Demonstrations Saturday in support of detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny were the biggest protests to go ahead without an official permit for many years. An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people turned out in Moscow, and overall up to 100,000 were on the streets in about 100 cities. Over 3,000 people were arrested — another record — but there was no evidence of the kind of widespread police brutality that might trigger public outrage.
We should be watching closely. While I consider myself an optimist, I can’t help but wonder if the old Stalin quote will once more ring true:
When there’s a person, there’s a problem. When there’s no person, there’s no problem.
Putin already tried to have Navalny assassinated. Will he try again? And, if he succeeds, will someone else rise in his place or will that be enough to silence the Russian people?
In the “transformation-through-education” camps, life and death do not mean the same thing as they do elsewhere. A hundred times over I thought, when the footfalls of guards woke us in the night, that our time had come to be executed. When a hand viciously pushed clippers across my skull, and other hands snatched away the tufts of hair that fell on my shoulders, I shut my eyes, blurred with tears, thinking my end was near, that I was being readied for the scaffold, the electric chair, drowning. Death lurked in every corner. When the nurses grabbed my arm to “vaccinate” me, I thought they were poisoning me. In reality, they were sterilising us. That was when I understood the method of the camps, the strategy being implemented: not to kill us in cold blood, but to make us slowly disappear. So slowly that no one would notice.