You might believe in the power of the written word as I do, but in Russia that power compels people to do things they might not otherwise have dreamed possible.
This past weekend, in protest of what they consider to be a government running amok, 12 Russian authors walked from one Moscow city park to another. It wasn't a march, they had no permits for a march. It was just a casual walk to see whether it could be accomplished without them being molested by police.
It was unannounced, unplanned, unorganized. Yet still, 10,000 people joined them on their stroll through Moscow as if together they were of one mind, one heart; one singular purpose which was to express their displeasure in the grandest, most peaceful way.
As it happened no police stopped them or accosted them or questioned them, though the group snarled traffic and nearly brought the city to a stand still. No military intervention was required to calm the crowd, because they were as calm as people out for a leisurely stroll could possibly be.
Yet they were purposeful. They demanded the attention of their government and they received it. They made their Will known not only to the people they passed but all the way to the office of President Vladimir Putin.
Russian writers, under the rule of Stalin and the Soviet Empire, were subjected to some of the harshest treatment imaginable. They were threatened, their families threatened; imprisoned for years on end with no hope for parole; forgotten and pushed to the brink of extinction. Yet still they endure. Nay--they thrive.
The walk began at the statue of writer Aleksandr Pushkin and ended across town at a statue of playwright Aleksandr Griboyedov. Although the government allowed the walk to happen undisturbed a new bill in the Russian Parliament would impose fines of about $50,000 and 740 hours of compulsory labor on public protesters who did so without a permit.
Do not be confused. This was not a battle to win the hearts and minds of the Russian people. They are already firmly focused on their chosen leaders, and I don't mean Putin or his buddies at the Kremlin. I am referring to the writers. They have captured the attention of the people. They made them think and act in ways which they have not, until now. Until they walked. They didn't throw rocks or bottles. They were not incited to violence. They did not threaten the government.
They walked. And with that walk they made their point crystal clear.
No doubt there's a story in here somewhere.....