Russian protests: Why I took to Moscow's streets

It's not because I believe that Putin will leave his post. I decided to go for myself. For my own right not to be ashamed of my principles and not to be ashamed of myself.

I’m scared. I got calls from my mom, my dad, my brother, my aunt and they all told me me pretty much the same thing: “Do you really understand what is going on? It is dangerous. There are going to be provocations. You can be arrested or injured. Do you understand that you can be fired?" (I work for a state-owned media company, in the entertainment sector.)

This rally was permitted by the Moscow government, but people still don’t believe that it is going to be safe. To be honest, I didn’t believe it myself, but I still told my parents: “Yes, yes I understand all that but I am still going.” Perhaps all the young people who decided to go to this meeting had similar dialogues with their families. Most of those who came out were in their 20s and 30s.

I decided to go not because I support any of the political parties. For the past 20 years, people have learned to be very skeptical about politicians. It's not because I believe that Putin will leave his post. I decided to go for myself. For my own right not to be ashamed of my principles and not to be ashamed of myself. Because I have my own opinion and I’m tired of hiding it.

I left home and caught a cab. “Please take me to Bolotnaya square,” I said. The driver refused to take money for the ride and was very supportive of my decision to go there. I received several messages on my Facebook page from my friends who work near Bolotnaya square. One from a jeweler. “Come to our office when you get cold. It’s warm here, we have tea and a metal safe room where you can hide from the police :). “ Another one from a designer. “All of my friends who are going to the meeting are welcome to come to our office to get warm and to drink tea with cookies.”

People shared information on how to dress up for a meeting, how to behave themselves so as not to get into trouble, shared phone numbers for ambulances and lawyers who agreed to work for free in case someone was arrested. I discovered that I wasn’t scared of crowds anymore, I wasn’t scared of policemen. How can you be afraid of smiling faces? Even the policemen smiled sometimes. People were giving them flowers. One policeman with a rose in his hand showed it proudly to his colleagues, and then gently hid it. I said: “You look good with it.” He looked a bit confused and then smiled. It felt like this poor boy in a uniform didn’t expect someone to treat him without aggression, to treat him nicely.

People displayed posters that said things like: “146% of Muscovites are for fair elections,” “Repost-modernism” (a hint that all the information about the rally was shared through blogs and social networks), “Please don’t beat me I have two kids,” and “Get the upper hand over evil by doing good deeds.” Well maybe you can get the upper hand over evil with a sense of humor too. It didn’t feel scary anymore. Even with hundreds of gunmen on the streets, it felt normal. Yes, it felt completly normal to show up and be a part of this crowd of smart, smiling and lovely people. To be part of it. Normal to be not scared anymore.

Perhaps I still don’t believe in politicians. And I don’t know whether they are going to release the thousand or so people who were arrested during the smaller protest meetings on Dec. 5th and 6th. But I believe in our people, and even in those ones who wear police uniforms. I believe that thousands of people can calm down the provocateurs, that they can solve their problems peacefully. I believe that they are learning to talk to each other and to care about each other.

I don’t know if something is going to change in politics, but I know that something changed in our minds. I know that in the past 20 years a new generation of people have grown up that are able to think themselves and want to have a choice. As for me… I finally have hope in my heart.

(Natasha Germanovich is young Russian media professional who joined a protest for the first time in her life Saturday.)

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