Teddy bears, Lego and dolls are all the rage with anti-government protesters in Russia. Whether it’s because they don’t have time to request a permit to hold a demonstration, or because their requests have been denied, activists are turning to toys to do their protesting for them. The authorities, however, are not amused.
Russia’s disputed parliamentary elections
brought tens of thousands of angry protesters into the streets of Moscow
last month. But when some 2,000 demonstrators tried to stage a rally in the remote Siberian town of Barnaul on the same day, the police arrested approximately 20 of them and rejected all further requests to hold sanctioned protests.
Inspired by protesters in the small northwestern town of Apatity, who had come up with the idea
, Barnaul’s activists decided to channel their frustration through toys. They held two so-called “nano-demonstrations”, on January 7 and January 14, which saw dozens of toys brave the snow in the city’s main square, holding tiny signs with slogans such as “We want clean elections”, “A thief should sit in jail, not the Kremlin”, and more. Activists posted numerous videos of these mini-protests online. Since then, the trend has spread to many other cities throughout Russia.
While the tiny protests seem to have amused many passers-by, the police in Barnaul have taken them quite seriously -- last week, they asked prosecutors to look into the legality of these events.
“Political opposition forces are using new technologies to carry out public events -- using toys with placards at mini-protests,” local media quoted Andrei Mulintsev, the city’s deputy police chief, as saying. “In our opinion, this is still an unsanctioned public event.”
To the amusement of organisers, police take notes on the toys' slogans during a demonstration in Barnaul on January 7.
A toy protest in Barnaul on January 14.