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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dissenters to March In Nizhny Novgorod

NIZHNY NOVGOROD -- Opposition activists plan to hold an unsanctioned Dissenters' March here on Saturday, the first such protest since the National Bolshevik Party was banned and declared an extremist organization.

Writer Zakhar Prilepin, an organizer of the demonstration, said members of the now-banned party, including founder Eduard Limonov, would continue to take part in opposition events as private citizens.

"They won't be coming to public events wearing party armbands and carrying membership cards in their pockets, since they could very likely face criminal charges for that now," Prilepin said, adding that in his view, the Moscow City Court's ruling was "absurd."

The court last week declared the unregistered party an extremist organization, allowing authorities to arrest anyone who takes part in its activities.

The National Bolsheviks played an active role in The Other Russia, a coalition of opposition groups that includes Garry Kasparov's United Civil Front and Mikhail Kasyanov's Popular Democratic Union, which has staged Dissenters' Marches in Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as Nizhny Novgorod.

The Other Russia tried to rally without permission on Nizhny Novgorod's Gorky Square in late March. Hundreds of riot police cordoned off the area and some 100 people were detained.

Despite the limited success of their first attempt, the organizers vowed to march again on Gorky Square this Saturday. As before, City Hall rejected their request for a permit and proposed alternative sites outside the historical city center. But since the stated goal of the march was to protest against new construction in the city center, the organizers refused.

They proposed instead to hold the demonstration on Ploshchad Svobody, next to a monument to the heroes and victims of the 1905 revolution. Once again, the city turned down their request, insisting that the square was too small to accommodate the expected crowd.

The choice of Ploshchad Svobody is symbolic. It is located next to the ruins of a stockade that was used as a prison in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Alexei Peshkov, who would rise to fame as the writer Maxim Gorky, was imprisoned here in 1901. Later, participants in the 1905 uprising against tsarist rule were held here.

Organizer Stanislav Dmitriyevsky said this Saturday's event would attract fewer people than the previous event.

"We didn't have much money to get the word out, so we set ourselves a less ambitious goal and that's why the main issue of this protest is more local," he said. "We don't expect many activists from Moscow or other cities to travel here on Saturday."

"And when we filed the application, we didn't know that Saturday would be a working day," he said.

Dmitriyevsky said Saturday's meeting was an "intermediary" event, and that the protest season would reach its peak in the autumn during the State Duma election campaign.

Dmitriyevsky is head of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, which was shut down by court order last October. That decision has been appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.