At The Core Of Russia's Protests: The Middle Class

Large protests over the weekend in many Russian cities marked discontent with the results of the recent elections there. Melissa Block talks with one of those demonstrators — a 29-year-old real estate lawyer named Dmitry Raev. This was his first time taking part in a demonstration. Raev points out that the middle class — lawyers, scientists and other professionals — seem to be driving the protests. He says these are people who have something to lose, and yet they are turning out in droves to express their long-held frustration with the political system.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This weekend in Moscow and other cities across Russia, crowds came out to protest.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

BLOCK: Freedom, went one chant and Putin is a parasite.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

BLOCK: That sound from Vladivostok. In Moscow, tens of thousands of people were out in the streets. They say the recent parliamentary elections were rigged in favor of Vladimir Putin's party, United Russia. And they want those election results cancelled. Notably, many protesters are people who have benefited economically under Putin. They're part of Russia's expanding middle class of urban professionals.

Dmitry Raev is one of them. A 29-year-old real estate lawyer with an international firm, he says he has never gone out to protest until Saturday. And he told me he was surprised to see so many middle class people turn out in Moscow.

DMITRY RAEV: I looked around and I saw thousands of people like me, like my friends - lawyers, scientists, doctors, intellectual people who usually don't go to the streets, people who have something that they can lose. But they are so tired with current situation that they went on the streets and it was rather dangerous because about 30,000 people understood that they could be arrested.

BLOCK: What's your goal, Mr. Raev? What would you want to see come as a result of these protests in Russia?

RAEV: In fact, we already see some results. First result was that we were heard. Moscow government gave its consent for 30,000 people to go to this protest. And now, today, I heard that Mikhail Prokhorov, representative of the opposition, decided that he will run for presidency. We want to be heard by the authorities and this is our main goal.

BLOCK: You mentioned the candidacy of Mikhail Prokhorov. There is news today that the Russian multibillionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner of the New Jersey Nets, among many other things, says he will run for president against Vladimir Putin in March. Does that seem like someone that you would support? Does that seem like a vision of positive change to you?

RAEV: Yeah. You know, I think that I will support him. A lot of people will support him just to show their protest because we understand that Vladimir Putin will win and probably he is more professional as a leader, but we don't like the situation when we don't have choice.

BLOCK: Mr. Raev, where do you think the protest movement in Russia goes from here?

RAEV: I think we have future, good future, because this protest showed that it can be done very peaceful. And we saw that the city, the police - they did not arrest people, so I think that if last week, thousands of people didn't go to this protest because they were frightened, afraid to get arrested, now, they will think that probably something changed in Russia and now you can show your views publicly. And I know that a new protest is scheduled for 24 December, if I'm not mistaken. And I think that if the authority, after this protest will not undertake any measures, you know, to satisfy our claims, then more people will go to this protest.

BLOCK: I've been talking with Dmitry Raev. He's a 29-year-old real estate lawyer in Moscow and he took part in the protests there over the weekend.

Mr. Raev, thank you very much.

RAEV: Thank you.

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