A Long Happy Life

“Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense). A Long Happy Life.” Images courtesy of RedBubble

A Long Happy Life
No to commotions and celebrations
No to horizons and celebrations
No to inspirations and celebrations, no, no, no
No fish in the golden polynya
Omnipresence of petty intrigues
Evil twilight of an immortal day
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
Ruthless depths of wrinkles
Mariana trenches of eyes
Martian chronicles of us, us, us
Among the identical walls
In the faraway coffin-like houses
In the impenetrable icy silence
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
No to temptations and celebrations
No to crimes and celebrations
No to exceptions and celebrations, no, no, no
On the seven sharp drafts
Through the swamps, through the deserts and steppes
Through the snow piles, through dirt and through land
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us

Source: Lyrics Translate

 

Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense), “A Long Happy Life” (2004)

 

_______________________

Victor looked out the window at the barge passing by, thinking that everything was still ahead of him, and that the most important thing that should happen in every person’s life would happen to him. And he was convinced of this, although each time he lost more than he found.

Source: Gennady Shpalikov, “A Long Happy Life” (screenplay)

 

Gennady Shpalikov (director), A Long Happy Life (1966)

Gennady Shpalikov’s first movie as a director, based on his own script, went down in the history of Soviet cinema as an absolutely unique phenomenon. Socialist propaganda seemed to have no power over Shpalikov’s work. Free from cliches, it was like a breath of fresh air in a country that was tightly closed off from the whole world by an iron curtain. A Long Happy Life resembles the films of the French New Wave rather than other Soviet films that were shot at the time. 

Returning from an expedition, a geologist named Victor finds himself in a small provincial town, where he meets a girl named Lena. What is commonly called love at first sight arises between them. Sensing that they are kindred souls, they spend the evening and night together, sharing all the most intimate things: thoughts about life, happiness and love. However, either the morning or their inner fears of this selfsame long happy life cancel out all their plans and dreams.

Source: IVI

Mashed up and (partly) translated by the Russian Reader

#StandWithBelarus

Human Rights Foundation
HRF Raises $500,000 to Support Democracy in Belarus

Since its inception, the Belarus Solidarity Fund has provided a lifeline to democracy movements in Belarus. HRF provides modest financial assistance to those Belarusians who have been fired from their jobs, injured, arbitrarily detained, or who face steep fines because of their support for freedom and democracy in Belarus. The fund also provides equipment and assistance to independent journalists who, at great personal risk, continue to cover events in Belarus even in the face of government repression.

So far, more than 1,000 individual donors have contributed to the fund, and $450,000 have already been disbursed as direct support for journalists, human rights advocates, civil society organizations, and workers on strike against the dictatorship.

Eight months ago, fraudulent elections sparked a democratic uprising in Belarus. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens all across the country took to the streets to protest the regime of Alexander Lukashenko — who first seized power in 1994 — and express their support for freedom and democracy. For months, the peaceful protesters endured the brutality of the regime, which resorted to extreme violence, including the use of live ammunition, torture, and rape in prisons, to deter the democracy movement. According to the Human Rights Centre Viasna, in 2020 more than 33,000 individuals were detained, more than 1,000 cases of torture were documented, and at least 7 people were killed since the beginning of the protests.

HRF began closely monitoring the situation in Belarus back in May 2020, when the first protests against the Lukashenko regime started. In August, HRF persuaded American rapper Tyga to cancel a concert planned as a propaganda stunt for Lukashenko, and urged members of the Belarusian state security apparatus to lay down their arms. At the end of August, HRF set up the Belarus Solidarity Fund to aid protesters adversely affected by their support for freedom and democracy. In September, HRF hosted Belarusian democratic leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya for a talk at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

In January, the Belarusian democracy movement achieved an important victory when the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) moved the Ice Hockey World Championships away from Belarus, after facing public backlash from Belarusians, as well as the international community. HRF wrote a letter to the IIHF as part of the civil society campaign, which you can read here. This month, HRF recorded a podcast with the Belarus Sports Solidarity Foundation to discuss how Belarusian athletes are defending democracy. Going forward, HRF will continue to support the Belarusian democracy movement through direct aid, legal advocacy, and public education.

To celebrate this milestone, HRF is organizing a special Clubhouse event with our Chairman Garry Kasparov, Magnitsky Act originator Bill Browder, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and the leader of democractic Belarus Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya about what the future of the democracy movement in Belarus looks like. We will update you with details soon. The event will take place at the Oslo Freedom Forum club on Clubhouse, an audio-only social media app, where HRF holds a weekly discussion series on the most pressing human rights issues with activists from around the world.

It is more important now than ever to support the Belarusian democracy movement.

Last week, Belarusians celebrated the Day of Freedom by peacefully protesting all across the country. The demands of the protesters remain unchanged. The violence against Belarusians must be stopped, political prisoners must be released, and new, free and fair elections must be held. To further support the Belarusian democracy movement, you can help by:

Donating to the Belarus Solidarity Fund.

Writing letters to political prisoners in Belarus.

Assuming godparenthood over political prisoners.

Writing a tweet, social media post, or creating a video in support of Belarus with the hashtag #StandWithBelarus.

Source: HRF emailing. Thanks to SZ for the advice. NB. Contrary to the claim made in the text, above, Lukashenko did not “seize power” in 1994. He received over 45% of the vote in the first round and over 80% in the second round of the first post-independence presidential election in 1994, which is generally regarded as the only free and fair election held in post-Soviet Belarus. || TRR

“Stopping His Torture Is Our Common Cause”

OVD Info
Facebook
April 6, 2021

Grassroots activist Anna Margolis has been detained near the FSB building on Lubyanka Square in Moscow. In her solo picket, she called for an end to the persecution and torture of [Alexei] Navalny.

Margolis has been taken to the police department in the Meshchansky District.

https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2021/04/06/u-zdaniya-fsb-na-lubyanke-zaderzhali-piketchicu-s-plakatom-protiv

Poster: Anna Margolis. Photo: Maria Kokovkina

“Navalny’s views are his business. Your opinion of him is your business. Stopping his torture is our common cause! ‘There are countries in which corporeal punishment has been abolished whereas in our country the question of a whether a man should be flogged or not is still a matter of dispute. […] You would be perfectly justified in showing your compassion for the victims, then why don’t you?’ A[lexander] Herzen, [‘Letters to an Opponent’], 1864.”

Thanks to Elena Zaharova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Song and Dance

“Horses, men and nonsense”: song and dance as matters of state
Ivan Davydov
Republic
April 4, 2021

I must admit that I am quite unfamiliar with the work of Dima Bilan. You could even say that I’m not familiar with his work at all. It’s probably nothing to brag about, but it is what it is. I am truly grateful to Dima Bilan, however. It was he who jumped out of the piano with a violin (possibly on skates) and gifted Russia a few years of not having to discuss the “Russophobic conspiracy” at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Or maybe it was not Bilan who jumped out of the piano. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Eurovision either, and I could have mixed up the details. But Bilan definitely won the 2008 contest in Belgrade, after which Russians calmed down a little, putting up with Eurovision for the next two or even three years.

Eurovision does strange things to people. Once a year, even people with decent taste who listen to normal music in real life, and not what Russia (like all the other participating countries) sends to the contest, suddenly start following the antics of comically dressed people, counting up the points and muttering to themselves, “Ukraine… The hell with them… What can you expect from them? But the Armenians?! How could the Armenians not vote for us?”

Then, for another week, the results of the competition are discussed not only on TV talk shows, but even in serious publications, not to mention social media.

New trends
Before Bilan’s victory, Russians every year rediscovered Europe’s alleged dislike of Russia: they would suffer fits of outrage and curse a blue streak, wasting time and fraying their nerves. Bilan broke the goddamn chain: Russians calmed down and, for a few years, reconciled themselves to the musical freak show. At first, they were proud of Bilan’s victory and, the following year, of the incredible show (costing many billions of rubles) that Moscow put on. Then… Well, to me, an inattentive observer, it at least seemed that the controversy around the contest had subsided, and only sincere fans of bad music were still getting worked up about it.

Now the contest has not even started, and yet passions are already boiling. The singer Manizha, who will represent Russia at the Eurovision Song Contest this year, has been threatened. The lyrics of her song have been analyzed by members of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, at their sittings, and spokesmen for the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Muslim leaders have weighed and judged the song before TV viewers have even voted. Hired and voluntary Twitter campaigners against “Ukrainian fascism” have forgotten their vocation, denouncing Manizha without mincing their words. I won’t even quote them: there is not a word in what they’ve written that is not punishable under the Russian Criminal Code. (By the way, have you noticed that professional Russian fighters against “fascism” are mostly brownshirts and smell accordingly?)

Interestingly, drift of the polemics has changed. Previously, people looked for a conspiracy after the contest was over, and they looked for it outside Russia. Now we have achieved total clarity about the conspiracy “from without”: all high-ranking officials talk about the “hybrid war” against Russia every day in unison, and to prove its existence, they no longer need to refer to the results of the Eurovision Song Contest. Now they are hunting for internal enemies, and prior to any international vote.

Manizha, “Russian Woman,” Russia’s entry for the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest

I know the work of the singer Manizha a little better than I know the work of Dima Bilan, because I listened to the song about Russian women that is going to the contest. But I don’t want to pretend to be a music critic. I’m not going to discuss the song’s merits of the composition. Instead, I intend to talk about the reaction of high-ranking Russian officials.

Offended women
I wasn’t joking about the discussion in the Federation Council. Elena Afanasyeva, a member of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee (Eurovision is an international event, after all!) subjected Manizha to a withering critique: “The song has no meaning. It is a random set of phrases by an immature thirty-year-old girl with unresolved personal problems who doesn’t know what she wants. Excuse me, what does this have to do with Russian women? The style of the performance, African-American dances, a costume similar to that of an American prison inmate. Aggressiveness, senselessness, a negative image of the Russian family.”

That is, the song smacks of a provocation: it is an obvious machination on the part of Russia’s internal enemies.

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the Federation Council, supported her colleague: “I recommend anyone who is not familiar with the lyrics of the song [to read them]. It’s about horses and men, and is basically nonsense. I don’t understand at all what it means.”

The speaker also demanded an inquiry to find out who had selected the song for the competition and how it was selected.

High-ranking Russian women have thus taken offense at the song “Russian Woman.” By the way, there is no mention of “horses” in the song, but it is quite clear why Matviyenko thought of them. They come from Mikhail Lermontov’s poem “Borodino”:

The ground shook like our breasts,
Horses and men mingled in the battle,
And the volleys of a thousand guns
Merged into a long-drawn-out howl.

So, even oblique associations put the speaker on the warpath.

Konstantin Ernst (after all, the song was chosen on Channel One) was forced to explain that the audience had voted: nothing could be done, it was will of the people. Ernst’s strategy is clear: we remember how in 2014, on the eve of the occupation of Crimea and the war against Ukraine, he managed to sell the world the image of a kind-hearted and open-minded Russia by putting on a show at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sochi. A song about the plight of a woman crushed by the patriarchal world, performed in Russian and English by an ethnic minority singer, is a similar move (and alas, it is possible that it is also being made on the eve of a new war). It is quite consistent with European trends, and could work. But it’s not a matter of trends. Europe is the same, but Russia has changed.

No black jack
The overripe Putinism of 2021 is not remotely the equivalent of the Putinism of 2014. Today’s Russia not only aspires to total control over anything its citizens do, but has been trying to exercise this control in practice. And so a pleasant freak show has been turned into a national affair in which the fatherland’s prestige is at stake. What we need now, supposedly, are not pop songs, but a solemn oratorio about the Russian nation’s acts of valor during the Second World War.

I would, by the way, send Dmitry Rogozin to the contest. He could handle the mission: it is not too late to dial everything back. It’s a shame to waste such an enormous talent.

The Eurovision Song Contest scandal has become a purely political story, another example of what the Russian state has been turning into. And yes, of course, the desire to interfere in cultural life is very important here, because the Russian state, which claims to be total, considers culture to be its exclusive bailiwick. This was the case back in the twentieth century, and the current proprietors of the state are in awe of Soviet best practices. We ordinary people hear a song that we like, dislike, or could not care less about, but they think about ideology, influencing opinion, and the blow to Russia’s image. And they see nothing else.

Dmitry Peskov, the president’s press secretary, thus sounded surprisingly reasonable when he commented on Matviyenko’s initiative: “We are talking about a show business competition at which different images are presented: there is a bearded woman performing, there are singers in chicken outfits… We do not consider it possible to comment on this or to intervene in any way.”

But let’s not forget that Peskov’s immediate superior once bluntly said that Peskov often “talks rubbish,” and his comments do not necessarily reflect the innermost thoughts of the best friend of singers and composers. The president met with young cultural figures not so long ago. Although they did not discuss Manizha, of course, the context was still legible. One of people at the meeting, the pianist Oleg Akkuratov, voiced a sore point to the supreme leader: “There is another problem. I really love songs in Russian, which are in short supply right now: at all competitions, including children’s ones, a lot of songs are sung in English. But I think that’s wrong. We need to encourage love for the Motherland, love for our country, love for our native tongue, because I think this is important for all of us. Maybe what we are missing is a Russian-language song contest? We have not, of course, completely lost our love for Soviet poetry, especially Russian poetry. But what we hear today is not meant for our ears, and especially not for children, because it is, of course, horrible.”

“I will immediately start with what I think is a large-scale and important idea – a Russian-language song contest: we will definitely think about it. I ask my colleagues in the Government and in the Administration to submit relevant proposals,” Putin replied.

Let’s have our own patriotic “Eurovision” without bearded women! Belarus, I am sure, will support us, and if we are lucky, Kazakhstan will close ranks with us, too.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Manizha, “Russian Woman” (Russia ESC 2021). Lyrics and music: Manizha, Ori Kaplan, Ori Avni

Russian text

English translation

Поле поле поле
Я ж мала
Поле поле поле
Так мала
Как пройти по полю из огня
Как пройти по полю если ты одна?
А-а-а?
Ждать ли чьей-то ручечки, ручки?
А-а-а?
Кто подаст мне ручку девочки?
Из покон веков
С ночи до утра
С ночи-ночи
Ждем мы корабля
Ждем мы корабля
Очень очень
С ночи до утра
Ждем мы корабля
Ждем бы корабля
А что ждать?
Встала и пошла.

Every Russian Woman
Needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall

Шо там хорохорится?
Ой, красавица?
Ждешь своего юнца?
Ой, красавица
Тебе уж за 30
Ало? Где же дети?
Ты в целом красива
Но вот бы похудеть бы
Надень подлиннее
Надень покороче
Росла без отца
Делай то, что не хочешь
Ты точно не хочешь?
Не хочешь?
А надо.
Послушайте, правда.
Мы с вами не стадо
Вороны пщ-щ-щ пыщ-щ-щ
Отвалите
Теперь зарубите себе на носу
Я вас не виню
А себя я чертовски люблю
Борются, борются
Все по кругу борются
Да не молятся
Сын без отца
Дочь без отца
Но сломанной Family
Не сломать меня
You gonna
You gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman
Needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman
Needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wallHey, Russian woman
Don’t be afraid, girl
You’re strong enough
You’re strong enough
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid

Борются, борются
Все по кругу борются
Да не молятся
Сын без отца
Дочь без отца
Но сломанной Family
Не сломать меня

Fields, fields, fields
I’m so small
Fields, fields, fields
I’m too small
How do you cross a field through the fire?
How do you cross the field if you’re alone?
Heeeey?
Should I wait for a helpful hand?
Whaaat?
Who will stretch out for me, girls?
For ages now
From night till dawn
From the deepest of the night
We are waiting for a ship
A Sailing ship
Waiting very much
From night till dawn
Waiting for a ship
Waiting for a ship
But what’s the wait?
Stand up, let’s go!

Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall

What’s the rattling about?
Hey, beauty!
Are you waiting for your prince?
Hey, beauty!
You’re 30!
Hello? Where are your kids?
You are cute overall
But should lose some weight
Wear something longer
Wear something shorter
Oh you grew up without a father?
You should do what you don’t want to
You sure you’d don’t want to?
Don’t want to?
You SHOULD!
Listen up, really!
We’re not a flock
Hey, crows, shoo!
Leave me alone (give me a break)
Now learn it by heart:
I don’t blame you a bit
But damn do I like myself

They just fight, always fight
Go round and round to just fight
But never pray
Boy without a father
Girl with no dad
But this broken family
Can’t break me

Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall

Hey, Russian woman
Don’t be afraid, girl
You’re strong enough
You’re strong enough
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid

They are fighting, they are fighting
Everyone around is fighting
Yes, they don’t pray
Son without father
Daughter without father
But a broken family
Does not break me

Source: Wiwibloggs

Hottest

Olga Balema, Cannibals, 2015, Installation view, Croy Nielsen, Berlin, courtesy: the artist & Croy Nielsen, Berlin

Putin Named Russia’s Hottest Man
Moscow Times
April 2, 2021

The thirst is real for Russians who still want “someone like Putin” after all these years of bare-chested horse riding and rugged hunting excursions.

According to a poll by the Superjob.ru job board published Friday, 18% of men and 17% of women surveyed named President Vladimir Putin as Russia’s most handsome man.

The 68-year-old bachelor is the only individual to receive double digits in the open-ended questionnaire. Nineteen percent of men named themselves as Russia’s most handsome man, while 18% of women said there are no handsome men in Russia.

“Russians still call Vladimir Putin the most attractive famous man in the country,” Superjob.ru declared, despite the 1% dip in his rating from last year.

“Neither actors nor athletes or other politicians can compete with him today,” it said.

Indeed, the commando-in-chief maintained a comfortable lead on his closest competitors actors Dmitry Nagiyev, Danila Kozlovsky and Konstantin Khabensky, whose handsomeness was identified by a mere 2-3% of respondents.

Superjob.ru said it carried out the in-person survey among 1,000 men and 1,000 women in more than 300 Russian cities between March 22-April 1.

The results were published days after lawmakers passed legislation allowing Putin to remain president until 2036, when Russians’ biggest crush turns 83.

Over the years and until quite recently, Vladimir Putin has consistently denied that he would amend the Russian Constitution so that he could remain in the president’s office longer than prescribed by law. But that’s exactly what he did in 2020, and now he’s signed into “law” his coup d’état. Video by Current Time TV. Thanks to @sibirskykot for the heads-up. || TRR

Putin Signs Law Paving Way to Rule Until 2036
Moscow Times
April 5, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation formally granting him the right to stay in power until 2036.

Putin’s second consecutive and fourth overall presidential term ends in 2024, the year when Russia’s previous Constitution would have required him to step down.

But an overhauled Constitution that Russians approved in a nationwide vote last year allows Putin to run for two more six-year presidential terms. If elected both times, he would remain president until 2036, surpassing Josef Stalin as the longest-serving leader of Russia since Peter the Great.

The 68-year-old signed a law Monday that resets his number of terms served, allowing him to extend his 20-year rule until he turns 83.

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, who served in 2008-2012 when Putin was constitutionally mandated to step down after his first two consecutive terms, is also granted the right to run two more times. Putin served as prime minister during Medvedev’s presidency.

Critics slammed last summer’s vote on the sweeping constitutional reforms — which contained populist economic measures and enshrined conservative values in Russia’s basic law — as a pretext to allow Putin to become “president for life.”

Putin has previously said he hasn’t yet decided whether to run for president again, saying 2024 is still far off.

The emphasis, above, is mine. Image courtesy of Frieze. || TRR

P.S. “Protesters in Myanmar took to handing out Easter eggs painted with protest messages at renewed marches in Yangon, the main city, and elsewhere around the country. They oppose the military government that seized power in February. Police shot and killed two men in the capital, Naypyitaw; over 500 people have died since the coup.” (The Economist Espresso, 5 April 2021)

“Slaughter the Gebnya!”

Grigory Severin. Photo courtesy of MBKh Media via Vkontakte

Voronezh activist accused of extremism sent for forensic psychiatric examination
OVD Info
April 4, 2021

Voronezh grassroots activist Grigory Severin, who was charged in March with “making a call for extremist activity” (punishable under Article 280.2 of the Criminal Code) over a post published on the social network VKontakte, was made to undergo a forensic psychiatric examination on April 1. This was reported to OVD Info by his wife.

The woman [sic] notes that the family was afraid that Severin would be forcibly hospitalized, but it did not happen. The results of the psychiatric examination are still unknown.

Severin is charged with writing a post in January 2019 on VKontakte that contained the phrase “Rezh’ gebniu” [“Slaughter the gebnya,” i.e. the KGB or, more generally, the current security services, especially the FSB]. According to investigators, these words constitute “a call for violent actions (murder) against employees of state security agencies.”

On February 25, Grigory Severin’s home was searched. Severin was detained, and the next day the court banned him from doing certain things in lieu of remanding him in custody: the man [sic] cannot use the internet, receive mail, and attend protest rallies and other public events. However, according to Severin’s wife, during the search of their home FSB officers employed combat techniques on the man, beating and strangling him. The activist filed a complaint with the Voronezh regional office of the Investigative Committee, claiming an abuse of power by security forces officers, but a criminal case has not yet been opened.

According to Federal Law No. 114-FZ “On Countering Extremist Activities,” violently attempting to change the constitutional order, violating the state’s territorial integrity, exonerating terrorism, promoting social inequality depending on different characteristics [sic], engaging in discrimination, committing hate crimes, and promoting Nazism, as well as calling for and planning such activities, constitute “extremism.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

Sergey Abashin: A Mishmash Instead of an Identity

Students in the middle group of the seventh form at Moscow’s Comprehensive School No. 282, where more than half of the pupils are children of foreign nationals. Photo: Alexey Kudenko/RIA Novosti. Courtesy of Republic

A mishmash instead of an identity. Why do the Kremlin’s attempts to formulate the concept of a “Russian nation” always end in xenophobia?
Sergey Abashin
Republic
April 3, 2021

On March 30, the Kremlin hosted a meeting of the Presidential Council on Interethnic Relations. Vladimir Putin opened the discussion with the following statement: “In the practice of a number of countries, civic and ethnic identities are often perceived as competitors. I consider this approach (in our country, at least) absolutely incorrect, to put it mildly, and I want to emphasize in particular that it is absolutely unacceptable for our country. A person may belong to one or another ethnic group, but we all have one country—big Russia.” It is unclear what countries the president was hinting at and what he meant by making such a contrast, but there will probably be political scientists willing explain his critique. But the arguments about “civic and ethnic identity” are a clear continuation of the previous search for an answer to the question “who are we?”, to which the current Kremlin, which likes to speculate about its historical purpose, returns regularly.

Identity issues
The intrigue in this discussion revolves around its affirmation of very different versions of self-determination. The Russian Constitution states: “The bearer of sovereignty and the only source of power in the Russian Federation is its multinational people.” The phrase “multinational people” was, in the early 1990s, a political compromise between the idea of the unity and equality of all the inhabitants of the new Russia (“the people”) and its ethnic diversity (“multinational”), which formed the basis of its avowed federal structure. The compromise did not last long, however. After the defeat of Ichkeria/Chechnya, which had declared itself self-declared independent, the Kremlin began  systematically curtailing the rights of the Russian Federation’s constituent territories and strengthening the central government. In the political reality of the 2000s, the formula “multinational people” had begun to look unsuitable: new terms were needed that would place a greater emphasis on unity and community.

In the language of the ruling elite, two competing and co-existing constructions emerged, which, although they did not figure in the Constitution, attained de facto official status. The first was the idea of “Russian civilization,” which historically united different peoples into a single community with its own “genetic, cultural and moral code,” as Putin had put it earlier. The word “civilization” imparted to Russia a lofty and important status as a discrete world, not merely one among a number of countries. It accorded well with its claims to being a great power and an alternative geopolitical center, equal in weight to the entire “western civilization,” and it also referred to the imperial and Soviet past, which could be inserted in the “civilizational” framework. Russian civilization has its counterparts—”Eurasian civilization,” that is, the community of Russia and neighboring countries, and the “Russian world”, that is, the community of Russia with separate regions and groups loyal to Russian culture. The set of countries and groups that fall into these latter categories, however, has no precise outlines and depends more on the ambitions of Kremlin politicians. The relationship between the “Russian” and “Eurasian” civilizations and the “Russian world” and their hierarchical ranking among themselves are not entirely clear, but such an internal contradiction does not really bother politicians, who easily switch back and forth between these concepts.

The second idea, which also took root in the official rhetoric, was the formula of the “Russian nation,” which in theory refers only to a civic identity that incorporates ethnic diversity. At the end of his speech at the council, Academician Valery Tishkov said, “The metaphor of the country as a civilization is important, even interesting, but it seems to me that the stricter category—the nation of the state [natsiya gosudarstva]—is more important.” It is stricter in the sense of being in compliance with the Constitution, since it is easier to bridge “the people” [narod] to “the nation” [natsiya]. And it is stricter in the sense of the language accepted in the world at large, where “nations” and “nation states” are part of the picture, which in turn emphasizes modernity. The formula “Russian nation” [rossiiskaya natsia] no longer reflects claims to historical unilateralism and uniqueness, in which one can detect undertones of isolationism and anomaly, but rather, on the contrary, to normality and usefulness to the rest of the world. “Russian nation,” however, does trigger other doubts. Ethnic minority activists see it as part of a plan to assimilate them, while ethnic Russian nationalists see it as belittling and underestimating the role of ethnic Russians [russkie].

The imperialists, for their part, find in the formula a rejection of the country’s superpower past, echoes of the “prison of the peoples” critique, and an unwillingness to maintain continuity with the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.

So far, “Russian civilization” and “Russian nation” have been used as equivalents in official rhetoric. The antagonism between the two concepts does not bother political officials, instrumentality being more important in their eyes than theoretical disputes. Officials are also in no hurry to abandon the constitutional formula of the “multinational people,” apparently finding advantages in its ambiguousness and the possibility of multiple interpretations. However, in 2020, along with other amendments to the Constitution, the expression “state-forming people” was introduced, further confusing the entire ideology of self-identification, in which “the people,” “ethnic groups” (“nationalities”), “civilization,” and “world” are now mixed up in the same heap. The emphasis on the special role of ethnic Russians destroys the idea of civic identity, since it assumes that (Russian) ethnicity constitutes it. This contradiction, however, has been ignored out of political expediency.

Rhetoric versus specifics
This scholasticism has become quite tiresome, but it is repeated from time to time at all sorts of official meetings. However, there are now issues that have given a new impetus to the discussion of civic/ethnic identity—i.e., migration and migrants, more precisely, the children of migrants, to whom a good half of all the speeches at the council meeting were devoted. Foreign migrants pose a problem for the concepts of “Russian civilization” and “Russian nation,” because millions of people who are not citizens of Russia live and work here. At the same, many of these people are not fully documented (they are “illegal,” so to speak). Not all of them speak Russian, nor have they imbibed the images of Russian history and life that local residents get in kindergarten. In other words, they are not inscribed in the implicit chain of command and thus provoke fear and prejudice among populace and politicians alike.

From a legal and institutional point of view, the children of some migrant workers from the CIS countries pose a problem to Russia’s central government because firstly, according to the law, they have a fuzzy legal status in Russia and, accordingly, there are formal and informal restrictions on their access to schools, and secondly, the schools themselves do not have a federally approved program for working with migrant children, who immediately find themselves in classes with regular pupils—as a rule, among the underachievers, thus spoiling test score stats for schools. The officials who spoke at the council promised to quickly solve these problems, which for years have generated resentment and complaints from human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations working with migrant children.

Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov called the education of children who come to Russia with their parents “a mission for our education system [and] an urgent challenge for us.” He mentioned the upcoming comprehensive system for assessing the individual educational needs of migrant children, which will be used to chart the right educational path for each child, supporting it with psychological and pedagogical assistance. This would seem to imply the creation of preparatory classes in schools, in which the children of migrants would have to acquire the necessary language skills in order to switch to the normal mode of study in general classes. In turn, Valentina Kazakova, head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Migration Department of the Russian Interior Ministry, assured council members that the law on foreign citizens would be amended concerning the status of minor children, giving them unhindered access to educational institutions. If you believe these responsible officials, Russia is finally going to establish official mechanisms for working with migrant children.

However, legal measures alone do not explain how the Russian state ideologically integrates migrants into the image of “who we are.” In this instance, legislative and institutional pragmatics do not necessarily match the political rhetoric, which is usually focused on excluding migrants as “dangerous aliens.” The Council on Interethnic Relations has borne out exactly this asymmetry. Commenting on the topic of immigrant children, President Putin declared it an “unpleasant area”; he recalled that in Europe and America, “when the level of migrant children in school reaches a certain percentage, local residents remove their children from these schools,” and “schools are formed that are almost 100 percent immigrant children,” which, according to the president, “in no case should be allowed in Russia.” “The number of migrant children in our schools should be such that it enables [them] to adapt deeply to the Russian language environment. But not only to the language—to the culture in general, so that they can immerse themselves in our Russian values system. It will be good for them, and, accordingly, it will not hurt our families; it will not create problems for educational institutions.”

The words chosen were interpreted in the media as a call to “monitor the proportion of migrant children in schools,” “limit the number of migrant children in schools,” and “regulate the number of such children in Russian schools,” thus only causing a media-induced wave of anti-migrant fears.

It cannot be said that this ritual online discussion in the Kremlin was completely pointless. Specific plans to change the policy on migrant children are a cause for cautious optimism. However, the current political elite’s vocabulary and conceptual apparatus makes the depressing impression of being rooted in the archaic past of the twentieth or even the nineteenth century, but not in the twenty-first century. This elite reconstructs answers to the question “who are we?” from dead and moribund ideologies, condemning Russia not to solve, but to reproduce earlier confrontations and conflicts.

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Good Guys

The FSB is in despair: religious fanaticism has afflicted people in high society. To prevent a series of terrorist attacks, the authorities have resorted to unconventional methods. They hire former investigator Oleg Ruzhin—now a journalist—and a professional murderer named Chubchik. Find out in Dmitry Krasko’s book whether the heroes are able to prevent a tragedy!

Source: LitRes emailing list, April 3, 2021

Religious fanaticism sometimes takes on monstrous guises. And anyone can be inveigled into the ranks of the fanatics. Even a high position in society is no guarantee against it. This means that the possibilities of extremist religious groups are sometimes off the scale. So much so that even the almighty FSB is forced to resort to unconventional methods to fight this evil. Thus, in order to combat fanatics who have planned a series of brutal terrorist attacks, the FSB contracts utter outsiders: the former private detective and now journalist Oleg Ruzhin and … the professional hired killer Chubchik. It is they who are tasked with foiling the designs of the fanatics. But will they be able to do it? And how will Chubchik, himself a product of the criminal world, behave when he has to confront evil face to face?

Source: LitRes

I carefully put the stock to my shoulder, settling more comfortably on the hard tar-covered roof, and fell silent, studying through the telescopic sight’s eyepiece the area in which the client was supposed to appear. The rifle lay comfortably in my hand, the sun was shining in the sky: although it was not yet hot, it was pleasantly warm. The morning air was fresh, not fouled by the exhaust of tens of thousands of cars, so, in the absence of smog, it was easy to breathe. The new day, born a couple of hours earlier, had already got its bearings in this world and persistently laid claim to it. The city was waking up and getting ready for the hustle and bustle.

Source: LitRes

People also began to gather in the Square of Fallen Heroes. To what extent the label “people” could be applied to these citizens was a matter of serious and lengthy discussion, however, because the square was a meeting place for yesterday’s goodfellas and various gangsters. The former, who had managed to scale to the very heights of life from the gloomy gateways or prison bunks where they had ruled ten or twenty years ago, met with the latter, who had been transported to these heights by cronyism, careerism and a willingness to lick any ass, provided it was above them. Both the former and the latter had achieved their goals, and now they soared majestically over the heads of mere mortals, occasionally defecating on them, and licking the cream from the snow-capped peaks of destiny. On the square, they proudly shared their impressions of what the latest peak, licked to shreds, had tasted like, and haggled over what new peaks to conquer.

Source: LitRes

My mark was also a part of this world, a blindingly bright specimen. He was the director of a security firm and, at the same time, a deputy in the regional legislative assembly. In the mid-nineties, his current guards, under their chief’s strict guidance, shook down the traders in the markets, then began running a protection racket on firms big and small. But everything changes, and he had gone legit. So much so that he had managed to finagle his way into the corridors of power. For me, such nimbleness remained a mystery that I did not even try to solve. It was none of my business: I had been hired take out the deputy-slash-director, and apart from that, nothing worried me. Half of the one hundred thousand greenbacks I would get for the job were already in my bank account.

Source: LitRes

Translation and photos by the Russian Reader

Mission of Burma

Dmitry Gudkov
Facebook
April 1, 2021

The Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), or in Russian, the Gulag, is designed so that an inmate cannot save his own life other than by directly endangering his own life.

Alexey Navalny’s hunger strike has the simplest, most natural demand: to be seen by a doctor. It’s not about politics, or even about justice, but about seeing a doctor.

When scoundrels from different “media” and “public monitoring commissions” say that a doctor is an unnecessary luxury for an inmate, they dig a hole for themselves. Because Arashukov and Spiegel are the two latest prime examples.

“The witnesses in my case were electrocuted!” former Senator Arashukov shouts.

“I’m a goner,” former Senator Spiegel whispers.

But their words will not change anything, because they were silent when they were free.

And also because we are silent. Navalny’s hunger strike, even with its media presence, is a desperate step. In response, there has been a resounding silence. But Alexander Shestun has been on hunger strike for a week. Have you heard about it?

Did you want to hear about it?

The sadism of the upper classes and the indifference of the lower classes.

Silence on both sides in response to the demand to “free everyone.”

They will, in fact, come for everyone. No one is an exception.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Moscow Has Some Truly Disturbing Reasons for Backing Myanmar Junta, El Murid Says
Window on Eurasia (Paul Goble)
April 2, 2021

The Putin regime’s cooperation with the most vicious and inhumane regimes on earth is usually explained either by its desire to gain allies among those the West because of its principles have made outcasts or by its interest in selling weapons to those who can’t get them easily elsewhere, Anatoly Nesmiyan says.

Those interests can’t be ignored, of course, the Russian commentator who blogs under the screen name El Murid says, but tragically, there are some additional reasons that are even more fateful and disturbing, all of which involve Moscow’s interest in studying the repressive techniques others use for adoption in Russia.

The Putin regime’s proclivity for cooperating with the worst regimes on earth has just been highlighted by its decision to send a deputy defense minister to attend a parade in Myanmar on the occasion of the anniversary of that country’s military, a parade all other countries chose to boycott because of the Myanmar military’s repression.

These other countries acted on principle, Nesmiyan says; but “the Russian regime doesn’t have principles and in support of its interests, it will cooperate with any cannibal.” And despite what many think, these interests are not just military sales or geopolitical competition. They involve learning from others the most effective means of repression.

Having increasingly turned to the use of force against its own people, the Putin regime “with deep interest studies the advanced experience of its partners in such questions.” Putin himself admitted as much about Syria which he describes as “a testing ground;” one that is first and foremost about the destruction of the civilian population.

The army of Myanmar has shown again and again that it is ready, willing and able to kill that country’s population in the name of keeping the generals in power, and that alone makes it particularly interesting for the Russian defense ministry and its bosses in the Kremlin, Nesmiyan says.

In addition, and adding to its attractiveness as an object lesson for Moscow, the commentator continues, the Myanmar military has been involved in the brutal suppression of ethnic and religious minorities, a challenge that the Russian siloviki also faces; and it has had to come up with a way to field a force in an ethnically diverse country, another Russian challenge.

The military in Myanmar “in fact is a military corporation of the ethnic majority,” something that has led ethnic minorities to form their own force structures, a prospect Moscow fears but, in the future, may not be able to prevent. And thus, the way the dominant army manages is of no small interest to Myanmar’s Moscow backers.

The Propiska Is Mightier than the Sword

Propiska (residence registration) stamps in a Russian internal passport. Courtesy of tbti.ru.  

Head of Omsk Foundation Tells of Police Probe Due to the Fact That She Registered Seven Former Psycho-Neurologial Boarding School Pupils 
Takie Dela
March 31, 2021

In Omsk, the police have launched a probe into Vika Marchevskaya, head of the charity foundation A World Where There Are No Strangers, A World of Equal Opportunities, because she registered people with disabilities at her own address. Marchevskaya herself informed Takie Dela of the news.

According to Marchevskaya, she registered at her country house, where the foundation is also registered, seven former pupils of a psycho-neurological boarding school. All of them are orphans over the age of eighteen and have first- and second-category disabilities. At various times, the young people had turned to the foundation to help them start an independent life.

“I registered the guys, because without residence registration, a person’s hands are essentially tied. You can’t register with the local outpatient clinic or pass a psychological and medical exam, and you will have problems with receiving a disability pension. But, most importantly, registration is needed to get in the queue for public housing,” Marchevskaya explained. She noted that now the young people in question rented their own housing with their own money and did their own shopping.

Marchevskaya said that, on March 24, a beat cop came to her and said that she had been reported for fictitiously registering citizens, punishable under Article 322.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. The report was written by Dinara Marchenko, the head of the passport office in Omsk’s Lenin District. Marchevskaya faces a fine of up to 500 thousand rubles, up to three years forced labor or imprisonment for the same period.

Marchevskaya added that the Omsk Regional Ministry of Education was ready to temporarily register young people at an adaptive boarding school. Takie Dela asked the press service of the Interior Ministry’s Omsk regional directorate to comment on the matter. No response was received at the time of publication.

Translated by the Russian Reader