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Big-Name Writers Lead Protest Rally of 10,000

Published: May 16, 2012 (Issue # 1708)

  • Writer Boris Akunin (c) attends a protest march in downtown Moscow on Sunday. 10,000 are believed to have participated.

MOSCOW A week after bloody clashes between radical youths and riot police tarnished the first major protest rally in months, the moderate middle-class opposition appeared to re-assert itself Sunday with an unexpectedly large march of thousands in Moscow led by some of Russias most prominent writers.

Organizers said about 10,000 marched peacefully from Pushkin Square to Chistiye Prudy, where they merged with a four-day-old open-air camp that had become the headquarters of the fledgling street movement to oust President Vladimir Putin. Police put the number of marchers at 2,000.

Unlike the May 6 rally, police presence was minimal, and there were no reports of violence or detentions.

Prominent opposition-minded writers, including Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Dmitry Bykov, Lev Rubinshtein and crime novelist Grigory Chkhartishvili, who writes under the pseudonym Boris Akunin, took center stage at Sundays unsanctioned Test March, which doubled as a book-signing event for many.

Its great that the protest movement is taking various forms and genres, that its changing and mutating but isnt dying down, said Rubinshtein, a poet. The fact that so many people showed up is also evidence that literature still carries some weight in our society.

The event was called the Test March to see whether anti-Kremlin activists could walk around freely. Last week, people were detained for just wearing white ribbons the symbol of the protesters, or for no clear reason at all. We are now fighting for our right to walk where we want to, satirist Viktor Shenderovich said.

As the crowds walked on Rozhdestvensky Bulvar, which slopes down a hill, cheers began whenever a new group reached the top of the hill. The mass of people on the street was a striking contrast to the empty city on the day of Putins inauguration.

Mathematician Fyodor, 63, held up an electronic reader with the words, If you come up against a lie, use it, a quote he attributed to Thomas Carlyle, the 19th-century Scottish writer.

Under a statue of 19th-century poet Alexander Griboyedov, poet Dmitry Bykov recited Griboyedovs verse and collected manuscripts from aspiring authors in a plastic bag.

Marchers said they were appalled by the violence at the May 6 rally and welcomed the authors march. It was scary. It seemed like a completely different group from the one that had been going to the rallies, said Ksenia Velembovskaya, 60, editor of an academic journal. Today, I feel great. These are our people.

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Thursday, Aug. 21

Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.

Friday, Aug. 22

Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.

Saturday, Aug. 23

Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.

Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.

Sunday, Aug. 24

The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.

Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.

Monday, Aug. 25

Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.

Tuesday, Aug. 26

Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.

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