Magazine article New York Times Upfront

From Russia with Hope: Elena Sorokina, 23, on Her Generation's Desire for a More Democratic Russia

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

From Russia with Hope: Elena Sorokina, 23, on Her Generation's Desire for a More Democratic Russia

Article excerpt

On December 10, 2011, I attended my first political rally, at Bolotnaya Square in Moscow--literally "Swamp Square." I had two fears: What if the protest turned violent? And what if no one else showed up, just my friends and me--idealistic young journalists alone with our hopes and dreams?

As it turned out, the protest was peaceful, and 50,000 Russians joined in: students, engineers, musicians, teachers--all with their own demands for change.

The main reason for the protest was what many believed to be fraudulent election results that gave the United Russia Party of Vladimir Putin unearned seats in Parliament. Adding to our anger was that just two months earlier, Putin--a former Soviet spy who'd already served two terms as Russia's president and one as its prime minister--announced that he'd run for president again. (He won last March.) But more generally, people were also protesting corruption in business, ineffective law enforcement, unfair trials, and media censorship--issues that have accumulated for years.

Life was much worse in the Soviet Union, which formed after the Russian Revolution in 1917 and also ruled much of Eastern Europe with an iron fist from the end of World War II until Soviet Communism collapsed in 1991.

"You never lived under Communism," said a friend of my parents', unable to understand why I was protesting what life is like in Russia today. In the Soviet Union, he pointed out, there were no elections, people couldn't criticize politicians, they couldn't travel abroad, and the government controlled the economy. …

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