A March and a Rally for Accessible Healthcare in Moscow

Today’s march and rally for accessible healthcare in Moscow (and against the reform of Moscow healthcare system that is going on now) were the first event where I was present not as a participant, but just as a photographer, and at the same time it was my first photographing that I made not for my own pleasure, but for a group of my friends doing a professional research of protest symbols and folklore.  A presentation of their book on Moscow protests in 2011–12 took place in Moscow right this week.

It’s a bit difficult to describe my impression about today’s rally because I have nothing to compare with: I began to take part in protest rallies only in 2011, and I haven’t previously been at ‘small’ events, only at ‘major’ meetings and marches with tens of thousands of participants.  Today there were much less people—just several thousands, not more; and it seems to me that some of them took part only in the march, not in the meeting after it.  From the stage, the organizers told about 10 thousand participants, but that was surely an overestimation.

What was really notable is, first of all, how mixed the composition of participants was.  Of the professional communities, not only doctors took part in the rally, but also university professors (plus at least one or two school teachers) and the researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences which has just suffered its own ‘reform’.  Their demands included a resignation not only of Leonid Pechatnikov, the head of Moscow Healthcare Department, but also of Isaak Kalina, the head of the Department of Education.  As to the political positions, they were also quite various.  I saw members of several leftist movements (including Gennadii Ziuganov’s the Communist Party of the Russian Federation that usually organizes its own events); Vladimir Zhirinovskii’s the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (which is actually neither liberal, nor democratic at all); real liberal parties—Grigorii Iavlinskii’s Iabloko [the Apple], Mikhail Prokhorov’s Civic Platform, PARNAS (I only didn’t see any flags of the Solidarity movement); nationalists with black, yellow and white flags of the former Russian Empire and with ribbons of Saint George; LGBT activists etc.  Pro-Putin’s United Russia officially didn’t take part in the rally (although Putin himself has already told he supports its demands), but there were several supporters of Putin nevertheless.  To my surprise, I didn’t see anybody from The Just Russia although they pretend to be a social democratic party.  What was interesting, some of the participants, according to our poll, regarded the rally as a social action, not as a political one.  As there were rather a lot of leftists, there were also some nostalgia about the Soviet time—some of the people were sure the Soviet healthcare system was really the best one.  I have no complaints against the Soviet healthcare myself, but the history of my family doesn’t fit well this idealized picture.  I saw also a placard that the reform of Moscow healthcare system was organized by agents of Washington 😉

What was also notable is that there were not so many hand-written placards and posters as previously and more printed ones that were invented on the level of organisations and movements whose members took part in the rally.  It’s difficult to understand yet whether it’s a new trend or not.

I’m not sure who’s right and who’s not in this debate about the reform of the healthcare system in Moscow.  In fact, I like some of those ideas which Pechatnikov says in his interviews, but not everything what he says; on the other hand, his opponents’ arguments are serious too.  Our officials can say clever things, but what they actually do is quite often much less clever than what they say.  And, taking into account the miserable financing of healthcare in Russia (as well as that of education or of science), it’s not a surprise that almost any reform here looks like just one more attempt of the government to save so much money as possible.  As to the healthcare in Moscow, it’s of course in an awful state now.  I experienced it first-hand a year ago, and my case was not so serious in fact; other people have much worse experience…