City In the fall of 2007 a delegation of labor and community organizers with the Organizers’ Forum (www.organizersforum.org) visited with organizers doing similar work in Moscow and St. Petersburg. One of the more moving meetings we had was with a young, passionate and spirited mother, who told the story of moving with her husband to a Moscow suburb that they could afford and finding signs while walking her baby in the nearby woodland forest that a highway was going to be built in this protected, virgin area. Her name was Yevgenia Chirikova and this became her cause as she went door to door in her apartment block and suburb trying to build support, recruited friends and students, and tried to build support in challenging circumstances to reroute the construction of safer alternative routes.
I was so impressed with her that upon returning to New Orleans I enlisted the help of a Russian speaking co-worker, Denis Petrov, and his wife to reach back out to Yevgenia and see if there was any way we could help or support her work. Time, language, and imagination all probably stood in the way, so in spite of the initial enthusiasm of her response, nothing really developed, until yesterday, when I got an email from Yaroslav Nikitenko, a physics student who has joined this effort whole heartedly, and was writing to update me on the situation and ask for any help possible since the effort to save the Khimki Forest has reached a critical juncture.
The twin towers of power in Russian politics have been Valdimir Putin, who as President was a promoter of this project and continues to support it as Prime Minister, and the current President Dmitri Medvedev. In the fall of 2010 activists seemed to have won some reprieve when Medvedev halted the steps to construction for review, but at the end of the year, the project D greenlighted against despite substantial opposition in the community and throughout Moscow to the project. There are lots of other issues that are endemic to current Russian politics that muscle their way into this fight including massive corruption that seems hardwired to any highway construction in the country and raises the costs as much as 50 times comparable jobs building in the USA and elsewhere, and brutality and corruption which have seen journalists beaten and in one case crippled, visits by “child protection” to Evegenia’s home to question her fitness as a mother and insinuate that there were reports of child abuse, and countless stories of rallies and demonstrations rousted and stopped.
Bottom line is that the Save the Khimki Forest Movement, Evegenia, Yaroslave, and the crew, Muscovites, and just maybe the ability of the Russian people to have a voice and organize, need our help. Luckily, they are only asking for us to sign a petition at this point, which seems almost too lame but is the least we could do, so how about a hand by clicking below and sending them some help!