March 01, 2012

The White Ring

The White Ring

Last Sunday morning I was ashamed of my children.

We had sort of planned that we would all go together to stand on the Garden Ring, where the League of Voters was conducting out its “White Ring” flash-mob action. It was announced that at 2 in the afternoon everyone who wished should show up wearing white ribbons – the symbol of fair elections – to join hands all around the Ring. Initial estimates were that it would take 34,000 people to connect the entire Garden Ring. How many actually showed up is unclear. The website where everyone was supposed to sign up quickly froze up, and continued to show just 6000 attendees.

Suddenly my son said that he would not be standing in the ring, but would be driving in his car to photograph the participants, and didn’t want anyone going along and disturbing him.

My daughter seemed to be coming along, but then, as the time approached, she still had much to do.

My son’s girlfriend said that she was invited to a birthday party and needed to go and purchase a present.

As a result, I was upset and left the house alone. In the metro, I drearily thought about how everyone would be standing, holding the hands of their friends, but that in my family I was the only one with a political conscience…

When I exited from Smolenskaya metro station, my mood immediately changed. First, as with all recent protest actions, everyone was unusually friendly. Everyone was smiling, handing out white ribbons, joking. Second, I ended up running into all sorts of acquaintances. The parents of one of our former students immediately came over and started asking if any of our students would be here. And then it was 2 o’clock and everyone started holding hands. Our location was not very good, because there were huge police vans on the sidewalk, and we were not visible, and we could only see the glum faces of OMON troops.

Then a very old friend found me and at the same moment a rumor started spreading that one of my son’s friends was standing opposite the American Embassy with some sort of funny sign. We headed over there.

Our company made for a rather funny sight walking down the street: a Moscow University teacher, two of my pupils, one of them with their parents (who were also my former students, the father a dentist, the mother a businessperson), plus a friend of my children – a TV producer. We were constantly meeting friends, colleagues, former students, pupils and acquaintances along the street. We finally arrived at the embassy and found our friend, but he for some reason didn’t have any sort of sign. Yet he was standing in a perfect spot. We could not only see the embassy, but the cars driving around the ring. So we decided to stand here and hold hands.

Of course, everyone started joking about how they were going to start throwing dollars at us from the embassy. But the curtains were all closed; no one was even looking out at us. Yet happiness reigned. Crowds had gathered about the ring, and hundreds of white-ribbon-bedecked cars were cruising the road, honking in greeting, and we waved back in return. Someone held their white dog out the window, another wore a white hat, another had tied all sorts of white balloons to their car. The famous philologist and member of the Presidential Council, Marietta Chudakova, drove by. A trolleybus passed, covered with white ribbons, and the passengers waved and took our pictures. The next trolleybus was emblazoned with a sign: “Let’s Take Putin for a Ride!” Police cars were standing nearby and the officers were looking back at us and smiling! Even they were happy!!

Soon, they started yelling from cars, “We’ve closed the ring! We’ve closed the ring!” Which meant more than 30,000 had shown up!

The hour we stood on the Ring was overflowing with incredible joy and happiness. As a matter of fact, it was also the very last day of Maslenitsa – the joyous carnival that marks winter’s send-off.  Later, of course, on Revolution Square [near the Kremlin], the opposition attempted to assemble a “send-off for the political winter.” Some fights broke out and the police had to step in.

I didn’t go to Revolution Square. My son turned up after all and I got into his car and we went on our way. Later, I found out that my daughter also managed to get to the Ring and stand in the circle with her white ribbon on, and my son’s girlfriend, instead of buying a present, was also on the Ring. In short, the entire family turned up, only to different sections of the Garden Ring.

It was an unusually happy day. Now the final week before the elections has arrived. Crowds of observers are standing in lines to receive their necessary papers. And the Powers That Be have announced the doubtful news that an assassination attempt on Putin was foiled about a month ago, but they held off on sharing this with us until just before the elections.

Everyone is trying to guess what will happen after March 4. Was Sunday on the Ring really our last happy day?

As the Russian proverb has it, «Не все коту масленица, настанет и великий пост» (Good things can’t last forever.).

Well, we shall see.


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