«Forbidden territory» is a map of places where it is prohibited to have public meetings and demonstrations.
Since 2012 the laws concerning public demonstrations have been actively changing in Russia. On the federal as well as regional level. Each constituency has a list of «protected places», where it is forbidden for a political meeting to take place. This year there has been a new discussion about the necessity of a legal change due to a mass of government prohibitions in hundreds of Russian cities, thousands of detainees and the criminal charges that followed (for a political meeting to take place its organizers have to notify the authorities a few days in advance; and under certain conditions the authorities could in principle restrict or prohibit a demonstration). Having analyzed the federal and the regional law and having turned the existing prohibitions into a map, by example of 16 major cities we are showing here how the people’s right to «gather peacefully and without arms», guaranteed by the paragraph 31 of Russian Constitution, is being upheld in reality.
In 2012 the State Duma has complicated the order of organization for political meetings: there appeared some new strict requirements on the organizers and the participants of public demonstrations; meanwhile the fines for breaking the law at a political meeting have been increased significantly. Besides these regulations the new law had several paragraphs, unnoticed by the public, which laid the foundation for regulating and restricting public demonstrations on the regional level. The document included an instruction for the regional legislative powers to institute «additional» lists of places, where it was to be prohibited to gather publicly. In addition, the local governments were supposed to choose the spaces for the new
It is usually in the
Some regions started working on the new regulations already in 2012. This work was going on for several years, and by the beginning of 2017 the new regulations were present in every region’s local laws. Usually, the documents were supplied by a list of places (such as «government buildings» or «educational institutions», «railway stations» or «public transportation stations»), provided with the minimal distance from them at which a public meeting was allowed to take place.
While those regulations are not applied in real life, it is hard to evaluate their real consequences. The scale of the new restrictions is completely unclear: is it just about some specific spaces, where a public demonstration could not take place; or does it lead to the whole city being unaccessible for a political meeting (and especially its central area, which is the most important spot for public demonstrations' organizers)? It is almost impossible to follow the new laws: the organizers and the participants could at every moment and very easily
It is very simple: if you decide to organize a political meeting, a demonstration or a march, you will not be allowed to do so on the red colored territory. Elsewhere they might or might not allow you to gather publicly, but in this case the law and the Constitution are definitely on your side. Furthermore, if you (even accidentally) become a participant of a demonstration on the red colored territory, it provides legal reason for you to be arrested and detained as a participant of an
The territories where it is now forbidden to organize a demonstration are red colored. The new
All of the Russian cities with the population above million will be included in the map, except Voronezh (see below). This is Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Samara,
Voronezh did not make it to the map, because it is really unclear what are the spaces there where it is now forbidden to organize a public demonstration:
«In order to protect the rights and freedoms of men and citizens, to uphold the law and to guarantee public security this clause determines the spaces, where organization of a public demonstration is prohibited, in addition to places listed in the Federal law. Those are the places, where a public demonstration can intervene with the functioning of
By creating the map we used two groups of data:
On the details of the two groups of data see below.
The lists of «protected places», where it is prohibited to organize a public demonstration, are given in the Federal law about political meetings (page 8), as well as the regional laws (with the exception of Moscow, where there are no directly prohibited «protected places»). The lists of
Legislative and executive powers in the regions constantly change those documents. In particular, while we were working on the project, the amount of
In regional laws there is no consistency in terminology. Moreover, certain terms are not defined (in the best case scenario the reader would be foggily referred back to some federal law), and the reader cannot always be sure on how to interpret the text. Unclear formulations, which create a lot of problems for organizers of public demonstrations, their participants and the local governments and the police, and which, by themselves, are effectively a restriction, obviously decrease the quality of the map. Working on the map, we grouped similar objects based on our common sense. For instance, «social services», «social services organizations», «social infrastructure», «social organizations» and «organizations for social protection» are grouped into one category.
One example of a fuzzy formulation is the use of the terms like «(immediately) adjacent territory» instead of the exact minimal distance. For simplicity and unity, in these cases we chose the overall longest minimal distance prescribed for this kind of object throughout all the Russian regions. If no region has a specific minimal distance for this kind of object, we defaulted it to 150 meters.
The same problem arises with the square of the
In certain regions the regulations depend on the format of a public demonstration. For instance, some regulations only apply to meetings.
In accordance with the Federal Law, a meeting is «a mass gathering of citizens in a certain place in order to express an opinion about some current problem, predominantly of a political or a social character».
The map only has those territories, where it is forbidden to organize any public demonstration. Meanwhile, there are many territories, not marked on the map, where the organization of a public demonstration is legally complicated: for example, an additional notification and confirmation from FSO or FSB is needed, or some other
The geographical data were collected from the open source database OpenStreetMap (henceforth OSM). OSM is an open source (licensed by ODbL) map of the world. Those data, created by volunteers, helped our project, but also put some additional restrictions on it, described below.
From this OSM database we collected all the objects (places) included in the laws and pick for each of them the legally prescribed buffer zone (the minimal radius, within which it is forbidden to organize a public demonstration).
NB: The classification in the database and the classification in the legal documents do not always match, especially considering the fuzziness of the legal documents.
NB: The quality of the map crucially depends on the quality of the geographical data about particular cities. The sites mentioned in the laws might be absent, incorrectly marked or be in the wrong place. The project did not fix the data from the database. We hope that the quality of the data will grow steadily and those problems will slowly go away. Since not all the sites are present on the map (for instance, in Nalchik all the children playgrounds are absent), the «forbidden territory» on the map can be considered to be smaller than in reality.
For now the resident houses are not taken into account, although they are sometimes mentioned in the legal acts (e.g. in Bashkortostan). The main reason is the lack of distinction between the resident houses and other buildings in the source of the geographical data.
Temporary restrictions which could not be marked on OSM are also not taken into account, such as construction and repair sites, old outdated houses (Nizhny Novgorod), places of public events or markets (Volgograd, Nalchik).
Before working on the data, we created a summary table for all types of objects (sites), where each object (site) is assigned one of the following values:
The buffer zones were prescribed following the above logic. The resulting zones are integrated into the general «prohibited territories».
Apart from the visualization, map contains statistical summary. For this within the borders of a city the following numbers are calculated:
For now the areas where public demonstrations could not physically be organized (e.g. water objects, buildings themselves) were not subtracted from «the whole area of the city».