How Russians fought Putinism: A documentary

Opposition politician Ilya Yashin during one of the protests.  Screenshot from “How did Russians resist the rise of Putinism? [Dashing 2000],”  on Vladimir Milov's channel. Fair use.

It is often suggested that the Russians were not fighting Putinism during the years this autocratic regime was being built. It was practically impossible to oppose Putin from inside the country, since any form of dissent was criminalized — before the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine to be sure, but even more so after February 2022. 

At the same time, however, it is inaccurate to say that Russia did not resist the emergence of Putinism — it resisted, many times and in many ways, albeit unsuccessfully. 

Opposition politician Vladimir Milov, who runs a successful opposition media YouTube channel with around half a million subscribers, recently published a documentary that records all the major protests and other actions of the Russian opposition during the two decades of the 2000s. 

His channel's introduction of the film goes like this: 

Неверно говорить, что Россия не сопротивлялась становлению путинизма — сопротивлялась, и еще как. Конечно, в целом наше общество спохватилось позже, чем было нужно — массовые протесты произошли, но уже тогда, когда оппозиция была выдавлена из официальной политики, а Путин выстроил массу силовых линий обороны против народа. Однако сопротивление было — и в сегодняшнем нашем выпуске из цикла «Лихие 2000» Владимир Милов расскажет вам историю борьбы российского народа с путинской диктатурой, историю, которая не прекращалась никогда, и которую важно помнить сегодня, на фоне постоянно звучащих обвинений в адрес россиян о «рабском гене» и «нежелании» бороться за свободу.

 It is incorrect to say that Russia did not resist the emergence of Putinism — it did. In general, our society came to its senses later than necessary — mass protests occurred, but only when the opposition was squeezed out of official politics, and Putin had built a lot of power lines of defense against the people. However, there was resistance — and in today’s episode of our “Daring 2000″ series, Vladimir Milov will tell you the story of the struggle of the Russian people against the Putin dictatorship, a story that never stopped, and which is important to remember today, against the backdrop of constantly heard accusations against Russians about “slave gene” and “unwillingness” to fight for freedom.

The documentary, which is available in Russian but also offers YouTube-generated English subtitles, now has more than 121,000 views.

Opposition politician Boris Nemtsov during one of the protests before he was murdered in 2015.  Screenshot from “How did Russians resist the rise of Putinism? [Dashing 2000],”  on Vladimir Milov's channel  . Fair use.

During the first few minutes of the video, we see thousands of people — including opposition politicians Boris Nemtsov and Iliya Yashin, who shouts into a microphone, “We have to dismiss Putin's junta” — taking part in an anti-Putin protest as they move through the streets of Moscow chanting, “Russia without Putin.” Nemtsov was murdered in 2015, and Yashin is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.

At 1:13 on the film's timeline, Alexey Navalny says, “Because only those who are afraid could be silenced, I want to ask you: Are you afraid?” The crowd shouts back “No!” Navalny is serving nine years in prison, and is soon expected to receive a 20-year long sentence.

Actions like this would be impossible to stage now, given the heightened levels of repression in the context of the ongoing situation with Ukraine.

Through the film, Milov shows protests that started in the '90s, triggered by an independent TV channel being forced to go under state control and continue today. Glimpses of resistance can be seen when people go on solitary pickets, even though the punishment for protesting is usually imprisonment. According to OVD info, 19,747 people were detained during anti-war protests since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

 Milov is also talking about historical events that took place when, elections were more than symbolic in Russia , and a lot of opposition leaders were participating in those elections, and in the protests as well, have done it with impressive results. He also tells stories of opposition politicians — such as Nikita Belykh, who used to be in opposition but became the governor of Kirov Oblast and was later jailed nevertheless — who were allegedly bribed and coerced by the government.

Now, most of the protagonists of this documentary are either murdered or imprisoned. Milov himself lives in the political exile since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

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