Summer of Discontent.
Page 1/4.
Photographs by
Brian Fitzgerald.

On June 11th 1998 a group of about 400 Russian miners from Rostov, Vorkuta, the Russian Arctic Cirlce and Siberia marched on the "White House" (the Russian parliament) in Moscow to demand payment of unpaid wages. Some had not been paid for over ten months and they vowed to stay until they were paid and Boris Yeltsin stepped down. Operating in shifts they spent the summer sleeping on nearby Gorbaty bridge, talking with other disgruntled workers, marching and protesting. By the end of August their numbers had dwindled to approximately 200 defiant but resigned men.

It is hard for the men to leave the mining communities where they work, since many are paid in a form of company scrip, good only at the mine cafeteria and local shops. They may be able to scrape enough together for a train ticket sometimes but have little or nothing on which to live outside of their towns.

As the photographer noted, these men are often seen as a barometer for public opinion, they embody the ideal "Russian Cowboy".


Hard workers who have had to put up with inconceivable hardship. Despite what seems like a defeat this year with no resolution to the economic problems facing Russia it is likely that they will return in the coming spring with more visible protests in the capital.

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