Those opposed to the adoption ban accuse Putin's government of stoking anti-American sentiments in Russian society in an effort to solidify support among its base, the working-class Russians who live in small cities and towns and who get their news mainly from Kremlin-controlled television.
Putin has turned his back on the new Internet generation in Moscow and other large cities, exacerbating a divide in Russian society that seems likely only to deepen in coming years.
Protests against the adoption ban were held Sunday in a number of other Russian cities, but in most places only a few dozen people took part. In St. Petersburg, about 1,000 people turned out to show their opposition to the law and to Putin. Some held up a poster that read "Don't play politics using children."
French actor Gerard Depardieu, who took Russian citizenship this month and considers Putin a friend, spoke out against the opposition in an interview shown Sunday on Russian state television. "The opposition has no program, nothing at all," the actor said, echoing Putin. "There are very smart people like (former world chess champion Garry) Kasparov, but that's only good for chess. And that's it. But politics are a lot more complicated."
The adoption ban also revived anger over the December 2011 parliamentary election, which independent observers said was won by Putin's party through widespread fraud. A column of marchers on Sunday held a banner calling for the State Duma, the elected lower house, to be disbanded.
"The Duma that now adopts these kinds of laws is illegitimate. It was formed with the theft of 100 million votes," said opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former Duma member who lost his seat when independent members were ousted in 2007. "It doesn't have the moral or political right to adopt laws for us. The disbanding of the Duma and the overturning of the law: That's why people, including me, came out today."