Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: Why I Am Going on Hunger Strike

On Monday, September 23, I am declaring a hunger strike. This is an extreme method, but I am absolutely convinced it is my only recourse in the current situation.

The prison wardens refuse to hear me. But I will not back down from my demands. I will not remain silent, watching in resignation as my fellow prisoners collapse under slave-like conditions. I demand that human rights be observed at the prison. I demand that the law be obeyed in this Mordovian camp. I demand we be treated like human beings, not slaves.

It has been a year since I arrived at Penal Colony No. 14 [henceforth, PC-14 — Trans.] in the Mordovian village of Partsa. As the women convicts say, “Those who haven’t done time in Mordovia haven’t done time at all.” I had heard about the Mordovian prison camps while I was still being held at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 6 in Moscow. They have the harshest conditions, the longest workdays, and the most flagrant lawlessness. Prisoners see their fellows off to Mordovia as if they were headed to the scaffold. Until the last, they keep hoping: “Maybe they won’t send you to Mordovia after all? Maybe the danger will pass you by?” It didn’t pass me by, and in the autumn of 2012, I arrived in the prison country on the banks of the Partsa River.

My first impression of Mordovia was the words uttered by the prison’s deputy warden, Lieutenant Colonel Kupriyanov, who actually runs PC-14. “You should know that when it comes to politics, I am a Stalinist.” Colonel Kulagin, the other warden (the prison is administered in tandem) called me in for a chat my first day here in order to force me to confess my guilt. “A misfortune has befallen you. Isn’t that right? You’ve been sentenced to two years in prison. People usually change their views when bad things happen to them. If you want to be paroled as soon as possible, you have to confess your guilt. If you don’t, you won’t get parole.” I told him right away I would work only the eight hours a day stipulated by the Labor Code. “The code is the code. What really matters is making your quota. If you don’t, you work overtime. And we’ve broken stronger wills than yours here!” Colonel Kulagin replied.

My whole shift works sixteen to seventeen hours a day in the sewing workshop, from seven-thirty in the morning to twelve-thirty at night. At best, we get four hours of sleep a night. We have a day off once every month and a half. We work almost every Sunday. Prisoners “voluntarily” apply to work on weekends. In fact, there is nothing “voluntary” about it. These applications are written involuntarily on the orders of the wardens and under pressure from the inmates who help enforce their will.

No one dares disobey (that is, not apply to go to the manufacturing zone on Sunday, meaning going to work until one in the morning). Once, a fifty-year-old woman asked to go back to the dorm zone at eight p.m. instead of twelve-thirty p.m. so she could go to bed at ten p.m. and get eight hours of sleep just once that week. She was not feeling well; she had high blood pressure. In response, a dorm unit meeting was called, where the woman was scolded, humiliated, insulted, and branded a parasite. “What, do you think you’re the only one who wants more sleep? You need to work harder, you’re strong as a horse!” When someone from the shift doesn’t come to work on doctor’s orders, they’re bullied as well. “I sewed when I had a fever of forty Centigrade, and it was fine. Who did you think was going to pick up the slack for you?”

I was welcomed to my dorm unit by a convict finishing up a nine-year sentence. “The pigs are scared to put the squeeze on you themselves. They want to have the inmates do it.” Conditions at the prison really are organized in such a way that the inmates in charge of the work shifts and dorm units are the ones tasked by the wardens with crushing the will of inmates, terrorizing them, and turning them into speechless slaves.

There is a widely implemented system of unofficial punishments for maintaining discipline and obedience. Prisoners are forced to “stay in the local until lights out,” meaning they are forbidden to go into the barracks, whether it is fall or winter. [The “local” is a fenced-off passageway between two areas in the camp — Trans.] In the second unit, where the disabled and elderly live, there was a woman who ended up getting such bad frostbite after a day in the local that her fingers and one of her feet had to be amputated. The wardens can also “shut down sanitation” (forbid prisoners to wash up or go to the toilet) and “shut down the commissary and the tearoom” (forbid prisoners to eat their own food and drink beverages). It’s both funny and frightening when a forty-year-old woman tells you, “So we’re being punished today! I wonder whether we’ll be punished tomorrow, too.” She can’t leave the sewing workshop to pee or take a piece of candy from her purse. It’s forbidden.

Dreaming only of sleep and a sip of tea, the exhausted, harassed and dirty convict becomes obedient putty in the hands of the administration, which sees us solely as a free work force. So, in June 2013, my monthly wages came to twenty-nine rubles [approx. sixty-seven euro cents]twenty-nine rubles! Our shift sews one hundred and fifty police uniforms per day. Where does the money made from them go?

The prison has been allocated funding to buy completely new equipment a number of times. However, the administration has only had the sewing machines repainted, with the convicts doing the work. We sew on obsolete and worn-out machines. According to the Labor Code, when equipment does not comply with current industry standards, production quotas must be lowered vis-à-vis standard industry norms. But the quotas only increase, abruptly and suddenly. “If you let them see you can deliver one hundred uniforms, they’ll raise the minimum to one hundred and twenty!” say veteran machine operators. And you cannot fail to deliver, either, or else the whole unit will be punished, the entire shift. Punished, for instance, by everyone being forced to stand on the parade ground for hours. Without the right to go to the toilet. Without the right to take a sip of water.

Two weeks ago, the production quotas for all prison work shifts were arbitrarily increased by fifty units. If previously the minimum was one hundred uniforms a day, now it is one hundred and fifty. According to the Labor Code, workers must be notified of a change in the production quota no less than two months before it is goes into effect. At PC-14, we just woke up one day to find we had a new quota because the idea happened to have popped into the heads of the wardens of our “sweatshop” (that’s what the prisoners call the penal colony). The number of people in the work shift decreases (they are released or transferred), but the quota grows. As a result, those who remain have to work harder and harder. The mechanics say they don’t have the parts to repair the machinery and will not be getting them. “There are no spare parts! When will they come? What, you don’t live in Russia? How can you ask such questions?” During my first few months in the manufacturing zone, I nearly mastered the profession of mechanic, out of necessity and on my own. I would attack my machine, screwdriver in hand, desperate to fix it. Your hands are scratched and poked by needles, your blood is all over the table, but you keep on sewing. You are part of an assembly line, and you have to do your job alongside the experienced seamstresses. Meanwhile, the damned machine keeps breaking down. Because you’re the newcomer and there is a lack of good equipment in the prison, you end up with the worst equipment, the most worthless machine on the line. And now it’s broken down again, and once again you run off looking for the mechanic, who is impossible to find. You are yelled at and berated for slowing down production. There are no sewing classes at the prison, either. Newcomers are immediately plunked down in front of their machines and given their assignments.

“If you weren’t Tolokonnikova, you would have had the shit kicked out of you a long time ago,” say fellow prisoners with close ties to the wardens. It’s true: other prisoners are beaten up. For not being able to keep up. They hit them in the kidneys, in the face. Convicts themselves deliver these beatings and not a single one of them happens without the approval and knowledge of the wardens. A year ago, before I came here, a Gypsy woman was beaten to death in the third unit. (The third unit is the “pressure cooker”: prisoners whom the wardens want subjected to daily beatings are sent there.) She died in the infirmary at PC-14. The administration was able to cover up the fact she had been beaten to death: a stroke was listed as the official cause of death. In another block, new seamstresses who couldn’t keep up were undressed and forced to sew naked. No one dares complain to the wardens, because all they will do is smile and send the prisoner back to the dorm unit, where the “snitch” will be beaten on the orders of those same wardens. For the prison warden, managed hazing is a convenient method for forcing convicts to totally obey their lawless regime.

A threatening, anxious atmosphere pervades the manufacturing zone. Eternally sleep-deprived, overwhelmed by the endless race to fulfill inhumanly large quotas, the convicts are always on the verge of breaking down, screaming at each other, fighting over the smallest things. Just recently, a young woman got stabbed in the head with a pair of scissors because she didn’t turn in a pair of pants on time. Another tried to cut her own stomach open with a hacksaw. She was stopped from finishing the job.

Those who found themselves at PC-14 in 2010, the year of smoke and wildfires [throughout Russia — Trans.] said that when the fire would approach the prison walls, convicts continued to go to the manufacturing zone and fulfill their quotas. Because of the smoke you couldn’t see a person standing two meters in front of you, but, covering their faces in wet kerchiefs, they all went to work anyway. Because of the emergency conditions, prisoners weren’t taken to the cafeteria for meals. Several women told me they were so horribly hungry they started keep diaries to document the horror of what was happening to them. When the fires were finally put out, prison security diligently rooted out these diaries during searches so that nothing would be leaked to the outside world.

Sanitary conditions at the prison are calculated to make the prisoner feel like a disempowered, filthy animal. Although there are hygiene rooms in the dorm units, a “general hygiene room” has been set up for corrective and punitive purposes. This room can accommodate five people, but all eight hundred prisoners are sent there to wash up. We must not wash ourselves in the hygiene rooms in our barracks: that would be too easy. There is always a stampede in the “general hygiene room” as women with little tubs try and wash their “breadwinners” (as they are called in Mordovia) as fast as they can, clambering on top of each other. We are allowed to wash our hair once a week. However, even this bathing day gets cancelled. A pump will break or the plumbing will be stopped up. At times, my dorm unit has been unable to bathe for two or three weeks.

When the pipes are clogged, urine gushes out of the hygiene rooms and clumps of feces go flying. We’ve learned to unclog the pipes ourselves, but it doesn’t last long: they soon get stopped up again. The prison does not have a plumber’s snake for cleaning out the pipes. We get to do laundry once a week. The laundry is a small room with three faucets from which a thin trickle of cold water flows.

Convicts are always given stale bread, generously watered-down milk, exceptionally rancid millet and only rotten potatoes for the same corrective ends, apparently. This summer, sacks of slimy, black potato bulbs were bought to the prison in bulk. And they were fed to us.

One could endlessly discuss workplace and living conditions violations at PC-14. However, my main grievance has to do with something else. It is that the prison administration prevents in the harshest possible way all complaints and petitions regarding conditions at PC-14 from leaving the prison. The wardens force people to remain silent, stooping to the lowest and cruelest methods to this end. All the other problems stem from this one: the increased work quotas, the sixteen-hour workday, and so on. The wardens feel they have impunity, and they boldly crack down on prisoners more and more. I couldn’t understand why everyone kept silent until I found myself facing the mountain of obstacles that crashes down on the convict who decides to speak out. Complaints simply do not leave the prison. The only chance is to complain through a lawyer or relatives. The administration, petty and vengeful, will meanwhile all the means at its disposal for pressuring the convict so she will see that her complaints will not make anything better for anyone, but will only make things worse. Collective punishment is employed: you complain about the lack of hot water, and they turn it off altogether.

In May 2013, my lawyer Dmitry Dinze filed a complaint about the conditions at PC-14 with the prosecutor’s office. The prison’s deputy warden, Lieutenant Colonel Kupriyanov, instantly made conditions at the camp unbearable. There was search after search, a flood of disciplinary reports on all my acquaintances, the seizure of warm clothes, and threats of seizure of warm footwear. At work, they get revenge with complicated sewing assignments, increased quotas, and fabricated defects. The forewoman of the neighboring unit, Lieutenant Colonel Kupriyanov’s right hand, openly incited prisoners to sabotage the items I was responsible for in the manufacturing zone so there would be an excuse to send me to solitary confinement for damaging “public property.” She also ordered the convicts in her unit to provoke a fight with me.

It is possible to tolerate anything as long as it affects you alone. But the method of collective correction at the prison is something else. It means that your unit, or even the entire prison, has to endure your punishment along with you. The most vile thing of all is that this includes people you’ve come to care about. One of my friends was denied parole, which she had been working towards for seven years by diligently overfulfilling quotas in the manufacturing zone. She was reprimanded for drinking tea with me. Lieutenant Colonel Kupriyanov transferred her to another unit the same day. Another close acquaintance of mine, a very cultured woman, was thrown into the pressure-cooker unit for daily beatings because she had read and discussed with me a Justice Department document entitled “Internal Regulations at Correctional Facilities.” Disciplinary reports were filed on everyone who talked to me. It hurt me that people I cared about were forced to suffer. Laughing, Lieutenant Colonel Kupriyanov said to me then, “You probably don’t have any friends left!” He explained it was all happening because of Dinze’s complaints.

Now I see I should have gone on hunger strike back in May, when I first found myself in this situation. However, seeing the tremendous pressure put on other convicts, I stopped the process of filing complaints against the prison.

Three weeks ago, on August 30, I asked Lieutenant Colonel Kupriyanov to grant the prisoners in my work shift eight hours of sleep. The idea was to decrease the workday from sixteen to twelve hours. “Fine, starting Monday, the shift can even work eight hours,” he replied. I knew this was another trap because it is physically impossible to make our increased quota in eight hours. So the work shift would lag behind and face punishment. “If they find out you were the one behind this,” the lieutenant colonel continued, “you definitely will never have it bad again, because there is no such thing as bad in the afterlife.” Kupriyanov paused. “And finally, never make requests for everyone. Make requests only for yourself. I’ve been working in the prison camps for many years, and whenever someone has come to me to request something for other people, they have always gone straight from my office to solitary confinement. You’re the first person this won’t happen to.”

Over the following weeks, life in my dorm unit and work shift was made intolerable. Convicts close to the wardens incited the unit to violence. “You’ve been punished by having tea and food, bathroom breaks, and smoking banned for a week. And now you’re always going to be punished unless you start treating the newcomers, especially Tolokonnikova, differently. Treat them like the old-timers used to treat you back in the day. Did they beat you up? Of course they did. Did they rip your mouths? They did. Fuck them up. You won’t be punished for it.”

I was repeatedly provoked to get involved in conflicts and fights, but what is the point of fighting with people who have no will of their own, who are only acting at the behest of the wardens?

The Mordovian convicts are afraid of their own shadows. They are completely intimidated. If only the other day they were well disposed toward me and begging me to do something about the sixteen-hour workday, they are afraid even to speak to me after the administration has come down hard on me.

I made the wardens a proposal for resolving the conflict. I asked that they release me from the pressure artificially manufactured by them and enacted by the prisoners they control, and that they abolish slave labor at the prison by reducing the length of the workday and decreasing the quotas to bring them into compliance with the law. But in response the pressure has only intensified. Therefore, as of September 23, I declare a hunger strike and refuse to be involved in the slave labor at the prison until the administration complies with the law and treats women convicts not like cattle banished from the legal realm for the needs of the garment industry, but like human beings.

This is an extensive revision of the translation, by Bela Shayevich, originally published here.

The original Russian of Ms. Tolokonnikova’s letter can be read here, among other places.

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The “Conservative Turn” in Russia?

Forget condoms, contraceptive pills and chlamydia, and turn instead to Chekhov, Tolstoy and Gogol. That is the message from Russia’s children’s ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, who has opposed the introduction of sex education to schools and says young Russians can learn everything they need to know about love and sex from Russian literature.

“I am against any kind of sex education among children,” said Astakhov in a television interview. “It is unacceptable to allow things that could corrupt children.”

Despite having one of the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemics, Russia has no sex education in schools, owing to the influence of the Russian Orthodox church and conservative social forces.

Astakhov, a powerful official who reports directly to the president, Vladimir Putin, now wants legislation to ensure sex education does not sneak on to the curriculum. Instead, he suggests reading the classics.

“The best sex education that exists is Russian literature,” said Astakhov. “In fact, literature in general. Everything is there, about love and about relationships between sexes. Schools should raise children chastely and with an understanding of family values.”

source: The Guardian

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Journalists, commentators and sociologists inclined to label the deliberate silliness described above as a “moral panic,” proof of a newly emergent dominance of “conservative values” or a “turn to conservatism” in Russian society should ponder the dizzying, contradictory career of the fellow doing the heavy lifting in this case, children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov. Here are some highlights (all of them drawn and lightly adapted from the Wikipedia biography):

  • He graduated from the law faculty of the Dzerzhinsky KGB School in Moscow in 1991.
  • In 2002 he received a Master of Laws from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
  • Astakhov surprised the court hearing the case [of alleged US spy Edmond Pope] by delivering his closing arguments in verse. He read out a 12-page lyric he had composed in iambic pentameters, urging the court to acquit Pope. The court was not impressed by Astakhov’s poetry skills and Pope received a 20-year jail sentence; he was later pardoned by Vladimir Putin and was flown back to US.
  • In December 2003, Astakhov sent a letter to the US Embassy in Moscow, advising President George W. Bush and Ambassador Alexander Vershbow that he would like to represent Saddam Hussein.
  • In 2003 Astakhov became the host of Chas Suda (Hour of Judgment) which aired on the REN TV channel. It was the first Russian judge show. Unlike Judge Judy in the USA, both parties in these trials are played by actors, with Astakhov acting as judge. The show became enormously popular and Astakhov set up a production company, Pravo TV, to make other programs with a legal theme.
  • In the early days of Vladimir Putin, Astakhov was a trenchant critic of the Russian authorities, accusing them of political persecution of his clients, Vladimir Gusinsky and Edmond Pope. He spoke of a “total disregard for human rights” and claimed that the prosecutors “blindly execute the wishes of the authorities”. Later Astakhov made a 180-degree turn in his political affiliation and became one of the most prominent supporters of the top leadership of Russia. In November 2007 he founded and headed the national movement Za Putina (For Putin). At the founding conference, Astakhov described the aim of the new movement as follows: “Don’t we choose a master in the house? Well, here we are proposing to find a master for the country.”

You can imagine that if the wind suddenly turns in another direction, we’ll quickly see yet another manifestation of the malleable Mister Astakhov. And he won’t be and hasn’t been alone, within the Russian political, financial and cultural elites, in displaying this capacity for tacking with the wind, wherever it blows.

The other aspect of this elite shapeshifting worth noting is that it almost always involves what surely must be deliberate parody or mockery of real conservatism (or populism, or democratic liberalism, or whatever). Here, the underlying message is that only a fool would cling stubbornly to a particular set of values, to definite principles.

What does all this have to do with conservatism? Calling it that dignifies the highway robbery perpetuated against an entire country over the past twenty-two years by the ombudsman and his kind.

The Return of Serfdom?

iuf.ru
September 2, 2013
The Cost of the World Cup
FZ-108 primarily threatens hundreds of thousands of Russian workers

A serious discussion has erupted since the contents of the notorious “2018 World Cup Law” (or FZ-108, for short)* were revealed to the general public. The focus of the discussion has been the consequences of removing restrictions on employing migrant laborers and the possibility of their runaway exploitation if the law’s clauses on voluntary contracts (which place them beyond the reach of a number of articles in the Labor Code) are enforced.

However, the people most threatened by FZ-108 are Russian citizens.

When the discussion of FZ-108 was getting underway, many in Russia were disturbed by the fledgling campaign against “illegal migration” recently undertaken by law enforcement and local authorities in several areas of the country, a campaign involving police raids and mass imprisonment of migrants in special camps, where they were forced to live almost on the bare pavement, without electricity and other basic conveniences. Given this background, it was unsurprising and even natural that the public would pay more attention to the clauses in FZ-108 dealing with the employment of foreign nationals and stateless persons. The perception exists that the law has nothing to do with Russian citizens.

But is this really true? The answer is simple: no, it isn’t!

* * * * *

Major sporting events like the World Cup always entail the generation of tens of thousands of jobs in construction, light industry, building maintenance, catering, retailing, transportation and so on. Yes, these jobs appear only for a few years, but wise use of such opportunities can give the economy a stimulus for decades to come. Increasing employment leads to growth in domestic spending and private savings, which, in turn, improve demographics. These are the three pillars of sustainable economic development.

But all that happens only when the new jobs are decent, meaning the wages they pay allow people to spend money, including on major and long-term purchases (e.g., home appliances, furniture and cars), and maybe even take out a home loan, and the terms of employment enable them to feel confident in the future, save money, and start and raise a family.

However, the wording of FZ-108 makes it clear that none of these things are expected to happen in Russia. Instead, the authorities are planning to tackle the job of preparing and staging the 2018 World Cup with slave labor, thus definitely ruling out any positive effects both for workers and the economy as a whole. The only outcome of this championship will be the personal gain of a few.

Why is such a conclusion warranted? The fact is that FZ-108, unlike, say, FZ-310 (which deals with the 2014 Sochi Olympics),** expressly stipulates significant exceptions to labor laws, exceptions that will diminish job quality. They are mainly concentrated in the controversial Article 11 (Chapter 4), “The Characteristics of Work Related to the Staging of the Events.”

First, Article 11 gives employers the right to establish long working hours unilaterally (Section 1).

Second, Article 11 allows employers to define the manner of payment for work at night, on weekends and on public holidays without regard to the stipulations of Articles 154, 113 and 153 of the Labor Code. Moreover, this can be done through collective bargaining, through the inclusion of such clauses in individual employment contracts or, more generally, through the enactment of “local regulations,” that is, yet again, unilaterally (Sections 2 and 3).

Third, overtime pay is abolished. Employers may simply compensate for overtime by “providing additional leisure time,” but the wishes of workers are not taken into account, and Article 152 of the Labor Code is effectively revoked (Section 4).

Finally, Section 5 abolishes such nonsense as the provision of elective annual leaves at times convenient for workers (such guarantees are given in Article 122 of the Labor Code, for example, to women before and after maternity leave). Like the rest of the lives of employees, holidays are governed by the “work plans of relevant organizations for preparing and staging the sporting events.”

However, as Vladimir Yurasov, a partner at the Moscow law firm Knyazev and Partners, rightly noted during an interview on RBK-TV, all these rules are clearly contrary to the Russian Federal Constitution. Article 37 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to remuneration for work without suffering any form of discrimination, and that employment contracts guarantee workers statutory working hours, weekends and holidays, and paid annual leave, as stipulated by federal law. FZ-108 assumes that if workers are employed in the “preparation and staging” of the World Cup, this may very well serve as grounds for discriminating against them in terms of compensation, working hours and the right to paid leave and time off. In this case, “local regulations” are declared primary, rather than the Labor Code and Constitution.

Of course, these draconian measures do not apply to all workers in Russia, only to “FIFA employees, FIFA subsidiaries, FIFA business partners, confederations, national football associations, the Russian Football Union, the Russia 2018 Organizing Committee and its affiliated organizations, whose work activities are related to the staging of events.” The most interesting phrases in this clause are “FIFA business partners” and “work activities […] related to the staging of events.” Let us consider them in the order they appear.

As Article 2 of the law explains, a “FIFA business partner” is a “legal or natural person that has a contractual relationship with FIFA or its subsidiaries and is involved in events.” The list of such individuals and companies could prove to be quite long, because all commercial partners (including sponsors and licensees), suppliers, agents, broadcasters and so on will be included. Moreover, the provisions of the law apply not only to the “business partners” themselves but also to their subcontractors and subsidiaries.

Because preparations for the World Cup have just kicked off, the list of “FIFA business partners” is still incomplete. At present, for example, we know the names of only three companies that will serve as corporate partners to the 2018 World Cup: Coca-Cola, Hyundai-Kia and Anheuser-Busch InBev. In all, FIFA will have thirty-four such partners by 2018. Of course, all these companies have subsidiaries and subcontractors—personnel and temp agencies, construction and security companies, cleaning and catering companies, firms involved in maintaining equipment and buildings, supplying brand-name goods, producing and placing ads, and so on.

Another way to assess the scope of the problem is to compare the 2018 World Cup with another sporting event that will be hosted by Russia, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. We already know the names of all its suppliers, partners and licensees. Let’s take a look at the list.

• Worldwide Partners of the Olympic Games: Coca-Cola, AtoS, Dow Chemical, General Electric, McDonald’s, OMEGA, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Visa

• General Partners of Sochi 2014: Aeroflot, Megafon, Rostelecom, Bosco di Ciliegi, Volkswagen Group Rus, Sberbank of Russia, Russian Railways, Rosneft

• Official Partners of the 2014 Olympic Games: Ingosstrakh, PwC

• Suppliers of Sochi 2014: Avaya, Baltika, EF English First, Kommersant Publishing House, Abrau Durso, Adecco Group, EXECT Business Training, Kelly Services CIS, Detech, Microsoft Russia, GAZ Group, Scania-Rus

In addition, nearly seventy companies have signed licensing agreements with the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee.

It is obvious there will be no fewer companies wishing to link their logos to the World Cup. Only unlike the employees of Olympics partners, employees of FIFA’s business partners will be forced to waive many of their workplace rights.

But perhaps only a small number of workers will be affected by this restriction of rights? Unfortunately, the wording of the law gives no grounds for such a hypothesis. The law mentions employees whose work is related to the preparation and staging of the World Cup. However, the wording is utterly unspecific. How do we differentiate the work a company does in preparation for the World Cup from its other activities? For example, Coca-Cola produces beverages emblazoned with the World Cup logo. Does this constitute work performed as a FIFA business partner or not? Can it be construed as having to do with the preparation and staging of the World Cup? What about cellular network development work done by mobile phone companies? Or the introduction of new direct flights by air carriers? Without going out of our way to abuse common sense, we can construe nearly all commercial activity by FIFA business partners as preparation for the World Cup.

Of particular concern is the more than probable inclusion among the business partners of such companies as Adecco Group, EXECT Business Training and Kelly Services CIS – that is, companies still operating in the legal gray zone of personnel services. Given that Bill No. 451173-5, better known as the law banning contingent labor, which has already suffered serious damage and almost been stripped of its original intent, was returned for a second reading in the State Duma, the de facto support and promotion of these companies by official Russian sporting organizations and state agencies looks like a targeted attack on the quality of employment.

How many Russians will be affected by these measures at the end of the day? If we accept the flawed logic of FZ-108, we can agree with Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko that the concept of the World Cup has been developed and adopted by FIFA in such a way that almost seventy percent of the country’s population will be involved in preparing for it and staging it.

Does this mean, as some journalists have predicted, the return of serfdom? The answer depends largely on the actions of the trade unions.

_____

* The full text (in the original Russian) of the Russian Federal Law “On the Preparation and Staging of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in the Russian Federation and the Amendment of Certain Russian Federal Legislative Acts” can be found here: http://www.rg.ru/2013/06/11/chempionat-dok.html

** The full text (in the original Russian) of the Russian Federal Law “On the Organization and Staging of the Twenty-Second Olympic Winter Games and Eleventh Winter Paralympic Games of 2014 in Sochi, the Development of Sochi as a Mountain Resort and the Amendment of Certain Russian Federal Legislative Acts” can be found here: http://www.rg.ru/2011/06/06/olimp-dok.html

The Milonov Factor

An original view as to the cause of Petersburg’s economic problems was evinced by Alexander Karpov, director of the ECOM Expert Center. “In the near future, Petersburg’s economy is not threatened with development. This is facilitated by two factors, external and internal. The external factor is the State Duma and its laws; the internal factor is [Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy Vitaly] Milonov. Currently, the only possible scenario for economic development is a sluggish one,” he argued. “The city has to make a clear choice: either innovation or Milonov.” Karpov explained to Kommersant that he had in mind the famous anti-gay activist both as a specific person and as an embodiment of nutty legislative initiatives.

Source: www.kommersant.ru

Church officials, city officials and MPs took part in the religious procession [in Petersburg on September 12]. Together with clergymen, they followed the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan as it was solemnly carried [down Nevsky Prospect]. Vadim Tyulpanov, Petersburg’s representative in the Federation Council, Legislative Assembly Speaker Vyacheslav Makarov, and deputy governors Vasily Kichedzhi, Vladimir Lavlentsev and Marat Oganesyan were spotted in the procession.

Famous deputy Vitaly Milonov was out in front of city leaders, however: he marched not behind the icon, like the officials, but ahead of it, in a group of clergymen carrying banners and crosses. Like the other priests, Milonov was wearing solemn gold vestments and bearing an enormous cross.

Source: piter.tv

Let’s Boycott All Contemporary Art

Editor’s Note. I’ve had it with “contemporary art” in general, not just Russian contemporary art or international art events held in Russia, fabled land of officially enforced homophobia. We think all people everywhere, progressive humanity and regressive humanity, the indifferent and the enthusiastic, everyone from Maine to Moscow to Melbourne, should boycott contemporary art. Otherwise, mouth breathers like the eurocuratorial nightmares caught shilling for the Putin regime in the article, below, will keep getting away with this fraud, which sucks up tons of intellectual, physical, financial, and technical resources that could be put to much better and more imaginative use elsewhere.

haka-desktop
When threatened by contemporary art, do the haka!

www.theartnewspaper.com
Moscow biennial curator and artists explain why we shouldn’t boycott Russia
While critics cry out against the country’s draconian anti-gay laws, cultural exchange is still important
By Sophia Kishkovsky
9 September 2013

Despite recent controversy over the country’s restrictive anti-gay laws, the curator of the Fifth Moscow Biennale says this is not the time to reject Russia. Her comments follow similar responses from the organisers of the Manifesta biennial, as critics call for a cultural boycott.

“I feel I am responsible to keep the platform going,” the Belgian-born Catherine de Zegher tells The Art Newspaper. The latest edition of the contemporary art exhibition opens on 19 September at the Manege Exhibition Hall.

De Zegher says that the biennale’s organisers have not placed any restrictions on what she can show. She adds that “only one or two” artists, whom she refused to identify, said they would pull out of the biennial because of the situation in Russia, but she convinced them to reconsider.

Visitors, however, are unlikely to see much art that aggressively confronts the country’s conservative laws. “I’m not a big believer in provocation,” De Zegher says. “Art that is very provocative is like fast food almost. It flares up, then it’s finished. Of course I do believe in activist gestures, and movement and action, but I think art works in a different way.”

Her comments echo those of the veteran German curator Kasper Konig, who is organising the next edition of Manifesta, Europe’s roving contemporary art biennial. Speaking at a news conference at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg on 5 September, Konig said the 2014 biennial will avoid “cheap provocations”. A petition calling for the biennial’s organisers to choose another city, postpone or cancel the exhibition has drawn nearly 2,000 signatures. Manifesta has responded with a statement on its website, expressing concern about the anti-gay laws but stressing that the biennial is based on “dialogue with those with whom we may disagree”. The biennial’s founding director, Hedwig Fijen, says that isolating Russia is wrong “especially as it deprives younger people of access to a broader scope of voices and points of view”.

“I think the 20th century was very much about shock and awe,” De Zegher says. “We’re entering another age, where there is more about collaboration, collective thinking.” Artists at the biennale are addressing controversial issues, she said, “but they are in nobody’s face”.

In the Moscow Biennale for example, the Chechen artist Aslan Gaisumov’s work touches on the intersection of religion and secularity, Islam and its relationship with Western culture, but does so with a sense of the “ambiguity of the negotiation between cultures, between religions, between the sexes, between ethnicities”, she says.

The Polish-born artist Gosia Wlodarczak, who has been working in Australia since the 1990s, is coming to Russia for the first time for the biennial. She explains why foreign artists should come to Moscow now by recalling her days as a student in Poland, when Communist rulers tried to crush the opposition Solidarity movement with martial law.

“I remember how important it was when anybody actually came [to Poland] instead of avoiding us. Every visit from somewhere else meant that people cared instead of just abandoning you, leaving you to your own,” the artist told The Art Newspaper as she worked on her intricate glass drawing installation in Manege, where the Kremlin is always in sight next door, outside the windows. “Every visit was like a contribution, and every exchange of dialogue was valued, because that’s how things change.”

“Who Knows What a Girl with Bright-Green Shoelaces Might Have in Mind?”

We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

All you need to know about the Putin regime, packed into one minute and forty-seven seconds.

Gold shoelaces, flaming red hair, a provocative text on someone’s jeans. This evening, the attention of these police officers is directed to everything unusual. Operation “Leader” is underway. Its objective is to locate and neutralize teenage subculture groups.

It is said that these groups have recently begun acting particularly aggressively. The other day, for example, two classes at a school in Kirov staged a rumble, and now police inspectors have increased their vigilance to be on the safe side. Who knows what a girl with bright-green shoelaces might have in mind?

Girl: “I like the color green.”

The color of this young man’s hair also prompted the curiosity of the police inspectors. The young man calls himself a “punk.”

Female police inspector: “Why do you look that way?”

Punk: “Why do you look the way you do? I don’t ask you that.”

Male police officer: “Her hair isn’t dyed. Your hair is dyed. You stand out.”

Punk: “So I’m not one of the crowd. Give me a cigarette.”

Now the “punk” will be meeting more often with the folks in gray. The police have decided to screen him—to find out whom he associates with and whether he is involved in anything illegal.

Olga Yergina, Inspector, Juvenile Affairs Department: “As a rule, groups in Russia have a leader. [The leader] comes up with and hatches, say, a plan and proposes it to the other members of the group. Say, let’s commit the theft of some property or other or some things. As a rule, members of the group usually agree to commit the wrongful act, and so it turns out that they are guilty of conspiracy.”

This group of young people was also unable to hide from the inspectors. The teenagers do not admit to being skinheads, although several of them are already on file with the police.

Female police officer: “That one was born in 1995.”

Skinhead: “I’m fifteen.”

They claim they are well behaved: that they don’t drink and that they go in for sports sometimes.

The inspectors have their work cut out for them with this bunch, work that goes by the code name of “prevention.” The key now is to keep them from committing a crime or attending an unauthorized political rally. Although a written promise is a mere formality, teenagers have to be kept on a leash somehow, don’t they?

Translated by the Russian Reader