No Russian revolution after a year of protests

Tue Dec 4, 2012 9:44am EST
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By Timothy Heritage and Maria Tsvetkova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Artyom Kolpakov has learnt not to hope for too much after an exhilarating but ultimately frustrating year of protests against Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Seething with anger over suspected fraud in a parliamentary election, the 39-year-old businessman ignored his wife's pleas to stay at home on Dec 5 last year and joined a rally in Moscow's Chistiye Prudy area where people chanted "Revolution!"

The demonstration, at which police made dozens of arrests, touched off the biggest wave of protests against the former KGB spy since he was first elected president in 2000.

For a few weeks, the mainly young, urban and middle-class protesters dared hope that Putin's days in power were numbered. Even in the heart of winter, the biggest rallies drew tens of thousands of people shouting "Russia without Putin!".

A year on, Putin is back in the presidency after four years as premier, the opposition is divided and the protests have lost momentum after failing to take off in the provinces, where the president's support is traditionally stronger.

"There's no longer anything revolutionary in the rallies like there was back then, when they were spontaneous, like at Chistiye Prudy," Kolpakov said.

"It was stupid to ever think that everything would change (because of the protests). Breaking something down does not mean building something else. Building something is much harder."

But Kolpakov, who runs a small recording studio, still plans to attend an "anniversary" march on December 15 to show solidarity with a cause that he believes has unlocked the door to change in Russian society however slow it may be in fully opening.   Continued...

People hold a banner, displaying an image of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, during the "March of Millions" protest rally, held by opposition supporters, in St. Petersburg, September 15, 2012. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk