ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This weekend, Russians took to the streets once again to air their grievances against their government, but the crowds numbered only in the hundreds or less, and that is nowhere near the tens of thousands who attended rallies in the months before the presidential election. Now that Vladimir Putin has been elected president, some young Russians have decided to work within the system.
NPR's Martha Wexler has this profile of one of them from Moscow.
MARTHA WEXLER, BYLINE: Maxim Motin is 28-year-old, fair-haired and well-groomed in a black overcoat. He was a star at a recent anti-Putin rally, which showcased some of the youthful delegates who unexpectedly won seats this month on municipal councils in Moscow.
MAXIM MOTIN: (Foreign language spoken)
WEXLER: Maxim told the thousands who lined Novy Arbat Street that he ran for local office because he prefers action to slogans. Days later, Maxim took NPR around Pechatniki, his working-class neighborhood dotted with socialist era flats. He talked about his political coming-of-age.
MOTIN: Six months ago, four months ago, it was impossible that I go to politics, because it was closed.
WEXLER: Even municipal assembly seats, nonpaid positions with no real power, seemed sewn up for the ruling United Russia Party. That is, until Maxim started hitting the pavement as an Independent.
MOTIN: I visited more than 2,000 flats, each evening during free hours and say hello, my name is Maxim Motin, please vote for me.
WEXLER: Two women he greets outside his own apartment building did vote for him. They work as concierges in the complex.
They like that he's young, local and seems responsive. He asked what they need and immediately hears that they haven't gotten paid in months by the management company they work for. This is way beyond his meager powers to solve, but he calls the company anyway.
MOTIN: (Foreign language spoken)
WEXLER: We hop into Maxim's Mitsubishi SUV and he points out the problems he believes he can fix; a sprawling cement factory that's fouled the air for years. It became a real nuisance when new residential high-rises went up just across the street.
MOTIN: Yes, it's very close. And you know, many young people, they have asthma.
WEXLER: Close down the cement factory was the first thing Maxim heard from the voters he wooed. This is doable, he says, since it only employs about 100 people and judges have already ruled that it should be shut.
Number two on the neighborhood wish list: he gestures to a row of streetlights.
MOTIN: Most of those lights don't work. It's very cheap. It's not so big money. I can do it.
WEXLER: He's confident he can succeed because unlike many of his fellow deputies in the municipal assembly...
MOTIN: I'm young. I have energy and have my business.
WEXLER: His business, called Football Market, advises big firms on how to sponsor soccer teams and organize tournaments. By contrast, most municipal assemblies in Moscow are packed with teachers and others who depend on the government for their day jobs, and shy away from tough questions. Maxim doesn't, so if he sees a repair that could be made for about 5,000 rubles, he won't be afraid to say...
MOTIN: Why you do it for 100,000? I can ask about it. And it's very bad for people that I can ask.
WEXLER: The ladies in the courtyard want him to keep a close eye on the neighborhoods $2 million budget from the city. He insists he's not afraid to expose corruption, but his parents do worry.
MOTIN: They just ask me be careful.
WEXLER: Maxim's electoral victory isn't the first event to bring the foreign press to Pechatniki. The bombing of an apartment house here in 1999 was one of the terrorist attacks that triggered Russia's Second Chechen War and consolidated Vladimir Putin's hold on power. Twelve years later, Putin's insistence on staying in power mobilized Maxim. He remembers the moment last September when President Dmitry Medvedev announced he would trade jobs with Putin.
MOTIN: I hate when somebody from the government thinks that we are very stupid. It's not true. We are not so stupid as they think.
WEXLER: Then came the apparent ballot box fraud in December's parliamentary election. Maxim and his friends monitored the polls in Pechatniki for the presidential vote, a civic duty many young Russians embraced.
Though Maxim's municipal assembly only meets once a month, he's determined to get some things done for his constituents by the summer. His term is five years. Maxim Motin has an 18-year plan.
MOTIN: I want to be a president of Russia.
WEXLER: But before he runs for president of Russia, he'll be focusing on streetlights, not street demonstrations.
Martha Wexler, NPR News, Moscow.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.