Kaliningrad's Day of Anger

Some weeks ago Kaliningrad achieved a first in Russia by getting its governor Georgy Boos fired by the Kremlin. On 21 August thousands gathered to protest at the state of Russia and to demand the resignation of Putin and his government.
Konstantin Rozhkov
24 August 2010

Russia, awake!  The enemy has already entered your home!

On 21 August from 3000 to 5000 people (estimates vary) gathered in the Park of the 40th Anniversary of the [foundation of the] Komsomol. It used to be called Matrossky Park, now it’s Youth Park.

 People are in despair over what’s going on in the country. It’s not just their own personal fates that worry them, but the future of Russia, which has become the property of a handful of people who are desperately hanging on to the power they seized some 10 years ago and are keeping hold of by force.

Kaliningrad protests 1

Kaliningrad’s Day of Anger showed that people want to live normal lives

The crisis is a systemic one and it has to be dealt with. Those in power may be hanging on for grim death, but they are rotten through and through and incapable of action. Experts consider that the point of no return has been passed. But Kaliningrad’s Day of Anger showed that people want to live. To live normal lives. Even the most desperate are nevertheless optimists, who believe in their own strength. They believe that they themselves, millions of them, and not the President or Mr Putin, will be able to breathe new life into Russia. 

Boris Nemtsov, the ‘terrible enemy’ of the Kremlin and the Kaliningrad government addressed the demonstrators, who greeted the leader of the opposition with enthusiasm.

Ilya Yashin, the lynchpin of the “Solidarity” movement made a brilliant speech. We would do well to remember that the Day of Anger was not organised by the opposition:  Kaliningrad never had one, and still doesn’t. It was private citizens: Evgenii Labudin, Konstantin Rozhkov, Irina Voloshina, Viktor Gorbunov and Vladimir Khabarov.

The meeting was opened by Evgenii Labudin:

 “What has made us come to this meeting?  The Mandarin [Georgy Boos – governor, ed] is gone, dismissed by the will of the people. What has United Russia, the party of power, ever done for us? In the words of one of the Deputies to the State Duma, it's a party of swindlers, racketeers and corruption. Dubious surnames with dubious pasts and questionable diplomas of higher education. The United Russia party has so gone down hill that it can't do any better than The Mandarin. Next up will be toadstools, I expect. That's about their level of managerial potential. The resolution of the meeting of 30 January has not been put into effect. The vertical of power, constructed by an unsuccessful national leader, has led to a catastrophic situation in Russia's economy. The recent tragedy of the fires has shown up the total incompetence of the vertical of power built by Putin. This maniacally suspicious man no longer believes even his supporters.  Doesn't believe his very own Gryzlov or Stepashin. He doesn't believe the Prosecutor-General. Putin must go!»

Shouts of agreement.

Tatyana Tumankina, the leader of the city's Communists:

«Dear friends!  Kaliningraders! We, people of varying ages and professions, organisations and associations,  have come here today because we are concerned about the future of our city, region, country and people. Those in power are answerable for everything that is going on in Russia today. The Constitution dictates that they should be defending the rights of the people.»

Mikhail Chesalin, Deputy of the Regional Duma:

«Greetings, friends! I wish you a good public holiday and congratulate you on our victory, maybe not the first, but a very important one. Today we are saying farewell to Georgy Valentinovich Boos, as he sets off on what we hope is a very long road.»

Chesalin is interrupted by noisy ovations and shouts of approval. He continues:

«We've brought a poster which says 'Farewell, Boos. We shall bear you ill will.' Is that right?»

Shouts of agreement.

«Kaliningrad has managed to get the ear of the Kremlin and force it for the first time in post-Soviet history to say the words 'We are not putting Georgy Boos forward because he does not enjoy the confidence of the people'. Has anyone ever heard such words from the Kremlin?»


«The President?»


«Nor have I. Kaliningraders have become the first to force the Kremlin to change tack and take a step towards the people. For the moment this is a step with its back to the people and for that I personally thank the President. 

«Today the party United Russia has put forward three people for the post of governor, but they're from the palace too. Unfortunately there's no telling them apart: Mr Savenko, Mr Yaroshuk and Mr Tsukanov. There are lots of Kaliningraders here, so let's vote – who supports Mr Savenko? I can see one hand. Who's against? An outright majority! Who supports Mr Yaroshuk? He and Savenko condemned 27 green zones in the centre of the city to be cut down and built over, to benefit himself as the builder and United Russia builders.» (The crowd whistles). «Who supports Mr Tsukanov? In Gusev all the elections are organised by him with only one candidate and it's always United Russia that wins.»  (No-o-o way!). «So that's a united 'take a long jump' to United Russia, is it?»

Shouts of agreement.

Chesalin preaches rebellion: «Kaliningrad was the first to force the Kremlin to turn its face to the people! Our next job is to ensure that no vote at any election gets cast for Putin's party. For the moment it gets the votes of those that don't turn out to vote. Sad as it may be, in any democratic society it's the people that elect the government. Bad deputies are chosen by good people who don't vote. Our voice is a silver bullet in the body of the werewolf called United Russia. Everyone to the elections – and no to Putin's plan!»

Shouts of agreement.

Vera Safonova, leader of the Chernyakhovsk «Justice» movement:

«Friends!  Greetings to you from Chernyakhovsk, which has come to fame because we've put two United Russia mayors out to grass in the last four years.» (Enthusiastic applause).  «But we realised that United Russia would go on producing similar mayors as if in an incubator. So we took the decision to join forces with the organisers of this meeting and take part in preparing it. What are we proposing for unanimous acceptance today? On this poster you can see 'Bring back elections for governors!' and I would add to that the return of elections for all levels of government from the bottom to the top, including heads of municipal units and local deputies. We're for elections!»

Vladimir Kravchenko, businessman, from the town of Pionerskoye:

«All the inhabitants of Pionerskoye known to me send you greetings and sign up to the resolutions of this meeting, which they've read about in the newspaper 'Svetlogorye'. As far back as 30 January I reported to the meeting that last year's elections for mayor of our town had been rigged. I went to court to get the election recognised as invalid. Our president Dmitry Medvedev said that if there were infringements at elections, we should go to court. All the violations in Pionerskoye were recorded on video. The court refused to accept this evidence or to hear statements from witnesses. That's the kind of court we have. We must demand that the president set up a legislative initiative:  people buying electoral votes should be prosecuted.»

Evgenii Labudin:

«Friends! It wouldn't be stretching a point to say that our meeting represents the whole of Russia. I give you Boris Nemtsov!» (The square erupts with cheers of welcome.)

KAliningrad Nemtsov

Boris Nemstov, Russia’s deputy prime minister in the nineties. Outspoken critic of prime minister Vladimir Putin: “Down with the vertical of thieves! Up with freedom! Up with democracy! Hurrah for Kaliningrad!”

Boris Nemtsov:

«Good day, Kaliningrad. Today's event is for the whole of Russia and our enormous country is watching you. When 12,000 people took to the streets on 30 January, Russia awoke. People suddenly realised that much depends on them. They understood that you can talk to those in power. You don't have to ask on bended knee, or abase yourself. You can demand. And, thank heavens, you set an example for the whole country. Thank God you forced the government to listen to the opinion of the people. You did everything to ensure that a very unpopular governor was not on the list of candidates. No one believed it. People are passive. They sit in their kitchens and think that the government will decide everything for them and nothing depends on them. Only you, Kaliningraders, showed your country something completely different. You are very important and a lot depends on you. This is your victory and a victory for free, democratic Russia. 

«But we can't relax. You have experienced for yourselves what the vertical of power means. It's a vertical of thieves. This vertical has an architect, a creator and his name is Putin. While the architect and creator of the vertical is in power, you will never be allowed to elect your own governor. The people's opinion will never be listened to.

«Many of you will have seen my report 'Putin. A summary. 10 years'. I can see some of you have got it. It contains information on how Putin's closest cronies in the cooperative 'Ozero' ([Lake, ed] have become dollar billionaires. That's the Rotenberg brothers, who were Putin's judo trainers and are now the largest supplier of gaspipes to Gazprom. For the Northern Stream project. Also the former kerosene salesman Timchenko, who now controls 40% of the exports of Russian oil and is a dollar billionaire. The small time banker Kovalchuk, who has now got his hands on 60 billion dollars worth of Gazprom property. And while this gang of thieves continues to rule the country, we'll get nothing – no pensions, salaries, lower taxes or business devlopment. This is why I think the main thing is to kick the repulsive clique of out and out thieves, which has seized power, out of the government. We demand that Putin resign! Down with the vertical of thieves! Up with freedom! Up with democracy! Hurrah for Kaliningrad!»

Shouts of agreeement.

Viktor Vasiliev:

«Dear Kaliningraders!  In my work as a lawyer I see citizens' rights being infringed in all areas of our life. Especially housing. More than once I have had to dispute in court prices and tariffs for housing and utility services, because they have no basis in economics and have been hugely inflated. The government not only has no desire to regularise the situation, but does everything possible to prevent this by putting pressure on the courts. 

«The second front is the Housing Code, initiated by United Russia. The aim of this law against the people is to shift all responsibility for the collapse of the housing stock, the stealing and improper use of huge financial resources from the government on to the property owners. Our officials can only be forced to carry out housing repairs through the courts. But in the courts local authority representatives lie, try to brazen it out, and show their complete incompetence. 

«Land adjoining buildings is seized and green spaces are barbarically cut down… The Kaliningrad deputies have dreamt up another cunning way of getting their hands on city land for the parasites of the construction industry. They have passed laws on land tenure and development. This is a plan that is clearly corrupt. I continually encounter lawlessness, the arbitrary rule of those in power, the infringement of my fellow citizens' rights, total corruption and plundering of the budget, the persecution of honest journalists, the hounding of dissenters and suppression of the truth. All this leads me to conclude that our region and our state are terribly, terribly sick. The name of the disease is United Russia. It is United Russia's doing that the principle of the separation of powers has been destroyed in Russia. All monitoring of the government has been done away with. The only way we can have an impact on the government and force it to take account of its people is demonstrations and protest meetings. We shall continue to live in a sick society with a useless government until we get rid of United Russia. Down with United Russia!»

Igor Revin, Deputy to the Regional Duma:

«Dear friends! The Regional Authority is trying to wimp out. The list of candidates for the governor's post which was given to Medvedev is the crew of Lech Kaczinski's plane.  Do you get a sense of the personnel crisis there is in United Russia? If it goes on like this, we shall find we are being offered Lyudmila Putina for governor. The Communists in the Regional Duma will vote against this shameful list. I shall be embarrassed to look at the United Russia party in our Regional Duma: for five years its members sang the praises of Georgy Boos, but they gave up their chief without a squeak of protest or even the slightest resistance. That's United Russia for you!»

Kaliningrad protests 2

Ilya Yashin, leading activist of the Solidarnost movement: „We must work for the reinstatement of the election of governors”.

Ilya Yashin, leader of the «Solidarity» movement:

«Greetings to a proud and free city! Friends, the whole country is today steeped in sadness and hopelessness. Officials treat people with indignity.  Every day the militia abuses people. We no longer have the feeling of being masters in our own country.  Today Kaliningrad is giving others hope. Kaliningrad is the first city, the first region, where the authorities, who have been brazenly stuffing their faces,  have been told 'Enough! Time to stop plundering our country. Get out!' These arrogant, overfed officials have been firmly shown the door. We are told, friends, that  this is a storm in a local teacup. So what – the governor of one of the regions has been put out to grass! But its significance is not just local – it's a matter for for the whole country, for millions of our fellow citizens who have lost faith in justice, or any faith in their own country. Millions of pairs of eyes are turned today on you. The miners of Mezhdurechensk, the farmers of Tambov region, students from Novosibirsk, car drivers from Vladivostok, ecologists from the Khimki Forest – are all looking at Kaliningrad. They are proud that you have turned yourselves from the population into a real people, masters of your own country.  Throughout Russia today countless people suddenly have hope. We want to believe we can influence the situation. The dismissal of Boos is our first victory, a very important one.  But we must go on and not rest on our laurels. Boos will probably be  replaced by a puppet of the same kind, so we have to keep up the fight. We must put forward new demands and force the authorities to comply with them. We must work for the reinstatement of the election of governors. Isn't that so? (Cries of agreement). We must achieve freedom for private business! We have to work towards the resignation of Putin's government». (Roars of applause).

The crowd shouts «Russia without Putin!».

Yashin: «Thank you, Kaliningrad!»

Konstantin Rozhkov, chief editor of the the newspaper «Svetlogorye», closed down by the authorities:

«Greetings, dear fellow citizens! Looking at the crowd, I can see many familiar faces. I see people who think, who are anxious about Russia's future. Thank you for coming to this public gathering. I take my hat off to you. We've taken one step together – Boos has been removed from the list of candidates for governor. What helped us towards this was an appeal containing a complete analysis of the situation and sent to the President. He received it on 7 July. You've just seen Nemtsov and heard what he said. We too have written a report – several people have been working on it for 2 months. We have put together a lot of facts which cannot be disputed. For instance – Boos is not on the list, but who is? People whose proper place is in prison. You know that Kaliningrad has been sold it its entirety. You know what Tsukanov did in Gusev and how he got his position. You know what Yaroshuk, the builder, gets up to. He's prepared to build over everything, including this park. Which is why I appeal to you to associate yourselves with what our speakers say. I am in complete agreement with them and support them. Thank you, Kaliningrad. I've brought you 10 copies, which I printed out, of the newspaper which so scared the authorities that they banned its printing.

Kaliningrad protests 3

Between 3000 and 5000 people took part in the Kaliningrad meeting. Nearly 30 speakers addressed the crowd

«Almost 30 people spoke at the meeting in the park on 21 August.

«The demonstrators, of whom there were variously estimated to be between 3000 and 5000, passed a unanimous resolution. This has been sent to President Medvedev and we are waiting for an answer from him – but mainly action.

«I hope the President will respond, demonstrating to the whole country whether he's with the people, or with Putin.»

 Konstantin Rozhkov, one of the organisers of the Day of Anger, prepared a verbatim record of the meeting, which was originally published in his Livejournal blog. He is editor of the newspaper «Svetlogorye».

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