealing our money. Everyone has to fight.
Shifrin: Tens of thousands of people responded to his call. On 26 March and 12 June, the Russians came out on a large-scale unsanctioned protests, the largest in the last 25 years. Such shares were held in 185 cities of Russia. Almost all of the participants were young people who no longer want to remain silent about the problem of corruption. “Putin — vor”, they cried. “The police is with the people, they cried. — Don’t serve freaks!” The police did not respond to a call and arrested a total of about 1.7 thousand of protesters, including Navalny. He was sentenced to 25 days in prison for organizing unauthorized protests. In March he was also arrested and imprisoned. And in 2014 he was found guilty of fraud in that he conned customers of the company his brother Oleg. Oleg is currently serving a prison sentence. Alex calls his brother hostage, and all the accusations are fabricated. However, this conviction means by law he cannot participate in elections. But this did not prevent him to start his campaign in an attempt to take part in the presidential elections of 2018.
Bulk: We do not owe anything to the government. This government owes us. They built an authoritarian regime, which does not give us.
Shifrin: Navalny Organized protests — an unusual phenomenon for countries where such campaigns do not know almost nothing. Bulk says with young people in their language.
Bulk: They think we have no right to ask the questions that we should be silent and listen. But no, we are gathered here to say that we will ask these questions and we get answers.
Kirill Kozlovsky: His anti-corruption message resonate with me. I think he is a very charismatic politician.
Shifrin: 23-year-old Kirill Kozlovskiy and many other protesters who wanted it — were photographed with the Bulk. Kozlowski immediately posted this picture on his page in “Vkontakte”. He acknowledges that Putin brought Russia’s relative prosperity, although he was too young to remember what kind of economic and political chaos, Putin put an end to when he came to power in 1999.
Shifrin: What would you say to your parents and the older generation who claim that before Putin came to power, life in Russia was much more severe?
Kozlowski: For the 18 years that have passed since then, he and his team could do much more to improve the situation in the country. But he did not. He is responsible for this.
Shifrin: In Cheboksary, about 600 kilometers East of Moscow, the local authorities did everything possible to Navalny supporters are unable to organize a protest in the city centre. Therefore, its shares are usually held on the outskirts of cities. Simon Kochkin is the coordinator of Navalny’s campaign staff in Cheboksary.
Kochkin: We refused all landlords, all hotels, international hotels. Even the owners of the land for construction was denied to us.
Shifrin: According to Kochkina, he himself became a victim of persecution. Last year on his page “Vkontakte” he has published an excerpt Comedy John Oliver (John Oliver) Last Week Tonight.
Shifrin: In this passage, demonstrated the symbols of ISIS (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — approx. ed.), Kochkina arrested for extremism. He took a selfie sitting in the police car. He accuses the government that it uses anti-terrorism laws to force Navalny supporters to shut up.
Kochkin: We are constantly fighting with the authorities, and this struggle is always asymmetrical. Because, when it comes to election season, they deprive us of the opportunity to fight.
Shifrin: the Local police also arrested 35-year-old Andrei Osipov, who is the first violinist in the local orchestra. On 26 March he took part in the protest Navalny. A week later the police came to the orchestra rehearsal and took him to jail. I asked him could arrest him, if the President of the country was Bulk.
Osipov: I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t have happened, because Alexey Navalny, the country would be more open. Alexey is in favour of transparency, and it is only through transparency can we defeat corruption.
Shifrin: the Arrest is only one of the tools the Russian establishment. State television portrays the protests Navalny as an existential threat to Russia’s stability. Listen, said the most popular host in June:
Dmitry Kiselyov: Forces provocateurs to put all downhill after chaos. To start at square one, in the same city, and then the whole country was plunged into poverty and, terrible to say, in the civil war.
Shifrin: In the senior classes of public schools Teens forced to watch a video where Navalny is compared to Hitler, where he is accused of fascism and attempts to destroy the state. But for the first time in a very long time, young people reject the views of the government. Students from distant cities, located in the 3 thousand kilometers from Moscow, took video of an argument with the teacher of the state educational institutions, which offended supporters of Navalny and was trying to protect the corrupt system.
Teacher: If the state is no corruption, then this country nobody wants.
Student: so you like it when you steal?
Teacher: So, stealing everywhere.
Student: But it’s not normal.
Teacher: Every student needs to do his job.
Student: the teacher also needs to do his job.
Shifrin: the Pressure on the Bulk sometimes turns out to be literally physical. Last year the Pro-government group of Cossacks poured Bulk milk and beat his supporters. In April, state television showed the assailant who doused brilliant green Bulk. Now Bulk need eye surgery. In this attack he blamed on the Kremlin.
Bulk: Even if I now look like this, does this mean that we will accept the fact that the stolen money continue to be used for the purchase of a yacht? I don’t think so.
Shifrin: Rating Bulk remains low, but he manages to change public opinion. Now two-thirds of Russians called corruption the number one problem in Russia. President Putin refuses to answer the Bulk on the merits. However, the effect of Bulk becomes more and more visible: on a direct line with Putin, where all the questions are prepared in advance, one young man dared to ask the President about corrupt officials, which undermine public confidence in the government.
Daniel Prilep: As specified time you solve this problem?
Shifrin: this is Putin replied as follows:
Vladimir Putin: Daniel, did you read the question you have prepared in advance or are you someone recommended?
Prilep: For this question I life prepared.
Shifrin: Although Navalny has managed to inspire the younger generation, some of Putin’s opponents still criticize the opposition for his nationalist views. Six years ago, Navalny published a video in which he compared immigrants working in Russia, with cockroaches. Bulk still claims that he wants to reach out to nationalists. That is why he rarely criticizes the tough foreign policy of Russia in Ukraine and Syria. Navalny refuses to give interviews — including our publication — and tries to focus on the fight against corruption.
Shifrin: just Decisively you criticize the President for his internal, not external policy. You almost never talk about his foreign policy. This is because you mostly agree with her?
Bulk: I have little to say about foreign policy, because people are interested in wage income and bad roads.
Shifrin: He is trying to instill populist slogans to people who have nothing to eat. He points to the corruption of the government people who have nothing to lose. And he’s trying to convince a whole generation — maybe even the whole country — that politics requires their participation.