Free Sergei Nikiforov!

Free Sergei Nikiforov!
Natalya Kalinina
November 6, 2015

On November 5, 2015, a public event in support of a political prisoner was held in Blagoveshchensk, administrative center of the Amur Region. It took place a week after Russia commemorated the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression, a week after Amur Regional Governor Alexander Kozlov had told the region’s residents, “Today’s date reminds us of the innocent victims of injustice, false accusations, and ideological wars. Our duty is to preserve the memory of the victims of insane political terror so that such things never happen again.”

No, today’s subject is not a rally in memory of the martyred victims of political repression in the Gulag during the distant 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

It is more trivial and terrible. Evenki leader Sergei Nikiforov has been thrown in prison after leading a protest movement of his tiny people in the Selemdzhinsk District. As village head, he had been organizing resistance to the expansion of gold mining companies attempting to take over tribal reindeer pastures and hunting grounds.

Sergei Nikiforov. Photo: Ampravda.Ru

Earlier, attempts by district and regional officials to close the village’s Evenki ethnic kindergarten were thwarted. Of course, without the unanimous support of his fellow villagers, Sergei Nikiforov could not have done this. But officials understood they would be unable to quietly seize Evenki lands, a real Klondike for miners, while the Evenki had such a “chief.”

Blagoveshchensk City Court sentenced Nikiforov, the father of five adopted children, to five years in a maximum security prison and a fine of 16 million rubles [approx. 232,000 euros] for bribery and embezzlement. The fellow villagers who were present in the courtroom have reached their own conclusions about the court’s bias. The court disregarded all the particulars that pointed to the defendant’s innocence, for example, the fact that at the time the bribe was made in Blagoveshchensk, Nikiforov was in Ekimchan, administrative center of the Selemdzhinsk District, hundreds of kilometers away, and the fact that the only witness was unable to identify Nikiforov in court and testified she did not know the man. Nor was the bribegiver arraigned. According to the Evenki, the trial was clearly a frame-up.

Nikiforov was convicted in Blagoveshchensk in late October of this year. On October 3, all the residents of his native village of Ivanovskoye who were not out on the hunt attended a protest rally in defense of Sergei Nikiforov.

"No to kangaroo courts!" Residents of the village of Ivanovskoye demonstrate in support of Sergei Nikiforov
“No to kangaroo courts!” Residents of the village of Ivanovskoye demonstrating in support of Sergei Nikiforov, October 3, 2015

You cannot fool the people. If the village head had really been stealing money from the already meager village budget, who would have come out to support him?! You cannot hoodwink villagers, as people who have lived there would know.

After the protest, the regional authorities kept a low profile. Nowhere in the media did anyone comment on the trial of the disgraced village head. A small group of Evenki woman managed to travel to the regional center, overcoming hundreds of kilometers of bumpy roads on an UAZ off-road vehicle.

The Amur branch of the Yabl0ko Party gave due notice of plans for a protest rally on Lenin Square. Officials made a fuss. None of them wanted to see Evenki waving placards under the windows of the regional government house. I was contacted and asked to move the protest behind a department store, “out of sight of the authorities.” Clearly, it would have been pointless to protest behind a department store. So we were forced to to alter the format of the protest, but not the purpose and place.

We held a series of solo pickets in downtown Blagoveshchensk. People stood alone at a distance of a several dozen meters from each other on both sides on Lenin Street in the vicinity of the eponymous square. Just opposite the windows of the regional government house, legislative assembly, and the public reception office of the Russian President stood women (wives and daughters of hunters and reindeer herders) holding placards with the slogans “The Evenki need S.S. Nikiforov,” “Free Sergei Nikiforov,” “Sergei Savelyevich, we are with you!” “We ask the Russian federal authorities to pay attention to the criminal case of S.S. Nikiforov,” “We want a fair trial!!!” “No to kangaroo courts!” “The rule of law, not a tribunal!” and “Put an end to political reprisals.” They hoped to attract the attention of authorities to the injustice perpetuated in the Amur Region.

The reaction of officials was unexpected. No, neither the governor nor lawmakers came out to meet with their constituents. Nor did the chair of the regional court or the prosecutor show up. No, it was much more tedious. Frightened by the female protesters, the officials summoned several pieces of maintenance equipment from the City and Trade Services Center Municipal Enterprise (MP “GSTK”). A tractor drove on the sidewalk back and forth exactly where the protesters were standing. At times we imagined that the driver (a young chap with a brazen face) was defiantly trying to run over the small, fragile women, who would barely dodge out of his way. The oldest protester later said that she had physically sensed the tractor was about to run her over. It was noticeable that the moron behind the wheel was clearly getting some kind of sadistic thrill from his attacks on the defenseless women. Despite the fact the tractor was driving on the sidewalk, no special warning signs had been set up to this effect.

As soon as the picket ended, and the protesters left the square, the special maintenance equipment hastily turned around and drove away. By the way, the policemen on the square were quite polite. They were not at all keen to detain us “protestants,” apparently supporting us in their hearts.

Of course, it is too early to say that a protest rally was held and Nikiforov will be released tomorrow. Of course, that will not happen. We need to do much more. Maybe the next item on the agenda is a trip by Evenki to the capital and pickets on Red Square? In any case, people are becoming citizens and learning to assert their rights in practice. That is worth a lot!

"We want a fair trial!"
“We want a fair trial!”
“We ask the Russian federal authorities to pay attention to the criminal case of S.S. Nikiforov.”
“The Evenki need S.S. Nikiforov.”
“Sergei Savelyevich, we are with you!”
“Put an end to political reprisals!”
“The rule of law, not a tribunal!”
“No to kangaroo courts!”
“Free Sergei Nikiforov!”

N.B.  I wish to inform Valentina Kalita, mayor of Blagoveshchensk, and MP “GSTK” head Igor Banin, United Russian party members and partners of ex-mayor Alexander Migulya, now under investigation, that actions aimed at disrupting a public event (to which every citizen of Russia has a constitutional right!) are covered by Article 149 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Obstruction of assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets or involvement in them”).

Finally, Igor Banin, the driver of the tractor, who spread dust and rubbish over the square today, deserves a bonus. The lad tried really hard to carry out your orders (which had nothing to do with the cleaning the sidewalk, as you know).wink

The wild municipal services tractor
The wild Blagoveshchensk municipal services tractor and street sweeper
A letter from Blagoveshchensk Mayor Valentina Kalita, dated November 2, 2015, and addressed to protest rally organizer Natalya Kalinina, stating that MP “GSTK” had planned to carry out preparatory work for building a “snow fortress” [sic] on Lenin Square for 2016 New Year’s celebrations at the same time as Kalinina and her group had informed the authorities they would be protesting there. Mayor Kalita therefore asks that the venue be switched to the area in front of the Central Shopping Center on the Amur Street side, and that the rally be turned into a series of pickets from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on November 5, 2015.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AD for the heads-up

Deported Mother Returns to Tajikistan with Baby Son’s Body

Yunusova after arriving in Tajikistan with the body of her five-month-old son Umarali Nazarov. Photo courtesy of Gogol's Wives
Zarina Yunusova after arriving in Tajikistan with the body of her five-month-old son Umarali Nazarov, who died in unexplained circumstances while in the custody of Petersburg police and medics. Photo courtesy of Gogol’s Wives

Mother of Deceased Tajik Baby Leaves Petersburg, Taking His Body with Her 
November 16, 2015

Zarina Yunusova, expelled from Russia by order of the court, has left Petersburg, writes Fontanka.Ru. Yunusova had been recognized as the injured party in the investigation into the wrongful death of her five-month-old son Umarali.

In the early hours of November 16, Yunusova left Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport on Flight SZ204, bound for Dushanbe, the family’s lawyer, Oleg Barsukov, informed online news website Fontanka.Ru.

Yunusova took the child’s body with her in order to perform a forensic medical examination on it and bury the child there. Barsurkov noted that no problems had arisen while arranging for transport of the body.

Earlier, the October District Court in Petersburg had reaffirmed the decision to expel Yunusova from Russia since she was in the country illegally.

Face-to-face confrontations between Yunusova and police and Federal Migration Service officers had been scheduled for November 16 and 17 in Petersburg.

Five-month-old Umarali Nazarov died on October 14 at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital, where he had been sent by police after local FMS detained him during a raid on the family’s home. According to the forensic examination [allegedly performed in Petersburg], Nazarov died of acute cardiopulmonary failure.

According to FlashNord news agency, citing relatives who attended the funeral, Nazarov has been buried in the Tajik village of Boboi Vali. The news agency did note whether a forensic medical examination had been performed before the funeral, as had been planned after the body arrived in Tajikistan. 

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade GV for the heads-up


Our Swimmer

Do Tajik lives matter in Petersburg? The official answer has so far been a resounding no. (And the “grassroots” answer has been a resounding yawn, actually).

Well, now that that pesky Zarina Yunusova and her creepy little dead baby are out of our hair, we can move on with our more important “European” lives, which here in the former capital of All the Russias are entirely built, swept and cleaned, and stocked and supplied with all the essentials for a pittance by expendable, utterly disempowered insectoid others like Zarina’s husband and Umarali’s father Rustam.

I don’t have the foggiest why anyone who lives in such a backward cesspool can imagine they have anything meaningful or helpful to say about the actual Europe and its alleged “Muslim,” “refugee,” “terrorist,” etc., problem, but as many of us know, nattering on endlessly and furiously about the “fate of Europe” is almost a national sport among the Tajik-loathing Russian jabberwockies.

Remembering Timur Kacharava Ten Years Later

Timur Kacharava, 1985-2005

Remembering Timur Kacharava Ten Years Later
David Frenkel
Special to the Russian Reader
November 17, 2015

On the evening of November 13, 2015, more than fifty people gathered near the Bukvoyed bookstore on Ligovsky Prospect in the Vosstaniya Square area of downtown Petersburg to mourn anti-fascist and hardcore punk musician Timur Kacharava, who was murdered at the spot ten years earlier by Russian neo-Nazis.

Mourners gathered at the site of Kacharava's murder on Ligovsky Prospect
Mourners gathered at the site of Kacharava’s murder on Ligovsky Prospect

In 2005, Kacharava and a friend were attacked by a group of young men after participating in a Food Not Bombs action in another part of the downtown. Kacharava was stabbed in the neck five times and died at the scene.

Kacharava’s murder alarmed certain segments of Russian society. Over three thousand students at Saint Petersburg State University, where Kacharava had been majoring in philosophy at the time of his slaying, petitioned President Putin to find and punish the murderers.


In December 2005, police arrested seven suspects who eventually confessed to the crime. In 2007, Alexander Shabalin was sentenced to twelve years in prison on charges of murder and incitement to ethnic or racial hatred. The other suspects were charged with inciting social hatred and sentenced to two or three years in prison. (Three of them were released on parole).

Since 2005, people have come to the crime scene every year on November 13 with flowers, candles, and pictures of Timur.


This year, police did not interfere with the mourners, although they asked them to remove pictures from the parapet and not to shout out any slogans.

Photographs by and courtesy of David Frenkel