Pyotr Shkumatov’s street antics have stumped traffic policemen and made the rest of Moscow laugh. “This isn’t about the middle class,” he says. “It’s generational.”
Vladimir Putin isn’t a man who usually acknowledges his mistakes, but on Monday he confessed that his government had failed to propagate tolerance and understanding among Russia’s more than 100 ethnic groups.
This Christmas, Russians stopped fearing their government. In a collective suspension of disbelief, ordinary citizens watched cultural figures, civic activists and even a former finance minister attack the political edifice that Vladimir Putin spent 12 years building.
The iPhone, the ultimate consumer attribute of an open society, clashed with Vladimir Putin’s closed political system. It was the contradiction between free global citizen and disenfranchised Russian subject that drove young Muscovites to take to the street.
Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger jailed two weeks ago, was released in the dead of night. His detention has turned the 35-year-old lawyer into the indisputable hero of the Moscow protest movement – and the greatest hope for opponents of Vladimir Putin.