Major media outlets described the rally as being in the “tens of thousands” as police monitors again refused to release official numbers and estimated the crowd as being around 30,000. That figure was lower than the reality on the streets but the government appears either uninterested or unable in providing accurate data on the protests.
To be certain, a moving march is harder to count and this rally was a march that ended with speeches and songs at Bolotnaya Plaza. Moscow city officials had approved only a rally permit for a maximum of 50,000 participants so the idea of a rally and march to allow more citizens to participate along the route.
The BBC estimated the crowd at approximately 120,000 persons.
The march began at what is called Kaluga Square (Калужской площади) in Moscow near station Oktyabrskaya (Метро Октябрьская) on the Koltsevaya (кольцевая) line of the Moscow underground Metro system.
The route culminated at what Muscovites call the “Swamp” a small island between the Moskva River and its bypass channel, across from the Moscow Kremlin. The name of Plaza “Bolotnaya” (Болотной площади) comes from the Russian bolOto meaning “swamp” because of frequent spring and summer floods in past years. Thousands of protesters entered the Swamp via Metro station Tretyakovskaya (третьяковская), named after the State Tretyakov Art Gallery.
Opposition march organizers used social media to recruit volunteers to film and photograph events from their apartment balconies along the rally route.
Perhaps most embarrassing to Prime Minister Putin is the popular song sweeping across the nation as performed by a group of elite Russian para-troopers. Russian para-troopers are often thought to be the most revered troops in the military.
Lyrics: If you’re a good citizen, if you’re the President
there’s the Law and there are some restrictions that apply to you:
You may not steal nation’s money, and you should not ever lie to your people
Be open to the public, be accountable for what you say
Had 8 years as a President, but now you’re a candidate again!
Now look into our eyes, and drop your nomination now!
We trusted you, but you lied to us for so many years, using your old KGB tactics
You are just like me – a man, not a God
I am just like you – a man, not some low-life
We won’t allow any more lying to us
We won’t allow any more stealing from us
We are Freedom’s Airborne troops, Motherland is behind us
You are just a typical state official – not a Czar, not a God!
This country’s Good Citizens are evil “bandar-logs” in your own eyes
White colour of pro-freedom ribbons is everyone’s pride here
But to you it only reminds of some ‘condoms’ **
I look around and see your portraits everywhere
You keep lying to us, and your henchmen also do
We are tired of witnessing our nation’s shame:
Next to poor countryside there are your princely castles
You’ve weakened our national defence, ruined the Army
Forgotten about the soldiers, dismissed the officers
We won’t forget everything that you’ve done
We demand peacefully: Down with the Tyrant!
Remember our grandfathers, who battled the ‘SS’, remember our brave Airborne Guardsmen
Battles of Berlin and Afghanistan are still in our hearts
But for the ruling Party officials there are no other values, except money
In them honour is so scarce, as there is not much human dignity in them, it’s only bullion’s splendour that appeals to them
Their luxury cars, fancy clothes, obsession with consumptionism
Such is your corrupt System’s cynicism!
Nation’s culture is in decline, so is education, and there’s even trading of college diplomas
Bribery permeats everything, an old man here can’t get his medical care
Now your corrupt System has arrived to it’s dead end
The song has lit up the Russian internet, getting over 1 million hits daily since it was composed in late December. Although this was the first live public performance of the song, thousands of rally attendees already knew the lyrics and sang along with the paratrooper band.
Chilling temperatures did not dissuade citizens from turning out as had been feared by the ‘For Honest Elections‘ meeting organizers. Those who attended braved temperatures around -19C.