Sunday, March 19, 2017

Putin Officials Paid Russians to Take Part in ‘Crimea is Ours’ Demonstrations

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 19 – In yet another indication that enthusiasm for “Crimea is Ours” may be far less than many think, Moscow backers – likely officials --paid many of those who did take part in demonstrations yesterday up to 400 rubles (about seven US dollars) to do so, a far from trivial amount in a country where monthly Internet connectivity costs about that much.

            (For background, see and and the comments of Russian sociologists on the declining significance of “Crimea is Ours” among Russians at

            Earlier Russian officials had ordered universities and government firms to dispatch to the jubilee celebrations specific quotas of people from their staffs, students and employees. But to ensure that the demos were large enough, RBC reports, officials organized a system of paying people to show up (

The organizers of this effort told potential participants that if they showed up for three hours of participation, they would be paid 400 rubles each.  They even posted ads on line about this, but then took them down in order to deny what they had done.  But the RBC news agency took a screenshot and so has evidence of this program.

According to the agency’s journalists, “no fewer than 2,000” people lined up to get paid for participation. RBC did not say whether this effort to boost crowd size was duplicated in other Russian cities, but there is every reason to believe that what Moscow does, others will be inclined to copy slavishly.

Some of those who came for money were unhappy that the authorities weren’t paying them more. According to one quoted by RBC, officials had given those who turned out for the demonstrations on the February 22 Day of the Defender of the Fatherland 50 rubles more than they were doing this time around.

            Elsewhere in the Russian Federation, many were upset by official efforts to boost attendance at events marking this anniversary. In Kazan, officials decided not to have a meeting at all, and in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, people complained about being forced to take part in such actions (

Such responses may mean that efforts to boost the significance of this anniversary may prove counter-productive not only by reminding Russians of the kind of state they live under but also causing them to reflect about what Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea has cost them and their families.

To say this, of course, does not mean that many of the roughly 150,000 Russians who took part were not enthusiastic or that many who didn’t nonetheless back Putin’s imperial land grab. Indeed, while officials tried to control the placards people carried, those people wrote themselves provide evidence of this.

Two such slogans stand out in particular. Some demonstrators carried signs that may have been printed declaring they were “for the Motherland, for [Russian] independence from the US, and for Putin.”  Another, handwritten said “Crimea has been Ours for Three Years: America, Accept Defeat” ( and

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