Masha Gessen writes: The new face of Russian protest is barely pubescent. Reports from the June 12 demonstrations, which brought hundreds and sometimes thousands of people into the streets of just about every Russian city, feature teenagers: a boy in shorts being tackled by police in riot gear, a girl charging a police line, and a paddy wagon full of adolescents. One Russian Facebook user posted a photograph of the teenagers in the paddy wagon with the caption, “Russia has a future.” He posited that “every mass arrest of young people strengthens youth protest,” which, in turn, is sure to bring about the end of the regime.
There is a feverish tone to Russian blog posts in the aftermath of Monday’s protests, a sense of hope struggling to defy fear. Without a doubt, Monday’s protests—often in open defiance of Russian authorities, who in many cities refused to give permits to hold them—were the most geographically widespread in all of Russian history: eight people, including five minors, were detained in the sleepy southern resort town of Yeysk (population 88,000), and nine people were detained five thousand miles across the country, in Blagoveshchensk, on the border with China. In all, more than 1,700 people were thrown in jail—nearly half of them in Moscow—the single largest wave of arrests in many decades. In Moscow, some of the detainees had to spend the night on benches in a police courtyard because there was no room for them inside the precinct. On the other hand, this means that enough people took to the streets on Monday to make that many arrests possible. Most of the detainees were released within hours; many were sentenced to fines and between five and thirty days behind bars; a few will certainly face several years in a prison colony. This is how post-totalitarian terror works—by punishing a randomly chosen few to frighten the many. What is giving some Russians hope is that a new generation of people who are not yet frightened seems to have burst onto the scene. [Continue reading…]