Though over 3,700 kilometers away, TV scenes of Moscow protesters struggling with riot police during a Saturday, July 27 rally for the registration of opposition and independent candidates in upcoming city council elections resonated with 35-year-old Kyrgyz illustrator Tatyana Zelenskaya.
“All day I drew, watched live broadcasts, felt a sense of unity with the protesters,” recounted Zelenskaya, who lives in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek.
Zelenskaya, a graduate of Bishkek’s Academy of Art with a keen interest in social-welfare issues,
She usually works with an audiobook or video playing in the background.
“I draw more readily when there is noise. This time, I was particularly interested in the situation with not allowing opposition candidates to participate in the elections, and I was very curious about how events would develop.”
After posting an example of her work that Saturday on Facebook, she drew three protest illustrations for Current Time.
The unauthorized July 27 protests in downtown Moscow that inspired Zelenskaya led to the detention of some 1,373 people, scores of arrests, and international condemnation of Russian law enforcement’s often brutal dispersals of unarmed demonstrators.
The crackdown continued on August 3, when protesters opted for a “stroll” around central Moscow. One-person pickets, including outside of the Russian capital, followed on subsequent weekends.
Unsanctioned weekend rallies started in the Russian capital on July 14 after election officials refused to register more than two dozen candidates for city council elections on September 8. They cited alleged irregularities with the would-be candidates’ paperwork as the cause.
Zelenskaya has witnessed massive anti-government protests before in her own country, but says that she “was living in an information vacuum” during Kyrgyzstan’s 2005 and 2010 revolutions.
She saw “awful, absurd contrasts” in Moscow’s July 27 protests: holiday street garlands contrasting with rows of “well-dressed” riot police; demonstrators, constantly filming, “holding their smart phones like shields, like an answer to the batons of the Russian Guard.”
To observers who support some government officials’ contention that the demonstrations are part of a foreign-backed plot to sow unrest, this may smack of romanticism.
But Zelenskaya believes the demonstrators are “courageous not because they’re not afraid to fight, but because, first of all, they decided to do something.”
“They have enough spirit to believe that they can change the situation,” she said.
-Based on an interview by Current Time Digital's Kristina Zakurdaeva