Russia: The "Big White Circle" Protest in Moscow

Global Voices Online
Monday, February 27, 2012

This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.

On Sunday, Feb. 26, thousands of people gathered in central Moscow for the Big White Circle protest, forming a human chain along most of the length of the Russian capital's 15.6-kilometer/9.7-mile Garden Ring, protesting against corruption and demanding a fair presidential election, which is to take place in one week, on March 4.

The Big White Circle protest for fair election: people stood along the Garden Ring in Moscow, holding hands and waving white ribbons, flowers and balloons. Photo by MARIA PLESHKOVA, copyright © Demotix (26/02/12).

According to the Q&A note [ru] posted on the Facebook page [ru] devoted to the protests in Moscow, the idea of the Big White Circle does not have a specific author:

[...] The idea is on the surface: hundreds of groups of people were doing this in the 20th century when they wanted to show solidarity with each other regarding certain issues. The best-known action of this kind is [the Baltic Way] of 1989, similar actions took place in Moscow in the late 1980s, and this is being done in Europe nowadays. [...]

In the same Q&A note, there is an explanation of why one of the protest's slogans - "Let's encircle the Kremlin" - shouldn't be taken literally:

[...] We can now be sure that if we choose to surround the Kremlin on Feb. 26, we'll definitely have detentions, beatings, arrests and trials. [...] Are you sure that we have 5,000-6,000 people who are prepared to be jailed for participating in this story? We are not sure [...]. [...] Some of us are probably prepared to play the game of "a 70% chance of getting [a 5-year sentence]" - but this, of course, is a game for heroically courageous people. Our courage, just like yours, has its limits. We respect those who are prepared for such a self-sacrifice. And we also respect those who aren't prepared for that. [...]

There's been no lack of international media reports on the Big White Circle protest. One post on the Moscow protests Facebook page reads [ru, en]:

The whole world has learned about the White Circle! Here are some of the headlines from the world's leading news agencies and mass media: Thousands join human chain protest against Putin || Anti-Putin protesters form 'ring around Moscow' || Impressive anti-Putin demonstration in Moscow || Moscow's Big White Circle || Nine mile human chain encircles Moscow in anti Vladimir-Putin protest || Moscow surrounded: Holding hands 'for fair elections' || Muscovites link hands to protest Putin's grip on power || Putin protests cause a 'chain reaction'...

In a comment to this post, Ekaterina Vizgalova wrote [ru]:

The whole world has noticed, while the [state-owned] Channel One hasn't.

RIA Novosti, a state-owned Russian news agency, did notice the Big White Circle protest, however, producing this fast-motion video of a car ride around the Garden Ring at the time of the protest:

A popular Russian blogger Roustem Adagamov (LJ user drugoi) also took a ride around the Garden Ring, pausing to take photos. He wrote this [ru] in the intro to his photo report:

A few tens of thousands of Muscovites have gathered at the Garden Ring today, to take part in the Big White Circle civic action. I rode all around the Garden Ring in an hour and a half, with brief stops - it all looked very cool and fun. The way it always does at genuine gatherings of free citizens who come there of their own free will and not on the orders from their bosses. Cars with white [symbols of the protest] were riding along the [Garden Ring], honking, and people were waving white ribbons, flowers, and balloons. An excellent action, very upbeat and cheerful. [...]

The Big White Circle protest. Photo by MARIA PLESHKOVA, copyright © Demotix (26/02/12).

Another popular blogger, Oleg Kozyrev (LJ user oleg-kozyrev/@oleg_kozyrev), also drove around the Garden Ring, taking photos and shooting a video (which he hasn't posted yet). Following this ride, Kozyrev tweeted [ru] that initially he had doubted that the Big White Circle protest would succeed:

Now I'll confess that I didn't expect success and was feeling pessimistic :)

In the intro to his photo report - a "photo-circle" - Kozyrev wrote [ru]:

[...] A white circle, a live circle. It is becoming more and more obvious that the angry [PM Vladimir Putin] has already lost. He can no longer stop this avalanche of positive resistance.

Will the smile be able to stop the rough force? This is what we'll have to find out in the coming days. [...]

The Big White Circle protest. Photo by MARIA PLESHKOVA, copyright © Demotix (26/02/12).

"Moscow in the circle of friends" is the title of LJ user vova-maltsev's photo report from the Feb. 26 protest. He wrote [ru]:

Some people were saying that we wouldn't be able to close the circle around the Garden Ring. Aha... We have closed it, in two rows. The first one - with the pedestrians, the second - with the drivers.

If you want to see what people who love their country and wish it well look like, here [they are]. [...] I haven't seen so many kind, happy and smiling people in a very long time. At the [regular] rallies, everyone are piled together, while here you are walking down the street and enjoying it. [...]

The Big White Circle protest. Photo by MARIA PLESHKOVA, copyright © Demotix (26/02/12).

More photo reports can be found in the live_report LJ community (by LJ users tushinetc and semasongs), as well as in the namarsh-ru LJ community (by LJ user belial_68).

The next opposition rally is planned for March 5, the day after the election. Moscow city authorities, however, have rejected the opposition's request to hold the rally on Lubyanka Square.

Serguei Parkhomenko, one of the most active participants of the protest movement, wrote this [ru] on Facebook about the significance of the Big White Circle protest - and the wider meaning of March 5 for Russia:

[...] I think we all understand that our today's initiative is not only the last and very powerful event in the history of the past three months [...]. It is also the beginning of a new stage, a new long and difficult conversation that we will all have to be engaged in. Much patience, resilience and strength will be needed. [...]


We need to avoid making a mistake as we search for the right decision for March 5. [...] History is again offering us a strange and powerful rhyme. It is hinting on something important.

March 5 is the anniversary of the day on which the country got rid of one tyrant [the day on which Joseph Stalin died in 1953]. [...]

March 5 isn't just a random day for all of us.

This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.

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