Protect the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Expression

Stop Russia From Making Street Protests a Crime

freedom of assembly RussiaRussia already has restrictive rules governing public assemblies, where a violation of the legal requirements for demonstrations entails a fine of 20,000 rubles ($570) or up to 40 hours of community service. A new draft law in the State Duma increases these penalties and introduces jail time for multiple offenses.

Many of these unauthorized street protests are peaceful and insignificant in number i.e. not very large, but are routinely dispersed by police. Often times, they use excessive force and arrest protesters, detaining them for up tot 15 days for violating the police's "lawful orders". The proposed draft law would increase the maximum detention period to 30 days, while also introducing 15-day detentions for a variety of other violations, such as infringing the movement of pedestrians.

Video footage, and other relevant evidence isn't considered during the trial. Judges accept police statements unquestioningly, even if there is evidence to the contrary.

For more information about this issue, here's a brief outlining additional background information as well as further action. This is also the source of the information I provided above.

What Can Be Done About This?

The issue may seem beyond our control, but it's really not. Instead of throwing your hands up in despair, or simply complaining about the type of place Russia is, you can do something by writing a letter.

Will one letter stop the draft law? Probably not. But, choosing to not write a letter or doubting its power isn't going to stop the draft law either. At least writing a letter, with the hope that others will write letters as well (or perhaps share this post), has a chance of making a difference. Doing nothing accomplishes nothing. Criticizing the way others take action, without taking any action of your own, also accomplishes nothing.

To make action easier for people, I've written a sample letter that you can use to help write your own letter. Or, if you wish, you are welcome to copy this letter, print it out, and send it on your behalf.

Let's stop Russia from making street protests a crime. Below is the sample letter as well as the appropriate address for the sendee.

Sample Letter

Sergey Evgenyevich Naryskin

State Duma of the Russian Federation

1 Okhotny Ryad st

103256 Moscow



Dear Chairman,

I am writing in concern for draft law No. 485729-6 on "Amending Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation (in relation to improving the legislation on public gatherings)". This law was proposed March 31, 2014 in the State Duma.

I ask that you withdraw the draft immediately and ensure that no further restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly are considered in the Russian parliament.

I also ask that you help bring Russia's current legislation on public assemblies and the relevant practice in line with its obligations under international human rights law and in line with Russia's constitution.

Please also ensure that everyone in Russia can enjoy their right to freedom of assembly.


Your Name


photo credit: richardthomasesq via photopin cc


I often wonder if I’ll ever see Ludmila again.  It’s been over a year since I last saw her, at the end of my five weeks studying in St. Petersburg .  I have one picture of her, a picture in which she spent 10 minutes in the bathroom getting all dolled up for only to not even smile at the flash.  Ludmila doesn’t speak any English.  That made living with her at the flat much more fun. I wonder if she even remembers me; I wasn’t all that memorable.  But I could never forget Ludmila.


Ludmila made her own croutons.  She’d cut up slices of bread into tiny cubes and leave them to dry on the microwave for a few days.  On the morning I was leaving to go back to the states, I tried to take a picture of the croutons.  Ludmila caught me before I could get my picture, got really embarrassed, scooped the croutons into a jar and hid them, and told me to take a picture of her flowers instead.  She told me her flowers were very beautiful.  I told her that I agree, they are beautiful and because they were beautiful I already had pictures of them.  As beautiful as they were, the croutons were neater.  Americans, too, grow beautiful flowers, but they do not make their own croutons.

Milk in a Jar

Ludmila kept a lot of things in jars: cheese, butter, fruit.  Even the milk.  The milk did not originally come in a jar.  I know this because the amount of milk in the jar would always change.  Ludmila never ran out of milk.  I never saw where the milk actually came from but it always came to me in a jar.  It never killed me either, so don’t worry about it anymore.

Russian Air Travel Sucks

One thing I did worry about was how the hell I was going to bring all my souvenirs back home. Medvedev, Putin, Yeltsin, Gorbachev, Brezhnev.  My absolute most favorite souvenir from Russia is a matrushka doll that regurgitates the previous leaders of the country.  I paid approximately 36 US dollars and it is worth every penny.  It was not worth the 60 US dollars I paid for my second check-in luggage, a backpack, at the airport.  It was definitely not worth it in London when United Airlines very nicely put the backpack in a giant plastic bag as to avoid the straps snagging to anything else.  Kind of ruined the purpose of backpack, as I now have to carry around a bag with perfectly good straps in a clumsy plastic bag.  Oh well.

My Home

I would be flying through five cities before I got home: St. Petersburg, London, Washington DC, St. Louis, Los Angeles, then, finally, Honolulu.  It is the day before I am to leave, and this is the day Ludmila decides to figure out where I’m from.  I told her on the first day I met her, but she now wants to know exact location. She calls me into the living room and pulls out an atlas, falling apart at the binding, pages worn, torn and missing, aged to a dirty brown.  Ludmila finds a map of the United States and asks where my state is located.  The atlas is so old that my state is not even a state yet.  It’s not on the map.  I tell her this and she thinks I don’t understand her question, so she asks me again.  I tell her again that it’s not on the map and I begin to look through the pages to find a map that might possibly have my state on it.  The only one is the world map; Hawai’i squished all the way to the left hand side.  I point to it and tell her that, right there, is my home.

Ludmila’s eyes grow big.  “So far,” she says.  Ludmila takes the map and sits on the couch and spends in the next half an hour in awe of how far I’ve come.  She asks me how far it is to this location and to that location, and I tell her.  I ask her how old the atlas is.  She tells me that it’s very old, that she used it when she was in school.

In Russian, there are separate words to say school at the university level and school at grade level.  Ludmila said she used the atlas when she was still at grade level.  I pegged Ludmila to be about 65 years old.  That means I peg the atlas at about 55 years old.  I peg 55 years ago at 1957, two years before statehood.  That didn’t explain the fact that Alaska was on the map, but then again, it does.  Alaska used to belong to Russia.  Maybe they still care about their old territory.  Maybe they can see former governor Sarah Palin too.

I managed to get Ludmila’s address before I departed for good.  I intended to write to her in due time, to show her that my Russian language skills have improved.  I still haven’t written, and I’m no longer sure if I can consider myself improved anymore.  But even as my Russian deteriorates, my memories of Ludmila will not.