The Silence of the Lambs, Part 2: The Case of Valery Brinikh

Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh
Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh

Adygean Environmentalist Charged with Extremism
November 17, 2015 | Republic of Adygea
SOVA Center

Environmentalist Valery Brinikh accused of ethnically motivated humiliation for writing an article about the problems caused by pig farming in Adygea

On November 17, 2015, it transpired that a new charge has been filed against Adygean environmentalist Valery Brinikh under Article 282.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (humiliation of a group of persons on the grounds of ethnicity and origin, committed publicly using the Internet). Earlier, the 51-year-old director of the Institute of Regional Biological Research had been accused only of aiding and abetting the distribution of extremist matter, the article “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“Now the Investigative Committee considers him the author of this article,” explained Alexander Popkov, the environmentalist’s attorney.

Criminal charges were filed against Brinikh on December 11, 2014, for publishing the article on the website For Krasnodar! [Translator’s note. The website now seems to have been removed; it was still functioning in April 2015, when I first posted on this case.] The article deals with the environmental pollution caused by the pig-breeding facility Kievo-Zhuraki JSC. On December 17, 2014, the Maykop City Court ruled “The Silence of the Lambs” extremist, and the Adygean Supreme Court upheld this ruling in March 2015. In court, Brinikh denied both that he had written the article and that he had posted it on the website. On October 1, 2015,  the environmentalist was charged for the first time (under Articles 33.5 and 282.1  of the Criminal Code).

The author of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” accuses residents of Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District, where the polluting facility is located, of giving in to the authotiries and failing to defend their own interests vigorously. Nevertheless, his remarks are not grounds for a criminal prosecution: they contain no evidence of incitement of hatred. As for the phrase on which the article ends (the author quotes Voltaire’s remark that God helps those battalions that shoot better), given the context it should be interpreted as a rhetorical device rather than a call for extremist action. Obviously, local authorities could have been using the article to put pressure on Brinikh. We should note that the owner of Kievo-Zhuraki JSC is Federation Council member Vyacheslav Derev. On March 5, 2015, the Maykop City Court fined Brinihkh 100,000 rubles [approx. 1,400 euros] for slandering Derev.

Source: Diana Gutsul, “Environmental Brinikh Faced with New Extremism Charges,” RAPSI, November 17, 2015 (in Russian)

Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

Our Swimmer
Our Swimmer

I would bet 99.99% of Russians could not find Adygea on a map, and 99.99999% of Russians have not heard of Adygean environmentalist Valery Brinikh, but Putinist power exists there, too, and it is being used to crush Mr. Brinikh into the dirt for stating the obvious too loudly. (Meaning he committed “extremism,” of course.)

So here is that map (courtesy of russianlessons.net).

Adygea (in red) on map of Russia
Adygea (in red) on map of Russia

Free Sergei Nikiforov!

Free Sergei Nikiforov!
Natalya Kalinina
November 6, 2015
Amur.Info

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!”
amur-2
“We ask the Russian federal authorities to pay attention to the criminal case of S.S. Nikiforov.”
amur-3
“The Evenki need S.S. Nikiforov.”
amur-4
“Sergei Savelyevich, we are with you!”
amur-5
“Put an end to political reprisals!”
amur-6
“The rule of law, not a tribunal!”
amur-7
“No to kangaroo courts!”
amur-8
“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
letter
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
Mediazona

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-1
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.

timur-3

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.

timur-4

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

Alexei Polikhovich: “I Had Begun to Feel I Was Born in Prison”

“I had begun to feel I was born in prison and just had been released for a short time”
Alexei Polikhovich talks about spending three years behind bars for the right to think freely 
Ekaterina Fomina
November 5, 2015
Novaya Gazeta

Alexei Polikhovich after his release from prison. Photo: Ekaterina Fomina/Novaya Gazeta

Alexei Polikhovich, one of the few defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case who had actually been politically active before the ill-fated protest rally of May 6, 2012, has been released from prison. (We now understand this was the reason people were jailed: on suspicion of having vigorous civic stances.) Before Bolotnaya Square, Polikhovich, for example, had defended the Tsagovsky Forest and been involved in the antifascist movement. Some of those now spending their fourth year in prison after being convicted in the case had ended up on Bolotnaya Square by accident, but Polikhovich had chosen this way of life, a life of open struggle, consciously. It is a dangerous way of life to lead in our country, even if the way you fight your cause is ten times within the law. But Polikhovich consciously chose this way of thinking, and marched to Bolotnaya Square in the antifascist column.

However, on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, Polikhovich caught hell just as randomly as other protesters. Police pulled them from the crowd in the heat of the moment without looking .

Polikhovich insisted on his innocence at his court hearings. He knew he was being tried for his convictions.

Three years in prison were supposed to reform what? Polikhovich’s beliefs? He remained, however, true to his beliefs throughout his imprisonment. If reform meant betraying them, then Polikhovich has not been reformed, as he himself says. But he still learned something.

After his release, Polikhovich talked about the lessons he learned in prison.

__________

I have not seen people in color for three years. I have forgotten what it was like to have women and children around. Simple things seem new right now. After being in the penal colony, I think Moscow is quite beautiful.

When I got to Petrovka [38, Moscow police HQ], I did not understand how serious things were. I took everything as an excursion, a rough excursion, but an excursion nonetheless.

The wording “actively involved in destructive youth organizations” was included in my arrest sheet. The Center “E” officers [“anti-extremist” police] did not have a clear opinion about me, whether I was a rightist or leftist. What group should they assign me to? What mattered was that it should sound terrible.

The police investigators found us interesting. They had been used to dealing with Islamists and neo-Nazis. But leftists, social democrats, and liberals, everyone who had been arrested on trumped-up political charges, were something unfamiliar to them. The investigators enjoyed chatting with us. I remember one such conversation. A crowd of investigators was standing before me, and I was telling them why I was in jail. I explained I had not wanted to hit anyone, that had not been the objective. Well, I expressed it simply.

They immediately tensed.

“What was the objective? Who set the objective?” they asked. They think crudely.

Other inmates knew about our case, and I never encountered flagrantly negative attitudes towards us in this connection. On the contrary, sometimes they would see articles about us and come running with the newspaper: “Oh, it’s about our rock star.” I also encountered not very well-educated people who thought that since I had been jailed for a protest rally that meant I was a nationalist. Several times, I quite seriously cussed people out for saying this: it offended me.

I had expected remand prison would involve total isolation, but it was like a rural village in there: everyone was connected with everyone else. It was its own society. In Butyrka remand prison, they explained to me how to “spur the horses.” In prison, “the horses” is the rope that connects cells and works like an intercom. Books were soaked with narcotics and passed on to those who needed them. Because of this, by the way, the flow of regular books into the prison slowed down. According to the internal code of inmates, formal channels for getting groceries and cigarettes into the prison should not be compromised.

The penal colony, where you are not locked up in eight square meters, seems like the regular world compared to the remand prison. You can see the sky. You can spot newcomers to the colony immediately: we all arrived looking pale. We had almost turned into mushrooms after two years of hearings and trials. I drank up the sunshine with my skin. I got a dark tan right away.

At one point, I even thought I had been born in prison. It was just that I had been let out. I had quickly found myself friends, a wife, and parents. I had screwed up somehow and gone back to prison.

Alexei Polikhovich and his parents. Photo from family archive

In the colony, you can learn to be a tailor, a lathe operator, an electrician or an auto mechanic. The phrase “Labor liberates” is written on the gates of the manufacturing zone. I studied sewing for six months, then I studied to be a lathe operator while also working as a sewing machine operator. Convicts sew sheets, pillowcases, suits, blankets, and bags.  In anticipation of my release, I sewed a rucksack for myself and Tanya, my wife. I had also sent her an apron and some bags.

In prison, people have no way of filtering incoming information. They mainly read bad newspapers. They also would take out the [philosophical and] literary journal Logos, which has no pictures, have a gander at it and be amazed. If you put convicts on a diet of [the national newspapers] Novaya Gazeta, Vedomosti and even Moskovsky Komsomolets for a month, they would catch on to something. But they would watch TV constantly, then would come to me and dump on me about how bad things were in Ukraine and what a trooper Putin was. They particularly liked all the trash on REN TV about reptilians and conspiracy theories.

Few people read good books in prison. They mainly read fluffy stuff, detective novels and bad sci-fi. Books from the outside are rarely “reeled in.” Falanster bookstore and I organized a book fair of sorts: beginning with my time in the remand prison, they sent me an endless stream of books. They sent so many books I would have had to serve another sentence just to finish reading them! When I was released, I took only a single rucksack with me, containing only books and letters. When you leave prison, you have to leave as much behind as possible. Not everyone in there has two pairs of warm socks. I took the books I was certain would interest no one: William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and [Ditmar] Rosenthal’s Russian language textbook. I thought I should finally learn Russian properly, so I would not be ashamed to print what I wrote. I also brought out an anthology of lectures from the Priamukhino Readings.

These three years have happened. I cannot cut them off or cross them out. I probably would not have wanted to spend them in prison, but I spent them there. This foundation, this experience on which I now stand, I cannot push it out from under my own feet. Not because I would fall, but because I just cannot do it physically. It is difficult. It is a rock.

Am I angry at anyone? I did not suffer catastrophically over these three years. I can be angry at the system on behalf of my loved ones. They certainly did not deserve it and are not guilty of anything.

I probably have become angrier over the last three years. And a little weary.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Gabriel Levy for the suggestion

Ten Fun Figures about the Ex-Capital of All the Russias

Ten Telling Statistics about the Petersburg Economy
Mikhail Karelov
November 3, 2015
The Village

1–2%
According to city hall’s forecasts, the city’s gross regional product will grow this much by the end of 2016.

Facade of Galeriya shopping center, downtown Petrograd
Facade of Galeriya shopping center, downtown Petrograd

50,600,000,000 rubles [approx. 71 million euros]
Petersburg’s budget deficit in 2016.

"Crushing food in a city that survived a siege is shameful!" "I don't get it?"
“Crushing food in a city that survived a siege is shameful!” “What do you mean?”

8.9%
Decrease in Petersburg’s industrial production index year to date.

"Water level on November 7, 1824."
“Water level on November 7, 1824.”

19.3%
Decrease in production at Petersburg’s automotive production cluster year to date.

Greenlandia New Estate in Devyatkino
Facade of building in Greenlandia residential complex, Devyatkino, Lenoblast

13.8%
According to forecasts, Petersburg’s inflation rate as of January.

Advertisement in top-floor window at Kirov Palace of Culture, Vasilyevsky Island
Advertisement in top-floor window at Kirov Palace of Culture, Vasilyevsky Island

9.3%
Decrease in the average monthly wage in Petersburg year to date. 

Cat in a courtyard off Suvorov Prospect, Central Petrograd
Photogenic cat in courtyard off Suvorov Prospect, downtown Petrograd

42,656 rubles [approx. 600 euros]
Current monthly average wage in Petersburg.

"Simbirtseva, Apt. 29. Pay your debt, rat!"
“Simbirtseva, Apt. 29. Pay your debt, rat!”

28,700,000,000 rubles [approx. 40 million euros]
Amount banks lent to Petersburg residents in the third quarter of 2015.

Statue of Lenin, Detskoye Selo State Farm
Monument to Vladimir Lenin, Detskoye Selo State Farm, Pushkin

6.5%
Increase in the amount of utilities tariffs in Petersburg, according to the “index of changes in the average amounts to be paid by citizens for municipal services in various parts of the Russian Federation in 2016.”

"Building for sale"
“Building for sale”

11%
Increase in electricity costs for individual consumers in Petersburg in 2016.

Adapted and translated by the Russian Reader. Photos by the Russian Reader

Do Tajik Lives Matter in Petersburg?

The Explanation Remains the Same: “No One Is to Blame
Nina Petlyanova
November 9, 2015
Novaya Gazeta Saint Petersburg

Forensic experts have identified the cause of death of five-month-old Umarali Nazarov, who died at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital in the early hours of October 14

The two initial hypotheses advanced by physicians—upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—have been rejected. Now a third hypothesis emerged: the infant was laid low by Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. Allegedly, it could have developed while the baby was still in his mother’s womb. The parents and their attorneys have nothing to say to this for the time being. They have been officially recognized as injured parties in the case of the baby’s death, but at the same time they are the only ones who have not been apprised of the outcome of the forensic examination.

Rustam Nazarov displays a photo of his late son Umarali on the screen of his telephone. Photo: Elena Lukyanova
Rustam Nazarov displays a photo of his late son Umarali on the screen of his telephone. Photo: Elena Lukyanova

Two news agencies, TASS and Fontanka.Ru, announced the cause of Umarali Nazarov’s death on the evening of November 6. How and why journalists were informed before his mother, father, and their defense attorneys is a question for police investigators. The reporters quoted finding reaches by experts from the Petersburg Bureau of Forensic Medicine (BSME), but did not identify where they had received the information. Sources at the BSME told Novaya Gazeta they had not leaked any documents to the media.

“No one besides certain journalists has seen the conclusions of the forensic experts,” Olga Tseitlina, an attorney for the injured parties, told Novaya Gazeta in an interview. “We have not formally reviewed them, but we have announced that this is another violation of the rights of the injured parties. At the same time, on both November 5 and November 6, Zarina Yunusova (Umarali’s mother), Rustam Nazarov (his father), and their defense attorneys were at the investigative department for a long time, but investigators said not a word about the fact the findings of the forensic examination were ready. Until we have the official report of the experts, we cannot even petition the court to conduct an independent investigation. We have not been apprised not only of the findings but also of the official decision to order a forensic examination, meaning that we were deprived of the opportunity to ask additional questions and propose our own forensic experts.”

On the morning of October 13, 2015, the Federal Migration Service raided a rented flat at Lermontov Prospect, 5. They detained Zarina Yunusova, a 21-year-old citizen of Tajikistan and her young son, who were both taken to Police Precinct No. 1. There, Yunusova was separated from the infant, transported to court, and released only in the evening. The child was handed over to ambulance brigade medics and sent to Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital, where he died in the early hours of October 14.

At first, doctors said the preliminary cause of death was URTI. Later, members of the Human Rights Council (HRC), who conducted their own inquiry into the infant’s death in Petersburg from October 26 to October 31, said the cause of death was SIDS. According to the findings of forensic experts, as reported on November 6, the boy died from a CMV infection.

The news agencies published the following quotation from the report: “The cause of Umarali Nazarov’s death was a disease, a generalized (CMV) infection. The infection was complicated by the onset of cardiopulmonary disease. No traces of ethyl alcohol, narcotics or powerful medicaments were found in the child’s internal organs.”

As sources at the Petersburg BSME explained to Novaya Gazeta, a generalized (CMV) infection attacks nearly all the vital organs. According to the tests carried out, the virus did not incubate in Umarali overnight. It had already managed to attack his respiratory, cardiac, and gastrointestinal systems. The baby was diagnosed postmortem with pneumonia, dystrophy of the liver, dystrophy of the pancreas, stomach dysfunction, alterations of the adrenal gland, chronic inflammation of the small intestine (enteritis), cerebral edema, and spinal edema. The pathologists stressed that the child could have contracted the CMV infection even in his mother’s womb.

Umarali’s parents do not believe the findings as reported. They assure us their son was never ill and had no health problems. Nazarov’s medical chart shows that he had received all the necessary vaccinations for a five-month-old child. There is also written confirmation that until the moment of his death the baby looked healthy: the entries in his medical chart, in the report filed by the ambulance medics, and in the logbook at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital.

Doctors from Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital have now been making mutually exclusive claims in the media, for example, that CMV infection is not amenable to visual diagnosis, that it can be diagnosed only after a comprehensive examination, and that outwardly CMV infection can manifest as URTI. So was it possible to notice the symptoms of the disease or not? Why, then, did none of the doctors notice anything for ten hours, that is, until the baby died?

“I want to remind everyone,” says Ilya Shablinsky, a member of the HRC commission that investigated Umarali Nazarov’s death, “that we have the intermediate results of several examinations of the children, by the paramedics from the ambulance brigade when the boy was hospitalized and twice by doctors at the hospital, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Everywhere they write that the baby is healthy, his temperature is normal, and he has a good appetite. The parents have every reason not to trust [doctors and police] and be afraid. What happened to their son between 2 p.m. and midnight, after which time he died? Regardless of what gets written now in the autopsy report, this has no impact on the accountability of police officers. The main conclusion that the HRC commission reached was that police officers exceeded their authority by removing the child from his mother and should be brought to justice. Umarali died not in his mother’s arms, but twelve hours after he was separated from her. This is a crime, and it is mentioned in the HRC’s report, which will be sent to President Vladimir Putin in the coming days.”

Petersburgers expressed their condolences to Umarali Nazarov's family by bringing flowers to the Tajikistan Consulate on Fonarnyi Pereulok in Petersburg. Photo by the Russian Reader, October 30, 2015
Petersburgers expressed their condolences to Umarali Nazarov’s family by bringing flowers to the Tajikistan Consulate on Fonarnyi Pereulok in Petersburg. Photo by the Russian Reader, October 30, 2015

“There still has been no procedural decision on the actions of the police officers who removed the child from the mother, although all the deadlines for this have come and gone long ago,” continues Olga Tseitlina. “Aside from their own standing orders, the police officers at the very least violated the Family Code and the European Convention, which prohibit separating parents and children in such cases. We have never stated that the police killed the child, but we do claim that it removed him illegally and that this certainly caused harm. If the child had been with his mother, we do not know whether he would have died or not. And even if he was infected with a deadly virus, the question remains as to how long he would have lived. The state failed to protect the infant’s life, and now it is not investigating [his death]. The investigation is not looking for the perpetrators but attempting to establish the parents’ guilt. First, they attempted to prove that the child was poorly looked after, that he lived in poor conditions, and had caught cold. When that hypothesis did not pan out, they said the child died of a virus. All the efforts of the investigators we have seen so far have been directed towards finding an explanation that suits everyone involved in the tragedy. The reported findings of the cause of death completely jibe with the original position adopted by the police, the FMS, and the doctors: no one is to blame. I do not know whether the true causes of Umarali Nazarov’s death will ever be established, but I am ready to go to the European Court of Human Rights to prove that the investigation has been improper.”

Police investigators have failed to inform the parents not only of the findings of the forensic medical examination but also of the outcome of the autopsy done at the city morgue in October. Because of this and many other actions taken by investigators, the Tajikistan Honorary Consulate in Petersburg sent a note of protest to the city prosecutor’s office and the Main Investigative Department of the Petersburg Office of the Russian Federal Investigative Committee. The Tajikistan Consulate voiced its dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in the criminal investigation of five-month-old Umarali Nazarov’s death.

Direct Quotation

Rustam Nazarov, Umarali’s father:

We do not believe the child had this disease. There was nothing that would indicate [he had] any disease all his life. Umarali was never ill. We understand why this is happening. The authorities cannot take responsibility for the child’s death, but they torment us. They shift the blame on us: we have a bad apartment; we have bad blood. But I do not think those are their problems. They have one problem: to find out how and why our child died. And we want only one thing: to find out how and why our son died. We do not believe that anyone will be punished for this. We just want to know.

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Parents of deceased Tajik boy forcibly taken to hospital
November 10, 2015
Fontanka.Ru

Parents of the five-month-old Tajik boy who died in St. Petersburg [in October] were forcibly taken to the Botkin Memorial Hospital for Infectious Diseases.

Tajik diaspora lawyer Uktam Ahmedov has informed Fontanka.Ru that today the police forcibly took the parents of the deceased Tajik infant Umarali Nazarov, Rustam Nazarov and Zarina Yunusova, from [their flat] on Lermontov Prospect to the Botkin Hospital for tests. Ahmedov said that police wanted to check them for the presence of the her

Ahmedov said the virus is present in ninety percent of the population, but police want to use this alleged piece of evidence to blame the parents for infecting the boy.

According to Akhmedov, no charges have been filed under Article No. 156 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (dereliction of duty in the upbringing of a minor).

Drawing to Go on Living

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Drawing to Go on Living
Yuri Ivashchenko
November 3, 2015
Mediazona

Photographer Yuri Ivashchenko looks for people who have been assaulted by racists and homophobes in Russia. He asks them to make a schematic drawing of what happened to them on a snapshot of the crime scene.

Mikhail Tumasov, Russia. Assaulted April 2012 in Samara

Mikhail came out to a new friend, who violently assaulted him. Mikhail spent a week in the hospital. A magistrate judge rejected Mikhail’s lawsuit, since Mikhail had not listed the assailant’s birthplace, registered address, and other personal data.

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Ibrahim Yunusov, Uzbekistan. Assaulted on October 3, 2008, at Sokolovskaya railway platform in the Moscow Region

Ibrahim and his brother, immigrants from Central Asia, were assaulted at the railway platform, where they had gone to see off a Belarusian friend. When eyewitnesses of the assault called the police, the officers who arrived on the scene suspected the brothers had been involved in a recent rash of telephone thefts on commuter trains. Despite eyewitness testimony corroborating the Yunusovs’ alibi, a court found them guilty of stealing other people’s property and sentenced Ibrahim to a year of probation. His brother Rustam was sentenced to six months of probation. The six months they had spent in a pretrial detention facility was deducted from their sentences.

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Alexander Lee, Uzbekistan. Assaulted June 17, 2014, on Leningrad Highway in Moscow

Alexander was standing at a tram stop when several men attacked him. Fighting them off, he ran towards the Sokol subway station. Screaming, “Kill him!” ten to fifteen young men chased Alexander. They caught up with him and surrounded him on a lawn. One of the assailants hit Alexander in the back. He fell to the ground and was beaten up by the mob. The assailants took Alexander’s telephone and wallet, which contained around 10,000 rubles. Later, passersby called an ambulance. Alexander was taken to hospital, where he spent over a month.  Doctors have diagnosed Alexander with a bruised spinal cord. A criminal investigation of the assault is underway, and there are suspects in the case.

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Mele, Cameroon. Assaulted November 30, 2013, at the Novoslobodskya subway station in Moscow

Mele was attacked in the late evening at the turnstile to the subway by a man shouting racist slogans.

The assailant was arrested. He confessed his guilt in court and was released after reaching a settlement with Mele that involved paying him compensation and apologizing.

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Anvar Yusupov, Tajikistan. Assaulted January 16, 20112, in the Moscow subway

A group of drunken young men, their faces covered in scarves, attacked Anvar and two of his friends when they were returning home from work. Noticing the young men were wielding knives, Anvar decided to defend himself with a beer bottle and managed to wound one of the assailants. Subsequently, the wounded young man was arrested in Saint Petersburg for stealing tennis shoes and testified about the incident in the subway. The court, however, found Yusupov guilty and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment in a penal colony, which was later commuted to a fine. 

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John, Russia. Assaulted April 18, 2015, near Nevsky Prospect, 184, in Saint Petersburg

John was walking down the street in rainbow-colored glasses when he drew even with two young men. One of them bumped John hard with his shoulder. John asked the passerby why he had done this. The man replied that he hated “fags” and head-butted John. John responded by pepper-spraying the assailant, who fled the scene with his companion. The police refused to open a criminal investigation into the incident.

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Translated by the Russian Reader

 

Raivo Shtulberg: I Am the Pug Who Barked at Voldemort

“I am the pug who barked at Voldemort”: High school teacher in Ryazan Region forced to resign after refusing to campaign for United Russia
Darina Shevchenko
October 30, 2015
Yod

Reivo Shtulberg
Raivo Shtulberg

Raivo Shtulberg, thirty-six, taught physics, computer science, and German for thirteen years at the only secondary school in the village of Olkha, in Ryazan Region’s Ukholovo District. Before elections to the Ryazan Regional Duma, in September of this year, the school administration demanded that teachers persuade at least six villagers to vote for the ruling United Russia party. Instead, Shtulberg shot a video in which he explained how teachers were being forced to campaign and posted it on the web. Shtulberg was forced to resign, and can now longer find employment as a teacher. Yod learned the details of the story.

The teachers were given questionnaires and asked to return them filled out with the names and signatures of the people they had successfully canvassed. Shtulberg was outraged by this request.

“At first, we filled in the names of distant relatives so they would leave us alone, but we were told it had to be fellow villagers. I got angry then. We were doing repairs at home, but I had to canvas the village for signatures. Other teachers also resented this. In particular, one of them said something about ‘Russian idiocy,’ but they dutifully went out canvassing.”

Shtulberg recorded a video in which he related how teachers had been forced to campaign for United Russia and posted it on YouTube.

“I acted spontaneously. You might say it was the revolt of the underdog. I am like the pug who barked at Voldemort. Village teachers are paid tiny salaries. I wore the same blazer to work for eight years or so, until two years ago it was completely tattered and I had to buy a new one. The principals have bigger salaries, and they can be ordered to campaign, but a full belly does not understand an empty one. I am not against any party or politician: I cannot reconcile myself with the low quality of life of teachers. If tomorrow, United Russia provided good roads and decent wages, I would vote for them or anyone else [who does these things]. Ultimately, it is my legal right to choose whom I vote for,” says Shtulberg.

The video garnered around 15,000 views on YouTube. It was seen by Yuri Bogomolov, co-chair of the regional branch of the opposition Solidarity and RPR-PARNAS parties in Ryazan. On the basis of what he heard, Bogomolov filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office asking that United Russia be barred from the elections. It was after this, according to Shtulberg, that a crackdown against him was launched at school.

The school’s principal called a faculty meeting, which was attended by Shtulberg’s mother, who also taught at the school. Shtulberg did not attend the meeting himself. He says that the principal made it clear to his mother they both had better resign, otherwise they would be quietly “removed.”

“You can always find fault with a teacher. For example, by doing a full review of all the subjects he teaches and visiting his classes every day, then giving a series of quizzes and removing him for incompetency, and by carefully studying his record keeping,” says Shtulberg.

Yuri Bogomolov urged the disgraced teacher not to resign voluntarily and offered him legal assistance.

“I have no doubt that the campaign questionnaires were handed out at the school where Shtulberg taught. We know that employees at other schools, factories, and hospitals in Ryazan Region were forced to persuade people to vote for United Russia. In my recollection, Shtulberg is the only public sector employee who has openly and personally alleged violations,” says Bogomolov.

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Photocopy of the campaign canvassing questionnaire that Raivo Shtulberg and his fellow teachers were required to ask people in their village to fill out. “Why I will be voting in elections for the Ryazan Regional Duma on September 13, 2015. 1. Because I live in the land of Ryazan. 2. Because I am concerned about the future of my family, my region, [and] my country. 3. Because it is my civic duty. 4. Because it is our common cause. 5. Because I am certain that TOGETHER WE ARE A UNITED RUSSIA. Surname Name Patronymic __________________________ My mobile phone number: __________________________________ My email address: ____________________________.” United Russia received 62% of the votes in the election. Their nearest rivals, the Communists, received a mere 13%. Opposition party Yabloko failed to overcome the five-percent barrier.

Shtulberg turned down the politician’s assistance and voluntarily resigned. His mother also resigned.

“To be honest, I was scared. I was not ready for such an abrupt turn of events,” he says.

Shtulberg’s colleagues responded neutrally to his dismissal.

“Village teacher are mostly good people. They perform their duties conscientiously, but they try and not speak out on political topics, because [they think] it isn’t worth the effort.

“Sit tight, go along with things, do what they ask you to do, get your salary, and don’t dare oppose not only the authorities but even the principal. My colleagues told me reproachfully, ‘United Russia pays our wages. Why can’t [you] live peacefully like other people? We have to vote for whomever the boss tells us to vote,” says Shtulberg.

His fellows villagers were also indifferent to the teacher’s firing. Only the children whom Shtulberg had taught wrote him messages of support on a social network.

Shtulberg says he really loved his job.

“I tried every lesson to give [my pupils] something insightful. In German, I would often offer them extra texts of my own. I would try and make sure the computer games were more interesting, show them lots of videos, and do presentations. I would not say I was pals with my pupils. I kept my distance, but I treated them respectfully.”

After he was fired, Shtulberg tried to find a work at a school. At first, he was offered a job teaching computer science in a neighboring village, but then he was turned down for the job with no explanation.

“I cannot confirm it, but probably they called my previous place of employment and were told what sort of person I was,” says Shtulberg.

He tried to find a job at a school in Ryazan, but realized he would not be able to move to the city. A teacher’s salary would only cover the rent.

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His former bosses claim that the athletic Shtulberg is a binge drinker and alcoholic.

Shtulberg says that he now works as a copywriter and earns enough to get by.

His only regret is that his mother lost her job at the school because of him.

“Mom worked forty-five years at that school. She was an excellent public educator. Mom really misses the school and her pupils. She is in bad psychological shape now. I am very scared for my brother. He also works as a teacher, in a nearby village, and I am afraid he also might suffer because of me,” says Shtulberg.

At the Olkha Village School, Yod was told that Raivo Shtulberg had never worked there. In turn, the Ukholovo District Department of Education and Youth Policy told us that Raivo Shtulberg had taught at the village school in Olkha.

“The school’s principal had to cover for him all the time, because he drank and skipped classes. Because of his alcoholism, he recorded a video, posted it on the web, and dragged all of us through the mud,” our source told us.

Shtulberg is not surprised by these comments.

“I did not abuse alcohol and did not skip classes. But a response like this from bureaucrats does not surprise me. For the authorities, public sector employees do not exist as it were. We are these also-rans pottering about somewhere. We behave peacefully, do not ask for a lot of money, and that is fine. Public sector employees are viewed as a silent constituency that can be used at [the regime’s] discretion.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

Our Swimmer
Our Swimmer

I guess I am a sucker for these stories of underdogs from the Russian hinterlands and margins of Russian society fighting the powers that be practically on their lonesome. There sure do seem to be a fair number of them in the press lately, which is encouraging.

They tell us two things. First, that it is a lie that Putin’s “base of support” is found in places like the village of Olkha in Ryazan Region, where the indomitable Raivo Shtulberg worked as a high school teacher until he was summarily fired for refusing to canvass for the ruling United Russia party in the run-up to regional parliamentary elections there this past September.

If people in places like Olkha “support” Putin and UR, it is not because these mighty rulers have improved their lives in any substantial way. It is because these people are passively afraid of losing what they already have and actively afraid of political authorities in general. History has taught them this lesson.

More importantly, in many cases, they are simply intimidated, upon pain of firing, into “throwing their support” behind the ruling party during elections.

So, among such “losers” like Raivo Shtulberg, Putin is not “popular.” On the contrary, he has been “popularized” among such “simple” and “disempowered” folk through a whole armory of tactics including relentless media propaganda, outright intimidation, and vote rigging.

When push comes to shove, as I hope and think it might someday, folks like Raivo Shtulberg’s fellow villagers will remember his “foolish” deed from several months ago or a few years back, and that will be all she wrote for Putin and UR.

All the pundits, analysts, and journalists who had been excitedly citing polls and 600% approval ratings for Putin in the interim will suddenly do an about-face and pretend they were on the side of the “ordinary people” all along.

Second, Putin’s real base of support is among those who have made out like bandits, either on a major or minor scale, over the past fifteen years. Some of these people might also, technically, be classified as “public sector employees,” like Raivo Shtulberg, but they do not work as village schoolteachers, and their pay grade is way higher. And the kickbacks and perks they enjoy are astronomically better.

And these real-live Putin supporters do not live, for the most part, in villages like Olkha, but in cities like Moscow, Petersburg, and even London.

It is a story too long and convoluted to tell in this slapdash afterword, but to some extent (although certainly not entirely), the Fair Elections movement of 2011-2012 was an attempt by a segment of this pro-Putinist class to save face in its own eyes and the eyes of the “civilized” world by opposing itself feebly to Putin’s “electoral dictatorship.”

Be that as it may, when you are tempted to imagine or encouraged by a lazy journalist or “analyst” to think that Russia’s anti-democratic woes are caused by Putin’s “popularity” among the simple toilers and rural yokels in the “heartlands,” think about what Raivo Shtulberg did and what happened to him, and think again. Russia is where it is today because well-educated people from Moscow and Petersburg with tons of connections to start with wanted it to happen that way.

Ivan Ovsyannikov: Unity in a Vacuum

Kirov Square, Petrograd, October 28, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Kirov Square, Petrograd, October 28, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader

Unity in a Vacuum
Ivan Ovsyannikov
November 4, 2015
anticapitalist.ru

All holidays are rituals of unity, and it is hard to imagine society functioning without them. November 4, however, is a truly odd day, whose originators ask us to experience unity for its own sake. It reflects the emptiness of official ideology, which claims the role of a national idea.

National Unity Day (Den’ narodnogo edinstva) will never be a truly popular, grassroots holiday. Whatever our attitude to living holidays like International Women’s Day (March 8) or Victory Day (May 9), despite the vulgarity surrounding them and the distortions of their original meaning, they are still bound up with significant societal needs: honoring wives, mothers, and heroic forebears. The sense of unity experienced by millions of people at tables laden with champagne and Olivier salad is maybe illusory but it is not groundless. But who besides thuggish nationalists is capable of feeling the narcissistic pleasure of “unity” as such, especially since it is totally unclear what we are called on to rally around?

The search for a national idea in post-Soviet Russia has resembled the quest for the philosopher’s stone, and has been just as fruitless. According to the Russian Constitution, the sovereign power in the Russian state is “its multinational people,” who are usually designated by the semi-bureaucratic term rossiyane [citizens of Russia, as opposed to russkie, ethnic Russians]. And yet multiculturalism (the coexistence of different ethnic traditions within a single society) is considered a dirty word, and federalism has finally been shunted aside by the vision of Empire. Promotion of ethnic nationalism, “Russianness,” and its concomitant Russian Orthodoxy, the official “spiritual bond,” has led to the fact that Chechens, Dagestanis, and Buryats, for example, are often not regarded as “citizens of multinational Russia,” but as suspicious foreigners like the migrant workers from the once-fraternal former Soviet republics.

However, as it flirts with Russian ethnic nationalism, which has served it well in Ukraine, the regime at the same time fears its devastating consequences for empire. While reacting morbidly to the most innocent speeches about federalization, the Kremlin also prevents the holding of the so-called Russian Marches. The regime’s rhetoric contains an explosive ambiguity. On the one hand, the regime constantly tells us about the “Russian world,” thus stoking ethnic chauvinism. On the other, it talks about the country’s multinational people and the danger of nationalism.

When they invented a holiday to replace November 7 (Revolution Day), the Kremlin’s ideologues deliberately chose the vaguest phrasing possible: “national unity”  or “popular unity” [narodnoe edinstvo]. But what is “the people” [narod] today? The word is hardly equivalent to “nation” or “ethnic group.” In pre-Revolutionary Russia, the word denoted all the non-privileged classes, the “simple folk,” especially the peasants. The people was distinguished from educated society by its special (unique and authentic) way of thinking and living, as well as its perennial disempowerment and oppression. In other words, it was more a class and cultural notion than an ethnic or official legal concept.

Later, a new supranational identity, the Soviet people [sovetskii narod], was constructed. We can argue whether it was a reality or the stillborn offspring of communist propaganda. However, this concept cannot be denied its logical shapeliness. The Soviet people was the unity of working people, freed from the yoke of the past and headed towards a post-capitalist future. Unqiue, authentic tradition gave way to Soviet society’s social authenticity and uniqueness. It had overthrown tsarism and capitalism, successfully defended its independence in the fight against fascism, and was proud of its unprecedented historical mission.

In post-Soviet Russia, however, there are no longer any communal peasants or builders of communism. Russia has no monolithic ethnic foundation or alternative social project that it could show to the world and itself. All that can be said about our society it that it is post-Soviet. But there can be no “post-Soviet” people. The mutilated shards of the imperialist, Soviet, and westernized mindsets have generated a postmodernist mishmash that a disoriented and atomized populace gags on and vomits out. It is not the nation or the people but the unscrupulous regime, which has no other purpose than self-reproduction, that is only the glue binding this stagnant society, a society bereft of guideposts. The November 4 holiday is a vacuum into which the ruling class gazes, a void that will eventually swallow it.

 Translated by the Russian Reader