Protests in Khabarovsk: back to 1991

The BBC reports from the city of Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East:

Thousands took to the streets of Khabarovsk in what locals are calling the biggest protest they’ve seen in decades.

They’re angry at the arrest of Sergei Furgal and from their chants – against Moscow, and against Vladimir Putin himself – they believe the move is political.

In 2018, Mr Furgal beat the Kremlin’s chosen candidate for governor by a landslide. He’s proved popular locally…

The Far East has never been a loyalist bastion and has tended to deliver fewer votes for the ruling party, in percentage terms, than the average Russian region. Economically and geographically, it’s closer to Beijing than Moscow, and seems to be drifting further away from the latter to the former.

Some protesters shouted slogans such as “Putin is a thief” and “Putin, resign”.

Several other towns in the region held smaller protests. Police did not intervene or make any arrests.

Interesting. Local police aren’t interested in beating up locals, as a rule, and out-of-town cops had not yet been flown in. It was a huge rally, by the way:

Estimates by regional media and opposition put the number of demonstrators at between 5,000 and 40,000, in a city of about 600,000 inhabitants.

I’ve seen an estimate of 60,000 floated about. This video makes it clear the number was far greater than 5,000 – greater by an order of magnitude. The uploader says 55,000. Here’s another video, by the news agency RBC, confirming it was a huge event.

Let’s suppose the opposition sources are exaggerating somewhat and the true turnout was 30,000, or about 5% of the city’s population. It would correspond to a crowd of at least 600,000 in Moscow, and more likely 750,000 since all estimates show that Moscow’s true population is at least 15 million. In other words, crowds as large as the record-breaking rallies of 1990-1, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Of course Moscow was a smaller place in 1990, numbering some nine-ten million people, so 5% would correspond to 450-500k people. Even so, a rally of this size would be enormously, staggeringly large – not seen since 1991 – and particularly impressive in the new Moscow, which has changed so much it barely resembles its late-Soviet image.

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