A big crowd for something political in Mioscow at least:
It was not a chant that many had ever expected to hear, as up to 50,000 Russians from all walks of life stood, the snow falling steadily upon them, a few hundred yards across the Moskva river from the Kremlin.
\”Russia without Putin! Russia without Putin!\” they roared as they craned their necks to glimpse and hear the slightly-built internet blogger who had just taken to the open-air stage.
Only last year beaten to within an inch of his life for writing something the authorities did not like, Oleg Kashin appeared to be without fear as he addressed his audience, at the biggest anti-government rally to be held in Russia for two decades.
\”The most powerful weapon we have,\” he declared, reading from a statement, \”is a sense of our own dignity. We must not take it on and off like we would a velvet jacket.\”
The crowd of up to 50,000 who had come to protest against last weekend\’s allegedly rigged parliamentary election filled a square directly opposite the citadel that houses Russia\’s authoritarian government, and its mood was both defiant and upbeat.
Sure, there\’s well over 10 million in the larger city but to get that many for anything political is quite extraordinary.
It\’s, by a long way, larger than the crowds either with Yeltsin defending Parliament first time, or defending Parliament against Yeltsin the second time.
And as Bernard Levin (the late, great) said about the first time, when you rule the people by fear and they no longer fear you, what then little man, what then?
This ain\’t the end of Putin, not at all, but it might, as Natalie Solent has said about blogging, be the start of realising that one is not alone, that there are others who share the same views.