(MOSCOW) — Alyona Bykova still remembers the excitement she felt attending one of the first massive opposition rallies in Moscow last December.
“There was a very happy feeling because there were really nice people all around with funny slogans and we had a feeling that something is changing right now. We had a feeling that history was happening right before our eyes,” she recalled.
But now, as organizers prepare for another rally on Saturday to mark a year of protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the system that surrounds him, Bykova’s optimism has waned. In fact, she says she does not even plan to attend the rally.
“I don’t really see what could change,” she said. “Then I had a feeling that probably this could change something. However, now I’m not really sure that keeping to this protest street movement is something for me.”
Bykova does not think the situation in Russia has improved. In fact, she believes things are getting worse. She is disillusioned with the repeated protests that she says have accomplished little over the past year. She sees little chance they’ll work now.
“We can work on this downstairs level,” she says, referring to local campaigns that she still remains involved in. “But upstairs is untouchable. There’s nothing we can do. To make Putin go away, there’s nothing we can do.”
The protests, she lamented, “have been marginalized.”
ABC News first met Bykova in late February, just a few weeks before the Russian presidential election. She was attending an evening class to learn how to be an election monitor, part of a new wave of young Russians who were determined not to allow another election to be stolen. At the time she was hopeful that change was coming to her country.
“The whole society is getting mature. People didn’t care about politics, about real social life for years, for decades,” she said at the time. “Now they have this yearning for more.”
Today, she still feels that Russia is on the cusp of change, but thinks it may be farther down the road than she had hoped.
“I would say we will see see some huge changes soon. Probably in the next three to five years. But right now it seems like things are getting worse just to get to the next step. I really hope that this is the case,” she said. “It’s still going on, but not that fast.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sugam Pokharel and AJ Willingham, CNN
Ivana Kottasova, CNN