But anti-Putin Muscovites, organizing themselves through Facebook and the Russian-language VKontakte rather than through opposition parties and groups, appear to have handed everybody another surprise by showing up in numbers that journalists on the scene agreed were closer to the 20,000 estimate.
"No one expected it to end like this; the police reaction was way too harsh," says Alexei Larionov, an economist who says he hasn't attended a protest since 1991. "I got hit myself. It certainly looked like the police were under orders to be really tough. I think that had a lot to do with Putin's inauguration tomorrow. They wanted to give us a clear warning. But I don't think protests will stop because of this. This will continue."