If you ran away when you were fifteen,
It’s hard to understand the guy who went to a good school.
And if you’ve got a firm plan for your life,
Then you’re unlikely to think about anything else.

We drink tea in old apartments.
We wait for summer in old apartments,
In old apartments where there is light,
Gas, telephone, hot water,
Radio, parquet floor,
Separate toilet, brick walls.
One family, two families, three families.
Lots of closet space,
Not interested in first or last floors,
Close to the subway, downtown, downtown.

Everyone says we’re together.
Everyone says it, but few people know where.
A strange smoke comes from our pipes.
Stop! Danger zone! Brain at work!
Boshetunmai, boshetunmai, boshetunmai . . .


Thanks to Comrade Igor R. for the heads-up on the video.

Welcome Aboard!

To my pleasant surprise, I discovered, a couple hours ago, that on the web site of TriMet, the public transport authority for the Portland, Oregon, region, there’s a whole big page in Russian, where speakers of that fabulous tongue can find out everything they might think to ask about using the area’s terrific and ever-expanding public transport system. The TriMet web site also has special pages for speakers of Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese.


Out of curiosity, I then checked whether there were foreign-language pages, for example, on the website of the Petersburg subway system.


I don’t know why I’m still asking myself such silly questions.

The Unpleasant Incident

LGBT Activists Greet Culture Ministry Chief Medinsky with Rainbow Flags
October 27, 2013

The unpleasant incident took place in Petersburg when Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky was taking part in the Olympic torch relay.

As Fontanka.Ru’s correspondent reports, the Culture Ministry chief took the torch in front of the Yelstin Presidential Library and carried it to the intersection with the English Embankment. During his run, two members of the LGBT movement unfurled rainbow flags, the symbol of their movement.


Police tried to stop the activists, but both young women managed to escape arrest and hang on to their flags.

As the LGBT activists themselves explained to Fontanka.Ru, the purpose of their action was to protest the Sochi Olympic Games [sic], to be held in 2014.

The Olympic torch rally in Petersburg started today at 11:00 a.m. The event will culminate after 7:00 p.m. with a big celebration on Palace Square.

Welcome to Sochi

An unexpurgated cri de coeur from the Russian internets:


Вот эту фотографию из подмосковной больницы я бы сделал символом современной России, особенно в свете приближения самой дорогой в истории человечества Олимпиады в Сочи. ( – English translation is below).

Дорогие френды, особенно забугорные – пошлите ее своим друзьям. Пусть расходится по сети. И пусть ухмыляющемуся главарю криминального государства, чье личное воровское состояние оценивается в несколько десятков миллиардов долларов, будет неуютно стоять на трибуне в феврале – оттого, что все уважающие себя политики и знаменитости побрезговали стоять с ним рядом.

Here’s a photo of the local hospital in Boyarkino village not far from Moscow. This is a typical picture, not some extreme one. There are thousands of hospitals, schools and public offices like this in Russia, not only in province, but in major cities as well. I would have made this picture the symbol of modern Russia, especially today, while the most expensive Olympics in the history of mankind are approaching in Sochi.

Dear friends, please, share this with your friends. Let it go over the whole network, so for the world’s most corrupt leader of the most criminal state, whose personal fortune is estimated at tens of billions of dollars, it would not be so comfortable to host this Olympics. Let it be uncomfortable for him to stand on the podium in February, because any self-respecting politician or celebrity would be ashamed to stay next to him.

Meanwhile, back in the fascist fairyland, the locals were getting worked up about the upcoming corporate slugfest down south.

Time Is Not on Their Side


If the following article makes no sense to you, don’t worry. It makes no sense to me, either.

MOSCOW, October 11 – Reverting to Winter Time especially for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics would cost the Russian budget in excess of $300 million, the head of the organizing committee said Friday.

Russia used to set its clocks back by an hour in the winter, as is done in the rest of Europe, but canceled the practice in 2011 under former President Dmitry Medvedev.

The International Olympic Committee was among those who called for a return to Winter Time to bring Russia’s broadcast schedules closer to the West for February’s Winter Games.

President Vladimir Putin ruled that out earlier this year, and Sochi 2014 chief executive Dmitry Chernyshenko elaborated on the reasons why in an address to lawmakers in Moscow on Friday.

“We forecast, other than the reputational risk and discomfort to our athletes, logistical issues and financial risks,” were winter time to be reinstated, Chernyshenko said.

“The extra expenditure needed from the federal budget to compensate international broadcasters who might lose advertising contracts in the event of a time change will lead to penalties, and we will have to compensate for it. The sum of the risks could exceed $300 million,” he said.

Reverting to winter time, he said, would lead to “fatal changes in the timetables” of Sochi’s logistics, including transport and cargo schedules.

The Games, Russia’s first Winter Olympics, are set to run February 7-23.

Source: RIA Novosti

Image courtesy of Hymy Huulet Facebook page and Comrade Tiina. The cartoon reads (in Finnish):

“I changed the clocks to winter time.”

“It’s nice to know that at three in the morning.”

Because of Russia’s inexplicable rejection of winter time, there is a two-hour difference between Estonia and Finland and the neighboring Russian regions of Pskov, Novgorod, Murmansk, Karelia, Leningrad Region and St. Petersburg during half the year.

Svetlana Gannushkina: Friday Dragnet

Friday Dragnet
October 26, 2013
Svetlana Gannushkina

On Friday evening, at half past five, I went from the offices of Civic Assistance, on Olimpiisky Prospekt, to a board meeting at the Memorial Human Rights Center. I was not feeling well for some reason, and two of our charges escorted me to the Dostoevskaya metro station.

Five minutes later, I exited the metro at Tsvetnoi Bulvar station and immediately heard my mobile ring. It was my escorts calling.

“We’ve been detained by the police. They’ve nabbed us and are taking us to Meshchanskoye police precinct.”

“Did they check your papers?”

“They didn’t check anything. They said they’d sort things out at the precinct.”

“But what happened?”

“Nothing happened. They just bundled us into a car, and that was that.”

“Put one of the police officers in the car on the phone.”

There was a pause.

“They won’t do it.”

“Show them your papers!”

“They refuse to look at them.”

Both my escorts are Uzbek nationals, and their papers are in order. One has a certificate stating that his application for refugee status is under review, while the other has a individual work permit. Both are registered with the migration service.

When I arrived at Memorial, I called the on-duty prosecutor, as Moscow city prosecutor Sergei Kudeneyev advised us to do only yesterday at a meeting with the prosecutor’s public advisory council. At first, the on-duty prosecutor opined that he had nothing to do with it, and then he suggested that our detainees had no papers. But a reference to the Moscow city prosecutor worked: the on-duty prosecutor wrote down the names of our detainees and my name, and promised to call the Meshchanskoe precinct.

Then I called Alexander Kulikovsky, a member of the Moscow police’s public advisory council. He went to Meshchanskoe precinct. There were about a hundred people there who had been detained the same way as our guys: the police had simply grabbed them on the street, picking out only passersby of non-Slavic appearance.


Around half past eight, the precinct was called and the names of my escorts were mentioned. The guys heard this, raised a ruckus and demanded to be released immediately. The officers at the precinct did not particularly mind letting them go, but as they did, they said, “You had no business going to the mosque.”

It was only then we realized what had happened. There is a mosque not far from Dostoevskaya metro station: all its alleged visitors had been caught up in the dragnet.

Alexander Kulikovsky called me at half past eleven at night: there were still around fifty detainees at Meshchanskoe precinct.

Apparently, this is how Moscow police chief Anatoly Yakunin is fulfilling his promise “not to leave a single place in the city where illegal immigrants could take shelter, monitor the criminally inclined and drug addicted, and step up efforts in the fight against gambling and illicit smoking blends.”

So this is the so-called fight against illegal immigration and crime in Moscow we are now going to be witnessing every Friday?

Photo: Detention of migrant workers in the south of Moscow, October 18, 2013. © RIA Novosti, Grigory Sysoev

We Have a Saying in Russia

In the queue outside the centre, there is little sympathy for Greenpeace among relatives of other detainees, as they wait to deliver packages. “We have a saying in Russia: you shouldn’t go into someone else’s house and try to live by your own rules,” said one middle-aged woman who had bought a parcel of food for her 33-year-old daughter, who had been inside for five months on charges she did not want to reveal. She had been waiting in freezing temperatures since 4am to ensure she was among the lucky few who got to deliver her package.

Another man, waiting to deliver a package to his brother, suggested the Greenpeace activists were paid by western oil corporations to undermine Russia and should be “shot, or at least sent to a camp”. The opinions reflect surveys which show that the majority of Russians support the piracy charges.

Shaun Walker, “Greenpeace activists await trial among harsh winds, tears and no sympathy,” The Guardian, 18 October 2013


For some reason, as the country sinks deeper into the Putinist fascist night, this “saying” becomes more and more popular. I’ve personally heard and read it something like six hundred thousand times over the past few years, but it’s hard to remember anyone ever saying such a thing in the nineties. It’s just remarkable how people participate so willingly in their own enslavement and extinction, and with the help of such “sayings.” Yes, “folk wisdom” really does consist in repeating over and over again what some fat cats with soccer teams in England, kids in Swiss schools, and mansions on the Riviera want you to think.

On the other hand, reporters like Shaun Walker wouldn’t have to look that hard for Russians who don’t think this way, even in Murmansk. And it’s pointless, as he does here, and as avid Russian watchers both inside and outside the country love to do, to cite a “public opinion” poll that, allegedly, shows the majority of Russians don’t support the arrested Greenpeace activists. Aside from any other number of methodological and philosophical issues with such polls more generally, not only in Russia, “public opinion” is a nearly meaningless concept in a country lacking all the things that make it a somewhat more meaningful concept in other countries, things like free elections, broadly based political parties, non-astroturfed grassroots groups, much stronger and more militant independent trade unions and, most important, freedom from constant terrorization and brainwashing, in the not-so-distant past and now again, over the past fourteen years, by officialdom, whether in the form of bureaucrats, police or state media.

Why does “the majority” not support the arrested Greenpeace activists? Because they (or, rather, a good number of the people who answered this dubious poll) thought that this was the response expected from them. Why did they think that? Because state and loyalist media have portrayed Greenpeace as the second coming of Al Qaeda, willing dupes of the CIA, and any other baleful thing you can think of. You don’t even have to believe this stuff. You just know that if some “polling organization” calls you up out of the blue, there are strong cues out there in the big media world to which you have access telling you how to respond to such questions. So what’s the point of thinking something different out loud? But then Shaun Walker, hundreds of other reporters, “political analysts,” “sociologists” and so on cite this “public opinion” as if it weren’t obtained under duress. It’s a vicious circle.

Andrei Malgin: A Mere Four Words

Today, October 11, is celebrated as National Coming Out Day in many countries around the world. Unfortunately, as respected Russian journalist and blogger Andrei Malgin reminded readers of his LiveJournal blog a few days ago, the Russian State Duma will, allegedly, soon be considering a bill that would make “non-traditional sexual relations” grounds for stripping Russian gays and lesbians of their parental rights.



A Mere Four Words

The State Duma has given the green light to Draft Bill No. 338740-6, “On Amending Article 69 of the Family Code of the Russian Federation (On Expanding the List of Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights).” A single line will be added to the list—a mere four words, but what weighty words they are.

Article 69 of the Family Code now reads as follows:

Parents (one of them) may be deprived of parental rights, if they:

 shirk the discharge of parental duties, including the willful refusal to pay child support;

refuse without good reason to take their child home from a maternity hospital (department) or other medical facility, educational establishment or social welfare institution, or other similar institutions;

abuse their parental rights;

treat their children cruelly, including exercising physical or mental violence against them, and infringing on their sexual inviolability;

suffer from chronic alcoholism or drug addiction;

have committed a premeditated crime against the life or the health of their children, or against the life or the health of their spouse.*

It all began with this. The draft bill itself looks like this. The draft bill was reviewed by the State Duma’s legal department, which issued a positive opinion. The relevant committee reviewed and approved it. All that remains is to schedule the date of the vote.

Full documentation of the bill is on the State Duma’s web site.

Thus, after the bill is passed into law, the Family Code of the Russian Federation will contain the following provision:

Parents (one of them) may be deprived of parental rights, if they:

have non-traditional sexual relations.

So, one divorced spouse wants to deprive the other of parental rights. She or he just has to inform the court that their ex-spouse once had non-traditional sexual relations. To make the charge stick, they can produce “witnesses” or get an affidavit from the neighborhood police inspector.

Or even better. Police raid a gay club and check people’s internal passports. Do any of them have children listed in their passports? That’s that: we’ll deprive them of their parental and send the children to an orphanage, where things will be better for them.

And so on.

And what scope for grassroots activism, for endless denunciations on the part of vigilant neighbors, disgruntled relatives, veterans committees, and so on.

Especially because, unless I’m mistaken, there is still no definition anywhere of what is considered traditional and what isn’t. If spouses have had oral sex, what is that? Traditional?

In an “Explanatory Note to the Bill,” the State Duma Committee on Families, Women and Children justifies the need to amend the Family Code thus:

In accordance with Article 63, Part 1 of the Family Code of the Russian Federation (hereinafter, “the Code”), parents are responsible for the upbringing and development of their children. They are obliged to take care of the health and the physical, mental, spiritual and moral development of their children […] Through life lessons and sometimes by their own example [they are obliged] to instill in the child traditional family values, loyalty to the Fatherland, respect for the older generation, and many other universal values.**


Unfortunately, experience shows that parents often do not completely fulfill their responsibilities for raising children, thus depriving them of a moral compass. […] In the final analysis, this is the cause of poor development, the degradation of a child’s personality and deviant behavior. Timely government assistance to such a child makes it possible to adjust their upbringing by transferring them to a foster family or putting them in the care of relatives or relevant institution. Implementing this assistance is only possible after the termination of parental rights, thus insulating the child from the immoral lifestyle of the parents or one of the parents.

On this basis, it appears that when one of a child’s parents has sexual contacts with persons of the same sex, the harm that may be caused to the psyche of this child is huge and cannot be measured by the Administrative Offenses Code, as the mother or father is a role model for their child. […] According to experts, the number of people in Russia with a non-traditional sexual orientation is around 5-7% (for large cities, the percentage is slightly higher), of which at least a third have children.

Based on this fact and the above-mentioned reasons, this bill proposes supplementing Article 69 of the Family Code of the Russian Federation with a new paragraph, according to which the grounds for terminating parental rights would be non-traditional sexual orientation on the part of one or both parents.

The adult population of Russia is 119 million people. Five percent (we’ll use the lower figure) is six million people. One third of them have a child, meaning there are two million such children. And what if they have two or more children? This is difficult to take into account, so let’s stick to the one-child minimum as the basis of our calculations. What do we end up with? It turns out that the State Duma is planning, in the spring of 2014, to add two million children to the ranks of the country’s orphans.



* In his original post, Mr. Malgin does not quote the current wording of Article 69 in full. We have cited it here for convenience’s sake. The translation is our own.

** Actually, Article 63 of the Family Code does not stipulate that parents are obliged to inculcate “traditional family values, loyalty to the Fatherland, respect for the older generation,” etc., in their children.


UPDATE. The draft bill has, reportedly, been withdrawn by its author, MP Alexei Zhuravlyov, but a spokesperson for him said that it would be revised and resubmitted to the State Duma. The news prompted journalist Masha Gessen to write this comment.