Foreign Agent

What the Center for Social Policy and Gender Studies in Saratov, Russia, did to get branded a “foreign agent” by a local court: it ran a research project entitled Reexamining Social Policy in the Post-Soviet Space: Ideologies, Actors and Cultures, and it published a book entitled The Critical Analysis of Social Policy in the Post-Soviet Space. Don’t let it happen to you.

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There are more details on this particular case here (in Russian). And here is Wikipedia’s helpful summary of the Russian foreign agent law, and RIA Novosti’s roundup of its own English-language articles on the topic.

Photo: Graffiti (“Foreign agent!”) painted on the wall outside the offices of the human rights group Memorial in Moscow (courtesy of Memorial’s web site).

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The Life and Times of a Russian Lawmaker

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The topsy-turvy life and times of Alexei Zhuravlyov, Russian “lawmaker”:

MOSCOW, November 29 (RAPSI) – A Russian lawmaker said Thursday that the State Duma will throw its weight behind making sure that the Russian language is recognized as an official language of the EU. The drive could become a reality after changes to EU rules allowed citizens to propose adding languages as long as they could collect one million signatures, Defense committee member Alexei Zhuravlyov told a roundtable. Zhuravlyov said the signature-collection drive should not pose any problems as there were large Russian communities in the EU and that the initiative would be [supported] by a federal agency that promotes international cooperation. The proposal was first aired by Russian deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Source

MOSCOW, October 19 (RIA Novosti) – A bill that proposes stripping gays with children of their parental rights, introduced by Russian lawmaker Alexei Zhuravlyov, has been withdrawn from the parliament, a spokesperson for the lawmaker said Saturday. “Yes, he has indeed withdrawn it,” spokesperson Sofia Cherepanova said, adding that the document would be later revised and again submitted to the Russian State Duma. She said that the author’s position on the matter “remains unchanged.” “Anyway, we are interested in passing the bill,” Cherepanova added. Zhuravlyov, a member of the ruling United Russia party, submitted the bill to the lower house of the Russian parliament in September. However, the proposal has not received any significant public backing.Between 5 and 7 percent of the Russian population are gay, a third of whom have children, Zhuravlyov’s bill claimed, citing unspecified experts. If true, between 2.3 million and 3.3 million Russians could possibly lose their children if the bill was passed.

Source

Photo © RIA Novosti and Sergey Mamontov

Lecture at the Sorbonne

__________

A Lecture at the Sorbonne

You should study philosophy, at best,
After fifty. Build a model
Of society, all the more so. First you should
Learn to make soup, fry (if not catch)
Fish, make decent coffee.
Otherwise, moral laws
Smack of dad’s belt or a translation
From the German. You first should
Learn how to lose rather than gain,
Loathe yourself more than the tyrant,
Shell out half your measly paycheck on rent
For years on end before holding forth
On the triumph of justice. Which always comes
At least twenty-five years too late.

You should study a philosopher’s work through the prism
Of experience or wearing glasses (which nearly amounts to the same thing),
As when the letters run together and
The naked dame on the rumpled sheets is once again
A photograph for you or a reproduction
Of an artist’s painting. Genuine love of
Wisdom does not insist on reciprocity
And ends not in marriage
To a hefty tome published in Göttingen
But in indifference to oneself,
In the blush of shame; sometimes, in an elegy.
(Somewhere, a streetcar clangs, eyelids droop,
Soldiers return from a brothel, singing;
Only the rain is reminiscent of Hegel.)

The truth is there is no
Truth. This doesn’t exempt us
From responsibility. On the contrary:
Ethics is the selfsame vacuum, filled by human
Behavior almost continuously;
The selfsame universe, if you like.
And the gods love the Good not for its eyes,
But because they wouldn’t exist were it not for the Good.
And they in turn fill the vacuum,
Perhaps even more systematically
Than we do, for we are
Unreliable. Although there are more of us
Than ever before, this is no Greece:
We are undone by low cloud cover and, as mentioned above, rain.

You should study philosophy when
You have no need of philosophy. When you have a hunch
The chairs in your living room and the Milky Way
Are interconnected, and more closely than causes and effects, than you
And your relatives. And that what constellations
And chairs have in common is insensibility, inhumanity.
This a bond stronger than copulation
Or blood! Naturally, you shouldn’t try
To resemble things. On the other hand, when
You’re ill, you don’t necessarily have to convalesce
Or worry how you look. This is what
People over fifty know. Hence, when they
Look into a mirror, they sometimes confuse aesthetics with metaphysics.

Original

__________

A Russian emigrant student in France yelled at Russia’s top investigator Alexander Bastrykin this week during a panel at the Sorbonne, calling him a murderer and accusing him of launching politically motivated criminal probes.

An unidentified male student was apparently angered with Bastrykin’s evasive replies to questions about the prosecution of Greenpeace activists from the Arctic Sunrise and participants at the opposition rally on Bolotnaya Ploshchad in May 2012, French media and eyewitnesses reported on the Internet.

An eyewitness of the incident, Lolita Gruzdeva, posted a video on her Instagram account late Wednesday in one of which an unidentified male student yells at Bastrykin in French.

In another video posted by Gruzdeva, the same young man yells at Bastrykin in Russian, “You are a criminal!”

The student’s outburst happened after Bastrykin, replying to questions from participants of the meeting, said that the fate of Greenpeace activists would be decided by the court system and that the denial of medical assistance to a hunger-striking suspect in the Bolotnaya trial, Sergei Krivov, was not his business, Gruzdeva wrote on her Twitter account Wednesday.

Source:  Moscow Times 

Free Pussy Riot

2-20 The Digital Revolution in Slavic Culture: the Victors, the Vanquished, and the Collateral Damage –
Grand Ballroom Salon I
Chair: Alexandar Mihailovic, Hofstra U
Papers: Ksenia O Gorbenko, U of Pennsylvania
“Church and State on Trial: the Pussy Riot Case and Online Media”
 Julie Anne Cassiday, Williams College
“Glamazons en Travesti: Russian Drag Queens and the Internet”
 Emily D Johnson, U of Oklahoma
“Seeking Mikhail Armalinsky: Constructing and Reading the Self in an Age of Digital
Revolution”
Disc.: Eliot Borenstein, New York U
___
3-20 Contemporary Art Collectives and the Revolution Today I: Gender, the Body, and Buffoonery –
Grand Ballroom Salon I
Chair: Anna Wexler Katsnelson, Princeton U
Papers: Jonathan Brooks Platt, U of Pittsburgh
“Suspended or Suspenseful Encounters?: Gender, Politics, and the Factory of Found Clothes”
 Sara Stefani, Indiana U
“Make War, Not Love: Art Collective Voina and the Post-Soviet Bodyscape”
 Mark Yoffe, George Washington U
“Pussy Riot in the Context of the Russian National Carnivalesque Tradition: Iurodstvo and Stiob
in the Discourse of Russian Counterculture”
Disc.: Ksenya Gurshtein, National Gallery of Art
___
6-20 Orthodoxy, Pussy Riot, and (Post)Modern Russian Culture – (Roundtable) – Grand Ballroom Salon I
Chair: Nadieszda Kizenko, SUNY Albany
 Robert Bird, U of Chicago
Irina A. Papkova, Georgetown U
Wendy R. Salmond, Chapman U
Vera Shevzov, Smith College
Andrei Andreyevich Zolotov, RIA Novosti
___
7-27 Will the Revolution be Visualized? How Recent Protests have led Feature Films, Documentaries,
and Pussy Riot to Embrace or Eschew Revolutionary Visual Aesthetics – (Roundtable) – MIT
Chair: Dawn A Seckler, U of Pittsburgh
 Evgeny Gusyatinsky, Iskusstvo kino (Russia)
Andrew Harris Chapman, U of Pittsburgh
Claire L Shaw, U of Bristol (UK)
___
8-20 Contemporary Art Collectives and the Revolution Today II: Criticism and Power – Grand Ballroom
Salon I
Chair: Bettina Jungen, Amherst College
Papers: Natalie Oleksyshyn, Ohio State U
“We Will R.E.P. You: Undermining Central Ideologies in Liminal Spaces”
 Pamela Jill Kachurin, Duke U
“Is Pussy Riot Really the New Malevich?”
 Victoria Thorstensson, U of Pennsylvania
“Larger Contexts for Pussy Riot: The Kazan Cathedral Protest (1876) and the Punk Prayer ‘Mother
of God, Drive Putin Away’ (2012)”
Disc.: Jane Ashton Sharp, Rutgers U

Children 404

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/children-404

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Short Summary

In the Fall of 2013 a Russian documentary filmmaker contacted numerous LGBTQ activists and filmmakers from Canada and the United States with whom they had worked with in previous years to screen their films.  The message they sent was a request to help fund a film that they believe desperately needs to be made: a documentary by Russian LGBTQ identified people about the impact of the recent anti-gay propaganda law on LGBTQ identified young people.  They reached out to us because this film will be impossible to make without the financial support from the international LGBTQ community since funding for such a project is not only impossible, but illegal within the Russian Federation.  So it is on behalf of our Russian colleague and their co-director that we are asking for your trust and support to help fund this vital project entitled Children 404.

Ryan Conrad, part-time faculty, Concordia University; Co-founder Against Equality
Thomas Waugh, full-time faculty, Concordia University Research Chair in Sexual Representation and in Documentary
Ezra Winton, part-time faculty, Concordia University; Co-founder and Director of Programming, Cinema Politica
Svetla Turnin, Co-founder and Executive Director, Cinema Politica

Film Description from the Russian co-directors:

Currently there are about 2.5 million LGBT children and teenagers in Russia. In June of 2013 Vladimir Putin signed into law a new bill that forbids “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”. LGBT young people are now defenseless because of this “gay propaganda” law. It is now forbidden to tell them that they are healthy and not sick, sinful, or abnormal. Psychologists, teachers, and even parents could be fined or imprisoned for supporting LGBT young people. These LGBT young people are now being bullied and harassed even worse than ever before by peers, teachers, and parents in school and out. This climate of anti-LGBT violence and harassment is permissible because of Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law.

The main character of this documentary project is eighteen-year-old Pasha, who survived much anti-LGBT harassment and intimidation at school.  After recently finishing school he became an LGBT activist. Later this year he enters a Canadian university and moves to Canada for the foreseeable future. This film will also contains anonymous interviews with young people, parents, psychologists, teachers, and priests on both sides of the issue in Russia.

What We Need

All funding we gather will be transferred directly to our colleagues in Russia.  We keep nothing, nor do we act as traditional producers where we influence the content and outcome of the film.  We are simply conduits for funding since their lives would be at risk if they were to create an appeal themselves.

The simple timeline and budget shared with us by our Russian colleagues is as follows (in USD $):

Timeline:

  • Currently: Fundraising, development, pre-production
  • 01/09/2013 – 30/12/2013: Shooting, fundraising, production
  • 01/01/2013 – 31/03/2014: Post production
  • 31/03/2014: Film release

Budget:

  • Research period: $500
  • Travels around Russia $7000
  • Overhead charges $3000
  • Materials $2000
  • Editor $2000
  • Sound editor $1000
  • Color grade $1500
  • Translations $800
  • Digital media $1000

TOTAL BUDGET: $18,800.00

As you can see, we are trying to raise a significant portion of their total budget ($10,000 USD or $10,300 CAD) while they are carefully raising funds from within their own communities to make up the difference.  Anything we raise over the goal set here will only alleviate the necessity to find funds amongst their own community in these dangerous and demoralizing times for LGBTQ people in Russia.

The Impact

Directly from the mouths of our colleagues:

The Importance

“В этом году 2,5 миллиона ЛГБТдетей в России оказалось без возможности поддержки. Теперь, согласно новому закону «о запрете пропаганды нетрадиционных сексуальных отношений среди детей» сказать им что они нормальны – это преступление.”

“This year an estimated 2.5 million LGBT children and teenagers in Russia no longer have any support. Now according to the new bill which forbids ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors’ supporting them and telling them that they are not abnormal is a crime.”

The Impact

“Документальный проект «Дети 404» – это возможность для ЛГБТ-подростков перестать наконец быть невидимыми и рассказать свои истории зрителям фильма.”

“The documentary project “Children 404″ is an opportunity for LGBT young people to cease being invisible by telling their stories in their own words.”

Other Ways You Can Help

Some people just can’t contribute financially, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help:

  • Send this link on to your networks to help get the word out.
  • Stay informed about what is happening in Russia, especially the news and information coming directly from the mouths of LGBT Russians.

*press inquiries can be made via rconrad<at>meca<dot>edu*

Art Criticism

The best critique of the recent desperate bit of performance art on Red Square has been this brief analysis, by Leonid Bershidsky, of Russia’s dismal economic prospects and the state’s seeming indifference to this state of affairs:

Pavlensky, however, may have been on to something. The apathy and fatalism he so dramatically depicted is clear in the Russian economic ministry’s long-term economic development forecast. The forecast, which stretches through 2030, is a major strategy document meant to serve as the basis for policy decisions — though in this case the most probable scenario does not require much action at all.

In March, when the previous version of the forecast was adopted, the basic scenario was a moderately optimistic one that had the Russian economy growing at an average of 4 percent a year, noticeably faster than developed countries like the U.S. and members of the European Union. The current version is based on a “conservative” scenario, with average growth limited to 2.5 percent annually and a drop in Russia’s share of global output to 3.4 percent in 2030 from 4 percent in 2012. In other words, despite consistently high energy prices  in 2030, the forecast sees oil at $90 to $110 per barrel in 2010 prices  Russia will keep lagging behind other developing nations, especially China and other Asian countries.

While the previous version of the forecast envisioned a net capital inflow of 1.5 percent gross domestic product, the current one says capital flows will be “balanced”  an improvement on the $80 billion capital flight expected this year but not an overly ambitious goal.

Other parts of the forecast look just as dismal. For example, private investment in research and development is not expected to make any contribution to economic growth. Russia will only be able to increase productivity by importing technology, which by 2030 will allow it to reach 66 percent of the U.S.’s productivity level, up from the current 39 percent. There will be more income inequality; incomes and domestic demand will grow about as slowly as the economy as a whole.

“The expected trends in global raw materials markets will not be able to re-emerge as prime drivers of economic growth,” the forecast says. “At the same time, structural constraints to growth have significantly increased. They include undeveloped infrastructure, obsolescent equipment, unfavorable demographics and a growing deficit of qualified personnel. That means in the next 20 years, the Russian economy will not be able to return to the 2000-2008 growth trajectory and even keeping up a lower growth tempo will require significant reforms.”

Such depressing reading gave rise to frustrated and angry comments. “A new strategy for Russia: we have lost the last shred of conscience and we are too lazy even to pretend that we are doing something,” money manager Yulia Bushueva wrote on Facebook. “Don’t bother us, we are busy stealing.”