March 30, 2006

White Ribbon Victory


White Ribbon Victory

Gauging the Power of Rallies

Few Russians believe their country's crooked ways can be changed through acts of public protest, but last week's acquittal of Oleg Shcherbinsky, following rallies in 22 Russian cities, may boost their confidence. Since the turbulent 1990s this was one of the rare instances, when Russians trod the streets for an idea, rather than material benefits.

For the past six months, Russians have followed the trial of Oleg Shcherbinsky, a Siberian railroad worker who was charged with manslaughter in a car accident that killed Altai Region Governor and former popular actor Mikhail Yevdokimov, nicknamed the "Schwarzenegger of Siberia."

Shcherbinsky's bad luck brought his second-hand Toyota to the wrong place at a wrong time on August 7, 2005. As Shcherbinsky halted to make a turn into a side street, Yevdokimov's Mercedes suddenly overtook him, moving at breakneck speed (over 124 mph) in the same direction. Trying to overtake the Toyota on the left, the Mercedes raced up from behind, sideswiped Shcherbinsky and flew off the road and into a tree, RIAN reported, killing the governor, his driver and his bodyguard.

On February 3, 2006, Oleg Shcherbinsky was sentenced to four years in prison after the judge in the local court ruled that he had caused the accident by failing to give way to a special vehicle. Technically, Shcherbinsky did not break any of Russia's Traffic Rules.

Russians suddenly rallied to rescue the little man - an innocent bystander made a scapegoat in a high-profile case. Rallies in Shcherbinsky's support rolled across Russian cities, adding to protests against long-hated "special vehicles," which carry Russia's big shots and bully regular drivers. In cities like Moscow, which has a high concentration of the rich and the powerful, the situation is especially bleak, and roads are frequently closed so that limos of the rich and famous can tool by undisturbed.

As part of the Shcherbinsky demonstrations, the Moscow radio station Serebryannyi Dozhd launched a white ribbon drive, urging Moscow drivers to tie a white ribbon on their cars as sign of protest against traffic bullies and their blue-lighted, sirened cars. The station distributed some 13,000 ribbons, and many more drivers simply put their own white ribbons on display. A man even decorated a Barnaul-bound train with white ribbons of protest, bringing his voice to the city where Shcherbinsky was being tried.

Once it became clear which way the wind was blowing, Putin's Edinaya Rossiya party jumped on the bandwagon, giving the sign that vox populi had been heard.

On March 23, 2006, Shcherbinsky was acquitted of all charges by the Barnaul regional court. And the drive against use of symbols of power on Russian roads is catching on. Russia's Duma will soon begin hearings of a law on special symbols and registration signs. Some deputies, according to RIAN, called for canceling all privileges on the roads, while more moderate minds suggested adopting a law on five flashing lights to be used by the president, the prime minister, the speakers of the two houses of parliament and the chairman of the Constitutional Court.

Although much of the support for Shcherbinsky's case came from Russian drivers who feel they could fall victim to the same sort of trouble at any time, in a way it was more a fight for an idea. As such, it stands in contrast to recent rallies, which have been all about claiming material benefits - like January 2005's half-successful civil action. At that time, major Russian cities rose in protest against the new law, which was to replace free medicines, free local transportation and other benefits for pensioneers and under-priviledged Russians with monetary compensation that bought much less. As a result of the protests, some of the benefits were restored.

Currently only 44 percent of Russians believe in solving social problems by holding protest rallies, down 12 points since past July, a recent poll showed, but perhaps this week's events are a sign of things to come...

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Fish: A History of One Migration

Fish: A History of One Migration

This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
At the Circus

At the Circus

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
Steppe / Степь

Steppe / Степь

This is the work that made Chekhov, launching his career as a writer and playwright of national and international renown. Retranslated and updated, this new bilingual edition is a super way to improve your Russian.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
The Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955