Have You Heard of #Navalny? Well, He Ruined My Painting.

You guys. Navalny.

Stay with me for a sec, the back story is important.  I'll keep it brief.

He is one of the major "opposition" leaders here in Russia, which means he is anti-Putin.  Yesterday, he went on trial for embezzlement...I'm not sure if he was set up or what, but it seem like people think it is very politically motivated because Navalny himself was a whistleblower for corruption and embezzlement under Putin's administration.

Anyway, on Thursday, he was convicted for 5 years on embezzlement charges, and Russia just erupted with protests.  Harmless ones, no rioting or stampeding or anything like that, but protests nonetheless. I think around 200 people were detained, and they estimate that in Moscow, up to 10,000 people showed up in the streets to protest the unfair ruling.  They had protests erupting all across Russia for Navalny.  Heck, #Navalny was even trending in Canada.

I didn't think much about it last night.  This morning, I left the apartment around 9:30 and headed to the Church of Christ the Savior.  I had a drawing all sketched out that just needed to be painted, and today was the day.

The first weird thing I noticed when I got off the Metro was that the gate to the grounds by the church was closed, and there was a guard stationed there.  At first, I thought it might just be because the church didn't open until 10 or something, but as I walked out of the Metro further, I could see stanchions set up everywhere.  Like, everywhere.

I couldn't even GET to the church--I had to cross the street.

The view from across the way: huge line to get in.  Usually, you can just walk straight on to the plaza in front of the church, but not today.

I followed where these guys were going, because they looked like they miiiiiight be headed to the church too, and I had no idea how to get there.  

It was a little scary, but there were so many other pedestrians there. They were all acting normal, so I just acted normal too. 

Still following these guys...I ended up having to cross the street, walk down to another street, go through three Russian crosswalks (no small feat, I assure you), and walk alllllll the way down one side of a street and back up another just to get in line.  It was pretty much like walking around the entire perimeter of Temple Square. I spent about an hour just getting in line.

We had to pass through a security checkpoint...

And then walk a lot more....

And then pass through ANOTHER security checkpoint...

And finally, we could go in. I have never seen this place so empty.  It was weirdddd.

NO ONE on the grounds! Wild!

Well, once I was inside, I tried to get down to the park area where my little church was, but no such luck.  Everything was blockaded off.  I even tried asking one of the police if he spoke English, and just told him I wanted to go там, there, and pointed.  He gestured and pointed in Russian to go around the church, so I tried to figure out how to get there, but ultimately I couldn't.

So, I decided to walk back to the Metro and go to another church.

I ended up starting another sketch to paint this beaut, which was at a monastery just a half mile away.  It took me a couple hours to sketch it, and by the time I was done, I just really didn't want to start a painting.  So I decided to walk back to the Metro, which was right by the Church of Christ the Savior.

And holy crap, there were even MORE police!

They had, like, seven of these huge army trucks, and policemen just started pouring out of all of them, and I was right in the middle of it.

I was definitely nervous, but since there were no huge crowds and there were still unconcerned pedestrians on the street, I figured I was still okay.  Nevertheless, I started walking in the direction of the Metro--which, coincidentally, was also the direction our intrepid Russian police force was heading.

Put another sticker on my Brave Chart! Jeez!!

THIS was the mass I was swept up in.

And of course, the line to get in was even longer now. It wrapped around the corner and down the side of the church.

This is me, literally walking shoulder-to-shoulder with 100+ Russian police officers.  Let's just say my heart was racing a bit. At this point, I was definitely starting to get more nervous, but I felt like I would be okay. Plus, I couldn't really go anywhere else--there was really only one way to go because of the stanchions.

They just kept coming...and coming...and coming....

I tried to follow them across the crosswalk to walk in front of the church and be on the same side of the street as the Metro entrance, but no such luck.  Once I had crossed, a guard told me and another lady that we had to go back the way we came.

So, because of the way the streets joined up, I had to cross one, two, three, four, FIVE crosswalks to get to the other side of the street in front of the church, then another one to get to the metro.  Once I crossed the street, I saw all of the policemen lined up in front of the church:

It was so weird. I don't think I've ever seen that many police together in one place in real life.  From across the street, I was able to FINALLY get back to the Metro and get home safely.

Yes, anticlimactic, I know, but hey--I survived being surrounded by police. In a foreign country. Where I don't speak a lick of the language.

Fun times, definitely.


UPDATE: Okay, now do you want to hear something that will make it even MORE anticlimactic? It might take a sticker away from my Brave Chart and make this whole thing seem a LOT less impressive, but hey, it's also kind of funny, so I feel like I must share it with you.

So, Tim and I went back the very next day so that we could look at buying a ring for me at the church store.  The lines were still there, stanchions, police, whole nine yards.  I was telling Tim all about my crazy experience last time I was here, and how it was kind of intense, and how I was surrounded by police, etc etc. And he was telling me, as I'm sure most of you would, that next time I should just get the heck away from the whole thing as fast as I could.  


But anyway, seeing as how Tim speaks the language and all, we decided to ask a guard about the whole setup and how long it would be there.  

And it turns out...

The whole thing had nothing to do with Navalny.

They brought an old relic, a cross, in from Greece and all of this massive amounts of security and police force was for that. 

A cross.  From Greece.

Well, now I feel sheepish. 

What a difference language and communication makes, huh? But hey, at least I know I was safer than I thought...no rioting in Moscow for this girl! Still, what an adventure.

Speaking of adventures, stay tuned, because I am still in the middle of writing about our trip to St. Petersburg, and I haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet!