Russian truckers test a new protest model

Tractor trailers line a highway in St. Petersburg during Russia’s truckers strike in March 2017
March 27, 2017: Striking truckers line the main Moscow highway outside St. Petersburg to protest the new “Platon” road tax on long-haul vehicles (source: dpa)
  • A road tax administered by a presidential crony has infuriated Russian truckers
  • Because they are self-employed, the truckers strike was difficult to outlaw or control
  • The protest linked nonviolent techniques of urban opposition with working-class issues
  • Merging middle-class and rustbelt revolt may complicate the 2018 presidential election

This spring, Russia’s long-haul truckers went on a nationwide strike. According to the independent Association of Haulers of Russia (OPR), the protests involved more than half a million angry truck drivers in almost every region of Russia. The immediate effect was local shortages, especially of perishable foodstuffs, raising concern about more upward pressure on food prices.

The Kremlin has responded forcefully, deploying security forces to break up rallies, arresting ringleaders, and even blocking a push-to-talk smartphone app called Zello that had been used to organize protests. One telltale of the level of official concern was the near-total media blackout, making it hard to gather information on how many people may have taken part.

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