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5 FAQs About Anti-Corruption Protests in Russia Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in News

Many of our readers have probably seen coverage of anti-corruption rallies in Russia last weekend. Are you still confused about what transpired? Read on to learn how these events were covered by participants and observers in Russia. This post is meant to inform the readers about this coverage and not to promote any specific point of view.

protesters carrying a poster and a duck at an anti-corruption rally in St. Petersburg

Image by Farhad Sadykov on

Why Protest?

On March 3, the Foundation for Fighting Corruption (Фонд борьбы с коррупцией) published allegations of corruption on behalf of the Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev (Дмитрий Медведев). They were also shared on the blog of the opposition activist Alexei Navalny (Алексей Навальный). Despite the severity of the accusations, no reaction followed from government officials, and there was no coverage on state TV channels. The Foundation then organized rallies in multiple Russian cities scheduled for March 26 to demand answers.

The BBC described the official reaction to the film detailing the allegation:

Медведев содержание фильма не комментировал, а его пресс-секретарь увязала выход фильма с подготовкой к выборам президента России, которые пройдут в 2018 году, и напомнила о судимостях Навального.
Medvedev never commented on the content of the film, and his press secretary said that the release of the film was connected to the run-up to the 2018 presidential election in Russian and mentioned Navalny’s criminal record.

What Were The Allegations?

The investigated published by the Foundation alleged that the prime minister used charities headed by his friends in order to use donations from large business owners for his own luxury expenses.

The Russian newspaper RBC reports:

В фильме утверждалось, что премьер владеет «огромными участками земли в самых элитных районах и распоряжается яхтами и квартирами в старинных особняках, а также агрокомплексами и винодельнями в России и за рубежом».
The film alleged that the prime minister owned “huge plots of land in the most prestigious neighborhoods and had yachts and condos in antique mansions as well as farming complexes and vineyards in Russia and abroad.”

How Were The Rallies Organized?

Man at a protest in St. Petersburg carrying a sign

Image by Farhad Sadykov on

Alexey Navalny has opened local offices in several Russian cities as part of his 2018 presidential bid. These offices applied to have rallies in their respective cities and created event pages on the Russian social media website VKontakte. Several other cities followed suit and organized grassroots rallies.

Were The Protests Sanctioned?

Some local governments authorized the rallies, while others did not — either saying there was another event scheduled for the exact same time and location or without an explanation. This made the rallies that did not get approved unsanctioned in the eyes of some officials. However, the organizers maintain that the Russian constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, and no permission is required. From this point of view, organizers only need to inform the authorities of their intent to hold a rally. Article 31 of the Russian constitution says:

Граждане Российской Федерации имеют право собираться мирно без оружия, проводить собрания, митинги и демонстрации, шествия и пикетирование.
Citizens of the Russian Federation have the right to gather peacefully without weapons, hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets.

What Was The Reaction?

Valentina Matvienko

Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko (right)
Image by Eurasian Women’s Forum on

Based on the interpretation that the protests were unauthorized, local law enforcement proceeded to detain the participants and disperse the rallies. However, several politicians have now said that the allegations should be looked into. For instance, Meduza reports:

Власть «должна встречаться с людьми и понимать, почему они протестуют», заявила спикер Совета Федерации Валентина Матвиенко, отвечая на вопросы журналистов о прошедших 26 марта акциях.
The government “should meet with the people and understand why they are protesting,” said the Speaker of the Federation Council [upper chamber of the legislature] Valentina Matvienko in response to the journalists’ questions about the events of March 26.

What kinds of coverage have you seen? Was any of it in Russian?

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.


  1. Richard:

    A great post, Maria! However all of this works out in the end, I wish the best for the people of Russia!

    You can see Navalny’s video on YouTube:
    and read an interesting article about Alexei Navalny on Salon: keeping in mind Salon’s position on the political landscape. An interesting article nonetheless.

    • Maria:

      @Richard Thank you, Richard. I would agree that the situation in Russia is a bit more complex than “the bad guy vs the good guy.” 🙂