When Mr. Putin was asked about the display of public anger, he said, “Are those people atheists?” Then he suggested the matter be settled by conducting a poll. The city’s mayor said work would be suspended, pending the survey. Separately, a new survey by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center shows that 74 percent of those questioned do not want the cathedral built in that location. It isn’t clear what will eventually happen, but the protesters stood up to the power structure, which in today’s Russia very rarely listens to popular demands or criticism.
In the second case, two journalists, Ivan Safronov and Maxim Ivanov, published an article based on unidentified sources in the Moscow business daily, Kommersant, reporting that the speaker of the upper chamber of parliament might be replaced by Mr. Putin. The two journalists were fired. Other journalists said the oligarch who owns the publishing house, Alisher Usmanov, ordered the ouster because the pair refused to reveal their sources for the story. (Mr. Usmanov denied interfering.) In protest, about a dozen other Kommersant journalists quit the politics department of the paper, and more than 180 journalists have since signed an open letter backing their colleagues and decrying “direct pressure on journalists.”
Mr. Putin’s years in power have been characterized by a gradual silencing of independent voices, often when owners friendly to the Kremlin take over news outlets, as occurred at Kommersant. Only a few truly independent organizations remain. It is extraordinary and encouraging to see so many journalists push back. Analyst Kirill Rogov correctly noted that such collective action “is the main enemy of despotism.” And collectively, some Russians are stirring.