In the age of accessibility coupled with the communication platform of the internet it is now easier than ever to plan a protest in Russia. Carrying one however, is a different story. Opposition rallies are nothing new. Since the fall of communism Russians have been making attempting to make their voices heard. Nowadays the struggle continues but the push back from the government has gained momentum.
The last ten years have been full of highly visible protest covering a slew of topics. There were the animal rights activist that draped themselves in fur and locked themselves in cages on Red Square in 2013. While 2012 was the year the world became familiar with the groups Femen and PussyRiot. At the same time at the feminist group Femen was baring their breasts and yelling for change, Pussy Riot’s demonstration (and subsequent 2 year jail sentence) caused such international outcry that other governments became involved. LGBTQ rights, open governmental elections, the teaching of Russian history to children, it has all been covered by protesters and they have all been stopped by the police. The images that have come out of these protest can cause one living in a country that is rooted in free speech to shudder. The violence that has been exerted to stop these groups from growing has begun to match the strong support for their message. As a result, protesters have taken to the internet.
There are few countries where Facebook doesn’t have a sizeable presence (China comes to mind here) but in Russian VKontakte has also emerged as a strong platform to organize and disperse information regarding a protest. The Russian government has taken note and has initiated efforts to shut these sites down. Attempting to nip any anti-government rhetoric in the bud. While the government may see this as a positive step toward higher approval ratings for President Putin and themselves, their effort is not sustainable. Shutting down one website in one place will cause another one, potentially spelled only slightly differently, to appear somewhere else. In other words the Russian government has chosen to go to war with a Hydra. May the best man win.