Protesters Meet Police in Triumph Square

in collaboration with Chris Cloonan

“I protest against the autocracy regime of Putin, against the police state,” said Eugenia Chasovnikova, a 30-year-old school teacher.

Chasovnikova was one of about 100 Russians who participated in the Strategy-31 protest on July 31 in Moscow. These protests, also in St. Petersburg and other cities across the country, are held on the final day of every month that has 31 days. The demonstrators are trying to exercise their freedom of assembly, as guaranteed in Article 31 of the Russian Constitution.


Usually, the police break up the Strategy-31 protests after about 20 minutes, arresting participants and even beating some. Police are permitted to arrest protesters if they feel they’ve become a public nuisance. Protesters are usually held for a few hours and let go with a fine.

“I have been arrested 6 to 7 times,” said Chasovnikova. “They grab you and put you into police car.”

In Moscow on July 31, this dance between police and protesters played out as usual – except for one difference. The police waited more than twice as long before breaking up the protest. In the end, they arrested about 50 protesters.​


​The protest in Moscow took place in Triumph Square, just outside the Mayakovskaya metro station, named after Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, a statue of whom overlooks the square. As protesters gathered, they were greeted by about 400 police. They were ready to “stop the action,” as one officer declared. Police reinforcements waited in about 30 vans and trucks nearby.

While it had applied for a demonstration permit, ​Strategy-31 was turned down by Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, who cited construction of a 1,000-car underground parking lot and the archaeological restoration of the square.

Strategy-31 was happy to have been denied permission, according to many locals and journalists, who explained that the group seeks confrontation to publicize what it sees as political oppression.

The protestors held their demonstration illegally, sitting down and locking arms. They chanted anti-Putin slogans such as “Putin is an extremist” and “Send Putin to a Siberian prison.” (Putin often labels the protesters “extremist”).


“The citizens of Russia want the right to assemble as they want,” said Andrew Obote, a 23-year-old protester who is a journalist.

Strategy-31 includes opposition movements as members, including Eduard Limonov’s “Other Russia” (also known as The National Bolshevik Party) and Solidarity. Both are unrecognized opposition parties.

Limonov, Strategy-31′s founder, declined multiple requests for an interview and his body guards forcefully pushed away journalists attempting to speak with him.

The July 31st protests were dedicated to demanding the release of Sergei Mokhnatkin, who was arrested at a similar event two years ago in Triumph Square. Mokhnatkin says he was not taking part in the protest. Instead, he was helping a female protestor who was being beaten by the police.