Ilya Yashin: Closing Statement in Court

This is a translated excerpt from Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin’s closing statement, which he delivered at his show trial in Moscow earlier today. Charged with “spreading false information about the Russian military,” Yashin faces up to ten years in prison if convicted, which he almost certainly will be. ||| TRR


Ilya Yashin

Taking advantage of this podium, I would also like to address Russian President Vladimir Putin, the person who is responsible for this massacre, who signed the law on military censorship, and by whose will I am in prison.

Vladimir Vladimirovich!

Seeing the consequences of this monstrous war, you have probably already understand yourself what a grave mistake you made on February 24. Our army has not been greeted with flowers. We are called executioners and occupiers.

The words “death” and “destruction” are now firmly associated with your name.

You have brought terrible misfortune to the Ukrainian people, who will probably never forgive us. But you are waging war not only against Ukrainians, but also against your compatriots.

You have sent hundreds of thousands of Russians into the inferno of battle. Many of them will never return home, turned into dust. Many will be crippled and go crazy from what they have seen and experienced. For you, they are just casualty statistics, numbers in columns. But many families the face unbearable pain of losing husbands, fathers and sons.

You have deprived Russians of their home.

Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have left their homeland because they do not want to kill and be killed. People are running away from you, Mr. President. Haven’t you noticed that?

You have undermined the foundations of our economic security. By putting industry on a war footing, you have sent our country back in the wrong direction. Tanks and guns are again a priority, and poverty and disenfranchisement are again our realities. Have you forgotten that such a policy has already led our country to collapse before?

Although my words might sound like a voice crying in the wilderness, I urge you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, to stop this madness immediately. You must acknowledge that the policy towards Ukraine has been mistaken, withdraw troops from its territory, and proceed to settle the conflict diplomatically.

Remember that every new day of war means new victims. Enough is enough.

Source: Ilya Yashin, Facebook, 5 December 2022. Photo by Zlata Milyavskaya. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ivan Kudryashov: An Anti-War Street Artist in Tver

“Fuck the War”: a street art piece attributed to Ivan Kudryashov, photographed in Tver on 1 May 2022. Photo courtesy of Solidarity Zone

Ivan Kudryashov: Tver resident accused of planning arson of military enlistment office

The Telegram channel Stasia and Letters reports that Tver activist Ivan Kudryashov is in a pretrial detention center, charged with planning to set fire to a military enlistment office.

It is reported that Kudryashov repeatedly carried out anti-war protests in Tver. He was arrested on September 30 and charging with “preparing to commit a terrorist act” (per Article 30.1 and Article 205 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). If found guilty, he faces a maximum prison sentence of eleven years and three months.

Kudryashov is, possibly, the author of the resonant “Fuck the War” street art pieces at bus stops in Tver. In any case, the VK page “Ivan Kudryashov” contains an entry about them, dated September 22.

Stasia and Letters quotes a letter from Andrei Trofimov, accused of making anti-war statements, who was held in the same cell as Kudryashov for three weeks:

“[Ivan Kudryashov] was born in the city of Bologoye and grew up in an orphanage and, later, with a foster family in Torzhok, Tver Region. He graduated from an eleven-year school. After school, he enrolled in the economics department at Tver State University. In the second year, he dropped out of university and did his obligatory military service in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. After that he lived in Tver and worked as a fitter at a train carriage factory. At school, he liked mathematics and was a checkers champion. He is fond of contemporary music, and is also a fan of the British TV series Sherlock.”

It is reported that Ivan Kudryashov is now in solitary confinement, which means it is especially important to write to him.

✉️📦 Address for letters and parcels:

Kudryashov Ivan Valeryevich (born 1996)

141 Vagazhanov Street

Pretriel Detention Center No. 1

Tver 170010 Russian Federation

(It is possible to send letters via the FSIN-Pismo service.)

#prisoners#solidarity #nowar#writing letters

Source: Solidarity Zone, 5 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will not be able to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service. It is also probably impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. In many cases, however, you can send letters (which must written in or translated into Russian) via the free, volunteer-run service RosUznik, but as of this writing Mr. Kudryashov has not appeared on their list of addressees. You can also ask me (avvakum@pm.me) for assistance and advice in sending letters.

News from Ukraine Bulletin 23

A Ukrainian flag on the fence of a home in Monterey, California, 14 November 2022. Photo by the Russian Reader

News from Ukraine Bulletin 23 (4 December 2022)

A Digest of News from Ukrainian Sources

News from the territories occupied by Russia:

Russian occupiers hand out draft summons to residents queuing for water in occupied Makiivka  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 4th)

‘Pensioner from Makariv witnesses the death of his grandson’  (Tribunal for Putin, December 2nd)

The Russians “amused themselves”, destroying Izyum’s old buildings  (Tribunal for Putin, December 2nd)

Russians deliberately beat Ukrainian haemophiliac, threaten to rape his 17-year-old sister in front of her father  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 2nd)

Children trained to be ‘Putin’s faithful soldiers’ in Russian-occupied Crimea  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 2nd)

Russia sentences Crimean Solidarity activist to 17 years for defending political prisoners  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 1st)

Russians forcibly deport 37 local residents from Kinburn Spit  (Ukrainska Pravda, November 30th)

Russian occupiers in southern Ukraine interrogate children who fail to attend Russian schools  (Ukrainska Pravda, November 30th)

Evangelical deacon and his son found murdered near Nova Kakhovka after being abducted by the Russians  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, November 30th)

The Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced another Crimean Tatar activist – Marlen Mustafatev to 17 years in prison  (Lutfiye Zudiyeva on Twitter, November 30th)

Ukrainian poet and writer Volodymyr Vakulenko killed after being seized by Russian invaders (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, November 29th)

Russian invaders abduct two Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests from Berdiansk and accuse them of ‘terrorism’  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, November 29th)

Threatened and starved: Russian sergeant tortured Donbas veterans in Katiuzhanka  (Ukrainska Pravda, November 28th)

Lecturer beaten, ‘tried’ and imprisoned in Russian-occupied Crimea for a Ukrainian patriotic song  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, November 28th)

Forcing Ukrainians to take up arms against their country is a war crime.” How Russia is mobilizing Ukrainians in occupied territories  (The Insider, November 12th)

News from Ukraine – general:

Ukrainians on the front line face a winter without warmth or light (Open Democracy, December 1st)

Ukraine’s nurses face brutal winter as health austerity collides with war  (Open Democracy, November 29th)

Dark times. How Ukraine is surviving without light, water, and heat  (The Insider, November 28th)

32,000 civilian properties and 700 infrastructure facilities have been damaged by Russians  (Ukrainska Pravda, November 27th)

Analysis and comment:

Thread in response to my thread about tankies and the Holodomor  (Taras Bilous on Twitter, December 2nd)

Economic Policy of Ukraine  (Luke Cooper on PeaceRep, December 1st)

Solidarity vital to expel Russia  (The Chartist, November 29th)

Together in Trouble: Social Policy for Just Reconstruction in Ukraine  (Spil’ne (Commons), November 28th)

Learning At The Teachers  (The Pensive Quill, November 27th)

Research of human rights abuses:

Abducted and tortured by the Russians, Kherson’s survivors tell their stories (Open Democracy, December 1st)

Ukraine 5AM Coalition will discuss in The Hague the mechanisms of holding Russia accountable for war crimes  (Zmina, December 1st)

‘Every second felt like eternity’: Inside the torture chambers of Ukraine’s occupied northeast (The Independent, December 1st)

Damage to historical monuments and religious buildings (24 February to 15 November 2022, Kharkiv Region)  (Tribunal for Putin, November 30th)

An appeal for support from Open Democracy:

@opendemocracyru  needs your help  (Tom Rowley on Twitter, December 4th)

==

This bulletin is put together by labour movement activists in solidarity with Ukrainian resistance. More information at https://ukraine-solidarity.org/. We are also on Twitter. Our aim is to circulate information in English that to the best of our knowledge is reliable. If you have something you think we should include, please send it to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com. To receive the bulletin regularly, send your email to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com.

“Face the Wall, Don’t Look Down”: Solidarity Becomes a Criminal Act in Moscow

A view of the entrance to Open Space Moscow. Photo courtesy of Mediazona

On the evening of November 24, masked security forces officers broke into Open Space in Moscow, where fifty people had gathered to support the anarchists arrested in the Tyumen Case and write postcards to political prisoners. The security forces, who were probably commanded by a colonel from Center “E”, made the visitors lie down on the floor or stood them facing the wall and held them for several hours, beating some of them. They didn’t let a lawyer inside.

On November 24, an evening of solidarity for the defendants in the Tyumen Case took place in Open Space, a co-working space for activists in Moscow’s Basmanny District. Six anarchists from Tyumen, Surgut and Yekaterinburg have been arrested and charged with organizing a “terrorist community,” and all of them have said they were tortured.

The event was open to the public and had been advertised, for example, by the online magazine DOXA. (Recently, State Duma deputies demanded that the magazine be designated an “extremist organization.”)

The event started around six o’clock, and about forty to fifty people were in attendance, says one of the participants. Some eyewitnesses say that before the security forces arrived, they signed postcards in support of political prisoners, while others said that they recited or listened to poetry. In any case, when an intermission was announced, the guests went outside to smoke — and at that moment a paddy wagon drove up to the building, and masked security forces officers stormed the venue.

Video footage of the beginning of the raid, which the SOTAvision journalist Ksenia Tamurka managed to shoot before she was detained, shows that the masked security forces officers behaved in a demonstratively rough manner. They shouted, kicked over furniture, and knocked the phone out of the correspondent’s hands. After the phone falls, the sounds of blows and shouts are audible in the footage: “Hands behind your head!”, “Legs wider!”, “Face the wall, don’t look down!”

The security forces officers forced some of the young people to lie down on the floor, while they made the rest of them, including the young women, stand facing the wall, forbidding them to move. A young woman who had left the event during the break and unhappily returned to retrieve a tote bag she had forgotten told SOTA that she stood facing the wall for about an hour.

“When I turned my head, I was told to keep facing the wall. An hour later, they apparently took out my passport from my tote bag and summoned me to another room, where most everyone was lying face down on the floor. I sat down and we waited further. Then after, I don’t know, thirty minutes, I was summoned by other Russian National Guard officers. They asked me where my phone was, and I showed them. They asked me to unlock it, but I said no, citing Article 23 [of the Russian Constitution, which enshrines the right to privacy]. They were like no, you’re going to unlock it. And when I had already sat down, there was already a young female journalist after me, and she refused to show them her phone. They dragged her by the hair and she screamed,” the young woman said.

After what she saw, the young woman agreed to unlock the phone, and the security forces wrote down its IMEI. Another woman, who attended event with a child, said that the security forces officers demanded that she show them her Telegram chats and latest bank transfers to find out “whether she sponsored terrorism.”

The young woman who was screaming was SOTA journalist Ksenia Tamurka. The media outlet has not yet published the commentary of the journalist herself. One of the detainees recounted the assault on Tamurka as told by another eyewitness; another young man heard the journalist screaming, although he was in another room.

He said that the security forces treated the young men in various ways: in his opinion, it largely depended on the length of their hair. The young man pointed out that the security forces also detained members of Narcotics Anonymous, whose meeting was going on in the next room. “And when they were asked what they were doing there, they said, We are drug addicts, we don’t know anyone here! Then they were taken away from where we were, and [the police] talked to them separately,” he recalled.

At some point, the security forces perhaps began to behave a little less harshly. In video footage recorded a few hours after the start of the search, it is clear that the detainees were no longer pressed against the wall, but were simply looking at it. The security forces did not detain the journalists who shot the video, but, according to a Sota correspondent, they did drag a passerby inside the building after he looked in the window.

The security forces did not let the lawyer Leysan Mannapova, who arrived at the scene of the raid, inside the building, claiming that her warrant was incorrectly executed. A man who came to rescue his fourteen-year-old brother also failed to get inside the building.

The detainees were loaded into the paddy wagon only a few hours later, and the minors among them were released along the way. The rest were brought to the Basmanny police department.

One of them said that she and four young men were beaten at the station. According to the young woman, the security forces officers “struck her when she was lying on the floor.” One detainee was “beaten with a baton and a book,” and another young man was “thrown on a chair and kicked.” According to her, the police found a balaclava, an emergency hammer from a bus, and a traumatic pistol, which he had a permit to carry, on one of the men who was beaten.

Another young woman could not recall beatings and said only that the detainees wrote statements at the police department “about what they actually did.” Alexei Melnikov, a member of the Public Monitoring Commission who was recently appointed to the Presidential Human Rights Council, went inside the department and saw the detainees while they were making their statements, but also made no mention of possible violence.

The detainees were released from the department around two o’clock in the morning. None of them reported that they were forced to sign any documents other than their statements. Tamurka left the department last, around four in the morning.

Golos coordinator Vladimir Yegorov identified the colonel from Center “E” in video footage of the security forces escorting the detainees to the paddy wagon. According to Yegorov, he was beaten during a search of the Golos office on October 5 on the colonel’s orders. Yegorov does not know the policeman’s name, because it was not listed in the search report. According to SOTA, the masked security officers accompanying the colonel at Open Space serve in the second field regiment of the Interior Ministry’s Moscow Main Directorate.

Correction (7 p.m., November 25): The article originally stated that the journalist Ksenia Tamurka left the police department along with the other detainees around two o’clock in the morning. SOTAvision later clarified that she came out last, around four o’clock in the morning.

Source: Nikita Sologub, “‘Face the wall, don’t look down’: security forces raid solidarity event for defendants in Tyumen Case,” Mediazona, 25 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. This is the second part of a two-part feature on the 24 November raid on Open Space Moscow. You can read part one — journalist Ksenia Tamurka’s first-person account of the incident — here.

The New Normal

Is life in Russia still normal?

Dmitry Vakhtin • Lives in Russia • Jun 3

Life in Russia is a “new normal.”

Shops are full of food, but no Nespresso capsules (I still have some for a couple of months).

Stores are still selling printers, but not ink cartridges (I had to re-fill the used one last week).

There is clothes in shopping centers, but stores I used to go to are closed.

European countries still formally issue visas, but not really, although they might, but probably not, and getting there by air costs the same as becoming a space tourist.

Some countries are still open, but flights abroad are few and expensive and airbnb doesn’t accept payments from Russia, so I have to ask my son living in Germany to pay for our Summer trip.

Speaking of my son, I still can transfer money to him, but sometimes it takes weeks and sometimes they never get through, though sometimes they do, and you never know.

Speaking of the money, I still get my salary, but sometimes it is delayed because transferring money to the right bank account in the right currency in time makes our financial team prematurely gray-haired.

Speaking of the salary, our high-tech company is still working, but neither electronic components, nor equipment, nor people can cross borders, although sometimes they can, and then they don’t, and you never know when and why, and nobody knows it.

I keep reading and watching Youtube videos about the war every day, although it has all become a routine, and I hate myself for that, and I did protest but stopped because it’s all pointless and dangerous, though it isn’t, but it is, and we are all cowards, but it doesn’t matter, though it does.

I want Ukraine to win this war, and I don’t feel as if I am betraying my country but rather that my country is betraying me and itself, and this is probably the only crystal-clear thing in my life.

Yes, life is still normal in Russia.

91.7K views • 6,390 upvotes • 32 shares • Answer requested by Emirey Jackson

Source: Quora


“Blue Eyes,” who physically assaulted Ksenia Tamurka, escorts her around the police station. Photo courtesy of SOTA

SOTA correspondent Ksenia Tamurka was detained along with the other attendees of a solidarity event for the defendants in the so-called Tyumen Case. The event was held at Open Space, an activist co-working space in Moscow The journalist was beaten when she refused to show her phone to men who had their faces covered. Despite this, Tamurka did not succumb to pressure and for several hours defended her rights to police officers. We publish this monologue by our correspondent, from which you can learn how to talk to the security forces and what you must do for your own safety.

Masked security forces officers [siloviki] burst into Open Space, and I started filming. I was either knocked down with a chair, or I tripped over it when I was pushed. I dropped my phone, and they put me face to the wall — they told me to stand like that. People around me were knocked down and thrown on the floor. They were not allowed to turn their heads; they could only look at the floor or at the wall. A Narcotics Anonymous meeting was being held in the basement of the premises, and one of the [recovering drug addicts] was asked what he used and how long he had been going there. They found some kind of book on LGBT topics in his possession and the siloviki read it aloud. In the process, they made nasty jokes about the guy. They said that there was no such thing as a former drug addict, and reproached him for being so young and already hooked. They collected everyone’s phone and papers, including mine and my press pass.

One guy begged them to let him call his mom. When these masked me with no insignia on their black uniforms had broken in, he thought it was a terrorist attack and had written to his family about it. The boy was very afraid that his mother would be worried, but the siloviki laughed, saying, Come on, how could you confuse us with terrorists? Why are you scaring your mother?

Then one of the Center “E” officers [eshnik] — the nastiest, most weaselly one — called me over because he thought I was hiding something when I was tucking in my sweater. He asked me to be a good girl and give him what I had allegedly hid; otherwise they would search me and stick their hands in my underpants. I said that I hadn’t hidden anything, that I was a journalist and had come there on assignment. He asked me strange questions, but I answered reluctantly. I said that I would only answer an investigator’s questions. For this, I was “punished” — I was made to stand with my face to the wall, although the others were sitting. When the siloviki nearby suggested that I sit down too, this eshnik said, “No, she’s being punished. She will stand.”

A couple of hours later I was summoned again. “Point your finger at your phone. Come on, unlock it,” they said. I refused because the request was illegal. Those men in uniform saw that I had Face ID, and they brought my phone close to my face, but I closed my eyes and looked away. The eshnik said all sorts of nasty things to me, getting angry and shouting. One of the masked siloviki, a man with blue eyes, grabbed me by the hair. Someone else hit me in the face and tried to open my eyes with his fingers. I was surrounded by five masked men. I screamed and cried and screwed up my face. I was very afraid to glance lest my phone be unlocked, god forbid. They dragged me back and forth by the hair. They shouted, “A drama queen! Ah, what a drama queen!” The police officers threatened to take me to the Moscow Region and talk to me in a basement.

At Open Space there is a mailbox for postcards designed to look like the bars in a jail. They punished me again by forcing me to stand looking at this box, like I was serving a prison sentence. Every police offer who walked by me thought I was backing away from it and pushed me closer. When one policeman passed by, he snapped his fingers before my eyes. When he was passing by, another policeman inserted a postcard with a beautiful picture in the box and said, “Let’s change the view — gaze at this.” Almost everyone passing by noted the pulled out hair on my clothes. Then that eshnik came up to me and tried to persuade me to unlock my phone. He asked whether I was tired, offered to deal with me “the normal way,” and said that I was delaying everything and would be the last to leave. “Just say the password, just enter it,” he said, but I wouldn’t enter it. They offered to give me a chair, to which I replied, “I’m not going to bargain with you. And bring a high chair.” They brought it. I sat down: I was comfortable, it was great, I looked at the wall. The blue-eyed man who had pulled my hair came up to me. I told him, “You beat me,” and pointed out that it was illegal, but he was like, “I don’t care.” The siloviki also tried to scare me by saying that my mobile phone would be entered into evidence and returned a year later, at the earliest, if we didn’t resolve everything on the spot.

The men in uniform constantly asked the organizers and participants why they supported terrorists and wrote postcards to them, and why the slogans on their walls were so filthy.

The siloviki asked everyone to tell them the PINs to their phones first, and then, if the person refused, they put the device in their hands and told them to enter it personally. They asked them to show their Telegram chats and film rolls and enter some other commands, like they were checking whether the mobile phone was stolen. When I asked what it all meant and why they needed my phone, they replied that they suspected me of theft, that there was a criminal complaint and even an APB out on me. I asked them to show them me and asked whether all those lying and sitting at Open Space had APBs out on them too. The siloviki replied that they would not show me anything because it was official information, and they stopped talking to me.

Everyone was photographed and searched, and their documents were photographed too — illegally, of course. They also took a picture of my father’s library card and public transport pass, although I didn’t consent to this. I was told that I was not in a position to forbid them to do anything. All the time I heard the same conversation: “We are checking your phone for theft, we are checking your phone for theft, enter the IMEI.” And almost everyone agreed to do it! Very few refused — and they were beaten, in my opinion. In any case, they were not treated very pleasantly. The eshnik asked me who I worked with at SOTA, who gave me the assignment, who I knew. He asked me about books and suggested that I read 1984. I told him to read Zamyatin’s We.

Th eshnik tried to make friends with me. He kept asking how I was feeling and complimented me, calling me a “persistent lady.” He even took my number and suggested that we discuss books later. He was constantly trying to get me to talk about “opposition” literature, bragging about his knowledge and telling me about Orwell. This man then invited me to take a stroll with him, but when he saw my face, he wimped out himself. “Well, you don’t want to walk with such scum, do you?” he said.

Ksenia Tamurka. Photo courtesy of SOTA

When I had already lost track of time, the intercessions on my behalf were conveyed to me. I was so glad when I found out that journalists had already gathered [outside], that my colleagues were there too! I was relieved because I had been very worried that I couldn’t contact anyone.

A man who did not agree to unblock his phone was beaten quite hard, judging by the sounds. We were forbidden to turn and look. One boy was whipped on his legs — the police officer made him spread his legs wider and thrashed him with all his might. It was so loud and scary.

They also promised that they would talk to me separately — I was afraid that they would just start torturing me, because I asked the policemen about it, and they either jokingly or seriously answered that yes, they would. There was a moment when everyone was really led away, and I thought, Well, that’s it — it’s about to start. But no, I was just sent to a paddy wagon.

At the station, I realized that everyone was pretty sick of me, judging by the comments that came my way. They called me a dumb broad and a pest. They said that I should be beaten with a rod. Later, in the department, they suggested that I should be “whipped with an officer’s belt in a dark room.” It also transpired that I was a dumb broad because no one was fucking me. They said disgusting things about me. I wrote down everything they said and all sorts of atmospheric details in the blank spaces in the book I had with me, [Vladimir] Sorokin’s Sugar Kremlin. The police saw it and tried to take a peek. Then the blue-eyed duded just stole it from me. They read all my notes in front of me and laughed in my face: “What? Who beat you? No one touched you. Why are you making things up?” But one of them added that I could still be beaten, because there was no other way to make me understand.

I was held separately and constantly harassed. And yet, when I asked to make a phone call, they said that it was specifically forbidden to me. When I asked to let a lawyer in to see me, that was also forbidden to me. I wanted to go to the toilet, but that too was specifically forbidden to me, while everyone else was allowed to go. They lied to me that there was no one waiting for me outside, that no one had any use for me and no one was waiting for me, although I knew that a crowd had already gathered at the station. The policemen discussed my breasts in front of me. Then they asked me my size — I cited Article 51 [of the Russian Constitution] and refused to testify.

When everyone else had already been released, they continued to drag their feet with me. The policemen kept their promise. I had to prove to them that the phone was mine for some reason. But if they had confiscated it from me, they should have known whose phone it was! It was their problem that they didn’t follow the legal procedures and forced me to deal with the consequences of their negligence! Moreover, my phone was the last one. The cunning eshnik and the blue-eyed devil finally decided to punish me too for my perseverance and entered the wrong password many times so that my phone would be blocked.

While we were waiting for the on-duty officer, the fool who dragged me by the hair ran out through another exit. Today I will file a complaint regarding the theft of my book and the actions of those police officers. I also went to the emergency room — I feel that it hurts me to touch it [sic]. I had the assault and battery documented there. The trauma specialist told me that it was an “industrial” injury because I had been on the job.

By the way, the slogan “The people’s trust is the police’s strength” was written on the wall of the police department.

Source: “‘The police threatened to take me to the Moscow Region and talk to me in a basement’: The story of the assaulted SOTA journalist,” SOTA (Teletype), 25 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. The original article contains three embedded Telegram posts featuring video footage taken during the events described above.

Question 5

Four and half years ago, I had to renew my Russian permanent residence permit. The procedure had changed considerably since the last time I’d applied for the permit. Among the changes were two written exams that applicants were now required to pass — a Russian language exam and a Russian civics exam. I decided to study for them by doing practice exams that I found online. One of the civics question was “Question 5,” screenshotted above. It’s a multiple choice question. The examinee must decide whether the “RF” (the Russian Federation) is a) a totalitarian state, b) an authoritarian state, c) a hybrid state, or d) a democratic state. To be honest, I no longer remember whether this particular question came up in the actual exam, which I passed with flying colors. But I thought that you, my readers, might find it productive to ponder this question while reading the following three items, ripped straight from this week’s headlines in the Russian media. At the end of this post, you’ll see what the “right” answer was (in 2018, at least) and the answer I tried to give when taking the online practice quiz. ||| TRR


The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation has identified 17 priority topics for state financial support of film production in 2023.

The procedure and conditions for selection competitions in 2023 will be announced at the end of December 2022.

“We publish a list of topics before the start of competitions for financing production, hoping that filmmakers will take into account the priorities of state support for film production when developing projects. The Ministry of Culture continues to support such important topics for society as the protection of family values, patriotic education, preservation of the traditions of Russia’s regions, the success of domestic science, and popularization of the professions of engineer and teacher. Given modern realities, we consider it necessary to focus as well on countering attempts to falsify history and modern manifestations of the ideology of Nazism, to talk about the heroism and dedication of Russian soldiers during the special operation and the work of front-line brigades and volunteers,” said Olga Lyubimova, Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation.

Some priority topics have been established pursuant to the Decrees of the President of the Russian Federation: “On the Approval of the Foundations of State Policy for the Preservation and Strengthening of Traditional Russian Spiritual and Moral Values,” dated 09.11.2022, No. 809; “On the Announcement of the Decade of Childhood in the Russian Federation,” dated 29.05.2017, No. 240; “On the Announcement of the Decade of Science and Technology in the Russian Federation,” dated 25.04.2022, No. 231; and “On Holding the Year of the Teacher and Mentor in the Russian Federation,” dated 27.06.2022, No. 401.

The list of priority topics includes:

1. Russia’s culture. The preservation, creation and dissemination of traditional values.

2. The decade of childhood. Families and children, their protection and support.

3. Russian science: innovations, technologies, priorities.

4. Historical cinema. History lessons, memory lessons. Countering attempts to falsify history. Russia’s peacekeeping mission of Russia. Russia’s historical victories. The eightieth anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. The Soviet soldier’s mission of liberation Generational conflict, generational continuity.

5. Russia as a modern, stable and secure state that provides opportunities for growth and self-realization.

6. The heroes among us. Stories of modern Russia’s outstanding individuals. Popularizing the teaching profession. School and college as important stages in social adaptation and personal orientation. The role of teachers and mentors in shaping the individual.

7. Motivating young people to master manual trades and engineering jobs. Improving the social status of the manual worker and the engineer, of research and innovation.

8. Film chronicle. The current state, culture and traditions of Russia’s regions. Development of the Far East and the Arctic. The life of small towns and villages, life in the provinces. Little Russia as a historical region of Russia.

9. Adaptations of works of Russian classical literature, including with the use of animation.

10. Films about outstanding figures in history, culture, science and sports. Popularizing the medical profession. Films about sporting achievements and victories.

11. Countering modern manifestations of the ideology of Nazism and fascism. Popularizing heroism and the dedication of Russian soldiers during the special military operation.

12. Popularizing service in the Russian Armed Forces of Russia. Society’s unanimous support of the army (front-line brigades and volunteers). Strengthening the status of the military profession as based on historical events and recent history.

13. The spiritual, moral and patriotic education of Russian citizens. Countering extremism. Images and models of behavior and creative motivation for modern youth. Spiritual leaders. The volunteer movement in Russia and the CIS countries as an international popularization of volunteerism.

14. The neocolonial policy of the Anglo-Saxon world. The degradation of Europe. The formation of a multipolar world.

15. Society without borders: the self-realization of people with disabilities. Volunteering in Russia. Active longevity.

16. Films about teenagers. Formation of values in life and guidelines while growing up. Disorientation in public space, information overload, forming one’s own way of thinking.

17. Modern society. Moral and ethical choice. Civic engagement. Social unity.

Source: “The Ministry of Culture of Russia has identified priority topics for state support of film production in 2023,” Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, 30 November 2022. Thanks to Radio Svoboda for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader


At a secondary school in the Leningrad Region, the Agalatovo Education Center, students were quizzed about racism, Russophobia and the emotions provoked by songs about the Motherland. A photo of the questionnaire, entitled “Patriot and Citizen,” was sent to Rotunda by the parents of one of the schoolchildren. Here are some of statements the children had to evaluate by answering “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know.”

🇷🇺 Those who criticize what is happening in the country cannot be considered real patriots.
🇷🇺 I owe a lot to my country.
🇷🇺 Sometimes I get very excited when I hear songs about my Motherland.
🇷🇺 We are a strong military power, and that is why we should be respected.
🇷🇺 If I go abroad, I will try not to be seen as Russian.
🇷🇺 I am ready to defend my Motherland in case of serious danger.
🇷🇺 Most of the crimes in our city (village) are committed by outsiders and immigrants.

🇷🇺 Our athletes are often judged unfairly at international competitions, because no one likes Russians.
🇷🇺 If we take into account all the pros and cons, the storage of foreign nuclear waste in Russia brings more financial benefits than it does environmental harm.
🇷🇺 There are nations and peoples who do not deserve to be treated well.
🇷🇺 Vandalism is one of the forms of youth protest.
🇷🇺 It is unfair to put people with dark skin in charge of white people.
🇷🇺 There can be only one true religion.

🤦 The school confirmed to Rotunda that they had conducted such a survey. They agreed to communicate with us only by mail. In a written response signed by the vice principal, they claimed that the questionnaire was needed “as background for a faculty meeting.” The school did not answer questions about how correctly or adequately the questionnaire was worded. Rotunda was unable to contact the school’s principal, Svetlana Sergiyenko. She is a supporter of the United Russia party and has run for election several times on the party’s ticket.

📌 The questionnaire itself seems to have been found by the educators on the internet. In 2014, Belarusian media reported that a similar survey (only with Belarus instead of Russia) was conducted in schools in Minsk.

Source: “Schoolchildren in Leningrad region surveyed on whether they’re ashamed to be Russian,” Rotunda (Telegram), 28 November 2022. Thanks to Leda Garina for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


There is a belief that the Russian elite under President Vladimir Putin has only ever been interested in money. Yet Putin’s militant, anti-liberal, anti-Western, isolationist, paternalistic, and harshly authoritarian regime has always had an ideology.

This ideology is not systematized, but it does exist, and snippets of it can be found throughout Putin’s speeches, articles, and interviews. Now the war in Ukraine has necessitated a more articulated ideology, however.

The initiative to systematize and codify Putinism has led to a presidential decree listing Russia’s “traditional spiritual and moral values,” as well as the development of a new ideological curriculum for colleges.

It is no longer enough to indoctrinate children in kindergartens and schools. It is now time to unify the worldviews of college students, and, by extension, those of their professors, whose ranks will inevitably be purged. A similar course taught during the Soviet era was known as “Scientific Communism.”

The name for this new curriculum is “Fundamentals of Russian Statehood,” though it might as well be called “Scientific Putinism.” It is composed of four units: “History” – historical policy as the imposition of a mythologized official version of history, which is one of the instruments for manipulating the mass consciousness of Russians; “Cultural Codes” or the “traditional spiritual and moral values,” around which Putin has ordered federal and regional governments to unify; “Russia and the World” — a justification of isolationism, anti-Westernism, and jingoism; and “Vision for the Future,” which sets out what the state hopes to achieve beyond victory in Ukraine and the destruction of the “fifth column.”

The curriculum justifies the cult of the eternal leader and doubles down on the idea that Russia is fighting the forces of evil in Ukraine in an effort to “de-satanize” the country. However, at the same time, Scientific Putinism lacks key components such as development goals or a vision for Russia’s future, focusing as it does almost exclusively on the past.

During Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency, there were teams working on a future-oriented ideology and making road maps based on the idea that Russia would fast-track the modernization of the state and society. Putin’s ideology, however, is one that fundamentally opposes modernization.

Putin has successfully convinced a significant portion of the population that Russia must regain its status as a great power, and that Russia is under attack by both the liberal West and traitors at home. As the regime has grown more authoritarian, its ideology has also become more archaic, its propaganda more obtrusive, and any hopes of modernization have dwindled. 

An ideology that consists of historical, cultural, and religious myths, bogus traditions, and resentment seeks to legitimize an authoritarian regime and delegitimize those who oppose it.

Such an ideology makes it possible to label nonconformists as enemies, and to divide people into “us” and “them.” The division into “us” and “them” doesn’t just provide a marker for self-identification, it also serves to convince the public that there is a certain majority from which they should not stray.

In the past, the only requirement for being part of the “us” was passive, silent, conformist support. Today, however, this is not enough: Russians must surrender their very bodies to be cannon fodder in the supreme leader’s holy war against the “satanic” forces of the West. This is no longer authoritarianism; it is totalitarianism.

Imperialism and colonialism are key components of Putinism and key factors in the war. There is nothing new about this ideology; it comes almost verbatim from Stalinism and from earlier Eurasian and Slavophile narratives.

The war is being passed off as striving to restore historical fairness, as defensive and preventive, and as liberation. According to Putin, the land of the empire must be “returned and reinforced.”

In just a few years, the regime has evolved from a cult of the victory of 1945 to a cult of war itself, and Putin has managed to persuade a large segment of Russian society that the “special military operation” of 2022 is a natural continuation of World War II. In essence, it is an existential war between Russian and Western civilizations.

Putin has started to refer to Russia as an entire civilization. The state is not just sacred and worthy of the ultimate sacrifice; it is also a separate and superior civilization with a “thousand-year history” and its own special path.

Within this history, cultural codes are being passed down from generation to generation as part of the country’s political DNA. This state-civilization has its own pantheon of heroes unchanged from the Soviet era: Alexander Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Joseph Stalin, and Yuri Gagarin.

This state-civilization has always been under attack by enviers and foes, making its state of permanent conflict critical, and not simply limited to the battlefield. The state must win in all aspects — in culture and in sports, in the construction of Olympic facilities, and in the war against Ukraine and the West.  

To defend the sovereignty of this state-civilization, the Kremlin is counting on the security services, or siloviki, who have been given additional funding and are reinforced by spin doctors and so-called “journalists” in the Kremlin’s service.

The Culture Ministry, the communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, and the Russian Orthodox Church are becoming de facto siloviki themselves, enjoying as they do the right to block or ban media, restrict the sales of books by authors who oppose the war, and decide who can perform on theater stages.

The ideology has become corporeal, bolstered by political and military acts, such as the annexation of Crimea and the “special military operation.” In short, the special ideological operation is ongoing, and it seems to be faring rather better than the military one. 

This article was originally published by the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace.

Source: Andrei Kolesnikov, “Scientific Putinism: Shaping Official Ideology in Russia,” Moscow Times, 27 November 2022. Thanks to Mark Teeter for the heads-up.


Back in the summer of 2018 I tried to answer Question 5 truthfully, replying that the Russian Federation was an “authoritarian state.” But the right answer, then, was “democratic state,” as it turned out. Again, I don’t remember now whether this question on the actual civics exam that I took, but there were several other “ideological” questions like it, which I would have answered “incorrectly,” thus jeopardizing my chances to get a residence permit, if I hadn’t been schooled in advance by the practice quizzes I’d found online. ||| TRR

Last Address in Petersburg: Pavel Tsesinsky and Solomon Davidson

Three Last Address plaques on Dostoevsky Street in downtown Petersburg, autumn 2018. Photo by the Russian Reader

Dear participants of the Last Address project!

This coming Sunday, December 4, new Last Address plaques will be installed in St. Petersburg.

At 12:00 p.m. a plaque in memory of Pavel Markovich Tsesinsky, an accountant at the Red Triangle factory, will be mounted at 47 Bolshoi Prospekt, Petrograd Side. Tsesinsky was arrested on September 21, 1937 and shot less than a month later, on October 15, 1937. His wife Bella and five-year-old son Volodar were exiled to the Arkhangelsk region, where his wife was arrested and died, and his son was sent to an orphanage. Another son, Ernest, who was only six months old, was adopted by relatives. The brothers were reunited only eighteen years later. Pavel Markovich’s eldest son is now ninety years old.

At 1:00 p.m., at 15 Tchaikovsky Street, relatives will install a plaque memorializing Solomon Borisovich Davidson, head of procurement at the Bolshevik factory. He was first arrested in 1935, but released a year later, and the case was dismissed. He was re-arrested on July 26, 1938, and shot on October 8, 1938, on charges of espionage. His wife Elizabeth died in 1942 in the Siege of Leningrad, but their daughters Irina and Mariana were evacuated and were able to return to Leningrad after the war.

Pavel Tselinsky was exonerated in 1957, while Solomon Davidson was exonerated in 1964.

We invite you to join the installation ceremonies.

Yours,

The Last Address Team in St. Petersburg

Source: Last Address in Petersburg email newsletter, 27 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Giving Tuesday: Solidarity Zone & The White Helmets

Solidarity Zone is a new initiative, established by anti-authoritarian activists. Anarchist Black Cross Moscow is cooperating with the new initiative, and we encourage everyone to support it.

Solidarity Zone is a horizontal initiative supporting those persecuted for anti-war actions. We came together in the spring of 2022 to help those left without attention by human rights organizations.

Everyone is worthy of defense and solidarity. And we stand in solidarity with people who have spoken out in word and deed against state violence. We are against the existence of prisons, states and war — for self-organization, equality and the abolition of oppression.

We are ready to support those who speak out against war and resist militarism, with the exception of people who practice discrimination on national, gender, social and other grounds. At the same time, our project team consists of only a few people, and we do not have enough resources, so we are currently working on a small number of cases.

Right now we are providing support to:

Anton Zhuchkov
Vladimir Sergeev
Vladimir Zolotarev
Igor Paskar
Ruslan Zinin
Kirill Butylin
Vladlen Menshikov

We would like to point out that we don’t pay any fines or compensation for damages caused to the state. We also do not help people who voluntarily testify against others. Pleading or not pleading guilty is not a limiting factor.

Our objectives are: 

  • Establish and maintain contact with detainees and their loved ones; 
  • Find lawyers whom we trust; 
  • Arrange parcels or packages for prisoners;
  • Share information about the cases and addresses for letters with the consent of those who are persecuted.

You can share information about prisoners who need support by writing to us. You can also direct your questions about current cases that our initiative is already working on. E-mail: solidarity_zone@riseup.net

You can follow our work on social media: 
Telegram
Facebook
Instagram

DONATIONS REQUIRED
We have no permanent source of funding and do not get paid, so the support is being provided thanks to your donations. We encourage you to support our project financially, if you are in a position to do so.

Requisites for transfers:

PayPal: solidarity_zone@riseup.net

Bank account to donate outside of Russia:
Account: UGMR
IBAN: DE57 4306 0967 1216 4248 00
BIC: GENODEM1GLS
GLS GEMEINSCHAFTSBANK EG
Subject: Solidarity Zone

Cryptocurrency:
bitcoin: bc1qfzhfkd27ckz76dqf67t0jwm4gvrcug49e7fhry
monero: 86565hecMGW7n2T1ap7wdo4wQ7kefaqXVPS8h2k2wQVhDHyYbADmDWZTuxpUMZPjZhSLpLp2SZZ8cLKdJkRchVWJBppbgBK
ethereum: 0xD89Cf5e0B04b1a546e869500Fe96463E9986ADA3
other altcoins:
https://nowpayments.io/donation/solidarityzone

Source: “Solidarity Zone – a new initiative to support anti-war prisoners in Russia,” Anarchist Black Cross Dresden, 27 November 2022


This is a message from Obada Zekra, the team leader of the White Helmets center in Maret Mesrin in northwest Syria.

With winter fast approaching, my team in northwest Syria is working around the clock to tackle an outbreak of cholera that has already claimed 12 lives here and threatens tens of thousands of displaced families living in tent camps in dire conditions.

We are repairing camp water infrastructure and digging hundreds of drainage channels to prevent torrential winter floods mixing with sewage and spreading the deadly virus. White Helmets ambulances are transferring suspected cases to hospitals and women volunteers are making daily tours of tents to provide primary health care.

In the middle of the cholera outbreak, early on November 6, Russia and the regime bombed sleeping civilians in six overcrowded camps, including with internationally banned cluster munitions, turning their last refuge into a hell. Ten people were killed, including four children. Our team rushed to rescue the injured, but we felt totally helpless when our colleague, the White Helmets volunteer Hassan Bakir, lost his baby son Azzam in an attack on Maram camp where he has lived since he was displaced.

Today on Giving Tuesday 2022, the global day of generosity, will you support The White Helmets’ urgent work responding to aerial attacks, protecting displaced people in camps from cholera, and preparing for a freezing winter?

After the attack the White Helmets evacuated families to other camps as the area was littered with unexploded ordnance which our specialized UXO teams had to clear. But even on days when there are no Russian planes in the skies we are in a constant race against time to prepare for winter: building roads, making health visits to elderly residents, and conducting hundreds of public health information sessions as we predict a fresh wave of both COVID and cholera over winter.

Each of our 19 White Helmets centers responding to the cholera emergency needs $1100 worth of water chlorination equipment to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

• A $20 donation will contribute towards setting up field clinics in tents

• $100 would pay for a 100 liter plastic tank to store clean water

• $300 would buy a new water pump

Donations of any amount are urgently needed as our COVID response taught us how fast infectious diseases spread.

Nearly 1.8 million civilians, the majority of them women and children, have been displaced from their homes by years of attacks by Russia and the regime and now live in camps in northwestern Syria in desperate, cramped conditions where they continue to be targeted by bombs and missiles in violation of international law. The international community continues to fail them and every six months the UN even requires Russia’s approval to renew vital cross-border aid deliveries, which many rely on to survive. People here dream of the day they can return to their homes and towns. Instead, residents of Maram camp suffered a massacre this month that stole the lives of their children.

I myself was displaced by attacks, and I have lost many of my fellow volunteers since I joined the White Helmets in 2013. I overcome these tragedies when I witness day by day how the work of the White Helmets is improving people’s lives. With your support this Giving Tuesday, we can continue to protect displaced people in northwest Syria’s camps with life-saving humanitarian and rescue services.

With thanks,

Obada Zekra

Source: The Syria Campaign email newsletter, 29 November 2022

Down in the Hole

Oleg Grigoriev
Pit

Digging a pit? 
I was.
Fell in the pit?
 I fell.
Down in the pit? 
I am.
Need a ladder? 
I do.
Wet in the pit? 
It's wet.
How's the head? 
Intact.
So you are safe?
I'm safe.
Well, okay then, I'm off!

Original text. Translated by the Russian Reader



Putin last week took part in a meeting with the mothers of soldiers killed in the war in Ukraine. The title “soldiers’ mother” carries a lot of influence in Russia — and Putin was famously humiliated by a group of soldiers’ relatives in his early years as president. Unsurprisingly, Friday’s meeting included only those trusted to meet Putin and the gathering passed off without awkward questions. Putin — who now rarely communicates with anyone outside of his inner circle — once again demonstrated a complete detachment from reality.

  • The Russian authorities have been nervous of organizations of soldiers’ mothers since the mid-1990s. During the first Chechen war (1994-1996), in which the Russian army was humiliated, the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers was one of the country’s leading anti-war forces and held the state and the military to account.
  • For Putin personally, any encounter with soldiers’ mothers stirs unhappy memories of one of the most dramatic incidents of his first year in the Kremlin. In August 2000, the inexperienced president was subjected to a grilling by the wives and mothers of sailors who died in the Kursk submarine disaster. The transcript of the meeting immediately appeared in the press and a recording was played on Channel One, which was then owned by Kremlin eminence grise Boris Berezovsky. Presenter Sergei Dorenko subsequently claimed that, after the broadcast, Putin called the channel and yelled that the widows were not genuine and that Berezovsky’s colleagues “hired whores for $10.” Ever since that encounter, the Russian president has avoided in-person meetings, favoring stage-managed gatherings with hand-picked members of the public.
  • This time, of course, there were no surprises. The Kremlin carefully selected the soldiers’ mothers who were invited to attend. At least half of those at the meeting turned out to be activists from the ruling United Russia party and members of pro-Kremlin organizations. 
  • The most striking speech at the event was close to parody. It was given by Nina Pshenichkina, a woman from Ukraine’s Luhansk Region whose son was killed in 2019. Pshenchkina later became a member of the Public Chamber of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic and has attended almost every official funeral and official celebration. She told Putin that her son’s last words were: “Let’s go, lads, let’s crop some dill” (in this context, “dill” is an insulting nickname for Ukrainians).
  • Putin’s speech was also striking. First, he told the assembled mothers that Ukrainians were Nazis because they kill mobilized Russians soldiers who did not wish to serve on the front line. Then he embarked on a long, strange discussion about why we should be proud of the dead. “We are all mortal, we all live beneath God and at some point we will all leave this world. It’s inevitable. The question is how we live… after all, how some people live or don’t live, it’s not clear. How they get away from vodka, or something. And then they got away and lived, or did not live, imperceptibly. But your son lived. And he achieved something. This means he did not live his life in vain,” he said to one of the mothers.

Why the world should care

It would be an error to assume that Putin has completely abandoned rational thought. However, it is instructive to watch him at meetings like this, which provide a window onto the sort of information he consumes. At this meeting with fake soldiers’ mothers he quoted fake reports from his Defense Ministry and, seemingly, took it all seriously.

Source: The Bell & The Moscow Times email newsletter, 28 November 2022. Written by Peter Mironenko, translated by Andy Potts, and edited by Howard Amos. Photo, above, by the Russian Reader

Father Death Comes to Berlin

Father Death Comes to Berlin — Silence Russian War Propaganda on Our Streets!

On November 29, the “Russian House” Berlin invites to a “festive lighting of the candles” at the Christmas tree in front of the building in Friedrichstraße. In a kitschy video, this event is also advertised by the Russian Embassy.

However, we do not feel “festive” at all! On the contrary. We are angry that such a propaganda action can take place without problems in Berlin. Because while in front of the Russian House “peaceful Christmas” are staged, Russia leads a brutal attack and conquest war in Ukraine, in which whole cities are bombed. The main target is the civilian population, which is exposed to permanent terror by Russian attacks.

The Putin regime is thus continuing a tactic that it has already been testing since 2015 in Syria, where even refugee camps are being attacked by Russian bombers. In Syria, Russian attacks have killed more than 2,000 children in the last eight years, and in Ukraine, nearly 1,000 children have been killed or injured so far as a result of the Russian war. There is no “peaceful Christmas” for these children!

The Russian House has so far refused to take a clear stand against the wars of the Putin regime. It gives itself the outward appearance of a non-political “cultural institute”. In fact, however, it is part of the regime’s propaganda machine and is supposed to convey the image of a peaceful and friendly Russia.

Russian House, Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, Germany. Photo courtesy of taz

The right-wing Alternative for Germany is also occasionally given the opportunity to hold events in the Russian House. Thus, the Russian House also fulfills a function in the Putin regime’s strategy of promoting right-wing and far-right parties and organizations worldwide.

According to research by Tagesspiegel, the Russian House is “run by the Rossotrudnichestvo organization, whose head, Yevgenii Primakov, is a Putin confidant.” The organization is directly under the jurisdiction of the Russian Foreign Ministry and has been subject to European Union sanctions since July.

We ask ourselves: Why is the Russian House in Berlin allowed to continue to act unchallenged and to spread the “soft propaganda” of the Putin regime?

Join us on 29.11.2022 at the Russian House in Friedrichstraße and show your protest against the unspeakably hypocritical event “Father Frost comes to Berlin”!

We demand the immediate closure of the Russian House! Against the propaganda of the Putin regime in Berlin and everywhere!

Source: Facebook. Thanks to Harald Etzbach for the heads-up. I took the liberty of inserting the YouTube video and the photo, above, as well as incorporating the links to articles in the German press into the text. God knows that if I were still living in Berlin, I would be attending this protest. ||| TRR