City Day in Petrozavodsk. Photo: Administration of Petrozavodsk

“Moscow will burn down, and we will throw more matches.” How Russians reacted to Prigozhin's coup

June 23 and 24 will be remembered in Russia as the days of a military mutiny and an attempt by the head of Wagner PMC Yevgeny Prigozhin to carry out a coup. Despite this, ordinary life went on in the regions, and concerts, graduation parties and other festivities were held in many cities. We talked with residents of the northern regions and found out what people were talking about during and after the mercenary army’s march towards Moscow.
June 29, 2023


Natalia from Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk region

– At work, we didn’t discuss anything at all. Only work-related issues: everyone talked as if nothing had happened. When I brought up this topic, like I was at the dacha on the weekend and almost missed the revolution, the answer was: “What revolution?” I explained that Prigozhin was going to the Kremlin. I was told that this didn’t concern us, because we were far away. I think it’s weird, but I’m starting to get used to it. Today, for example, I heard a tirade about the Nazis in Ukraine from a cleaner.

Alexei (name changed), works at an educational institution in Petrozavodsk, 

– Usually we don’t discuss anything much, but it was a shock for everyone, and there was also interest. Different opinions were expressed on this matter, but most often I saw fear. People are afraid for the future and for themselves. It’s not that they take sides, they’re just confused. As for attempts to evacuate, everyone who already wanted to leave left. This time, no one was in a hurry to run anywhere.


Pomor marathon in Arkhangelsk on June 24. Photo: Arkhangelsk City | Region 29. The organizers said that it became a “marathon of worries and doubts” due to the fact that the start and finish had to be moved.




Amid the mutiny, mass events were canceled in some regions, for example, in Moscow and the Komi Republic. But this did not happen everywhere. In particular, Petrozavodsk still celebrated its City Day, Arkhangelsk celebrated the Day of Youth, and the traditional festival for high school graduates “Scarlet Sails” was held in Saint Petersburg.


Anna (name changed), an office worker from Petrozavodsk

Our Monday began with a discussion of the mutiny. Yes, and the whole Saturday and Sunday it was only this topic, and absolutely everywhere. When I was walking down the street on the City Day, some old ladies were loudly discussing this in front of me. One asked the other:

- Masha, explain to me what kind of nonsense is happening!

- So ours, who are Prigozhin’s, attacked Rostov! And ours, who are Kadyrov’s, went to liberate Rostov.

- And who recently took Belgorod?

- Also ours, but who are for Ukraine …

I believe the situation with these old ladies clearly shows the picture of Russia. I think the conclusions have been drawn and everyone understands what kind of mess we are in. People are imprisoned for reposting, but released for rebellion? Many say it was a hoax. But if this is a hoax, it is a very strange one: Putin’s authority has collapsed.

We are a very big country. If something happens in the south, the Karelians say: “We don’t give a damn – Moscow will burn down, and we will throw more matches.” People discussed mutiny like a football match and made bets. There was no cognitive dissonance: it’s a coup on the one hand and a City Day and dances on the other. “No one died - except for twenty pilots …”

City Day in Petrozavodsk. Photo: Administration of Petrozavodsk


Alyona (name changed), works in media in Petrozavodsk

The surrealism of it was this: the morning of June 24 comes, everyone is in complete shock, but we have City Day. I live near the central square where the main stage was set up. The rehearsal of the celebration begins, and at the same time in the news you hear “We are going to Moscow, we have passed Rostov, Voronezh and Lipetsk.”

On the one hand, you see on the Internet what is happening in the country: a rebellion, a military coup, and on the other hand, a hundred meters away you see what is happening in the city: patriotic songs, concerts. And the people begin to flock in droves to these events; people with balloons and children. And I understand that I’m not sleeping. This is life that is happening now.


During the Prigozhin rebellion, the authorities did little to stop the convoy advancing on Moscow. The mercenaries were attacked by aircraft of the Ministry of Defense, but the Wagnerites shot down seven of them. There are reports about the dug up road in the Lipetsk region and the demolition of a bridge in the Voronezh region. At the same time, there is no information that any single rebel has been detained: in Rostov-on-Don, the soldiers of PMC Wagner stood in the center of the city all day.


Sergei (name changed), a law enforcement officer in one of the Northwestern regions

Many were wondering how it would end. We had a lot of discussions about this in our department. There was no outrage among the people, and there was no fear or panic either. Everyone was confused and perplexed. There was a reaction like: “What’s going on?”

How would I have felt if they had turned on the TV, and Prigozhin was the new president there? I don’t even know; I would have acted according to the situation. We work here, in the provinces, almost nothing depends on us. Big shots sort it out there, and we do our duties here.

I think that [indifference] is due to the fact that the last two years have been f**ked up. Every day we see some s**t in the news. If this had been shown two years ago, it would have been breaking news. But now there’s nothing people will be surprised to see. No one really believed that something would change, everyone thought that it would end in exactly nothing. As it did.





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