Captives of the Caucasus?

"Captives of the Caucasus: #Kadyrov Is a Russian Patriot." A mash-up by Anatoly Veitsenfeld of a famous scene from the beloved Soviet comedy  film Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (Leonid Gaidai, 1967) and the recent social media campaign by pro-Kremlin celebrities, photographed holding pieces of paper with this message printed on it. Thanks to Comrade EM for the heads-up
“Captives of the Caucasus: #Kadyrov Is a Russian Patriot.” A mash-up by Anatoly Veitsenfeld of a famous scene from the beloved Soviet comedy Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (Leonid Gaidai, 1967) and the recent social media campaign by pro-Kremlin celebrities, who have been photographed holding pieces of paper with this message printed on it. Thanks to Comrade EM for the heads-up.

Sergey Abashin
Facebook
January 22, 2016

Everyone has been getting drawn into the virtual fight with Kadyrov. I, too, have been outraged by what has been said and done in Chechnya. But I am afraid of certain hasty generalizations that have already begun to take shape amongst the “opposition” (by which I also mean a certain detachment from the authorities, not necessarily confrontation with them).

First, it is shortsighted to turn the fight against the, so to speak, Kadyrovshchina into a fight with the Chechens. This is the principle of collective guilt all over again. We are falling into the same trap without solving the problems but only aggravating them. Kadyrov does not represent all Chechens. There are many people opposed to him, both moderate liberals and more aggressive radicals. The majority of people simply live their local lives and keep their mouths shut. They are occasionally dragged off to pro-Kadyrov rallies and forced to hold placards and shout slogans, but that does not mean they are ardent Kadyrov supporters. We just need to keep this in mind.

Second, the current regime in Chechnya is not something “Islamic,” “Caucasian,” “Asian,” and so forth, epithets that many liberals have been quick to pin on it, thus reproducing the white man’s colonial language. The Kadyrovshchina is a projection of the regime in the Kremlin. The Kremlin created it, the Kremlin has financed it, the Kremlin controls it, and one of the reasons it has done this has been to divert attention from itself. The current Putin regime and the Kadyrov regime, as part of the former, are not some kind of “Asian backwardness.” They are the peculiar system that emerged in the wake of Soviet modernization, with all its illusions, unfulfilled projects, traumas, and its incapacity for recycling this legacy in the post-Soviet period. As a consequence, we see a strange modern archaism or peripheralization.

Third, jettisoning Chechnya and punishing the Chechens can hardly solve the problem. Where we would jettison them? How would we punish them? We need to change the regime in the Kremlin, to establish a whole new regime in Russia, to create new development programs or programs for overcoming peripheralization, and as part of these programs think about how the former borderlands, colonies, and Third World can be included in this development, rather than building a wall they will beat against until they smash it.

Sergey Abashin is British Petroleum Professor of Migration Studies at the European University in Saint Petersburg. His most recent book is Sovetskii kishlak: Mezhdu kolonializmom i modernizatsiei [The Soviet Central Asian village: between colonialism and modernization], Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ivan Ovsyannikov: Putin as the Mirror of the Russian Counterrevolution

Monument to Lenin, Detskoe Selo State Farm, November 8, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Monument to Lenin, Detskoye Selo State Farm, November 8, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader

Ivan Ovsyannikov
Putin as the Mirror of the Russian Counterrevolution
Facebook
January 22, 2016

I spoke recently with a radio journalist from Cologne. A pleasant woman, she was one of those western leftists who try and “understand” Russia. She just could not believe that the Putin regime’s ideology was anti-communist and was based on condemnation of all revolutions, whether the October Revolution or the French Revolution.

“How can that be? We are walking here on Insurrection Square. Monuments to Lenin are not demolished in Russia as they are in Ukraine. And you tell me the regime is anti-communist?” she said.

I hope that after Putin’s remarks that Lenin planted an atomic bomb under Russia and was responsible for the Soviet Union’s collapse, my companion will see the light. I no longer have such hopes for Russian liberals who believe that under Putin we are living through a new edition of the Soviet Union.

In fact, Putin has been very consistent albeit historically ignorant. The 1917 Revolution is as hateful to him as the collapse of the Soviet Union, as hateful as any other subversion of Power with a capital p, which in the eyes of the people should remain sacred if only because it is Power, and all power comes from God. From the viewpoint of legitimists like Putin, the destruction of monuments to Lenin or the renaming of streets is a break with the mystical continuity of Power and thus almost a revolutionary gesture.

In Putin’s eyes, Lenin and the Bolsheviks really were devils incarnate, for they radically asserted the right of the masses to revolt and abolished continuity with the past, thus demolishing the mystique around the notion of the state.

During the Stalinist period, however, the Bolshevik Revolution itself was incorporated into the national myth. It is in this bronzed, mythologized form that attempts have been made to adapt all things Soviet to the needs of the new oligarchy, who have imagined themselves the successors of the Rurikids, the Romanovs, Stalin, Yeltsin, and all manner of saviors of the Fatherland and guardians of stability. Fortunately, this stunt does not work with Lenin and never will.

Ivan Ovsyannikov is an activist with the Interregional Trade Union Workers Association (ITUWA/MPRA) and the Russian Socialist Movement (RSD). Translated by the Russian Reader. See my previous post on this topic, “Crumbling Down.”

It’s Dangerous to Quote Voltaire: The Case of Valery Brinikh, Part 3

It’s Dangerous to Quote Voltaire
ovdinfo.org
January 10, 2015

Valery Brinikh
Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh

In Adygea, Valery Brinikh, chair of the regional branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation (VOOP), has been charged with aiding and abetting extremist activity and subjected to travel restrictions. According to investigators, Brinikh “aided unidentified persons in disseminating information aimed at abasing the dignity of a person or group of persons on the basis of ethnicity and origin by creating extremist material.” Abasement of dignity charges (Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 282.1) were filed in December 2014. They were occasioned by publication of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” on the website For Krasnodar! The article details the environmental damaged caused to Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District by pollution from an industrial pig-breeding facility. The company that runs the facility, Kiev0-Zhuraki Agrobusiness JSC, was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, who represents Karachay-Cherkessia in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament.

Several days after the charges were filed, the article was deemed extremist. According to Brinikh’s defense attorney, Alexander Popkov, the [next-to-last] sentence in the article, which quotes Voltaire’s argument that God helps those battalions that shoot best, could have been the main reason it was deemed extremist.

“The word ‘shoot’ is forbidden; it is an awful word. ‘Battalions’ is also an awful word. And Voltaire was a freethinker,” Popkov says ironically.

Brinikh was for a long time officially regarded as a suspect in the case. According to Popkov, investigators have no proof that it was his client who wrote the article, but they claim he aided “persons unknown” in disseminating it.

The indictment does not make clear exactly whose dignity was abased by the article. Popkov recounts that, initially, investigators said that Brinikh “had offended public officials.” Ethnic motives were also discussed.

In the written petition, filed by the Adygea Prosecutor’s Office, asking the court to deem the article extremist, it says that “according to the findings of the linguistic analysis carried out by the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs in Krasnodar Krai (No. 17/7-119i, dated September 15, 2014), the text of the article ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ contains statements negatively evaluating a group of persons, united on the basis of ethnicity, the Adyghe (identified in the text as ‘cowards,’ ‘persons who lack self-esteem,’ and ‘lambs’).”

The article’s authors complains about the passivity of the local populace, who refuse to defend their own interests.

Popkov notes Brinikh would not have wanted to humiliate the Adyghe.

“On the contrary,” says Popkov, “he advocated for them and visited them.”

The prosecutor’s petition also claims the article contains “statements that could be understood to incite ethnic Adyghe to take actions, probably involving violence, against a group of persons, i.e., the local authorities.”

According to Popkov, Brinikh’s aiding and abetting persons unknown “is supposedly confirmed by a phonoscopic examination: he allegedly spoke by telephone about posting the article on the Web.”

However, since the article was posted on the Web before criminal charges were filed and before it was declared extremist, it follows that Brinikh’s telephone was bugged before these events took place.

“The question arises: on what basis were they bugging him?” asks Popkov.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Editor’s Note. The following day, January 11, ovdinfo.org reported that Valery Brinikh’s trial on the above-mentioned charges would begin in Maykop City Court on January 19.

Please read my previous posts on the Brinikh case:

Crumbling Down

Some people ain’t no damn good
You can’t trust ’em, you can’t love ’em
No good deed goes unpunished
And I don’t mind being their whipping boy

I’ve had that pleasure for years and years
No no, I never was a sinner, tell me what else can I do
Second best is what you get till you learn to bend the rules
And time respects no person and what you lift up must fall
They’re waiting outside to claim my tumbling walls

Saw my picture in the paper
Read the news around my face
And some people don’t want to
Treat me the same

When the walls come tumbling down
When the walls come crumbling, crumbling
When the walls come tumbling, tumbling down

 —John Mellencamp, “Crumblin’ Down” 

 

tsar putin
Cover of Yevgeny Satanovsky, If I Were the Russian Tsar: Advice to the President. Image courtesy of LitRes

Yesterday was a rough day for the anti-imperialist pro-Putin western left (which is basically all that is left of the western left). First, there was the publication of Sir Robert Owen’s report on his inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, in which Owen concluded that Putin “probably” approved Litvinenko’s murder in 2006.

Then the day got rougher.

Vladimir Putin publicly blamed Vladimir Lenin for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday blamed Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin for planting the ideas that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Interfax news agency reported.

During a meeting of the Presidential Council for Science and Education, one of the attendees quoted a poem by Boris Pasternak describing Lenin as someone who had managed the flow of his thoughts to rule the country.

“Letting your rule be guided by thoughts is right, but only when that idea leads to the right results, not like it did with Vladimir Ilich,” Putin quipped in reply. “In the end that idea led to the fall of the Soviet Union,” he added.

“There were many such ideas as providing regions with autonomy, and so on. They planted an atomic bomb under the building that is called Russia which later exploded. We did not need a global revolution,” he said.

Putin has in the past famously described the fall of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.”

“Putin Slams Lenin for Laying ‘Atomic Bomb’ Under Russia,” Moscow Times, January 21, 2016

So toss out your forty-five volumes of the collected works of Lenin in English, comrades. He is on your new supreme leader’s bad list.

Statue of Lenin in the yard of the Soyuz stationery goods factory in Petrograd. Photo by the Russian Reader
Monument to Vladimir Lenin in the yard of the Soyuz stationery goods factory. Petrograd, June 19, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader

Sergey Abashin
January 21, 2016
Facebook

Oh my, it turns out Lenin planted the “bomb under the building known as Russia,” and what he had in mind was the collapse of the Soviet Union as a consequence of “ethnic autonomization”! So said the leader!

There are a few curious points in this statement.

First, the leader has equated Russia with the Soviet Union. Meaning that he has dubbed Central Asia, for example, a part of Russia. But he probably did not even notice it.

Second, the leader clearly indicated that the ideal is the Russian Empire, where, apparently, there were no problems, and which fell apart, apparently, as a result of the revolution and not the imperial elite’s wrongheaded policies.

Busts of the Tsetsarevich Alexei, Emperor Nicholas II, and Empress Alexandra, all identified as "holy martyrs," outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petrograd, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Busts of the Tsesarevich Alexei, Emperor Nicholas II, and Empress Alexandra, all identified as “holy martyrs,” outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin (Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God) Church. Petrograd, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Display case describing the "Russian economic miracle" that was, allegedly, swept away by the October Revolution, outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petrograd, April 23, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Outdoor display case describing the “Russian economic miracle” that was, allegedly, swept away by the October Revolution. Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petrograd, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader

The leader has clearly ignored the fact that Lenin, whatever you might think of him, attempted to reassemble the lands of the former empire, which by that time had virtually collapsed. And he was able to do this (reassemble the former empire) only by making certain compromises with the ethnic elites, by granting them “autonomy.”

Third, the leader’s rhetoric is obvious preparation for the 100th anniversary of the revolution, which is likely to be depicted as a tragedy, imposed [on the country] from the outside.

Sergey Abashin is British Petroleum Professor of Migration Studies at the European University in Saint Petersburg. His most recent book is Sovetskii kishlak: Mezhdu kolonializmom i modernizatsiei [The Soviet Central Asian village: between colonialism and modernization], Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015. Translated by the Russian Reader

Vlad Tupikin: Why We Take to the Streets Every Year on January 19

"Remembering Means Fighting," January 19, 2014, Moscow. Photo by Comrade Anatrrra
“Remembering Is a Way of Fighting Back,” January 19, 2014, Moscow. Photo by Comrade Anatrrra

Vlad Tupikin
Why We Take to the Streets Every Year on January 19
Facebook
January 19, 2016

Why do I go to the antifascist demonstration every year on January 19 and call on you to do the same? There are several obvious reasons, but of one of them is deeply personal, and I do not mention it often.

I am not a religious person, but in a sense you might say this is my way of praying to God.

Seven years ago, on the night before January 19, many activists, like today, were sitting in chat room, only they were not on Facebook but on Gmail, although real activists should avoid both Gmail and Facebook, but I will save that conversation for another time.

Seven years ago they were sitting in chat rooms, and so was I. Two events of importance to the Moscow anarchist and antifa community had been scheduled for January 19. The most important was a counter picket against pro-Kremlin youth protesting the arrival of migrants at Moscow’s Kazan Station. To put it more simply, the pro-Kremlin youth were going to frighten newly arrived migrants by citing the severity of Russian laws and their rigorous application, and strongly suggest to the migrants that they were a priori uncultured mugs who wanted to roast a sheep carcass at the drop of a hat, while we anarchists and antifascists believed these accusations were at least latently racist and at most wretched in so many ways that it is a pain to list them all. So we decided to respond to their frightening leaflets with our own welcoming anti-picket.

The second important event on January 19, 2009, was a press conference called by lawyer Stanislav Markelov at the Independent Press Center in downtown Moscow. We paid attention to nearly every public appearance by Stas Markelov, because . . . Because, if you remember, in Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s novel Beetle in the Anthill, when the KGB-like COMCON-2 ask the Golovan Embassy (the Golovans are a race of intelligent dog-like creatures) about the character codenamed Beetle, the embassy sends this definitive response: “The Golovan people know the Beetle in the Anthill.”

The same thing could have been said about Stas: “The antifa know Stas Markelov.” Was it any wonder. Markelov knew the antifa, loved the antifa, was a friend of the antifa, defended the antifa in court, promoted the antifa, and tried to raise the way the antifa thought and acted to a higher level. (See, for example, his article “Red Book of the Antifa.”) But when the time came, the antifa were unable to save Stas Markelov, just as the Golovans could not protect the Beetle in the Anthill.

Although earlier they had protected him. They had guarded him at pressers before, and had actually prevented an armed attack on Markelov in autumn 2008.

Personally for me, a person whose occupational hazard was calluses from gripping a ballpoint pen and banding on a keyboard, there was not much of a choice on January 19, 2009, although I wavered. It was clear there would be some kind of action at Kazan Station, that it should be described, and so it was better to witness it with my own eyes. It was clear that Stas was holding a routine presser on the Colonel Budanov case (Colonel Yuri Budanov was a Russian military officer who had murdered a young Chechen woman), although it had been occasioned by the extreme circumstances of Budanov’s sudden release from custody. Obviously, I had to go where the action would be, especially since reportage was my favorite genre. But what was there to report about a presser? That a colleague had scratched his ear at some point?

And yet, I hesitated, because I had not seen Stas in a long time, and every encounter with him was a joy. He radiated optimism, cheerfulness, and invincible confidence in the future, something that I, a historical optimist but everyday skeptic, sorely lacked, and so sometimes I basked in Markelov’s rays. And the Budanov case was politically important: it had to be written about, too. Whatever, I thought. First, I would take in the action at Kazan Station, then file a story about the action at Kazan Station, and only then would I read the reports colleagues had filed about Stas’s presser, and if need be I would get Stas on the phone to clarify some details, and then I would write about it, too.

No sooner said than done. I went to watch the protest and counter protest at Kazan Station and, as it turned out, try and save a female anarchist activist from being abducted by the pro-Kremlin crowd. She was thin and light as a feather, and so they had grabbed her and raced off with her down the platform.

Basically, a good time was had by all. I then traveled to the nearest computer (at a girlfriend’s office) and sat down to type it all out. That was when I heard the news. A man had been shot and killed in broad daylight on Prechistenka in Moscow, near the Kremlin. A woman who was with him had also been shot.

A colleague had also spent half the night in a chat room persuading another anarchist journalist to go to Kazan Station the next day. But he was unable to persuade her, and she went to Stas Markelov’s press conference. Now everyone knows this journalist’s name, Anastasia Baburova.

But that was a personal digression.

Generally, of course, such crimes must not go unanswered. The answer is not to respond with deadly force. (None of us wants a civil war). The answer is the clearly expressed civic will to stop such crimes and prevent their repetition in the future. That is why there is a demonstration every year on January 19.

It is like our May first holiday, a holiday celebrated round the world in memory of murdered workers, workers who were murdered a long, long time ago, in 1886. But people still remember them.

May the memory of Stas and Nastya live forever!

Those who remember them know what to do. Today, January 19, we gather at Novopushkinsky Square in Moscow at 7 p.m, and then we march in demonstration down the boulevards to Kropotinskaya. And people will also be laying flowers at the murder site on Prechistenka. But there it is everyone for themselves, and the spirit of antifa for all.

Translated by the Russian Reader

A Snowy Sunday in Petrograd with Donbas Separatists

Promo flyer for the exhibition Mikhail Domozhilov, Militiaman's ID, Art of Foto Gallery, Saint Petersburg, January 15-February 3, 2016. Courtesy of the gallery
Promo flyer for the exhibition Mikhail Domozhilov, Militiaman’s Pass, ARTOFFOTO Gallery, Saint Petersburg, January 15-February 3, 2016. Courtesy of the gallery

This morning I got an urgent message from a friend, alerting me to the fact a funny sounding exhibition of photographs was underway at a downtown photo gallery I had never heard of.

It was true, as my friend pointed out, that the announcement for the show, an exhibition of portraits of Eastern Ukrainian pro-Russian separatist fighters (opolchentsy), taken by Petersburg photographer Mikhail Domozhilov, sounded quite dicey politically, as posted on the website of the exhibiting gallery, ARTOFFOTO.

It sounded a little less outwardly partisan when translated into English and printed on the flyers I would later find lying on a windowsill in the gallery:

“The self-proclaimed and still unrecognized state [of the] Donetsk People’s Republic appeared as a result of a civil war in Ukraine in April, 2014. The Donbass People’s Militia became the driving force of the new republic. In the year that passed after the declaration of the DPR, its militia transformed from an anarchic group of super activists [sic] divided into small groups and willing to go weaponless and die for an idea into a regular army with all its necessary attributes—[a] code [of military conduct], subdivisions [sic] and their chiefs, headquarters and machinery.

“This episode is about transition and transformation, about a shaky equilibrium between belonging to one country and to another, utopic in its essence. And also about the self-identification of the participants throughout the conflict. In several months former miners, builders, mechanics have become professional warriors, and a new, extreme reality has replaced the ordinary one. With major destruction[], artillery shelling and [a] non-continuous front, these people suddenly found themselves in the middle of historical events and news reports.

“This episode includes several close-up portraits of militia members in mobile studios at military and training bases, as well as on [the] frontlines.”

(English-language flyer for the exhibition Mikhail Domozhilov, Militiaman’s Pass [Opolchenskii Bilet], ARTOFFOTO Gallery, Bolshaya Konyushennaya, 1, Saint Petersburg, January 15–February 3, 2016)

It was also true that the photographer, Mr. Domozhilov, had shown a penchant in his career for subjects that might be characterized as rightist, such as this fascinating series on the ultras for Petersburg’s Russian Premier League side, FC Zenit.

The ultras series featured virtuosic albeit historically and aesthetically coded works such as this.

domozhilov-terrace
Mikhail Domozhilov, From the series Ultras, 2010. Courtesy of the photographer’s website

On the other hand, Mr. Domozhilov’s tearsheets included portraits, just as compelling, of pro-Ukrainian fighters on the Maidan in Kyiv.

But I did not think it fair to pronounce judgement on the work on the basis of a couple of websites, so I set off into the winter wonderland that Petrograd has become in the last week to see the show for myself.

Continue reading “A Snowy Sunday in Petrograd with Donbas Separatists”

Ildar Dadin: “When I Get Out, We Will Change the Country for the Better”

The Prison Blog of Ildar Dadin’s Fiancée: First Visit, January 14
Zekovnet.ru

Nastya Zotova and Ildar Dadin had agreed to get married in January 2015, when Ildar was detained. Imprisoned Russia continues its publication of his fiancée’s blog.

nastya & ildar
Nastya Zotova & Ildar Dadin. Photo courtesy of openrussia.org

I got permission to meet with Ildar from Judge Natalya Dudar on December 30, and I went for my first short visit on January 13. A short visit is not like a date at a cafe or the movies. There is no hugging and kissing. You see each other only through the glass, and there is also a metal grille on top of the glass.

Getting a “date” was not as difficult as I thought. I went to the pretrial detention facility at nine in the morning and handed over the authorization from the judge and the application form, which was printed on the same piece of paper. Then I waited until eleven for one of facility’s wardens to come. He collected everyone’s internal passports and took us to the fifth floor, where there were about fifteen cubbyholes with glass in the middle.

The visit lasted two hours. You can discuss a lot in that time, both life in prison and personal affairs. Apart from me, nine other people had come for visits. Most were women, some of them with children in tow.

Before the visit, a little boy showed me a drawing.

“I drew this for Dad. This is me, this is Mom, and this is Dad. And this is our home.”

Ildar was finally led in. The feelings provoked by such visits are mixed. On the one hand, there he was, my beloved one, whom I had not seen for five weeks. He was safe and sound, without a bruise on his face. The first few minutes we stared at each through the glass and smiled like fools. On the other hand, it was hard. I wanted to hug and kiss him. But talking with him through the glass was still better than nothing.

I quizzed him about prison life. It turned out that the inmates were often worried about the simplest problems, which were hard to solve imprison. For example, your socks are torn. If you were at home, you would grab a needle and thread and darn them. But there are needles and thread in the detention facility. You might be able to borrow a needle, but thread is totally inaccessible and is not allowed in care packages.

Or you have run out of toilet paper. You will have to wait until someone buys it in bulk through the Federal Penitentiary Service store. Toilet paper is not allowed in care packages. According to Ildar, the wardens should issue toilet paper to inmates, but in Pretrial Detention Facility No. 4 it is “not done.”

Or you need to write complaints and appeals in triplicate or quintuplicate. There is no printer, so you have to write everything by hand. You could use carbon paper, but for some reason it is also not allowed in care packages.

The inmates entertain themselves in peculiar ways. Whereas Oleg Navalny caught pigeons, Ildar and his cellmates catch mice. They are ordinary gray mice that run under the bunks at night.

To catch a mouse you need an empty milk carton. You cut a little hole and plant the bait inside. When the mouse enters the cartoon, you close the hole with your hand and then transfer the little beast to a plastic ice cream pail.

They managed to catch two mice in this simple way. Ildar’s cellmates decided to put them on trial and “sentenced” them to four days in prison. They were to serve their sentence in the plastic ice cream pail. Afterwards, they planned to “release” the rodents by throwing them out a third-floor window. But the prisoners escaped by gnawing a hole in their cell.

Smoking is another serious issue. There are eleven men in Ildar’s cell. Five of them are smokers, and they smoke right in bed. The others, who are nonsmokers, are not happy, to put it mildly.

There are only eight beds for the eleven inmates. They take turns sleeping. According to Ildar, however, this is even a good thing, because you can borrow a second blanket from someone. Otherwise, it is too cold to sleep. It got cold in the cell on January 1, so the thermal underwear that I bought on the advice of Alexei Polikhovich, who was convicted in the Bolotnaya Square case, was a real godsend. But Ildar is warm in it only if he sleeps under two blankets. And he still has to survive the transfer to the penal colony where he will serve his sentence—in winter in a cold train car!

After sleep, the second most important issue is food. Ildar admits the food is better than at the special detention center. However, the portions per inmate are not very big. It is not that he is completely hungry, but he would like more. He says that some cellmates eschew the prison food, and so the other prisons divvy up their helping among themselves. They can even warm the food up. A boiler is placed in a pot with water, and a plate with the food on it is place over the pot. The food is thus heated over a water bath.

I have been trying to figure how best to fatten up my inmate through care packages. Ildar already rejected hot meals ordered through the FPS website, and then canned buckwheat kasha with meat. I don’t feel like sending him instant mashed potatoes and noodles (which in prison are called “steamers”).

“Maybe you’d like more cheese? More sausage?”

Ildar frowned.

“I look at the prices in the FPS store and feel offended at how these thugs prey on us. I would rather eat the regulation hundred grams of soup, then shop there,” he said.

This is especially because, according to Ildar, all the care packages are put in the “kitty,” to which everyone has access, so Ildar himself does not end up with so much.

Ultimately, we agreed that I would cooperate with the relatives of other inmates, and that together we would buy food in bulk at ordinary stores and then pass it on to the lads in the cell, since there was a common pot there anyway. Regard the FPS store, Ildar nevertheless admitted that sometimes he wanted something sweet: chocolate, sweetened condensed milk or soda. He was very grateful to Olga Romanova for the garlic she sent him. Garlic was the best thing for you, he said, because it was full of vitamins! All his cellmates were ill, but he wasn’t.

There is no shower in the cell. The inmates are taken once a week to the shower room. But there is a sink, so they can wash up and launder their clothes. As Ildar put it, the toilet is “luxurious”: there are walls on two sides, and a door on the third up to the waist.

I asked Ildar how he spent his time at the detention facility, whether he had been writing complaints. Ildar admitted that he had stopped for the time being. The wardens had hinted to him as it were that if he continued, they could take it on his cellmates.

“However, maybe I’ll soon have to make an important decision: to be a living scoundrel or die,” he said.

Ildar did not explain what was the matter: our conversation was bugged. But he did promise in any case to send a letter, written in his own hand, indicating that under no circumstances was he planning to commit suicide. He believed this would protect him from the “accidents” that happen in Pretrial Detention Facility No. 4.

Despite this eerie message, Ildar was more or less optimistic and was planning to read books.

“I have a lot to learn: political science, economics . . . When I get out, we will change the country for the better,” he said hopefully.

Before his arrest, Ildar said he wanted to be a lawyer and specialize in human rights.

UPDATE
On the night of January 14, it transpired that immediately after our visit, Ildar was removed from his cell along with his things. According to the tentative information we have, he has been transferred to another cell in the same pretrial detention facility.

UPDATE: January 15
As it turned out, Ildar has been transferred to a special cellblock in the same facility. (Meaning greater scrutiny from the wardens and better living conditions.) Meanwhile, our marriage application is ready to submit to the registrar.

Ildar Dadin and Nastya Zotova's marriage application. Image courtesy of Imprisoned Russia
Ildar Dadin and Nastya Zotova’s marriage application. Image courtesy of Imprisoned Russia

Translated by the Russian Reader

__________

Russia: Peaceful activist sentenced under repressive new law must be released
Amnesty International
December 7, 2015

Russia’s jailing of a peaceful opposition activist for violating the country’s new law on public assemblies is a shocking and cynical attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years in jail by a Moscow court for repeated anti-government street protests. He is the first person to be jailed using the law, which was introduced in 2014 and punishes repeated breaches of public assembly rules.

“The shocking sentencing of Ildar Dadin shows that the Russian authorities are using the law on public assemblies to fast-track peaceful protesters to prison,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“This cynical move shows that compared to the drawn out criminal proceedings against peaceful protesters in the past, the authorities have now created a shortcut for imprisoning activists. It is more dangerous to be a peaceful activist in Russia than at any time in recent years.”