I am from Donetsk myself. My wife and I moved to Crimea ten years ago. We built a house outside of Kerch, in the backcountry. There isn’t a soul there in winter.
Suddenly, in February 2014, Russian choppers were flying over us every night. Then troops marched through Kerch. I saw it with my own eyes.
There was this fabulous thing: Russian religious pilgrims, columns of buses filled with people who were supposedly traveling en masse to worship Crimea’s Orthodox relics. I watched them change into army uniforms in a church yard.
Kerch was inundated with completely atypical characters: there were a huge number of Cossacks. I was getting hassled in town on the street, something that had never happened before. Drunken, fairly strong men would come up to me and ask, “Where you from, lad?” And this “lad” is fucking forty-five years old!
I got the feeling that everyone had lost their minds. There were rumors all over Crimea that the Right Sector was coming to kill ethnic Russians. Everyone was nervous they would knock down the statue to Lenin, erect a monument to Stepan Bandera, and force everyone to pray to it. People were completely worked up.
An old friend friend rushed into my arms and cried, “Andryukha! Our boys shot down three Banderite planes today, cheers!”
“You mean, three of our boys were shot down?”
“What, are you on the side of the Banderites?!”
“I’ve long known you somehow weren’t Russian.”
Then all the money I had to live on, forty thousand dollars, was confiscated: my bank account was blocked. When everything went totally south, Dinka (my wife) and I wrote a statement renouncing compulsory Russian citizenship, packed one bag each, and left. I am not sure we locked the door as we left the house.
We certainly did not want to leave. It was our whole life. We were very sad as we walked around the garden we had tended for ten years. Dinka took care of the plants, and I fixed things and pottered about, and even was into amateur radio. I left all my things there. I took two English radio tubes and one capacitor, more for the memories than for anything other reason, really. Maybe we will even try to sneak back there and get everything out.
It was a terrible pity, and it still is a pity. But there are things I cannot tolerate under any circumstances. It is like you wake up in the middle of the night and you are being raped. The guy keeps raping you all night, but in the morning he tells you that now you and he are going to the registrar to get married.
There was nothing good in store for us there. The propaganda phase lasts until the invasion, and after the invasion the mopping up and assimilation phase starts. I have read textbooks on how to invade countries. My grandfather was in SMERSH, he was a colonel in the KGB. He had all these amazing textbooks on integrating occupied territories. When I saw this shit was happening where I lived . . .
Good Lord, I would like to live in a province near the sea, but not in a place where “unreliable elements” are purged. All of these special operations are the same. They are taught the same way they were taught before. It is an old scheme, but it works.
We have now moved to Lvov. We are not exactly thrilled: there is no sea here. But life in the new Crimea was incompatible with my idea of a normal life. If it hadn’t been Russia [that invaded Crimea], but an aggressive Finland, then I probably would have stayed. But Russia now heads the list of countries where I would not want to be.
I think something went wrong in Russia. and quite a long time ago, but I don’t know how to treat it. Dinka has sister whose husband is a priest. Both of them are very Orthodox, very observant. When the first Maidan happened in 2004, they left their home and fled to the Volga region, because they had been told that the Ukrainians would now come and kill all the Orthodox believers. The Ukrainians didn’t show up, and they went back. You could have shot a sitcom about it.
For me the whole of human history is divided into two parts: the part that makes me ashamed to be a human being, and the other part, which doesn’t make me ashamed. You read the Malleus Maleficarum (“The Hammer of the Witches”), and you feel very ashamed. But then you read Faust, for example, and you are not ashamed. What is happening in Russia is right out of “Hammer of the Witches.”
I realize the situation has to be resolved somehow, but I have no idea where to find such a number of psychoanalysts and couches. Dinka and I imagined it in the form of a Martian landing, which drops the couches in on the first wave of parachutes, and the psychoanalysts on the second wave.
But then we realized it wouldn’t work. An individual approach is needed. You cannot cure this thing with another propaganda campaign and another brainwashing: by the time it was over no one would have any brains left. In this case you have got to take each person by the hand, serve them tea, put a plaid throw over them and say, “That’s it. This shit is fucked. It’s all over. We’re going to kill you now. Everything is fine.”
If you asked me whom I pitied more, the Ukrainians or the Russians, I would say the Russians. Because the Ukrainians have a chance of getting out of this dreary shit in which they are sitting. But the Russians, on the contrary, are sinking ever deeper into it.
Do I find any Ukrainian politicians likable? I like the fact they exist and they are at each other’s throats. As long as there is a real political struggle, adversarial decision-making, there is a chance things will develop. Imagine: people shit every day. Do I find the rectum likable because it does this? No, but I’m really glad it exists.
I would be happy if there were parliamentary elections once a month in Ukraine, and presidential elections every two months. Because the degree to which the body [politic] is intoxicated is such that it needs constant transfusions of blood and lymph.
It’s a shitty place, in fact, the corpse of the Soviet Union, where we live. Not a single country has emerged here yet. In my opinion, Ukraine has only been parasitizing this corpse all these years. But Russia tries with all its might to pretend this corpse is the best place on earth.
Mr. Nechayevsky’s testimonial is one of several such stories by Crimeans opposed to Russia’s annexation of the peninsula, published on the website Julia & Winston under the title “It’s All Captivity: Life in Occupied Crimea,” on July 23, 2015. Before leaving for Lvov, Nechayevsky and his wife lived in the village of Osoviny, in the far eastern region of the peninsula. Nechayevsky is forty-five years old. Photo courtesy of Julia & Winston.
UPDATE. Since I posted this in late July, the website Julia & Winston seems to have gone defunct for lack of cash. It wouldn’t be the first time.
You can imprison us but you can never break us. We are not neo-Nazis who when they find themselves in prison try to slash their wrists, hang themselves, and swallow razor blades right off the bat. And who in the camps quickly join the “goats” (kozlyatnya), the prison household work brigades. We can be part of the general prison population. We don’t have to fear that our fingers will be beaten off with a hammer or we will be whacked upside the head with a slipper, because we haven’t done anything “gross.” We don’t judge people by ethnicity, color, and creed. Here in prison we are all “wogs” and “bandits” in the eyes of the law, because we valued honor and truth more than liberty. We are not Moscow chumps who imagined they were Aryan Vikings, but who as soon they went into the system realized they were not fascists but were like everyone else here. No, in Russia there will never be an Aryan Brotherhood like in the US. In our prisons there is a friendship of peoples.
Moscow Babylon has seduced, hoodwinked, and punished all the poor fellows from all over the Soviet Union. Now we all hate those greasy pushers in suits flashing IDs, the stupid cops who have involuntarily become polizei, and we laugh at each other when we tell the stories of how we ended up here. Now, as in the years of the Soviet-era Great Terror, there are entire social groups getting run through the system for the same crimes. This is no fight against crime. It is a war with competitors for control of business and against their own (potential) poverty. The law enforcement agencies are doing business when they jail businessmen and officials for fraud (Article 159 of the Criminal Code). They nick their businesses from them and get rid of competitors who got caught with their hands in the till and did not cut them in on the action. Since the entire Russian business world is built on financial scams and fraudulent schemes, there is no shortage of new criminal cases.
The same is true in drugs trafficking. The terrible Criminal Code Article 228, Parts 3 and 4 (drug dealing), introduced by the president, has made it possible to populate the prisons and camps with Central Asian nationals, which has done nothing at all to disrupt the well-regulated flow of drugs, but justifies the work of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service and the entire Russian Federal Penitentiary Service. And such a time-honored crime among prisoners as theft (Article 158) gives police investigators wide berth for padding solved cases stats and packing the penitentiaries with mobs of working stiffs and poor folk, who bust their humps in the prison colonies, thus directly lining the pockets of the wardens.
Our entire penitentiary system is a post-Soviet Gulag that has not fully embarked on the capitalist path. Formally, all the system’s rules and regulations have remained as they were in Soviet times, but the current Federal Penitentiary Service employees has no clue how to rehabilitate us. On the other hand, they have learned how to make money off us, from embezzling allocated funds to the personal deals made by criminal investigators at the local level. Russia now has commercial prisons. If you have money, you can forget about the unwritten “understandings” that once reigned. Watch TV and tuck into groceries ordered from the cops’ online store at inflated prices. Almost anything can be bought. Just don’t rock the system.
Prison is a mirror of our society. But the atomization of the individual is not as forceful as it is on the outside. It is harder to survive alone. That is why it is better to live in “families” than to go crazy alone between four walls. For a long time there has been no doubt that the regime plans to combat and jail us anarchists and anti-fascists. For the time being they are only jailing us. Though now we are not such a big threat to the state, we justifiy the existence of the Center for Extremism Prevention (Center “E”), which does everything it can to defend its beloved regime. Although in most cases this amounts to combating seditious posts on the Internet.
Manuscript of Sutuga’s letter
Our country is big, and things like the riots on Bolotnaya Square or the capture of ruthless antifa hooligan do not happen every months. So for the time we are the smallest group in the prison community. And yet the anti-extremism police eat their government-issued bread for nothing. They are unscrupulous. Although they are clumsy at fabricating cases, they are doing quite well for themselves. And so every criminal case against a comrade of ours must be turned into a campaign to defend the individual from the state’s power over him or her. All the punitive institutions of the state should be subjected to attack. We and the people are on one side, and this leviathan with legs and dressed in a uniform is on the other.
Thanks to Vladimir Akimenkov for the heads-up. If you follow this last link you will find information, in Russian, about Sutuga’s address at the prison colony in Angarsk where he is currently serving his sentence, where and how to send letters to him, and how you can help him and his family financially.
Alexei Sutuga is an anti-fascist and member of the Autonomous Action anarchist movement. In April 2012, he was arrested on suspicion that on December 4, 2011, he and a group of anti-fascists had assaulted a group of young nationalists, and that on December 17, 2011, he and his friend the anti-fascist Alexei Olesinov had assaulted security guards at the Vozdukh Club in Moscow. The accused and people who had been attending a concert at the club testified that the security guards had themselves provoked the fight and used weapons. In 2013, police investigators admitted that Sutuga had had nothing to do with the incident on December 4, 2011. In the summer of 2013, he was released on bail from remand prison, and in January 2014 the case against him was closed as part of an amnesty. Afterwards, according to Sutuga, Center “E” officers threatened him with “problems.”
In April 2014, Sutuga was detained by Center “E” operatives after an anti-fascist concert in Moscow’s Izmailovo district. According to a report by the For Human Rights Movement, ten other people were detained besides Sutuga. The pretext was a crime committed by a person unknown in the vicinity of the concert, but according to the human rights activists, therewere no grounds for suspecting the anti-fascists. Sutuga was asked about a trip to Maidan as he was being detained. All the other detainees were soon released, but a disorderly conduct report was filed against Sutuga and he was kept at the police station. He was later charged with having delivered multiple blows with a chair, his feet, and an improvised hammer to several people during a fight at a Sbarro chain restaurant outlet on January 2, 2014. Sutuga himself claimed that he had been trying to separate the people involved in the fight, which, according to him, had taken place between a group of right-wing youth and another group of young people, and that in the process of pulling them apart he had struck someone once. On October 1, 2014, Sutuga was sentenced to three years and one month in a medium-security penal colony. On December 17, 2014, an appeals court upheld the judgment.
In April of this year, Antti Rautiainen reported the following to Infoshop News (which I have summarized).
Sutuga has been transferred to the Irkutsk Region. He has refused to do household work in prison (which could reduce his sentence), unlike neo-Nazis Maxim Martsinkevich and Roman Zheleznov, as this form of collaborating with prison wardens is impossible for an anarchist.
Sutuga is twenty-nine years old. His sentence will end in May 2017.
On March 17, Sutuga went on hunger strike, demanding that his confiscated letters and books be returned to him and that he be transferred from the remand prison in Irkutsk, where he was incarcerated, to a prison colony.
On March 22, Sutuga was transferred to Prison Colony No.14 in Angarsk.
The Memorial Human Rights Center declared Sutuga a political prisoner on March 20.
Sutuga has a wife and child who live in Ukraine. His spouse is studying for a PhD and raising their child.
The cost of a two-way flight to Angarsk for his wife and son is about 60,000 rubles (approx. 1,200 euros). Only one long-term conjugal/family visit is permitted every three months. Alexei’s family needs money for sending parcels of food and other necessities to the prison colony.
Last Address’s installation of memorial plaques brings us back to real history, to understanding the past and the present, without which the future is impossible.
In Petersburg this past weekend, memorial plaques appeared on six more houses, memorializing nine more people and reminding the living about the terrible turns Russian history has taken. It would be no exaggeration to call these people the cream of the crop, the salt of the earth: academics, engineers, artists, teachers, and physicians. Without people like them, no society can survive, but these people do not even have graves. But there are relatives, friends, and kindred spirits whose hearts are moved by the ashes of the innocent victims.
On the Basis of Ethnicity
“I am attending my father’s funeral after seventy-eight years,” says a tall elderly man holding a bouquet of red roses and barely hold backing his tears.
Then he falls silent, places the flowers on the pavement next to the wall of house No. 1 on Maly Prospect, Petrograd Side, and steps away, covering his face with his hands.
When Stanislaw Kozlowski, an engineer at the Plastics Factory, was arrested in the summer of 1937, his son had been born only a month earlier. Two weeks later, his father was shot. His mother’s sister, who took him in, saved little Henryk from life in the camps. His mother was released only in 1947, followed by the 101st kilometer, a ban on living in Leningrad, and a life in Volkhov, an industrial town 122 kilometers east of Leningrad. During Khrushchev’s Thaw, as former victims of political repression, they were given a room in Leningrad, but by that time Henryk had already graduated from the Polytechnic Institute, and sharing a room with his mother was uncomfortable. He first worked at Krasnoyarsk, Bratsk, and Ust-Ilim hydroelectric stations, then in Syria.
“My father was a Pole. He went to the Polish school at Saint Catherine’s Church on Nevsky,” Henryk Kozlowski told Novaya Gazeta. “Eight of them were shot dead all at once. They had gone to school together and maintained relations. They were declared spies, just like everyone else then. But if it had only been them! Do you see that stadium over there? Imagine that in just two years, 1937 and 1938, two such stadiums of people were shot, nearly 42,000 people.”
Before the war, the well-known Leningrad artist Bronislaw Malachowski had lived in the same building. He was the same Malachowski who conceived and drew Smart Masha, the heroine of very popular children’s comics strip. The prototype of Smart Masha was the artist’s own daughter Katya. Malachowski also modeled Malvina and Buratino, for Alexei Tolstoy’s new book, on his own children, Katya and Dima.
On Saturday, the corner house, Maly Prospect, Petrograd Side, 1/3 (at the intersection with Zhdanovka Embankment), looked like a street exhibition on opening day, complete with stands containing photos, original graphic works on easels or simply propped against the wall, and a dense ring of viewers, perusing photos and works that few of them had seen before.
“That is my grandpa, and that is Nappelbaum, and here is my grandmother,” says Vasily Malachowski, Bronislaw’s grandson, pointing to the photographs. “Leningrad artists, actors, and writers often gathered at their house, and Grandpa was friends with Alexei Tolstoy.”
In the summer of 1937, when parents and children were vacationing in the Pushkin Hills, Bronislaw was taken, never to be seen again by his family. His wife, Maria, and son and daughter were deported from Leningrad, first to Kazakhstan. Later, they moved to the Perm Region. Soon Malachowski was shot. His descendants never returned to the apartment on the Petrograd Side. The NKVD confiscated the artist’s entire archive, including his artworks, sketches, and architectural designs. What happened to the archive is still unknown. Maria died in 1948. She was back in prison again for violating passport regulations.
The children were adopted by the famous artist Natan Altman and his wife, who was the aunt of the Malachowski children. Katya studied at a ballet school in Moscow, while Dima stayed with the Altmans. A graduate of the geography department, he defended his doctoral dissertation. His son, Vasily, the artist’s grandson, studied at the Leningrad State University geology department. But his daughter Stanislava has followed in her great-grandfather’s footsteps. A graduate of the Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy, she has collected a huge amount of material on her family’s history and its Polish roots.
“Grandfather and grandmother were innocent victims,” argues Vasily. “Unfortunately, their lives were short and tragic. But now people who never knew them have taken an interest in them and begun to love them, and this is an instance of immortality. If the soul is kind and good, it always manifests itself and will go on living in kind hearts.”
Science? Kill It!
Perhaps only a few people now remember the name of Arkady Borodin, a professor of history and law. Scant records of his life have been preserved in the archives of the Library of the Academy of Sciences (BAN), where he worked in his final years, and in the case files of the so-called Academic Affair, a tragic page in the history of Russian scholarship. Between 1929 and 1931, the OGPU fabricated a criminal case against a group of scholars in Leningrad. In 1924, Borodin was dismissed from the university as a hereditary nobleman, and from 1925 to 1929 he was in charge of the alphabetical card catalogue at the BAN. In 1931, Borodin was sentenced to ten years in prison. He served part of his sentence in the Solovki prison camp before being transferred to construction of the White Sea Canal. He died near Medvezhyegorsk in 1932. Borodin’s last address was Bolshaya Pushkarskaya, 1. Now, at the behest of his granddaughter, a memorial plaque has been erected there.
A memorial plaque has also appeared on the 11th Line of Vasilyevsky Island, No. 44, whence the famous mathematician and meteorologist Boris Izvekov set out on his final journey.
“I saw my father for the last time from way over there, on the 10th Line,” says Tatyana Bulakh-Izvekova, the scientist’s daughter, pointing. “We left the house, and Dad saw us off, gazing out the window. We never saw each other again. This was his last address. He was arrested here. The two windows on the third floor were his study.”
Case No. 555 is a terrible testimony to the destruction of scientists in Leningrad at the very beginning of the war. This story began in the late 1930s, however. In the mid 1990s, the famous Russian writer Yaroslav Golovanov published an article entitled “Executioners and Victims: Case No. 555” in the magazine Ogonyok. The article discusses NKVD staff informant Yevgeny Merkulov, also known as TV. In the late 1930s, his insinuations led to the arrests and imprisonment of over thirty scientists. But at the beginning of the war, in late 1941, the Leningrad NKVD launched a massive case against the “counterrevolutionary activity” of corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences Ignatovsky and his “group” in order to prove its need to stay in the rear. Based on TV’s denunciations, between the fall of 1941 and the winter of 1942, over 130 scientists, professors, and lecturers (physicists, mathematicians, and geophysicists) were arrested, shot, tortured, and sent to labor camps.
“I don’t know where father died. Golovanov wrote that it happened during transportation to the camps, but I never have found out where and when,” says Tatyana. “Most likely, he died in an internal NKVD prison. I am so glad that I have at least some memorial in place of a grave.”
Rereading Him Again
Grigory Gukovsky, a prominent Soviet literary scholar, university lecturer, and Pushkin House fellow also has no grave. Gukovsky was arrested twice: in 1941, for “counterrevolutionary propaganda” (but was soon released for lack of evidence), and in July 1949, as part of the fight against “cosmopolitanism.”
“There was an arrest and search,” recounts Gukovsky’s great-granddaughter Kira Dolinina, a well-known Petersburg art historian, critic, and lecturer at the European University. “The case was closed due to his death. All this papers were destroyed, including manuscripts of articles and books he was working on. Our family doesn’t have a single document about the family. The man was left to rot, the documents went missing.”
Dolinina and her mother read Gukovsky’s case file in the FSB archives. The telling interrogation reports produced a terrible impression: the interrogation lasted eight hours, but the minutes take up only two pages.
“What were they doing the rest of the time? Torturing him, beating him?” asks Dolinina. “What we were able to read confirmed our guess: my great-grandfather and his brother Matvei Gukovsky were arrested as part of the Leningrad Affair. Hence the investigator for special affairs, and the fact the case was investigated in Moscow. All the case material makes it clear the NKVD was interested in Alexander Voznesensky, rector of the university. So it was not a matter of ‘combating cosmopolitanism.’”
Yuri Lotman, Georgy Makogonenko, and Grigory Byaly were Gukovsky’s students. When information spread on the internet that a memorial plaque to Gukovsky would appear on the house that now stands at 13th Line, 56, his relatives began receiving poignant letters.
“Hello, Kira! My name is Nelly Venskaya. I am eighty-seven years old and studied with your renowned great-grandfather. […] It was not easy to get into Gukovsky’s lectures in 1949. Places in the auditorium were occupied in advance, because, in addition to Leningrad University students, students from all the institutes of higher learning tried to cram in, students from the construction institute, the medical schools, the pedagogical institute, and the polytechnic. They sat on the windowsills, the floor, and the piano, under the piano. The lectures were broadcast in the corridors and the lobby. […] The last cycle that we were lucky enough to hear were his brilliant lectures on Pushkin. The next subject was Gogol, and we were looking forward to the explosion of wit, unexpected comparisons, and profound revelations. […] But no one ever heard that cycle.”
“In Russian literature studies Gukovsky was the principal researcher of eighteenth-century literature,” says Andrei Kostin, academic secretary at Pushkin House. “He got the collected works of Radishchev published, and was a brilliant researcher. Gukovsky shaped the Soviet view of the entire eighteenth century. His death and the loss of his manuscripts are an enormous tragedy for Russian scholarship.”
Family Saves the World
The Belenky-Bogdanov family has preserved the memory of their forebears, who lived at Bolshaya Pushkarskaya, 39, on the Petrograd Side, in the late 1930s. One summer morning in 1937, first the father, Pavel Belenky, a bookkeeper, was taken away from their small room in a communal flat, then the mother, Lydia Bogdanova, a housewife. Their son Vladimir survived. He is is now eighty-five years and lives in Moscow. Because of poor health Vladimir was unable to attend the installation of the commerorative plaque. Instead, his grandson Arseny, great-grandson of the murdered Lydia Bogdanov and Pavel Belenky, came to Petersburg for the ceremony.
“I remember this. I think it is impossible to forget,” said Arseny Belenky during the installation ceremony. “I have a son, whom I will definitely bring to Petersburg and show him the house where his ancestors once lived.”
Almost the entire Dauman family gathered in Petersburg for the first time since 1937 for the installation of a plaque commemorating their forebears. Abram Dauman, who received his education as a surgeon in Germany, operated on the wounded on the front during the First World War. For this he received personal nobility and personal arms, and was awarded the Orders of Saint Stanislaus and Saint George. Learning about the awards, his colleagues commissioned the orders from respected jewelers at their own expense and presented them to Dauman as a token of their profound respect.
Ilya Dauman practiced shorthand. He had his own technique on which he wrote a textbook.
The Dauman brothers moved to Nekrasov Street, 6, in 1924. The whirlwinds of the revolution had brought them from Harbin.
“From my father’s stories I know that when they came to arrest grandfather, my father, who was still little, was told, ‘And you, boy, go to sleep,’” recounts Alexei, grandson of the murdered Abram Dauman. “My dad was taken in by his aunt’s family, although her husband was also arrested, interrogated, and tortured. They cut off four of his fingers, but he did not confess to anything, signed no papers, and was ultimately released.”
First, the older brother, Abram, was arrested. The younger brother, Ilya, was on a business trip in Yekaterinburg at the time.
“His relatives wrote to him not to come back, that his brother had been arrested,” recounts William Rozenson, nephew of the murdered men. “But he replied that he hadn’t done anything and he came back. He was arrested immediately. His wife, although she had divorced him, did not abandon her husband and was also exiled.”
Descendants of the family live in different Russian cities and different countries. One of them could not make the trip to Petersburg from Brazil. But for all of them this house on Nekrasov Street is one of the most important places on earth.
Photos by Yelena Lukyanova
Translated by The Russian Reader. You can read about the Last Address project’s first visit to Petersburg, in the spring of this year, here.
How Opinion Polls Are Conducted in Russia
July 23, 2015 About Russia
I just took part in one of the famous polls by VTsIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Center). They actually exist!
You are warned the survey is anonymous. First, you are asked your name (no surname), whether you are a citizen of the Russian Federation, whether you have a residence permit and whether you have had it for long, your age, education, and, finally, your occupation, income level, and your address, after all.
I was warned the survey would be about the erection of monuments, but in the event I was asked about my attitude to the president, the prime minister, the government, and the mayor, which party I intended to vote for at the elections, about Moscow’s problems, about [the incredibly controversial compulsory residential housing renovations fee, now included in monthly housing maintenance payments in Moscow], whether I am planning to emigrate abroad, and whether I consider emigrants traitors.
This was all prefaced with the phrase, “Of course, maybe you consider questions about politics uninteresting, but . . .”
I was asked twice about the monument to Dzerzhinsky, at the beginning and the end. (“Why twice?” “I don’t know, I’m just the interviewer.”) The first time I could reply as I chose, the second time, I could not. I wonder: if people give different answers, which one counts?
[Translator’s Note. It appears the Communist Party itself has just called off its proposed referendum which would have asked Muscovites whether they wanted a controversial monument to Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinsky, torn down in August 1991, returned to its former site on Lubyanka Square.]
There were three possible answers to the question of [where to place a 24-meter-tall monument to Prince Vladimir, which has caused a huge public outcry in Moscow]: on Lubyanka, on Borovitskaya Square, in the Sparrow Hills. Saying “I don’t want it at all” was not an option.
Here and there, the survey was worded quite quaintly. For example, “Which party, in your view, has made the greater contribution to Moscow’s development?” All the existing parties where listed off, although only the Udrussians [United Russians], the commies, and one Zhirinovskyite sit in the Moscow City Duma. (“Your question is worded incorrectly.” “I don’t know anything, I’m just the interviewer.”)
They rang me at 1:00 p.m. I just happened to be at home. Working people are usually at work at this time, while it is pensioners and housewives who are at home then. I have long suspected that it is these people who “shape” all these polls.
Translated by The Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade SC for the heads-up. This is the latest in a series of occasional posts about the Russian authoritarian regime’s use of public opinion polling, which I have dubbed pollocracy. After all, what kind of “anonymous” polling requires the respondent to identify their address?
Imagine you are the president of a big country, and you don’t like the fact that foreign foundations are funding your children and acquiring too much influence over them. Can such things happen? Of course they can. What do you do in this case? That’s right, you immediately offer talented young people different options for self-realization and launch funding programs in different areas. And then, all other things being equal, your children will gladly choose domestic funding. After all, they love their country and have dealings with foreign foundations only for lack of something better. What choices do they have?
Now imagine you are spiteful little paranoiac who believes that people can only be bought and intimidated; otherwise, they won’t do anything. If you allow your children to get support from foreign foundations, they will immediately sell you out. For there is no reason to love you. And everything that is happening is meant to spite you and turn everyone against you. So then the first thing you will do is not think about the children but combat your enemies. You’ll say that children who are supported by foreign foundations have fallen into the enemy’s clutches. And you’ll spend money on propaganda so that everyone finds out about this and those children get scared.
Because in Russia there are pitifully few opportunities to break through and get your ideas heard. To do this you usually have to be born in Moscow and have good contacts. How many times have I heard from mayors, administrators, and all sorts of people outside of Moscow that the main problem is there is no way to engage young people, that young people do not know what to take up in life. In fact, young people who have had the courage, patience, and talent to secure support from any foundation are the nation’s gold. They are capable of creating something while overcoming difficulties. And now they are being told they are potential traitors. Because they have a dream and are prepared to go for it.
Putin Accuses Foreign Organizations of Looting Russia’s Brightest Youth
June 24, 2015 The Moscow Times
President Vladimir Putin has accused foreign-backed organizations of pillaging through Russian schools in search of their most talented pupils and then spiriting them away via educational programs abroad, state news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.
Speaking at a meeting of the Council for Science and Education, Putin said it was necessary to pay attention to the work of nongovernmental organizations in schools because they threatened to suck Russia dry of its future talent.
“A network of [foreign] organizations has ‘rummaged’ through the schools in the Russian Federation for many years under the guise of supporting talented young people. In reality, they simply hoover everything up like a vacuum,” he was cited as saying by RIA.
Putin was responding to comments by Vladimir Fortov, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who said in March that a “brain drain” was robbing the country of its future talent as educated youngsters sought out lives abroad.
Last year, as relations between Moscow and the West became strained over the crisis in Ukraine, Russia canceled an education exchange partnership with the United States in protest of the alleged adoption of a student by a same-sex couple.
The FLEX — or Future Leaders Exchange — program was established in 1992 and saw more than 8,000 Russian high schoolers travel to the United States for study purposes.
The Russian government has decided that educations in political science, history, sociology, and other disciplines received at foreign universities do not meet the “highest international standards.” This follows from the list affirmed by Russian Federal Government Decree No. 1101-r (dated June 15, 2015). The document, which runs to over two hundred pages, includes a list of foreign universities that are among the leaders in the international rankings, a list that has been corrected compared to a similar document adopted a year ago. Whereas last year’s version of the document merely included a list of the universities, the current document specifies which areas and specialties in these institutions are in accordance with the Russian national classification.
What is significant is not which areas and specialties the Russian authorities have deemed as meeting the “highest international standards,” but which of them have not been included in this list. If you follow the government’s list, an education in political science, sociology, history, law, journalism, etc., at Harvard or Oxford does not meet the “highest international standards.” From the viewpoint of the Russian authorities, chemistry, physics, and even “economics and management” can be global, but political science and history are “sovereign” disciplines.
The current regime presents itself, at home and abroad, as having brought “stability” and prosperity to Russia. Russians, the storyline goes, are enjoying the fruits of their new consumerist society, and thus social conflict, much less outright resistance to the powers that be, is insignificant. Russians are buying into this new “de-ideologized” ideology because it allows them to buy a better life.
Closer to the ground, however, the picture looks different. In fact, all over Russia, workers are struggling to create independent trade unions and improve the conditions of their work; antifascists are battling to stop the scourge of neo-Nazi attacks on the country’s minorities and foreign residents; and human rights activists, opposition activists, and just ordinary folk are working to make the country’s commitment to democracy and law meaningful (to mention only a few, obvious examples). Because the regime has a near-total lock on the media, most of these conflicts are kept out of the public view or presented to the public in a distorting mirror. And, it has to be said, the numbers of resisters nationwide are such that it would be wrong to say that society at large is (for now) gripped by a revolutionary mood.
In Petersburg, the most significant front in this “quiet” or “cold” civil war in the past few years has been the conflict surrounding the rampant architectural redevelopment of the city. The attention of observers both foreign and domestic has been focused on mega-projects such as the planned 400-meter skyscraper that will serve as the centerpiece of Gazprom’s Okhta Center, just across the Neva River from downtown Petersburg, the demolition of the city’s grand, plentiful “architectural heritage,” and the creative, nonviolent resistance mounted by such grassroots groups as Living City. Less attention is paid to efforts to prevent infill construction, which has become a particular plague in the city’s “non-classical” outlying neighborhoods, most of them built during the post-Stalin, pre-perestroika period.
These neighborhoods offer developers an advantage they cannot find in the historic center: “open” space. In reality, this means the tree-filled courtyards, gardens, and parks that Soviet city planners designed into these new estates in order to give citizens the fresh air, greenery, and recreational areas they were so desperately lacking in the densely built environment of the city center.
These “empty” spaces also present another advantage: they already have the infrastructure (gas, water, and sewerage mains, electrical grids and telephone lines, paved roads, and public transportation) that would be expensive to install in the truly undeveloped territories farther away from the center. Developers also do not have to worry about the building height regulations that still, however feebly, hold sway in the inner districts. They are also encouraged by an overheated economy whose main beneficiaries have few other avenues where they can invest their newfound wealth, and by a plentiful supply of cheap labor in the form of immigrants from the impoverished former Soviet republics.
On the administrative side, they are assisted by the “legal nihilism” of which President Medvedev has spoken so eloquently of in recent months, and by the central state’s identification of new housing construction as a national priority. (It matters little that much of the new housing created in Petersburg is functionally and nominally “elite,” meaning that is both unaffordable for most people and, in many cases, principally serves as a financial instrument for local administrations, banks, real estate agents, and buyers. I.e., it is not built as part of a social welfare program.)
In one seemingly insignificant block in the Piskarevka-Polyustrovo micro-district, in the far northeast of the city, all these factors have recently combined to destroy Submariners Garden, a large inner-courtyard grove dedicated to the memory of Soviet and Russian submariners who lost their lives in peacetime. Local residents have known about plans to build a housing complex on the site of the garden and have been resisting them since 2006. Piquancy has added to their struggle by the fact that the project is backed by the FSB, the Federal Security Service, whose officers have, allegedly, been allotted a certain number of apartments in the new buildings.
In May, the conflict went from simmering to hot when construction contractors tried to install a concrete wall around the garden. They were met with furious resistance from residents, who were assisted by local environmental and political activists. In June, further, unsuccessful attempts to install the wall sparked new stand-offs between construction workers, police, neighbors, and activists. This in turn prompted Alexander Vakhmistrov, one of the city’s vice governors and its construction “czar,” to declare a temporary moratorium on all work.
City officials and legislators also tried to calm residents by claiming that their block would be slated for “renovation”—which is what the administration has dubbed its new, ambitious program to replace many of the city’s Khrushchev- and Brezhnev-era residential buildings with new dwellings that will supposedly be built on the same sites as their dilapidated predecessors and will house the people temporarily resettled from those same buildings. The activists and residents of Submariners Garden have mostly rejected this plan, seeing it as an attempt to put a good face on a bad (con) game that never had anything to do with “renovation.”
Despite all these assurances and promises, however, in the early morning of July 21, construction workers, backed by police and “security guards” (i.e. low-level thugs), arrived at Submariners Garden and began clearing trees. Activists and residents sent out a call for help and tried to mount what resistance they could under the circumstances. They were badly outnumbered, however, and in the event, four of them, including their leader, Yelena Malysheva, were arrested. By evening, the “developers” had accomplished what they had set out to do. They had cut down all the trees in the vast, central section of the courtyard and had surrounded it with a concrete barrier.
Activists promised that the fight has not ended, but, in the absence of a solidarity network capable of reacting quickly and in larger numbers to such “fires,” it is difficult to imagine how they and other Petersburgers in similar straits throughout the city can successfully defend their homes and squares. More important, what is lacking is a compelling alternative political practice that would enlist greater numbers of people in the struggle against hegemonic “aggressive development” (Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko’s coinage) and the other predations of oligarchic capital by advocating real grassroots participation in planning and socially oriented development.
Nevertheless, what prevents its emergence most of all are the many micro-practices and everyday discourses through which both the hegemons and the hegemonized persuade themselves and each other that only silly “beautiful souls,” old women, and hysterics worry about old buildings, beautiful panoramas, and humble groves in shabby Soviet-era neighborhoods. Worse, these “losers” are often represented, by politicians and the media, as paid agents of more sinister forces who wish to undermine Russia’s long-sought “stability.” In this case, as in so many others, solidarity with such unattractive types is out of the question. Everyone has more important things to worry about.
Here we present video testimony, in Russian, by some residents of Submariners Garden, Each video is accompanied by a transcript in English.
For a good summary of the day’s events and the conflict in general, see Sergey Chernov’s July 22 article in The St. Petersburg Times (which has been reproduced in full, below).
Submariners Garden, Petrograd, July 21, 2008
[Yekaterina:] Wherever we called, they told us that this was all renovation, although it’s not renovation at all—it’s infill construction. We all were against it. There were public hearings: we all signed [petitions] against this project. There was a vote for [or against] renovation: we signed [petitions?] against this renovation when we learned how it would be carried out. There are two children’s institutions here. They want to build two buildings for the FSB [and] a 150-car parking lot, which we really don’t need here.
They began working around seven-thirty. Who exactly gave them permission? This mainly comes from our governor [Valentina Matviyenko]. That is, she gave them the green light, although there is a law protecting green spaces. There is also a law about human rights in general: [one has the right] to live in one’s neighborhood and have one’s say about what will be [built] there and what won’t. We have been stripped of this right.
We have already filed a suit in the [European Court of Human Rights] in Strasbourg, and we are waiting for our case to be reviewed. What is going on here is total lawlessness: the land was sold, but no one asked us [what we thought about it].
What is at stake here is the value of the land and the value of our infrastructure (our gas mains and electrical cables), which is all ready to use. And the value of our lives: the outer walls in our buildings shake even when a freight train passes by way over there. When a truck passes by below, the outer walls here shake like crazy. We have these huge cracks in the walls, and the ceilings leak in many apartments.
This renovation is not [being done] for us; it’s for someone else. I don’t know what this is. It’s infill construction, ordinary infill construction. We, the residents of Khrushchev-era blocks and five-story houses, are simply being driven out. We have no rights.
My name is Yekaterina. I live literally in the next house over. I have been fighting here for two years. Some people have been fighting for this garden for three years—for this garden, for our green spaces, for our air. The laminated plastics factory periodically sends out fumes. All the children here have allergies. The Avant-Garde plant regularly spits out who knows what. If there is no foliage here, there won’t be any air to breathe. And if there are also going to be 150 cars here or maybe more, then I cannot vouch for what will happen to the health of our children and our own health. I have asthma myself. I cannot breathe the air downtown and I cannot live there.
[Yekaterina:] Our neighborhood has been slated for infill construction. They have slated this place for infill construction, as if it were an empty place. The law on green spaces was passed in 2004. But they slated this little patch—this beautiful, green patch—for infill construction in 2006. Isn’t that a violation [of the law]? It’s a violation. Isn’t it a violation of human rights when we speak out, when we have spoken out against [this project] more than once? They don’t hear us. No one listens to us, no one hears us.
And all the newspapers are silent. We read only articles commissioned [by the authorities or other interested parties]. [We read] that here there is a pitiful bunch of people who have nothing to do with this district. No, we live here. People have lived for forty, fifty years under these trees. How they can ignore this? We plant everything here, we clean the garden up as well as we can, and we have regular volunteer Saturday workdays. Our children ride their bikes here; there’s nowhere else for them to ride. Where should they ride? On the street, on the pavement? Our children play here, parents walk their babies in prams. What kind of demographics will we end up with if our children breathe exhaust fumes and do not see a single green tree their entire childhood?
[Old Woman:] They think they are chopping down trees. They are chopping down our lives. These trees survived the Siege [of Leningrad, during WWII]. Why are trees being felled in the center of the city? Who gave permission to do this?
[Yekaterina:] They included [this neighborhood in the infill construction program] as an empty place, not as a garden, not as a green zone, but as if there were an empty space here. We have a map on which every tree is marked. The city administration has remained totally deaf to our complaints, to our requests. They came and nodded their heads: “Yes, we’ll suspend the project. We’ll put you on the renovation list. Everything’s fine. We’re temporarily suspending construction.”
Now it turns out that [Vice Governor Alexander Vakhimistrov’s] letter ordering a temporary halt in construction was “recalled.” That is, the construction company got the green light to go ahead here. They have already been selling apartments [in the buildings planned for construction on the site of the demolished garden].
[Old Woman:] In Russian, the law is like the shaft on a wagon. They changed their minds [about whether to include our block in the] renovation program three times: first we were in, then we were out. They changed their minds about our park twice: first they included it [in the list of protected green spaces], then they excluded it.
[Yekaterina:] Nevsky Alliance [real estate agency] started selling apartments [in the unbuilt buildings] as soon as the land was sold. In a building that had not been built, apartments have been sold. They have been selling apartments right and left. People have already bought up apartments here.
[Irina Dmitriyevna:] Sixty apartments have been sold in these buildings. Nevsky Alliance is selling them.
[Irina Dmitriyevna:] Only eight percent of these apartments will go to the FSB. The rest are up for sale. That is, when they tell people that the block will be renovated, it’s not true. This is a purely commercial project.
[Yekaterina:] When the head of the local council tried to talk with Sergeyev from the FSB, she got five minutes of pure threats in response.
“You’re standing on the FSB’s land. We’re warning you for the last time. We’ll give you the full treatment if you don’t get your residents off our land.”
I am quoting Mister Sergeyev word for word. All of us were standing nearby.
[Irina Dmitriyevna:] Four people were arrested today: they nabbed them. Moreover, they knew whom to go after. They nabbed our leader, Yelena Malysheva. They [also] nabbed three others. They are active [in our struggle], but not so active as to drag them in.
[Yekaterina:] They weren’t doing anything illegal. One guy was simply standing with us on the sidewalk and was trying to prevent them from beating women. He simply grabbed a policeman by the jacket and was trying to pull him off the women. After that, he was beaten up. Yes, we tried to pull them off, and they tossed us around. They kicked our legs and punched us. They twisted our arms. Six or seven guys dragged [Malysheva] across the asphalt and threw her into the police van. Five men against one woman. She had a heart attack: they took her to the hospital.
[Yekaterina:] Maybe we will win [the garden] back and plant new trees… We still have to live here. No one is going to move us anywhere.
When the project was up for discussion, they showed us this project. The project started right from that little road, as if our houses were not there at all. That is, our houses aren’t taken into consideration in this project at all. No one intends to move us out [to new buildings] or repair [our houses]. Our houses shake as it is, and we don’t know what will happen if they start building here. There is quick clay everywhere. Our gas main also lies on top of this quick clay, unless they end up re-laying it. If they begin building here, we don’t know what will happen. That is the geodesic situation. I suspect we will lose everything.
[Woman:] Seryozha wouldn’t hurt a fly.
[Yekaterina:] He wasn’t doing anything. He was just trying to defend [Malysheva]. [They are] impudent men. Look over there at our beauty. [Points to a falling tree.]
[Yekaterina:] How can we hold on? How can you can hold on when strapping guys beat up women and old ladies?
This is what the deputy head of the [local] administration said. “Hold on a little longer. We’ll help you and get to the bottom of this.”
They are still getting to the bottom of this. When all that is left here is a wasteland, and they start building houses on it, that is when they’ll get to the bottom of it.
[Yekaterina:] They almost cut off his arm with those chainsaws. They were just swinging at him with those saws.
[Yekaterina:] They—the entire mainstream press, the radio stations—officially announced that we had started a riot here. There was no riot. We simply surrounded the construction workers and got them off their equipment. None of us struck a single blow.
Half of them left on their own. They just left everything and turned off the compressor they had been using when they were welding the fence together. Everything was calm and peaceful: there was no riot. The riot began when the police showed up and began beating up the old women who were trying to stop the equipment from getting through. That is when the riot—old women versus the police, if you can call that a riot—began.
[Old Woman:] I said to them, “Who are you fighting? Look at me: I’m eighty-one years old.” He grabs me by the arms and tries to drag me away. All we did was stand in front of the crane so that it couldn’t get by us. How they were tossing us away from that crane, our police!
[Yekaterina:] That’s how our police defend us. People from the FSB arrived; they stood around and observed. Anything happens and they come flying in at the drop of a hat. Last time, when we began to push the fence over, a lot of people got taken down to the precinct. Because last time the fence was illegal however you look at it. [The construction company] was told to take it down, but they didn’t take it down. We tried to push it over: half the green activists were arrested for “unlawful actions.” Putting a fence up without a permit, that’s not unlawful. But pushing it over turns out to be unlawful. That is how the law is interpreted in Russia. Whatever is profitable, whatever is sold, that is legal. But what ordinary citizens, poor citizens, the people, pensioners, ordinary workers and clerks want, that is against the law. Because what they want is not in the financial interests of our powers that be. The regime here is antidemocratic [against the people]. Our authorities are antidemocratic. I have become wholly convinced of this. I don’t believe there is any social safety net, I don’t believe they are worried about demographic growth. What kind of demographic growth will there be if children have nowhere to play?
[Old Woman:] We have no authorities: there is a power vacuum in the city. A total absence of authority. And the power of moneybags. The guy who stole a lot of money, he is the power.
[Ykaterina:] We don’t have democracy; we have oligarchic capitalism. And this is real proof of that. This isn’t a democracy; this is antidemocratic. It’s so antidemocratic. This is visible proof that here, on this lot, oligarchic capitalism has triumphed.
[Old Woman:] Matviyenko promised to make the city green. This is how she is making our city green. Vakhmistrov wrote that there were 16.5 square meters of greenery per person, and by the end of 2008 there would be 20 square meters of greenery per person. Vakhmistrov said this: I still have a copy of the newspaper. Is this how he intends to produce 20 square meters per person?
[Yekaterina:] We gathered 1600 signatures against this. 1600 signatures.
[Old Woman:] They took them to the Smolny [city hall] a few days ago. The police barely let them in. Matviyenko didn’t receive them. [Her assistants] gave her the packet with the signatures. And what did we get in reply? Silence and our trees cut down.
[Yelena Fradkina:] As one of the developers put it, “You’re lumpens.”
[Yekaterina:] They told us this outright: “You’re lumpens. You won’t be able to do anything. We bought this land. Go home, you lumpens, and keep your nose out our business.”
[Other Woman:] “We’ll bury you here, and we’ll build here all the same.”
[Yekaterina:] They will bury us. They will bury us under the ruins of our homes, which will collapse when construction begins.
[Old Woman:] This house is forty-three years old. A prefab building, and forty-three years old. It has not once undergone major renovations. It’s barely standing as it is. What will happen when they begin driving piles in the ground? It’s the same with these five-storey houses. We’ll end up homeless.
[Yekaterina:] Even if they drill them in. The railroad is over there, behind the hospital. When a train passes, my windows shake, the outer wall shakes. What if they begin drilling here? The soil here is quaky. There is quick clay here, quick clay there. There is unstable karstic sand here.
[Yelena Fradkina:] There is vegetation here, greenery, but they don’t understand greenery. The only greenery they understand is dollars. Now that is “greenery,” but this?
[Old Woman:] Vakhmistrov came here. He stood over there and looked at all this. He said, “I don’t see any trees: this is an empty lot.” That’s what Vakhmistrov said right to our faces.
[Yelena Fradkina:] One of their ladies was quoted in the papers (in Novaya Gazeta, I think), one of the developers who has been walking around here. “We could spit on your children, your old people, and your trees. We’re going to build.” What is there to say to that?
[Yekaterina:] The first public hearing was about reconstruction, about resettlement. Infill construction wasn’t discussed at all. When they showed us this project they announced that this was the second hearing. [NB. Russian law requires two public hearings before a construction project can go ahead.] Naturally, we didn’t recognize this second hearing as legitimate. We said that there had been no initial hearing on the project, and nothing was decided during the second hearing. We were categorically against any and all projects. We were totally against any construction in our courtyard. When they tried to palm off this document on us—“Are you for or against renovation? Send us your comments” (they simply circulated this document in our buildings)—we explained to everyone that [the authorities] were trying again to foist infill construction on us under the pretext of renovation. Once again we marked “against” [on the forms], and we went around [to residents] and gathered signatures. We gathered statements from people saying they were against the project. Everyone was against it. But the land had already been sold. So what is the use in our being against this? Who is going to listen to us?
There were constantly these sham members of the public at the hearings, people who aren’t registered in this district, who do not live here. They were just alcoholics who hollered louder than everyone else, “I’m for [the project because] I’ll get resettled.” No one is going to be resettled. The only people who are for the project are the ones whom they tricked by telling them they would get apartments [in exchange for their support]. But for the time being no one is resettling us anywhere, and no one intends to give us apartments. In short, people were simply conned. Even the ones who put down their signatures “for” the project and live on this block, they have simply been conned. Conned in the most elementary way.
They conned us and lied right to our faces. “This [building project] will pay for your resettlement.” “What’s with you? Do you not want your district to be improved?” And many people [fell for this] Or rather, most people didn’t. The majority, the people who have been actively participating [in the protests] [are against the project]… But everyone is at work for the most part, from morning to evening, doing twelve-hour shifts. And so not everyone can take part. Not everyone can actively support [our cause].
So now they simply picked the right moment: half [the neighbors] are at their dachas, half are at work, and it is a Monday. And this is the outcome. The police arrested the kids from the youth organizations [anarchists and National Bolsheviks] who have been supporting us, and their trials are today. They are being tried for these [protest] actions. [They are being tried] for our courtyard, for the fact that they came to the defense of our green spaces and, generally, for defending a normal human life. Their court hearings are today, and that is why they could not come. [The construction company and the authorities] chose the moment, on purpose, so that we wouldn’t be able to do anything. And they will say again that this was an empty spot. The police are standing over there smiling impudently. There you have it.
[Old Woman:] 1600 signatures against renovation. 1600. They didn’t let them into [the Smolny]. A woman came out to meet them at the entrance. She took a look [at the petition] and said, “Okay, maybe. We’ll take it into consideration.” But we haven’t got a response to the documents that were delivered to Matviyenko in the Smolny. We have not heard anything from the Smolny, but meanwhile here they’re already [cutting down the trees]. [The builders] know quite well that they have to break through [our resistance] while no clear decision has been made yet [in the Smolny]. And there [in the Smolny] they are waiting for them to break through. We understood this quite clearly, too. [Matviyenko] and Vakhmistrov are on vacation: how is that? Because [the builders] were told, “If you break through [the residents’ resistance], then you will be in the right here.” And now they have broken through.
They made preparations. They were walking around here for a whole week, surveying everything, and checking everything out. They smiled mockingly at us; they greeted us in this insolent way. And today they are executing all the plans they made over the last week.
Why should they wait for Matviyenko’s decision, for the Smolny? Because they know that the Smolny will decide in their favor all the same, not in ours. Nowadays, the city’s inhabitants are just mud that gums up the works. They’ll knock down our buildings and send us God knows where, beyond the city limits.
Most of the people who live here are native Leningraders. They are quite sharp-tongued and have to be sent away from here.
[Off-screen Voice:] Yeah, there are no New Russians here for sure. Everyone here is a local.
[Old Woman:] Everyone is a local, everyone has worked hard for what they have. And now, in our old age, this is what we get.
When we were young, the war hit us. At least then it was the Germans who attacked us. They were foreigners: we understood who it was that wanted to break us. But we defended Leningrad. Half of our families remained here to lie [in this ground]. The trees stood their ground with us, too.
During the Siege we didn’t cut down trees. People were dying of hunger and cold. They burned furniture, they burned their own books. I lived in wooden houses on Krestovsky Island. Later, we were moved into large buildings, and these houses were leveled and the logs were used for fuel. But not a single tree was touched. Do you have any idea how many trees there are on Krestovsky? They all survived the war, and these trees here also survived the war. But now our new rulers [do things this way], with one flourish of Matviyenko’s pen. If she had come here just once. We asked, “Look at what you’re signing. Why are you doing this?”
Vakhmistrov tells her, “It’s an empty lot.” Okay, people are endlessly asking her to sign things, they are trying to get in to see her. One [TV] channel, then another channel show that there is a park here, that people are struggling [to defend it]. Why does she [act this way]? It was easier to get an audience with the czar than it is to get in to see Matviyenko.
[Old Woman:] First it’s one law, then it’s another. First they put [our garden] on the protected list, then they take it off. First they put us in the renovation program, then they take us off. Then they put us back in. What kind of mockery is this? How long can they mock the people? How many little blazes like this are burning all over the city? Are they waiting until this flows together into one [great blaze]?
The Russian people takes its time getting into the harness, but then it travels quickly. Do they understand this or not? Why are they pushing people to extremes?
Okay, we are old. But we have children and grandchildren. They will come home from work now and see this; they’ll hear our stories. Do they really think the people will be silent forever? The people won’t be silent.
[Vladimir Dmitriyev, deputy in the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly, member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation:] [I was just at Vice Governor Alexander Polukeyev’s office, because Vakhmistrov isn’t here, he’s on vacation. Polukeyev called Roman Filimonov, chairman of the city construction committee, into his office and told him that they had cut down around twenty trees here. [Filimonov] says to me, “Vladimir Yakovlevich, they’re cutting down only old, rotten poplars.”
[Residents:] Go there and look for yourself. Those are birches, maples. . .
[Dmitriyev:] . . . And he says that last week he met with the residents, that he carefully explained everything to them, that people understood everything. . .
[Dmitriyev:] . . . true, there were a few individuals who didn’t quite get it.
[Residents:] What a liar. What impudent lies. What an impudent liar. We were promised renovation, but what is that, “renovation”? We were against renovation, we signed a petition against it. 1600 signatures were submitted to Matviyenko in the Smolny.
[Dmitriyev:] I now asked Polukeyev—they went to Pushkin to do an inspection with Matviyenko—I asked him to personally report to her about what is happening here: three people were detained, arrested. . .
[Residents:] Four people. None of them has been released yet. One woman’s heart started acting up, but they are holding her at the police precinct.
[Dmitriyev:] Which precinct?
[Residents:] The 61st Precinct. [The police fought with us.] They dragged her on her back through a puddle. Six guys beat her up and threw her in a police van. We are all witnesses. The boy got a concussion: what do you call that?
The important thing is to stop this somehow: they will destroy our entire courtyard. Can you stop this? Do you have the power to stop this?
[Dmitriyev:] No, of course not.
[Dmitriyev:] [At the moment, it looks as if they have badly] deceived us. Vakhmistrov said, “Include this block in the renovation zone. At the very first session [of the city government?] I’ll raise the issue of”—they’re planning to build not one building, but two buildings for the FSB; for the time being we are talking about two buildings—“We will table this issue then: the administration’s decision to permit construction of these two buildings is declared null and void, and this entire block goes into the renovation zone.”
This is what you were also talking about now. First, there is a search for investors, and then a project proposal. Before a proposal is made, each resident is surveyed and everyone comes to a common denominator. When everything suits everyone, only then do people move from the blueprints to working directly on the lot. And that is what Vakhmistrov [said] to us about this. . . I’ve just come from the Smolny. I sat there for an hour and half waiting for the small cabinet meeting to end.
[Residents:] Stop this before they have cut down all the trees. Can it be stopped?
[Dmitriyev:] I’ll say it again: no one is going to stop this. The highest-ranking official in the city right now is Polukeyev. He said to me, “Vladimir Yakovlevich, you know that this isn’t my issue. It’s Vakhmistrov’s issue, and he is on vacation now. I’m taking care of some of his affairs, but I don’t have a total handle on this issue.”
I said to him, “Then inform Valentina Ivanovna [Matviyenko] right now, when you’re on the bus (they’re going to Pushkin). Lawlessness has broken out again. They’re grabbing people, beating people, and this is happening in plain view.” He said, “Okay, fine.” Then he summoned Filimonov. Filimonov told me that after lunch (he has a meeting now, and people have been called in), right after lunch he will come here himself and have a look.
[Residents:] There is no longer anything to look at. Everything will be chopped down [by the time he gets here].
[Old Woman (looks at the square being destroyed):] Accursed bandits. Bandits. The park stood here for sixty some years. It survived the Siege. And these scumbags. . . A band of thieves.
P.S. A quick glance at the website of the Nevsky Alliance real estate agency confirms many of the fears and arguments of the residents of Submariners Garden. The colored illustration of the future apartment blocks does not include the houses currently on the site. More amazingly, this is how the agency describes the location:
“Compared to other northern districts, the Kalinin District has a quite well-developed social infrastructure. It is characterized by a satisfactory ecological climate [and] a sufficient number of parks and green spaces. The Piskarevka-Polyustrovo micro-district, where the new house is situated [note the use of the present tense: the house has not even been built], is not far from Pioneer Park and Academic [Andrei!] Sakharov Park.”
And, we should add, at 60,400 rubles (1,648.38 euros) per square meter, it’s a steal.
This past winter, Sanoma Independent Media closed the St. Petersburg Times, the city’s only English-language newspaper, which had been published for over twenty years. Sanoma Independent Media also switched off the newspaper’s website, so its invaluable online archives have gone invisible as well. I am thus extremely grateful to reporter Sergey Chernov for providing me with the copy of his July 22, 2008, article on the conflict in Submariners Garden.
Disputed Submariners Garden Hit By Police, Demolition Begins
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
July 22, 2008 (page 2)
Backed by dozens of policemen and hired guards, a construction company invaded Submariners Garden (Skver Podvodnikov) on Monday to fell trees and install a concrete fence around the perimeter. A number of the area’s defenders were beaten and arrested, according to residents.
Located at the Block 43 Polyustrovo in the north of the city, the garden was named to commemorate Russian submariners who died in non-combat operations after World War II. When visited early afternoon on Monday it had already been partially demolished.
Old women cried as another massive tree trunk fell under the chainsaws and axes of the workers, who were encircled by the policemen and guards. “I planted these trees during the war,” said one. “During WWII, we defended the city, but then it was from foreigners, so it was more clear-cut; it’s worse now,” said another. The defenders said the company’s representatives failed to present any documents showing they had permission to perform the work.
Earlier in the day, four activists who tried to protect the trees, including Yelena Malysheva, leader of the local residents group, were detained by the police and taken to Precinct 61, the residents said, adding that the detainees had also been beaten.
“We tried to stop it, but the police started to beat us,” said local resident Yekaterina, who only gave her first name.
“We were also beaten by some strange men, allegedly from a private security firm. They didn’t identify themselves or show us any papers.” One defender was hospitalized with concussion, while another experienced heart problems, according to the residents.
The latter was also later hospitalized.
“Courageous women have been on watch here every day from morning to evening,” said Yelena Fradkina, a translator and local resident.
“We stopped them before, but today they brought so many men that we couldn’t do anything. Since 8 a.m. we’ve just been standing here, watching [the destruction] and crying.”
Listed in the city’s official register of public parks and green spaces, Submariners Garden, which includes a monument, a memorial oak lane, a playground, and hundreds of trees, has been under threat since 2006, when it became known that developers had plans to build two to four apartment buildings on the site. The apartment buildings have been ordered by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet KGB, according to the construction company, Stroikompleks XXI.
Direct confrontation with the authorities and developers began on May 23, when Stroikompleks XXI attempted to erect a fence around the garden. Since then, residents have been guarding the area and on several occasions have tried to stop the workers, who were escorted by guards and the police. Multiple protests and rallies have been held.
Arrests and beatings were reported on several occasions in June when the company attempted to resume work.
Then, on June 17, Vice Governor Alexander Vakhmistrov asked the company to stop any work in the area “due to heightened social tension.” Last week, the residents were promised by the authorities that no work would be undertaken at least until September, when a “renovation” plan would be put into action, instead of the infill construction attempted by developers.
“They deceived us,” said Vladimir Dmitriyev, a Communist Party deputy in the Legislative Assembly, who arrived at the scene on Monday.
According to Dmitriyev, Vakhmistrov was on vacation while Governor Valentina Matviyenko was scheduled to inspect Pushkin, in the south of the city, in the afternoon. He said his faction would appeal to the Prosecutor’s Office to inquire into the construction company’s “unlawful” activities.
The works in the former garden continued, as this issue went to press, with virtually all the trees cut down and the workers surrounding the area with a concrete fence, according to a telephone report from a local resident.
“Of course, it all comes from Matviyenko. [What happened today] means she gave the go-ahead, despite the law protecting parks and gardens, and in violation of our human rights,” said Yekaterina, adding that the garden was the residents’ only protection from the poisonous smoke emitted by local factories.
The residents also worry that construction will adversely affect their fragile Khrushchev-era houses (many of which were built hastily in 1961), as well as gas and sewage works that were designed to serve only a limited number of buildings.
Editor’s Note. I have reprinted this post from seven years ago (which was originally published on Chtodelat News, a blog I edited for a little over five years, and cross-posted the same day on this blog) for a few reasons. First, because I think it is the best thing I ever did on a blog, despite myself, and despite the disparaging remarks I will make about it, below.
However, it never got the attention it deserved, neither then nor since, although it tells you everything about the Putin regime in a nutshell and what many perfectly invisible, ordinary Russians thought about the regime and still think about it now.
I suggested to the nominal publishers of Chtodelat News that they reproduce the post in an anthology of their own written work they were compiling for a big show at an important art institution in London, but was told it “didn’t fit the format” of the planned publication. Although, at the time, the vigorous efforts being made by grassroots groups in Petersburg, Moscow, and all over Russia to push back against things like infill construction and “neighborhood revitalization” (but not only these things) were the biggest story in Russia, and should have got a lot more coverage everywhere else, and a lot more solidarity from leftist intellectuals and creatives back here at home.
But it was not until the much sexier, endlessly self-enamored (and virtually nonexistent) “Snow Revolution” of 2011–2012 that the international media big guns started cranking their rusty turrets in the direction of Moscow (although not anywhere else in Russia, really) because the “revolutionaries” feebly taking to the streets to oppose Putin’s return to the Kremlin and faked election results were supposedly “middle class people just like us and our readers.”
As you can gather from the videos shakily shot by me with a crappy camera, the resisters at Submariners Square were not sexy or middle-classy enough to warrant such top-flight coverage, although the story got (more or less biased) coverage from local media, especially then, because stories of corrupt city officials allied with greedy developers versus folks from all walks of life defending Petrograd’s historic built environment, whether tsarist, modernist, Stalinist or post-Stalinist, from the wrecking balls, was the hot button topic in town at the time.
All the Submariners got “internationally,” however, was my half-assed blog post and an excellent article, also reproduced here, by the stalwart chronicler of alternative culture and the political grassroots in Petersburg, veteran reporter and photographer Sergey Chernov, most of whose efforts from that period have been reduced to naught, as I have already mentioned, by Sanoma Independent Media’s decision to turn off the website of the St. Petersburg Times and thus kill off at least ten or fifteen years of the city’s political, social, and culture history for people who do not read Russian.
By republishing this post, I do not want to suggest that the ultimately futile defense of Submariners Garden was a revolutionary or utopian moment, or a historical bifurcation point, where the wrong turn was taken by society at large, because, first, there have been zillions of such turning points over the past twenty-five years, and the wrong turn has been taken, collectively, at nearly all of them, and second, the mood at the time was black as pitch in any case, not upbeat.
Who knew that it would only get blacker? I think I did. If only because if you are the powers that be, you cannot continuously lie to ordinary people and grind them into the dirt time after time without it finally going to your head and making you think you can get away with anything. Which is what is happening right now.
And if you are the “vanguard of the proletariat” (the anti-Putin intelligentsia, whether leftist or liberal) you cannot continually opt out of such little skirmishes because you have a conference in Budapest to prepare for or an article to write for a Marxist journal published in Chapel Hill, because, in the end, you will wind up in a totally different moral and mental universe from that of the “lumpens” whose testimony we see and hear in this post. Not, of course, that all local leftists and liberals took such an escape route then. To their credit, many still have not.
But the most compelling reason for republishing this post is to show the world at large that ordinary Russians (i.e., “Putin’s base”) are well aware of how things are done in their country, are perfectly capable of puzzling out who profits and who gets shafted by this state of affairs, and even, God forbid, of sometimes organizing themselves and putting up a fight without some newfangled twenty-first-century Lenin leading them into the fray.
That is, they are hardly “lumpens.”
What is strange to me is that the powers that be and the so-called intelligentsia (liberal and leftist) either do not know this or pretend not to know it. And yet they chatter endlessly about these mostly fictional creatures, “the folk” (narod), either in their supposed defense or, on the contrary, to blame their fabled benightedness for all their country’s woes.
What is most amazing is that all this chatter and flagrant manipulation is thought, by the powers that be and the intelligentsia, to constitute “politics,” “political discourse,” and “populism” in Russia.
Woe is them.
P.S. According to an acquaintance who went to school in the neighborhood, those FSB residential buildings did finally get built. This is borne out by Wikimapia, which shows two buildings, euphemistically entitled the Family Residential Complex, occupying the spot where Submariners Garden once flourished, which Wikimapia does mention, to its credit. It also correctly identifies the developer as the Leningrad Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service.
The original text of my introduction and the testimony of the residents have been lightly edited to make them more readable.
Baltic Pearl Migrant Construction Workers Demand 780,000 Rubles from Employer
July 20, 2015 Rosbalt
PETERSBURG, JULY 20. Workers building the Baltic Pearl residential complex have demanded back pay from their employer, Trivium Group. As one of the construction workers, foreman Khusrav Kholmirzayev, told Rosbalt, the employees calculated the company has owned thirty workers approximately 780,000 rubles [approx. 12,600 euros] since last year.
According to Kholmirzayev, last year, three crews were employed on the building site, and he supervised thirty men. He added that they worked without having signed labor contracts. Meanwhile, Russian authorities deported several migrants: the workers did not have enough money to pay for work licenses. Kholmirzayev noted that his crew was not paid fully from August to October 2014.
“We had only enough to survive. We stayed because we were promised the remainder would be paid,” he said.
In 2015, the workers were not paid for March and April, after which they walked off the construction site. The workers who remained in Petersburg got jobs at other building sites, while Kholmirzayev has been trying to get the money from the previous employer.
“Relatives of the workers call me and say, ‘As foreman, you have to pay the workers.’ My parents have paid many of them,” he noted.
According to Kulaev, because of the crisis, “wage arrears are widespread in the housing sector and construction, especially if migrant workers are involved.”
Rosbalt tried and failed, over the course of the day, to make contact with Trivium Group management over the phone via its listed numbers.
The website of the Petersburg and Leningrad Region Arbritration Court currently lists nine suits which Trivium Group has lost. According to the files viewable on the website, it transpires that Trivium Group has been ordered to play over fifty million rubles [approx. 808,000 euros] to other organizations. The claims have been appealed.
Trivium Group is one of the many companies engaged in erecting the Baltic Pearl complex.
This is the third in a series of posts dealing with Central Asia, Central Asians, immigration, and migrant workers in Russia. The first post in the series, a translation of Sergei Abashin’s essay “Movements and Migrants,” can be read here. The second post, “Why Migrant Children Are Being Expelled from Russian Schools,” can be read here.Translated by the Russian Reader
“Moscow for Muscovites”: Why Migrant Children Are Expelled from Moscow Schools
June 18, 2015 Yod
Russia had long made it possible for all children living in the country to get an education. The right of every child to an education was untouchable. Beginning this year, circumstances have changed. The Federal Migration Service (FMS) has obliged schools to expel unregistered children under the threat of stiff fines. Yod has tried to find out why Moscow schools are prepared to teach only children who hold Moscow residence permits.
Alla, a Ukrainian national, arrived in Moscow last year from the city of Chernivtsi, located in Western Ukraine. Alla says that food prices have greatly increased in her hometown, and it has become hard to find work. In Moscow, she quickly found a manager’s job at a small company, rented a flat, and in spring of this year decided to move her son Alexander to Moscow. She went to School No. 1524 and asked what she needed to do to enroll him in the eighth grade.
Alla was told documents for enrolling in school were now submitted through the District Information Support Services (DISS). At DISS, she was informed that her child could be enrolled in school only if he had a yearlong temporary residence permit for Moscow. Alla and Alexander now have a three-month temporary residence permit. Their landlady has refused to register them for a longer period. At DISS, Alla was told that without this document her son had no right to study in a Russian school.
“Alla’s story is now typical. A family from Ukraine recently turned to us for help. For a whole year, a school had refused to enroll their son in the first grade. First, they needed a resident permit, and then they were denied enrollment due to the fact the child had turned eight, and eight-year-olds are too old to study in the first grade. This child’s parents were forced to return to Ukraine,” says Stasya Denisova from the Civic Assistance Committee.
According to the human rights defender, they now are dealing with a very large number of appeals from migrant and refugee families concerning expulsions and non-admission to schools. The most common reason is that their resident permits have run out. School directors cite Ministry of Education Decree No. 32, dated January 22, 2014. The decree divides children into two categories. Priority for admission to school is given to those who have permanent registration, while those who have temporary registration are admitted in second place.
“There is nothing in the decree about children without registration. Apparently, officials believe this means that such children do not have to be enrolled in school at all,” says Denisova.
Another human rights activist, Bakhrom Ismailov, says this year he has begun receiving many complaints from migrants whose children have been kicked out of school because they lacked documents.
“For a long time, Russia made it possible for all children who were living in the country to get an education. And the right to an education for all children was untouchable. The situation has changed this year. The FMS has obliged schools to expel children without resident permits,” says Ismailov.
“Just this week, I got several phone calls from Central Asian migrants who told me their children were going to be expelled from school because they had no medical insurance. Last year, a law requiring migrants to buy health insurance came into force. Without it, they cannot be employed. But we are talking about adult migrants. I don’t understand why high schools are making this demand on their pupils,” says Gavkhar Jurayeva, head of the Migration and Law Center.
Several teachers in different Moscow schools who wished to remain anonymous confirmed to Yod that at the beginning of the academic year, school principals were told at staff meetings that Moscow was now prepared to teach only children holding Moscow residence permits.
It is not only Moscow schools that now require residence permits.
“Our principal’s granddaughter, who is registered in Moscow, goes to school in the Moscow Region. At the school she attends, they demanded a Moscow Region residence permit from her. They said they were different budgets. Moscow was ready to educate only its own children at its own expense, and the region also educated only its own children at its own expense,” recounts a Moscow schoolteacher.
However, Isaak Kalina, head of the Moscow Education Department, does not agree with this take on the situation and says that stories of migrant children being expelled are myths.
“These stories are examples of journalistic myths. Any child who is legally in Moscow can study in Moscow’s schools,” says Kalina.
In February of this year, Uzbek national Nurbek, who has lived in Russia for ten years, was told by Vera Pankova, principal of School No. 34 in Tver, that his two teenaged sons, who had been pupils at the school since the first grade, would either have to be registered within five days or she would expel them.
“Not once in all these years had anyone at the school asked about my sons’ registration. The boys were good pupils, and they had no problems with their teachers. I also respect Russian law. I have always done all the paperwork for my family promptly,” recounts Nurbek.
The three-year residence permits of Nurbek’s sons had expired this past fall. Nurbek has a Russian residence permit, owns his own home in Tver, and is employed full time. Nurbek also wanted to apply for permanent residence permits for his sons and wife. But he was turned down on the grounds that his wife was unemployed, and the children were inscribed in her passport.
“I explained that my wife stays at home with our youngest son and our daughter. How can she work? And I own my own home and have a job. All the same, the boys were not allowed to get permanent residence,” says Nurbek, outraged.
The FMS also refused to register Nurbek’s sons, explaining that the boys had to exit and re-enter Russia.
“I earn forty to fifty thousand rubles a month [approx. 650 to 800 euros] for the whole family. I cannot afford to buy the children a two-way ticket. I have to set aside money and save up for this,” explains Nurbek.
In February, Nurbek was summoned by the principal, who demanded that he immediately present his sons’ registration. The school gave him five days to do the paperwork.
“The children were expelled the same day. They were required to turn in their textbooks. The school did not even suggest temporarily transferring them to home study. I asked that they be allowed to finish out the school year and promised to secure them their resident permits by this deadline. The principal replied that if she didn’t immediately kick out my children, the FMS would fine the school 400,000 rubles [approx. 6,500 euros]. The kids were very upset. The oldest loves school. He intends to study engineering at university, and then move to Germany. The teachers say he has great aptitude for foreign languages. After finishing school, my younger soon planned to study be a mechanic at vocational college. I have worked so much so that my children would not have to be uneducated street sweepers, and I decided to fight for them,” recounts Nurbek.
He filed a lawsuit against the school and won the case. According to the Civic Assistance Committee’s Stasya Denisova, the court ruled that the expulsion of Nurbek’s children had been illegal, because it violated the federal law “On Education,” the Russian Federal Constitution, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Russia has ratified.
“The demands of the local FMS office to expel children due to a lack of registration also had no legal grounds. The court ruled it was not the school’s business to identify foreign nationals among its pupils and expel them due to a lack of registration,” says Denisova.
According to Nurbek, Principal Pankova came up to him after the trial and said she would challenge the court’s ruling.
“She was very indignant that, I, a migrant, had dared file suit against a Russian school. I tried to convince her I had not wanted to humiliate or insult anyone. I just needed my children to get an education. Then she said, ‘If you have money for lawsuits, you can afford to pay for your children’s education,’” recounts Nurbek.
Pankova told Yod she had no plans to prevent Nurbek’s children from attending school.
“I only ask that they register as soon as possible. No, the FMS is not pressuring me. It just has to be done,” said Pankova.
Nurbek claims that his children have already received a temporary residence permit. They have been registered, a
The Tver Region FMS office accommodated Nurbek only after Civic Assistance Committee lawyers intervened.
“Secondary schools now require registration not only from Central Asian migrant children but also from Russian citizens who have moved to a new town and from refugees. For example, in the Moscow Region town of Noginsk we opened a school for the Syrian refugee children, who are not admitted to Russian schools despite the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We were unable to find common ground with the FMS office in Noginsk. When we arrived to meet them, their staff illegally checked the documents of the human rights defenders,” recalls Olga Nikolayenko, director of the Adaptation and Education Center for Refugee Children.
The FMS was unable to reply to Yod’s request for a comment before this article went to press.
Nikolayenko says she does not understand what the FMS hopes to achieve by forcing schools to expel migrant children for bureaucratic reasons.
“Some migrants will leave Russia due to the fact their children won’t be able to go to school here. But most will remain. Their children will also continue to live here, because things are even worse at home. I don’t think they will have a good attitude towards a country that has deprived them of the opportunity to get an education. World know-how shows that first-generation immigrants are never integrated. But it is easy to integrate the second generation if the host country makes a minimal effort,” says Nikolayenko. “For some reason, our government is trying to make sure that neither the second nor the third generation is integrated. It generates a number of people in this country who are excluded from social processes, and so society cannot tap their potential. These people could get a high school diploma or a higher education and pay taxes. I don’t see any logic in the actions of the schools and the local FMS offices. First and foremost, we are wantonly sabotaging ourselves.”
Ismailov says that observance of immigration law has now been put above the right of children to get an education.
“In the past two years, the requirements for migrants have become tighter and tighter. Pressure has been put on them via minors,” says Ismailov. “Why pressure children? Let the adults be fined and penalized. Children should not be treated so cruelly.”
Nurbek’s friend Abdul-Aziz, from the town of Elektrostal in Moscow Region, is planning to send his children back home to Tajikistan this week. Due to the lack of registration, none of his school-age sons and daughters is admitted to Russian schools.
“They can go to school at home. They will grow up and come to Moscow to work. There is no work in Tajikistan anyway. But if they don’t know Russian and your customs, that will be your own fault,” says Abdul-Aziz.
This is the second in a series of posts dealing with Central Asia, Central Asians, and immigration. The first post in the series, a translation of Sergei Abashin’s essay “Movements and Migrants,” can be read here. Photo, above, courtesy of Yod. Translated by The Russian Reader.