Hundreds of anti-government protesters have been camping out in central Moscow for over a week, in Russia’s first occupy protest.
It has been dubbed “Occupy Abai”, after the Kazakh poet Abai Qunanbaiuli. The camp is located around his statue, in a park opposite the Kazakh embassy.
After the huge protest against the inauguration of president Vladimir Putin on 6 May, thousands continued moving through the city, playing cat and mouse with the police. They enduring hundreds of arrests before they settled on the current location on 9 May—Victory Day in Russia.
Since then they have set up a self governing community. They collectively organise food, rubbish collection and security patrols to guard against provocateurs, drunkenness and anything else which could give the authorities an excuse to close down the camp.
Decisions are made every day in an evening mass meeting, attended by around 1000. Smaller meetings and seminars are held on all kinds of subjects, from how to behave if arrested to independent trade unions.
Most sections of the opposition movement are represented, including a handful of far-right nationalists. But it is the left and the anarchists who are the most actively involved, and who have the clearest idea of what to do.
On Sunday around 20,000 people took part in a mass stroll from Pushkin Square to the Occupy camp, to protest against the brutal treatment handed out by police during the previous week.
The recent protests and the occupy camp are very important for Russia. People are now confident enough to take to the streets without seeking prior permission.
The initiative has gone from the liberal leaders who want to remain within the system, control the protests and not go further than demands for fresh elections.
It is now in the hands of rank and file activists, who are more and more putting forward left wing demands such as nationalising industries and stopping the privatisation of education.