The Two Towers

Artist’s rendering of Akhmat Tower, Grozny, Chechnya. Courtesy of The Village

Price Tag of Grozny’s Akhmat Tower Rises to One Billion Dollars
Anton Pogorelsky
October 21, 2016

The cost of building Chechyna’s tallest tower has doubled

The final cost of building the Akhmat Tower, the tallest building in Grozny, will be one billion US dollars or 66 billion rubles, reports Rambler News Service, quoting Muslim Khuchiyev, the city’s mayor. This is twice the earlier announced amount of five hundred million US dollars. The reason for the increase in the skyscraper’s price was not specified.

“This is nothing other than [private] investments. Not a kopeck of the budget [will be spent],” Rambler News Service quoted Khuchiyev as saying.

The 102-storey Akhmat Tower will be 435 meters high, 35 meters more than was planned initially. According to Khuchiyev, after construction of the Akhmat Tower has been completed, it will be the tallest building in Europe. At the moment, the title belongs to the 374-meter-high Federation Tower in Moscow. However, the title of the tallest building on the continent should pass to the Lakhta Center in Petersburg. It will be 462 meters tall, 27 meters more than the Chechen tower.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Vadim F. Lurie, Lahta Center (under construction) seen through the Western High-Speed Diameter (ZSD) highway, Petersburg, September 30, 2016. Photo courtesy of the photographer
Lakhta Center (under construction), as seen over the Western High-Speed Diameter (ZSD) highway, Petersburg, September 30, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie. Reprinted with his kind permission

Hoe Your Own Row

Nearly Half of All Russians Have Switched to Subsistence Farming
Natalya Novopashina
October 21, 2016

The percentage of Russians who grow food in their gardens has increased to 46%. At the same, food sales in stores have decreased, according to GfK Russia.

In two years, the percentage of Russians growing vegetables and fruits in their own gardens has increased from 39% to 46%. Moreover, production of their own vegetables is the main source of nutrition for the 15% of “active” gardeners, GfK Russia CEO Alexander Demidov told RBC.

“We have noticed a fairly big burst. People have been switching to growing their own produce. It is definitely a crisis,” he said, adding that the percentage of Russians engaged in subsistence farm not as a hobby, but to feed themselves, will only grow.

Irina Koziy, general director of industry news website FruitNews, confirms the trend, noting that it is most visible in medium-sized towns for now.

“Besides, there are a number of programs in the regions under which needy and large families are supplied with seed potatoes for planting in the spring. Such programs operate in Buryatia, Kuzbass, and a number of other regions,” said Koziy.

“The consumer moods of Russians have improved slightly, but they still remain in the negative zone,” notes GfK Russia’s report “The Russian Consumer 2016: Adapting to the Crisis.”

In April 2016, 53% of respondents reported the crisis had had a direct impact on their lives. In July 2016, this figure was 46%.

And yet, in reality, the actual financial circumstances of Russians have not improved. They have simply adapted to the crisis and regard the current economic reality more calmly.

“The effect of adjusting to the situation has kicked in, because people don’t believe the crisis will be resolved soon,” said Demidov. “So crisis consumerist strategies are still in effect.”

According to GfK, the vast majority of respondents (75%) said they were willing to give up purchasing certain goods. In particular, according to the company, the greatness number of Russians (17% of respondents) have been saving money by cutting out trips to beauty salons. Other expenditures that had been cut included purchases of household appliances (16%) and cosmetics (15%).

The sales of most foods have also decreased. According to GfK, during the year beginning July 2015 and ending July 2016, sales of dairy products and meat decreased in physical terms by 0.5% and 0.8%, respectively. Most of all, consumers scrimped on sweets and snacks (a 3% decrease), bread products (a 7% decrease), and fish and seafood (a 7.4% decrease). A slight increase occurred in sales of frozen products (1.1%), eggs (1.4%), fresh fruits and vegetables (1.5%), and baby food (2.2%).

During the same period, the volume in terms of price of goods purchased through promotions grew by 45%. And the share of promotions throughout the fast-moving consumer goods sector increased from 12.2% to 14.1%, according to GfK’s calculations.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of

In Absentia

Victor Bogorad, “Trial in Absentia,” October 20, 2015. Courtesy of Cartoon Movement

Ilya Shepelin
October 21, 2016

My morning has begun with a call from Ksenia Babich. At dawn, a band of investigators from the Investigative Committee forced their way into her flat.

They are searching the flat in connection with a case against Artyom Skoropadsky, press secretary of the Right Sector, an organization banned in Russia. Mr. Skoropadsky studied at Moscow State University’s journalism department, but now he is unlikely to return to Russia. Nevertheless, the Investigative Committee is putting together another trial where the accused will be tried in absentia. (Such trials, in which there no defendant in the courtroom, but he or she is meted out a harsh sentence, are no longer uncommon in Russia.) So they need evidence, and have now found their way to Ksenia, who was in the same year at the journalism department as Skoropadsky. So a dozen investigators, putting aside all their other work, pounded on her door at six in the morning.

For Ksenia, these events are sad, above all, because her computer, telephone, and any other electronic devices found in the flat will be confiscated as evidence. And of course, as particularly valuable physical evidence, they are unlikely to be returned.

There’s another cute particular. Ksenia managed to write a post about [the search] on Facebook, but, hot on her heels, a particularly resourceful officer confiscated her phone and deleted the post : – )

Olya Osipova and I are now headed to Ksenia’s place. Friends and acquaintances are invited to join us.

Since the prudent investigators deleted Ksenia’s post about the search, please press “Like” and “Share.” We need to give those geezers a little something to smile about.

Ilya Shepelin is a reporter at Takie Dela, an online magazine and charitable foundation. Ksenia Babich is press officer at the Russian Justice Initiative. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AK for the heads-up


Room in Children's Tuberculosis Hospital, Astrakhan, 2011. Photo courtesy of uglich_jj
Room in Children’s Tuberculosis Hospital, Astrakhan, 2011. Photo courtesy of uglich_jj

One of the conclusions of a report by the Health Foundation was that the elimination of 41,000 beds in Russian hospitals had led to an increase in mortality of 24,000 people in 2015, RBC reports today. The Health Ministry acknowledged the increase in mortality, but said it was not due to a reduction in hospital admissions.



Sergey Yugov
October 20, 2016

A mystical coincidence. The day before yesterday, I was waiting for a green light at a crosswalk on Prospect Prosveshcheniya, near the eponymous subway station. On the other side of the street, a woman whom I didn’t know was waving at me and yelling something through the traffic zipping past us. I crossed the street and went over to the woman. She told me she had mistaken me for her son, who had disappeared four months ago.

She showed me photos and told me the story of his disappearance and her guesses as to what had happened, each one gloomier than the last, ending with the surmise that her son had been lured to Donbass, where he had been killed. The cops knew about it, and so they were not trying to look for him. Her monthly apartment maintenance fee had been reduced, meaning the housing authority knew too, and so on.

I took pictures of the photographs she was pasting on all the poles in the vicinity, and said I would put them up on the Internet. Maybe somebody knew something and would get in touch.

The coincidence was that I was going that evening to an exhibition at Borey Gallery entitled “A Man Is Lost.”

I was sorting through the photos now and thought, What a contrast! On the one hand, beautiful young photographers and writers meditating on the condition of being lost, on outsiders, downshifting, and French clochards. On the other hand, poor helpless mothers, for whom no one has any use, clutching photographs of their lost sons on street corners in Russian cities, peering into the face of every man they meet wearing a hoodie and hoping for a miracle.

A rows of unmarked graves bearing numbers and the abbreviation UM, “Unknown male.” These are the ones who are really lost. It was a photo like this that was lacking at the exhibition.

“Has anyone seen him? I’ve been searching since June 12. Mom. Call +7 965 048 9285.”

Just in case, the surname of the man in the photos is Kairov. He is around thirty. His mother asked me not to write his given name. She was afraid con men would call her.

I met her near the Prospect Prosveshcheniya subway station, and she lives somewhere in the neighborhood, apparently.

She told me she had made the rounds of all the local hospitals (and, probably, the morgues, too).

She has searched for him among the homeless. Her son had once had a case of memory loss, so maybe something of the sort has happened this time.

She has written to the TV program Wait for Me [which helps people find lost loved ones — TRR]. She said that since the police were doing nothing and were not searching for him, she would travel to see Putin and get an audience with him.


Sergey Yugov is a Petersburg photographer and videographer. I thank him for his kind permission to translate his story and reproduce his photographs here. Translated by the Russian Reader

P.S. After I posted this, Sergey wrote to say that there was a whole page on the Russian social network VKontakte, entitled “Person Missing,” featuring photos and notices of missing loved ones.

There are 3,290 images on the page, the first one dated January 21, 2013. The last one is dated yesterday.


“Alexei Alexandrovich Dorin. Born 1981 (35 y.o.), Moscow. Contacted loved ones for last time on October 1, 2016. Since then there has been no information of his whereabouts. Description: 165 cm tall, normal build, blue eyes. Was wearing a black artificial leather jacket and carrying a gym bag. Help find this man. Anyone who has information about the missing person is asked to call +7 800 700 5452 (toll free in Russia) or emergency numbers 02 or 102. Everyone can help!”

Evgeny Anisimov: Ivan the Terrible Monument Is Sacrilege

Evgeny Anisimov
Russia’s Shame and Misfortune: Ivan the Terrible Monument Is Sacrilege
Moskovsky Komsomolets
October 16, 2016

The undertaking by the Oryol authorities has left me, a historian of ancient Russia and a citizen of modern Russia, in a state of shock and amazement. Erecting a monument to Ivan the Terrible violates every conceivable ethical norm and Russian tradition.

Monument to Ivan the Terrible in Oryol. The statue was unveiled on October 14, 2016, amid great controversy.

In the 1850s, during the reign of Alexander II, a heated debate erupted among the intelligentsia and court circles over many of the historical figures proposed for inclusion on the monument The Millennium of Russia, which was to be erected in Novgorod the Great. They were unanimous on only one point. Ivan the Terrible should not be depicted on the monument in any way, for his reign had been Russia’s shame and misfortune. There had never been such a hideous villain in Russia’s history as its first tsar. And this opinion was voiced under an autocracy!

You can talk about the rivers of blood that Ivan spilled in his own country, the monstrous, cruel reprisals that he visited on his own subjects. We are talking about thousands and thousands of people. I will recall only one absolutely true story, the story of what happened to the highly respected boyar Ivan Petrovich Fyodorov-Chelyadnin, head of the Boyar Duma. Ivan accused him of a nonexistent conspiracy to seize power. He forced the boyar to don the tsar’s cloths, seated him on his throne, mocked the old man, and cut out his heart with a knife. The poor man’s body was tossed onto a pile of manure, where it was ripped to shreds by stray dogs.

But that was not enough for the tsar. He carried out a savage reprisal against Fyodorov’s relatives and servants.

As a contemporary wrote, “Having thus murdered [Ivan], his family, and all his people, the tyrant mounted a horse and for nearly a year made the rounds of his estates and villages (Fyodorov was wealthy) with a mob of murderers, sowing destruction, devastation, and murder everywhere. When he captured his soldiers and payers of tribute, the tyrant would order them stripped naked and locked in a cage. Sulfur and gunpowder would be poured into the cage and ignited so that the corpses of the poor men, lifted by the force of the explosion, seemed to fly in the air. The tyrant found this circumstance quite amusing. All the large and small animals and horses were gathered in one place, and the tyrant ordered them hacked to pieces, and some of them pierced with arrows, since he did not wish to leave even the smallest beast alive anywhere. He torched his estates and stacks of wheat, turning them to ash. He would order the murderers to rape the wives and children of those he killed as he watched, and do with them as they willed before exterminating them. As for the wives of the peasants, he ordered them stripped naked and driven into the woods like animals. However, the murders secretly waited in ambush there to torture, kill, and hack to pieces these women wandering the woods. He thus destroyed the clan and entire family of this great man, leaving not a single survivor among his in-laws and relatives.”

The tsar especially tormented women during the atrocities on Fyodorov’s estates: “The women and girls were stripped naked and in this state would be forced to catch chickens in the field.”

These recollections are confirmed by Ivan’s own written records. In later years, to beg God for forgiveness, he kept a “Synodicon of the Disgraced,” a book commemorating the people he had killed and tortured personally over a lifetime. He used a curious verb to describe the cruelest reprisals, otdelat’, “finish off.” This is how he describes Fyodorov’s people in the “Synodicon”: “In Bezhetsky Verkh, 65 of Ivan’s men were finished off, and 12 were chopped to pieces by hand.”  So these last twelve people had relatively easy deaths by sword or ax, compared with the first sixty-five, who were “finished off” in some way—burned, drowned, sawed, and so on. Over three hundred of Fyodorov’s men were executed in this way.

The “Synodicon of the Disgraced,” which Ivan the Terrible kept himself, included around three and half thousand victims in one five-year period alone, including the tsar’s close relatives, famous generals, church leaders, simple peasants, and men taken captive in the fortresses taken by his army. The tsar himself conceived the brutal methods of execution and enjoyed watching as people were boiled alive, blown up on barrels of gunpowder, turned over a slow fire like kebabs, skinned alive, and impaled. Moreover, to exacerbate their torments, Ivan’s oprichniki raped the wives, daughters, and mothers in front of the men as they slowly died. None of these are fables and fairy tales, but real stories, recorded in numerous documents and the confessions of the tsar himself, who was sometimes given to bouts of remorse.

It is no wonder the Russian Orthodox Church did not even consider a recent proposal to canonize Ivan the Terrible: he mercilessly ordered the killing of hundreds of monks and priests. Look on the Internet for information about the tragic fate of Philip Kolychev, then head of the church, strangled by the tsar’s minion Malyuta Skuratov. The tsar ordered the Archbishop of Novgorod sewn up in a bearskin and baited by dogs.

Novgorod the Great suffered especially badly at the hands of the villain in 1570. Thousands of its residents, including women and children, were put to death in terrible ways. Some were drowned in the Volkhov River; Ivan’s oprichniki patrolled the river in boats and finished off anyone who floated to the surface with axes. Ivan committed a terrible sacrilege by pillaging the holiest place in Russia, St. Sophia Cathedral, a church that had stood untouched for five hundred years. The next people to rob the cathedral were German and Spanish fascists in 1941.

Ivan the Terrible was a genuine rapist and sadist. He himself bragged that he had raped a thousand girls in his life. It is important to note that he was not ill or insane. He was well aware of what he was doing. Sometimes, fear of divine punishment would scare him into repenting and writing down his sins and crimes, but then he would kill and rape again.

If everything I have written above means little to statist readers, I would underscore the fact that Ivan was a complete failure as a statesman. He botched all the good undertakings at the outset of his reign, lost all the wars he fought, forfeited all his initial conquests, and was incompetent and cowardly as a military commander, but he enjoyed finishing off captured prisoners with a spear. Ultimately, he brought Russia to the brink of ruin. His reign ended in complete failure: military, political, and economic failure. The once-flourishing country was desolated. In Northwest Russia, archaeologists are still finding numerous villages and new settlements that perished forever during Ivan’s reign.

What we know as the Time of Troubles, when Russia was invaded by enemies and plunged into civil war, was a direct outcome of Ivan’s reign. Russia sunk into oblivion for a time then, and even vanished from the map of the world, and only common folk, who had survived the hell of Ivan’s reign, saved Russia under the banner of Minin and Pozharsky. They saved Russia for us, too.

We can be amazed at the humility and patience of the martyr-like Russian people. As early nineteenth-century historian Nikolay Karamzin wrote, Russia “endured the destroyer for twenty-four years, armed only with prayer and patience. […] Generous in their humility, the sufferers died at the Lobnoye Mesto, like the Greeks at Thermopylae, for Faith and Faithfulness, having no thought of rebellion. […] The tiger  reveled in the blood of lambs, and the victims, dying the deaths of innocents, demanded justice and touching commemoration from contemporaries and descendants as they took their final gaze at the pitiable country.”

We are their descendants. Was their sacrifice in vain? Was their blood not like ours, but water?

If we are alive, it means that the chain of our ancestors leads back to the time of Ivan. How many such chains the murderous tsar sundered! The people slain by Ivan the Terrible were people just like us, and we must honor their memory. The monument to Ivan the Terrible is a sacrilege against their nameless graves. All those innocent victims will no doubt someday demand a reckoning from us for this sacrilege, for erecting a monument to Russian history’s greatest villain. Oryol will pay a price for this.

At the end of his life, the tsar rotted alive, emitting a foul odor. Undoubtedly, the Lord did not let Ivan the Terrible escape hell. At the last minute, he tried to take monastic vows, which were then believed to be a sure way to save the soul. But no! The monastic dress had been laid out on the villain’s stiffening corpse, but there is no doubt he is in hell, where he belongs, not on a square in one of Russia’s wonderful, radiant cities.

Dr. Evgeny Anisimov is a full professor at the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg, and chief researcher at the St. Petersburg Institute of History (Russian Academy of Sciences). Translated by the Russian Reader