Magazine article Foreign Policy

70 Yevgenia Chirikova: For Outsmarting Vladimir Putin, One Tree at a Time

Magazine article Foreign Policy

70 Yevgenia Chirikova: For Outsmarting Vladimir Putin, One Tree at a Time

Article excerpt

Environmentalist | Russia

Yevgenia Chirikova had never been involved in politics before 2007, when she noticed red paint on the trees of the Khimki forest outside Moscow, where she enjoyed taking walks with her family. When she learned that a wide swath of the forest was due to be razed for the construction of a highway, she did something almost inconceivable in Russian political culture: She got organized.

A successful businesswoman with her own engineering company, Chirikova soon proved an effective activist, organizing protests and blogging her struggle to save the forest. When thousands of people began attending the rallies and celebrities including U2's Bono began speaking out on her behalf, the Russian state fought back. Chirikova was jailed multiple times, and at one point officials threatened to take away her children on trumped-up neglect charges. The Khimki protests were an early sign of the growing levels of dissent in Russia, which boiled over into the massive rallies held before, and after, Vladimir Putin's reelection this year. …

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