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The Present

Teenager who read constitution in front of Moscow police becomes a symbol of Russian resistance

Peaceful protest in the face of Putin.

Photo credit: Alexei Abanin

Key Takeaways
  • Russians protesting for a free election process now have a new image to rally behind.
  • 17 year old Olga Misik sat in front of riot police reading the Russian constitution.
  • She read aloud the passage, which affirms the right to peaceful gatherings.

Tensions between the Russian government and protesters has reached an all-time high, as thousands have been detained and arrested these past few weeks. Indeed, on July 27, it’s estimated that 1,300 people were detained in order to prevent future protests.

As the government cracked down on a recent protest calling for a free and fair election process, a 17 year-old girl named Olga Misik sat poised in front of a line of Moscow’s infamous riot police, while she read aloud from the Russian Constitution.

The photograph of Misik has spread like wildfire across the internet and has gone viral. Supporters are likening the image to iconic “Tank Man” picture from the Tiananmen Square protests. The image of Misik is already on its way to becoming a symbol of Russian citizen’s resistance to state suppression.

Symbol of Russian resistance

Olga Misik, joined thousands of people in Moscow to protest the Russian government’s illegal prohibition of opposition candidates. Many candidates have been barred from running in local elections.

Misik arrived with friends early in the afternoon to protest. After being separated from one another she eventually came close to the front row of riot police. She decided to start reading a section of the Russian Constitution, which states that all Russian citizens “shall have the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, hold rallies, meetings and demonstrations, marches and pickets.”

Reading and waving the constitution around is a common form of protest in Russia, as it’s meant to highlight Vladimir Putin’s alleged dismissal of Article 31 — the right to free assembly.

While speaking with a Russian language independent news site, Meduza, Misik said:

“I did not expect any feedback from anyone. I just wanted to remind them that we are here with peaceful purposes and without weapons, but they are not. It never even occurred to me that someone other than them would hear it.”

Soon after, protesters noticed what she was doing and journalists and photographers flocked over to Misik. The crowd grew silent and the now viral photo was snapped. Misik further recounted:

“Then, after the riot police pushed aside all the protesters, I sat on the ground and again began to read our constitutional rights, specifying that what was happening here was illegal.”

While speaking with Meduza, Misik also mentioned that her parents aren’t very fond of her activism.

“My mother is very opposed to me going to rallies because she is afraid of the consequences, and my father just loves Putin and Stalin and considers them the best rulers and hates the protesters.”

Misik was allowed to leave following the reading. Later at a subway station she was approached by unidentified officers who detained and arrested her.

“They did not introduce themselves,” she said. “[They] did not explain the reason and grounds for detention. There was not a rally or a crowd of people in this place. They grabbed my arms and legs and dragged me down the street and through the underpass. . . I screamed that they were hurting me, but they told me that they knew better.”

She was held for a day and now must appear in court to contest the charge of “attending a public event which was held without filing a notice.”


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