It’s one thing to go on strike in the centre of London, surrounded by tens of thousands of like-minded individuals. It’s another to single-handedly try and launch a movement in a place that is actively hostile to your message.
For the vast bulk of 33 weeks, 24-year-old violinist Arshak Makichyan led a solo climate protest in Moscow. He’s been ignored, dismissed, and, most recently, arrested. But he keeps going.
“This is about our future,” the activist told the BBC, brandishing his trusty cardboard sign, reading, ‘Забастовка за климат’ (climate strike). “Russia is the world’s fourth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and our government won’t act without pressure. So it’s important to strike for the climate.”
He takes part in stunts, such as digging a grave for fossil fuel companies to discuss the terrible consequences of burning fuels. This came shortly after the Russian Energy Forum, where leaders discussed the future of fossil fuels.
In recent weeks, as awe about Makichyan’s stubborn commitment to the environment built, other young activists became interested in sharing his message.
Still waiting for the trial.
My 34th week.
Near the Norwegian Embassy
We’ve given them a letter with Greenpeace Russia.
“Don’t set a bad example to Russia,
— Arshak Makichyan (@MakichyanA) November 1, 2019
However, there is a major roadblock: Makichyan’s petitions for a mass protest have been denied. In Russia, protest is illegal unless approved by the local government — and the country, from Putin on down, has more interest in belittling climate activists and talking up the economic opportunities of melting ice caps than empowering climate defenders.
So the young people found an innovative and legal way to support him: standing in a queue and taking it in turns to strike for a few minutes each.
“I think they’re afraid the climate protests will grow here and they can’t argue with the science,” Mackichyan told the BBC, when asked why the Government was so hostile to the climate message. “They’re attacking Greta, because that’s easier.”
Then, in late October, Arshak Makichyan was arrested.
“There will be a trial and I can be arrested for up to 10 days or fined, but for now I’m free. Why were we detained? For 3 person standing on the square,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We’ve sent an application for a mass strike and they refused us illegally. What else can we do?”
Nevertheless, as he waits for an outcome, Makichyan seems as focused as ever on tackling the global climate crisis.
“There are a lot of people who ask, how they can help me? But even if I’ll be jailed for 10 days, nothing terrible going to happen,” he posted.
“We need to help countries where people are already suffering and dying from the climate crisis. Help them, I’ll be fine. Thanks!#ClimateJustice.”
Tags: Activism, Climate crisis, Climate Strike, Russia
Had a very nice meeting with activists from Japan, now going to a conference in St. Petersburg.
Still waiting for the trial, something wrong with our system, they can’t even organize a trial.
Maybe they afraid of us? Or feeling themself stupid? Fair enough 🙂 pic.twitter.com/ARNitMPkov
— Arshak Makichyan (@MakichyanA) November 5, 2019