What's On Russian Voters' Minds

Sep 7, 2019
Originally published on September 7, 2019 11:42 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Moscow votes tomorrow for members of a new city council, an election that might have passed without much notice. But after a number of opposition candidates were disqualified from participating in local elections, thousands of Muscovites have come out nearly every weekend for months to protest. They've had to contend with beatings, arrests and intimidation. And opposition candidates will not be on the ballot.

I caught up with Nadine, a 33-year-old architect from Moscow, who has been in those protests, and we're not going to use her full name to protect her identity. Nadine, thanks so much for being with us.

NADINE: Not at all, OK.

SIMON: Last time we were able to speak with you here at NPR, you'd come back from one of those protests. And let's get you then to describe the scene. What happened when - we have a clip of that interview when a police officer tried to disperse you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

NADINE: They just come by groups of five or six people and grab any person - usually it's men, sometimes it's women or old women. Of course, when you're standing in front of hundreds of policemen, they have helmets, they have riot gear. And you are just in a T-shirt. And of course, you are awfully afraid. You're afraid that you will be taken for nothing.

SIMON: Well, you still joined the protests, though. Why?

NADINE: The candidates, they still couldn't get to the elections. And a lot of people have been contained since that protest. Some are being put in prison now. Some of them are being held. The station is still the same, unfortunately.

SIMON: Are you going to continue the protest?

NADINE: Well, if they're going to be held, I suppose maybe, yes. But actually, it was meant for these concrete elections. Of course, it was not the only subject that was brought up. Also, the power being held by one party for, like, 19 years, yes. So of course, when election ends, it doesn't mean that the problem goes away.

So of course, it did come to notice to all the Muscovites, at least. A lot of people in Russia actually also protested in other cities. They were saying, thank you, Muscovites, for putting our words out there, for making it noticeable at least. That's the least we can do. I mean, the citizens, just the citizens.

SIMON: Yeah. Do you have any concern that by going to protests that police have your picture, that you can be identified, that - I mean, we're using another name, not your name with you. But...

NADINE: Of course, I can swear on the radio, yes? But yeah, hell yeah. I'm very afraid of that. Well, not very, but I've seen - I had this glimpse of myself - it's on Facebook. Well, you know, on Facebook, they tag you when Facebook thinks that it's your face. And I saw myself on some of the other photographers' pictures. And I was like - [expletive] (laughter). I shouldn't be there, but then - well, OK. I've made photos myself. Everybody made photos, and that's what we came there for. So yeah, it's scary of course, a little bit.

SIMON: Do you think change is possible?

NADINE: Well, everybody talks about it like it's, like, here behind this door. Maybe it's not so soon, but hopefully it comes eventually because it has to stop. People are fed up with what's going on. When, like, every day, some stupid laws - I cannot give you an example right now, but all the rates, all the, I don't know, prices, I don't know, inflation. Well, everything - you go wherever, and then you feel that it becomes worse and worse - education and medicine.

So hopefully, people will oppose more and more, so that - hopefully, someday police comes to our side. But I've heard that the fundings for the police department, it increased. It's more than - well, the economy. It shows something, that they're afraid and they - the last thing they rely on are military.

SIMON: Nadine speaking with us from Moscow. Thank you. Thank you so much.

NADINE: Thank you for listening, for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZERO 7's "RED DUST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.