Activists Across Russia Commemorate Markelov and Baburova
Rallies were held in several Russian cities on December 19, 2011 in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. Markelov – a lawyer and civil rights advocate, and Baburova – a left-leaning journalist and activist, were shot and killed in Moscow as they left a press conference on that date in 2009. It has since become a day of protest in Russia not only to oppose racism and discrimination, but also to draw attention to the inadequate response from the authorities in addressing racially motivated violence.
At the end of 2010, human rights- and antifascist activists applied for a permit to demonstrate in St. Petersburg but were denied, being told by city authorities that applications would not be reviewed between December 31 and January 11 due to a break for federal holidays. Additionally, they were told that application before December 31 would be too early for the January 19 date, while application after January 11 would be too late. At the same time, nationalists who applied on December 31 were granted permission to demonstrate “against ethnic criminality” in St. Petersburg.
Despite the obstruction by Petersburg officials, antifascist activists went through with their plan to demonstrate in several Russian cities, including Petersburg.
The country’s largest demonstration took place in Moscow. It began as a march down Tverskoy Boulevard ending at Pushkin Square, and by SOVA’s estimate, between 500 and 600 people participated. At Tverskoy, human rights defenders and social activists joined members of informal antifascist youth groups and leftist organizations for a procession. Arriving at Pushkin Square, they observed a moment of silence in memory of Markelov and Baburova, and ended their rally with the release of Chinese lanterns into the sky. The Ministry of Internal Affairs counts 21 arrests at Pushkin Square, with a common charge being refusal to remove a mask. (Many antifascist activists cover their faces at rallies out of fear for their safety should they be photographed; the Associated Press and other wire services ran photos of demonstrators at the January 19 demonstrations.)
According to differing estimates, between 150 and 300 people gathered at Trinity Square in St. Petersburg. They laid flowers, lit candles, and carried portraits of the departed. Organizers projected a film devoted to Markelov and Baburova, but were forced to play it without sound after city authorities forbade the use of sound-amplifying equipment (the use of which determines the difference between “picketing” and a “meeting” under Russian law).
Smaller demonstrations made up of between 20 and 50 participants were held in the cities Yekaterinburg, Saratov, Rostov, Perm, Tyumen, Chelyabinsk, Yaroslavl, and Ufa. The meeting in Rostov was not sanctioned by the local authorities and as a result was limited to picketing at the entrance of Gorky Park, while activists in Tyumen were forced to be content with a gathering without any signs or banners. The provincial demonstrations were bound together by memorials to Markelov and Baburova, as well as clear antifascist sentiment: demonstrators carried banners reading “In the country that defeated Fascism, no place for fascists,” “There’s no such thing as an illegal person,” and “Enough blood on our streets.”
No arrests or violent incidents were reported at the rallies outside the Federal Cities.