February 27th 2015. It’s Friday at the restaurant in St. Petersburg where Georgij, 23, works as a PR specialist. That weekend he was even busier than usually, as the place was hosting an art exhibition and there were guests all around the place. But Gosha, that’s how most people call him, cannot complain – working in the world of advertisement in a metropolis like Saint Petersburg was what he wanted to do after all. That had become his ambition since his third year at University, when he had realized he would never become a journalist in Russia. In facts, after college Georgij wasn’t really sure about what to do in the future, and the Faculty of Journalism of Belgorod University had seemed to be a good choice. Thanks to some teachers there he had the possibility to create his own point of view on society, politics and Russia. But as his knowledge grew, he became more and more skeptical about the actual possibility to become a journalist in his country. He had started to realize that reporting news in an objective way wasn’t really popular in the Russian Federation, especially in a small province like Belgorod, where he lived and studied.
That’s why he decided to move to the big city, once he had accomplished his studies. And that’s why on February 27th he was at work at the Petersburg restaurant when he found out about what had happened in Moscow. He was having a quick look at the news on his mobile when read that Boris Nemcov, Putin’s opponent, had been murdered in the center of the Russian capital.
Georgij was shocked and started to look for more details online. “Who did this? Why?” was his first thought. Georgij, who loves sports and cinema, is also very interested in politics and knew exactly who Nemcov was and why his death would cause a crisis within Russian political opposition. A strong, serious and respected man, definitely a leader, probably the brightest leader of Russian opposition. That’s the reason why the Western media guessed Putin might have been involved in his murder, as Boris Nemcov was probably his most relevant opponent. But was Nemcov really a threaten for the Russian emperor? Could someone actually threaten Putin anyway? Gosha doesn’t believe that Vladimir Putin asked someone to murder him. He actually wouldn’t need to ask something like that, as the system built around his person knows exactly what the President wants and would die to satisfy his deepest desires and eliminate every possible obstacle on his path toward absolute leadership. In such a proved context, it had few importance to define who had done it – whether the Chechens, the opposition itself or some Putin hitman – because what really and tremendously mattered was that someone had been killed in the center of the capital with no apparent reason apart from a divergent opinion.
Russian media dealt with the event. Of course they couldn’t avoid to tell that such a public and well-known person had been killed, but they did it in the Russian way. No conjectures nor devastated praises filled the official news in those days, just stately pieces in honour of a respectable former gubernator and not much more.
Of course there was a considerable group of people who couldn’t accept such a terrible event and wouldn’t let it go just as an unfortunate coincidence. These people could be found in the streets of Moscow and Petersburg some days later, on March 1st, and Gosha was among them. Many young Russians, just like him, were demonstrating not only to keep the memory of the victim alive, but also to ask for a change, for a free society where people can go in the streets of the capital without the risk of being shot, no matter what party you vote for or what you think of the people inside Kremlin. Georgij is sad while he walks by the streets of Saint Petersburg, but he’s positively moved by the fact that 10,000 people are walking with him sharing his same fear but above all his same will to make a change. He’s impressed to see people from different generations gathered together in the crowd – students and retired people, sharing the love for freedom and democracy.
Despite of the impressive participation to these events, no authorities took part to the public demonstrations in honour of Boris Nemcov and the great majority of Russians, including the quasi totality of youth, didn’t show any kind of interest in what happened. Gosha thinks these people don’t see what is happening in their country and even if they see, they just don’t care because what really matters is having bread and money to survive, and this is something Putin was very good at providing them. Back in the 90s, explains Gosha, people had just been thrown into capitalism without any caution, and the results were people starving in the streets with no roof on their heads. Then came Vladimir Putin, telling them that Russia was still a great country and giving them the possibility to reborn together with their beloved nation. Who cares if there’s no democracy nor liberty of expression, Putin gave them money and bread and that’s why they’d always support and trust him.
Today Gosha is 24 and he’s planning to attend the demonstation that has been organised for next Saturday, the aniversary of Nemcov’s brutal death. People are going to demonstrate in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and in other main Russian cities. Has Gosha lost his hopes, a year after this devastating event that deeply damaged the already weak opposition to Putin’s regime? His answer is firm and convinced – no, he hasn’t lost his hopes, he’s even more willing than before to help his fellow citizens to understand what’s best for them. In facts Georgij has to deal with relatives and acquaintances that support Putin but still hasn’t given up discussing with them every day, showing them documentaries and giving them material to read to make them doubt their certainties. “In the past people saw that things were different elsewhere and made the Decembrist revolt to make a change. I hope that people today will realize that we’re living in a third world country considering the level of human rights and freedom and will feel the need to change something.”