No Peace for {NE MIR}

Police Detain Participants of Itinerant Anti-War Exhibition in Moscow
Mediazona
March 13, 2016

Police in downtown Moscow have detained participants of the itinerant pacifist exhibition {NE MIR} (NO PEACE), artist Ekaterina Nenasheva reports on her Facebook page.

According to Nenasheva, paddy wagons accompanied the artists from Kurskaya subway station to the Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art.

{NE MIR} marchers pose with works before boarding police paddy wagon
{NE MIR} marchers pose with works before boarding police paddy wagon

“The exhibition ended at Baumanskaya subway station and continued in a paddy wagon,” the artist wrote.

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Artist Ekaterina Nenasheva inside a police paddy wagon

She said it was the third {NE MIR} exhibition, featuring artists from Moscow, Petersburg, Murmansk, and Krasnodar, as well as Ukraine, Finland, and Austria.

OVD Info reports that fifteen people were detained outside Winzavod, including Nenasheva, Anna Bokler, Mikhail Oskarin, Ksenia Tretyushina, Alexandra Lavrova, Andrei Darklight, Angelina Trinten, Elvira Komarova, Tatyana Sushenkova, Ivan Karamnov, and Nikita Rasskazov.

The participants of the itinerant exhibition have been taken to Basmanny police precinct, where their papers are being checked. In addition, police are examining the artworks.

Nenasheva later informed Mediazona that thirteen artists are being held at the police station.

The police have not given any reasons for the arrests. According to Nenasheva, the artists will likely be charged with violating the rules for holding a public event (Article 20.2 of the Administrative Offenses Code).

Update. Nenasheva has informed Mediazona that the police have formally charged twelve artists with violating Article 20.2 of the Administrative Offenses Code. Their case will be heard in administrative court on March 16.

__________

Darja Serenko
Facebook
March 16, 2016

The judge refused to give my public defender access to the case file, forbade Gerchikov (who introduced himself as the head designer of the city of Moscow) from sketching in the courtroom (“if you don’t respect the court, then at least respect yourself”: how can you talk that way with the head designer of the city of Moscow), and found me guilty of unauthorized marching with photographic works from house no. 4 to house no. 8. The fine was 20,000 rubles [approx. 260 euros].

The whole day I was working on totally blacking out a little book called the Russian Federal Criminal Procedure Code: I discovered something almost therapeutic about this practice. The hearing was scary and I kept on shading in the book. I felt calmer that way. I did my best blacking out right when the sentence was announced. I am really grateful to everyone who came to draw and to support me (Vanya Simonov, Masha Menshikov, Marja Klinova, Dima the head designer of the city of Moscow, and everyone else), and I thank my civil rights defender.

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Darja Serenko, Blacked-out page of the Russian Federal Criminal Procedure Code, March 16, 2016. The remaining words produce the phrase “Freedom / is conducted in Russian / or another language / depending on the character.”

Although there was nothing really scary about our case and now it has turned into a bloated media blip that will survive for a week in opposition media, I think it was worth it. And our self-existent exhibition inside the courtroom was also lovely and reminded me of Harald Szeemann and his exhibition project, in which everyone brought their works literally right off the street into the gallery, and the curator found a place for the works. Because of all the noise made by the media, everyone forgot about the pictures. In this case, they are only EVIDENCE. Everyone is interested in the court hearing and certain heroic artists. I am not an artist. I am a mini-curator, and I was stunned by certain works and their power. I would organize an exhibition like this in the well-known spaces where I work. The exhibition {NE MIR} is the best work with space (in the broad sense of the word) I have seen. I hope we will get our hands on the work and be able to show it.

What matters is not whether it is an anti-war exhibition or a protest rally or not, but the fundamental fact that in our country the classic format of the outdoor exhibition is still imagined almost as a terrorist act. In my opinion, everyone should have already had their fill of the format: the outdoor exhibition should be an art object invisible to everyone. But a renewed political discourse has updated the format as well.

After the court hearing, I took the subway and found myself in an exhibition car: the Russian Geographical Society and Miklouho-Maclay were on display. I laughed hysterically. It was also basically an itinerant exhibition. It moved almost by itself, wonder of wonders.

When we were still outside the courthouse smoking, a man came up to us. He said he had just been freed and asked us for money. When we gave him some, he told us our fortunes and recited psalms. I am going to have two husbands. The first one will cheat on me, the second will cheat on me, but the third won’t cheat on me, despite the fact that I am going to have two husbands all the same. While he was telling our fortunes, a policeman who worked at the courthouse came up to us and asked what sort of gathering we were having. I think someone known as the Director of the City of Moscow orchestrated this day.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Video courtesy of Radio Svoboda. Images courtesy of OVD Info, Ekaterina Nenasheva, and Darja Serenko. Thanks to Vadim F. Lurie for the heads-up.

Shelf Space 2

Folders from KGB Archive Dumped in Pile on Bolshaya Lubyanka Street
What are the covers for the country’s main documents doing outside?
March 16, 2016
Moslenta.ru

Photo: Anton Belitsky/MOSLENTA

A MOSLENTA correspondent has discovered a mound of folders from the KGB Central Archive in the vicinity of Lubyanka Square. About a hundred empty boxes are lying along the wall at Bolshaya Lubyanka Street, 14, right next to the Orlov-Denisov House aka the Pozharsky Palace.

“There are KGB archival folders lying in the yard,” said our correspondent. “I took a couple snapshots on my telephone, and security guards immediately ran up to me. ‘What do you think you are doing?’ they said. ‘We got a call from the FSB. What are you doing here?’ They asked me to stop shooting.”

The duty officer at the Public Relations Center of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) informed MOSLENTA that he knew nothing about the KGB files and could not comment on their appearance in downtown Moscow.

Photo: Anton Belitsky/MOSLENTA

 

Shelf Space

[…]

I was wondering. Does our system have an ideology?

[Simon Kordonsky:] No, I spent a few years reading what no one else reads: science fiction and fantasy, mysticism, that sort of thing. You can deduce the real “ideology” by reading these sources.

Simon Kordonsky
Simon Kordonsky

So there is Perkhel [?], a guy from Chelyabinsk who wrote a trilogy about how Russia has lost a war and the European part of the country has been completely occupied. A resistance to the invaders has been organized in Chelyabinsk, and the resistance does everything to destroy them. That is one type of literature.

The second type is science fiction, where you find a certain Russian future. Again, this future has an imperial, estates-based structure, which is fighting against foreign invaders.

This is a huge body of literature, thousands of titles. A worldview is broadcast in these books. People buy them. Walk into any bookstore in the regions and that is the only literature there is.

I have this one practical lesson I teach. Our campus is near the bookstore Biblio-Globus [in downtown Moscow]. My students and I take tape measures and we go measure worldviews. This store is indicative. We take measurements: how many meters of shelf space are taken up by “history.” Some book by [Alexander] Bushkov is on the shelf, and there are no references in it, meaning it is not history, but quasi-history. Mythologized history makes up ninety percent of the historical literature [for sale].

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Cover of Alexander Buskhov, The Russia That Wasn’t, 3: Mirages and Ghosts (2004)

Then we measure the medicine section. It’s only one and a half meters long. Medicine per se takes up ten to twenty centimeters. The rest is taken up by books on self-treatment, herbal medicine, and cosmetics.

And we measure politics. On the first floor there is an entire “Miscellaneous” section. Once, [ROSSPEN’s] History of Stalinism took up a whole shelf there. Now that space is filled with works by quasi-politicians and philosophers. It is completely strange kitsch.

And where would you find sociology? In the “Esoterica” section!

Source: platf.info

Simon Kordonsky heads the Laboratory for Local Administration at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.  Images courtesy of platf.info and ozon.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade ES for the heads-up

Dmitry Kalugin: The Paddy Wagon

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Dmitry Kalugin
March 14, 2016
Facebook

I was crossing the street when a stranger suddenly grabbed my arm.

I asked him what the matter was.

“Look who’s parked on the crosswalk!” the fellow says.

I saw a paddy wagon parked there.

“What of it?” I asked.

“What don’t you get? He’s got big eyes. He sees and remembers everything. You can’t walk in front of a police vehicle.”

“How should a guy do it?”

“Only around the back! You don’t want him to catch sight of you just like that. If he gets his mitts on you, you won’t cuss your way out of it.”

He and I walked around the back of the paddy wagon.

“Now that was the right way,” said my savior. “Always do it that way, and good luck will be yours.”

So I don’t know about you, but I now look to the future with optimism.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Minval.az

“I’m Very Tired of the Sense of Insecurity”: How the Russian Truckers’ Strike Has Gone Indefinite

“I’m Very Tired of the Sense of Insecurity”: How the Truckers’ Protest Has Gone Indefinite
Olga Rodionova
paperpaper.ru
March 3, 2016

The nationwide strike by Russian truckers officially wrapped up on March 1, but Petersburg drivers have continued to maintain their makeshift protest camp outside the MEGA Dybenko shopping center [in the city’s far southeast]. They have declared their campaign against the new Plato mileage tolls system indefinite.

Nearly all of the drivers who have driven their trucks to MEGA Dybenko are individual entrepreneurs. After the innovations wrought by the Rotenbergs, business has become unprofitable for the truckers. Why have those who work for themselves decided to go on protesting instead of hauling freight? Olga Rodionova put together the following portfolio of photographs of truckers and their statements for paperpaper.ru.

Dmitry, 42, individual entrepreneur. Has been hauling freight since 1997. The past five years has been hauling containers around the city, but sometimes takes loads to Karelia. Married with a 16-year-old daughter.

“Have you seen the roads in this country? I have been paying taxes for many years, the roads have not got better, but now I have to pay even more? One wheel costs me 20,000 rubles [approx. 250 euros]. Have you seen how many wheels I have on my truck? If I pop a tire in a pothole, whom can I blame? Nobody! No one has ever got any compensation from the highway services or the government for breakdowns caused by the poor state of the roads. We just pay and pay. I have sometimes left at five in the morning to avoid traffic jams. While I picked up the load, got it unloaded, and then returned the container, it was already eleven in the evening. Sometimes there is no point going back, and I’m away from home for three days at a time. Many of our guys say there is no point in striking, that nothing will change, but I’m very tired of the sense of insecurity in all parts of life. It’s important to me to be here.”

Arkady, 54. Owns his own truck. Has worked in heavy freight haulage since 1983. Is a teetotaler. Has driven round the entire country: the farthest he has ever driven was Blagoveshchensk. Hauled “Cargo 200” loads during the war in Afghanistan.

“Where are the ruts deepest on multi-lane highways? In the left lanes! But we are obliged to drive in the right lanes. The roads in Russia are bad, because funds for road construction are embezzled and roads are not built to technical specss. But they put the blame on us, saying the trucks are to blame for everything. [Answers his telephone.] Hello. Yeah, we are doing a bit of striking. You come with Dima. He can climb around on the rigs.”

Vadim, 45. Owns his own truck, a 2000 Volvo. Previously drove a KamAZ. After his house was destroyed by fire, rebuilt it with his own hands. Married with two daughters.

“Plato has only one office in Petersburg where I can get a mileage recorder installed, but they don’t have them in stock! Meaning I couldn’t use Plato even if I wanted to. The mileage recorders were doled out to the major companies, while we, the midsize companies and individual entrepreneurs, are being squeezed out. To be able to get onto the road and work without paying a fine, I have to travel hell knows where to a computer terminal on Fermskoye Highway [in the far northwest of the city] and waste time and money. But there is no guarantee the terminal won’t freeze or just won’t be working. There is no point in talking with the people who work there: they are clerks who don’t decide anything. It’s like trying to agree with a highway patrol inspector about changing the traffic rules.”

Valery, 49, individual entrepreneur. Has driven his own MAN truck since 2008. Has been driving since 1987. Got behind the wheel in the army, then worked in the motor pool of a port. Did his army service in Poland, and in 1988 worked as a driver near Chernobyl. Married with two grown children and a 4-year-old granddaughter.

“Cargo haulage rates have not changed for seven or eight years. During that time, only the price of fuel and taxes have gone up. If you work it out, I pay threefold. First, I pay all my taxes. Then, due to them, I end up with less and less money. Finally, I pay again as a consumer at the stores: everything has become more expensive. The Plato system is not the whole matter here. They are just muscling out small business. Before, when there was no Plato, we never gave a it a second’s thought. We drove and drove. There was work, and thank God. I am fifty years old. Who is going to hire me? It is a long way to retirement, and I do not want to sit on my butt working as a watchman.”

Dmitry, 30. Works with an individual entrepreneur as a crew member. Has driven since he was 18. Got his semi-trailer license at 21 and has been driving big rigs ever since. Married with two children.

“Before the crisis of 2007, I had three trucks. I had to sell all of them to pay the mortgage: I was afraid of winding up homeless. I myself am from Ufa. I came here with a load and stayed to support the protest. The wife chews me out, of course, saying I should come home already. But if everyone thinks it doesn’t concern them, then nothing is going to change.”

Vladimir, 49. Has lived and worked in Petersburg since 1997. After his wife’s death, has had to raise his 5-year-old daughter alone. Used to work a three-days-on, three-days-off schedule, driving garbage to a penal colony for recycling. But with a young child to raise, had to change his schedule and in recent years has done intracity freight hauls.

“I don’t expect anything good to happen. I would be thankful if they wouldn’t prevent me from working. The less the government worries about me, the better it is for me. It’s scary, of course. I’m 49. Where am I going to find a job?”

Alexander, 45, individual entrepreneur, owns his own truck. Moved to Petersburg from the Urals in 2013. Married. Has raised six children, four of them his own and two adopted.

“I have an illegal fine against me in the database. I proved in court the fine was illegal, but it is still listed there. The highway patrol tried to keep me from getting here to the camp. I only broke through thanks to a truck driver who helped out. I got him up on the radio, and he covered me from the highway patrol. I have been behind the wheel my whole life. I was even born in a car, in my dad’s Pobeda. I pay taxes and duties. I don’t work under the table. I just want to work in peace.”

Vladimir, 32, individual entrepreneur. Has worked as a heavy-duty freight driver for 10 years, the last three on his own rig. Married with child.

“I was involved in the first protest, too. I met some of the guys there, and some of them here. What do I want? The other guys have said it already. If things don’t work out, I will close my individual enterprise and register for unemployment. They have put so many obstacles in our way we cannot get out on the highway at all. There are no mileage recorders in stock, the Plato computer terminal doesn’t work, and if a trip isn’t registered on Plato, the fine is higher than the money you would make on the load. It is just a legal means of driving us from the market, you see? It’s not even a matter of extortion. We simply cannot work.”

Oleg, 37. Has lived in Petersburg since 2001. Used to drive himself, but around 10 years ago,, registered an individual enterprise and hired a driver to run his rig. Married with two children. Was among those detained by police on the first day of the protest.

“You know, my lawyer told me not to wag my tongue here especially.”

Sergei, 48. Drives a rented truck and works for a limited liability company founded by his wife. Has worked as a driver since 1991. The occupation runs in the family: his stepfather was a driver, and his uncle, a long-haul trucker. Mainly works for three regular clients, hauling furniture, household goods, and construction mixes. Worked for a long time with the Saint Petersburg Theater of Ice, traveling half the country with the company.

“Plato is not the end; it is only the beginning. People say we should raise rates or let the customers pay the tolls. But fuel has again gone up, and spare parts for trucks have gotten a lot more expensive. As a consumer, I suffer from this, too. The wife chews me out, of course. We have no money, the tank is empty. But as a man, I would feel ashamed towards the other guys, so that is why I am parked here. Or rather, that is why I live here. The wife says I should just live here then.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. See my previous posts on the Russian truckers’ strike.

Nadiya Savchenko: Closing Statement in Court

"Russia is dead, although it seems to be alive. But Nadiya can be saved." Demonstrator at International Women's Day rally on the Field on Mars, Petrograd, March 8, 2016. Photo by and courtesy of Sergey Chernov
“Russia is dead, although it seems to be alive. But Nadiya [Nadezhda] can be saved.” Demonstrator at International Women’s Day rally on the Field on Mars, Petrograd, March 8, 2016. Photo by and courtesy of Sergey Chernov

Nadiya Savchenko: Closing Statement in Court

I accept neither guilt, nor the verdict, nor the Russian court. In the case of a guilty verdict there will be no appeal. I want the whole democratic civilized world to realize that Russia is a third-world country, with a totalitarian regime and a petty tyrant-dictator, where human rights and international law are spat upon.

It is an absurd situation when those who abduct people subject them to torture then act as if they have a right to judge them! How can one talk about a fair trial? In Russia, there are no trials or investigations, only a farce played out by Kremlin puppets. And I find it superfluous to waste time in my life participating in it!

And so there will be no appeal, but this is what will happen: After the verdict I will continue my hunger strike for 10 more days, until the verdict comes into force, and this is regardless of the translation [of the verdict] into Ukrainian, because they can drag that out for a long time, too. In 10 days I will begin a dry hunger strike [refusing both food and water], and then Russia will have no more than 10 days to return me to Ukraine, where they abducted me! And I don’t care how they justify it! I have heard that [Ukrainian President] Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko is quite adept at diplomacy. I hope his diplomatic skills will suffice to reach agreement in Russia with a certain idiot; after all, he promised my mother that I would be home in time for the May holidays of 2015.

And while they are bargaining over me, my life will be draining away and Russia will return me to Ukraine in any case: it will return me, dead or alive!

Throughout these 10 days, day and night, my sister will be standing at the jail gates, and she will wait and see whether they release me or not. And if you put her in jail, my mother will come and take her place. She is 77, will you put her in jail, too? In that case my friend will take her place, and after her, Ukrainian after Ukrainian! And remember: you can’t shove everybody in here. And while my compatriots are standing there, simple, honest, and decent Russians living in nearby homes will bring them hot tea, sandwiches, and warm blankets, because each one of them understands that tomorrow their child could be in my place, in this prison of all peoples called Russia!

That is how Maidans (revolutions) start! Do you need that?! You fear it like the plague! So it is better for the Kremlin to return me to Ukraine as soon as possible, and alive!

And those in the world with democratic values ought to learn their history lessons before it’s too late and remember that there was a time when Europe was tolerant toward Hitler, and America wasn’t decisive enough, and this led to World War II. Putin is a tyrant with imperial manners and a Napoleon and Hitler complex put together. The [Russian] bear doesn’t understand human language, he understands only the language of force. Therefore, unless we become more decisive and determine the right priorities on time, we will soon have World War III.

And I, as a politician now, won’t shake Russia’s hand in the political arena. It is not right to extend a hand to someone who kept you in handcuffs and your people in chains. But every time I make a political decision, I will always think how it would affect ordinary people, both in Ukraine and Russia. Because in Russia, in spite of everything, there are many honest, kind, and decent people.

Demonstrator at International Women's Day rally on the Field on Mars, Petrograd, March 8, 2016. Photo by and courtesy of Vadim Lurie
Demonstrator at International Women’s Day rally on the Field on Mars, Petrograd, March 8, 2016. Photo by and courtesy of Vadim F. Lurie

“We Have Been Enslaved by Criminals”: Vyborg Rises in Protest

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Vyborg Rally Looms over Authorities
Yulia Gilmshina
47News.ru
March 7, 2016

Vyborg residents sacked Gennady Orlov, head of the Vyborg District, right at Peter’s Square. He was given a vote of no confidence for a rise in the cost of heating bills. Local boss Alexander Petrov was chided over his son. But the authorities did not come out to talk to the people.

On Sunday, March 6, eighty-thousand-strong Vyborg got ready to vent its feelings. On Peter’s Square, on the outskirts of the historic center, a rally protesting twofold and threefold increases in heating bills was scheduled.

When 47News asked a taxi driver leaving the train station whether he knew about the upcoming event, we got an unexpectedly long response.

“The heating bill has increased by 7,000 rubles [approx. 88 euros]. It isn’t clear who is running the city. People should go to the rally. I can’t, but I’m taking the wife,” he said.

Another taxi driver, whose bill had increased by 6,000 rubles in a single go, also promised to send his wife.

When city hall was in the process of authorizing the rally on Peter’s Square, its main consideration was the distance from downtown. The protesters were excommunicated from the more convenient Red Square because of an event more interesting to the people in charge: an event congratulating women on March 8, International Women’s Day.

But officials accidentally provided the TV channels and photographers with a luxurious picture. While Red Square is dominated by a three-meter-high, wretched green, bird dropping-bespattered statue of Lenin, the people who gathered on Peter’s Square got visual backing from the Vyborg Castle. The 700-year-old hulk gloomily complemented any shot.

At 2:30 p.m., half an hour before the event, there were almost no protesters on Peter’s Square. Fifty people or so, including policemen, journalists, and a German shepherd, allegedly there to sniff out explosives, dilly-dallied on the pavement. At a quarter to three, one individual in uniform shouted to another, “Close it up!” and people could no longer enter the square from just anywhere. New arrivals were admitted onto the square at a couple of points, and each was searched for prohibited items.

“That’s what our people are like: keen to complain, but when it’s time to act, no one’s in sight. I got a bill for 11,600 rubles, and my monthly pension is 8,000. Two of my children are registered in my flat, so I can’t count on a subsidy. Soon they’ll be bringing us bills for 20,000 rubles. They’ll weep a bit and the chew the fat a bit over it, but that will be the end of it,” muttered an old women in a bright green jacket. She told us all her neighbors agreed with her, but had not supported her with their feet.

In the following eight minutes, the situation changed dramatically. As soon as we turned our backs, the center of the square filled up with people. The bulk were residents of various ages, and journalists learned that among them there were activists even from Svetogorsk. There were no officials in sight, except for Alexander Lysov, head of the district’s internal policies committee (not to be confused with the head of the district council of deputies), who was spotted by locals. Dmitry Solovyov, a LDPR deputy in the regional legislative assembly, stood in the corner.

Activist Nadezhda Budarina, who had applied to hold the rally along with her spouse Alexei Kuzmin, moderated the event. At the very beginning of her speech, your correspondent hesitated as to which side she was on, because Budarina quoted our publication for some reason.

“In one of its articles, 47News wrote, ‘An unorganized mob, cut to the quick by an attempt to pinch kopecks from their purses, plans to take to the square.’ Let’s show 47News that Vyborgians are not just a mob, but citizens voicing their own stance,” said Budarina from a makeshift podium set up on the porch of a building facing the square.

Your correspondent had to stay in the middle: not standing with the mob, but not with the organizers, either.

Around this point it was possible to count at least five hundred protesters, a third of the fifteen hundred attendees officially slated to attend. But people kept arriving from the castle, walking over Castle Bridge. Standing at a certain angle, one might have thought the castle was spewing them out.

The number was a subjective calculation on your correspondent’s part. Anyone who is interested can make their own conclusion about the number of attendees by looking at the photos and videos featured in this article.

Budarina’s speech was not chockablock with catchy quotations.

First of all, she reminded Gennady Orlov, head of the Vyborg District, of the words he had said (again, as quoted on our website) about the possible political bias of the protesters.

“Yes, we’re politically biased. We’re biased by our unwillingness to pay the bills of a dubious business and the Property and Utilities Management Company, which sends us the bills, said Budarina.

People stood silently. Or rather, they expressed neither agreement nor displeasure with what they heard. In the crowd, you could see signs emblazoned with slogans such as “Stop robbing your own people,” “It’s time to take power into our own hands,” “We’re for low prices,” “A deferral is a spit in the face,” and “I’m poor and hungry.”

But there were no party symbols.

According to Budarina, the district prosecutor had thrown up his hands and could not do anything with the Property and Utilities Management Company. Sergei Kuzmin, chair of the housing oversight committee, “brazenly talks about the absence of violations,” while Leningrad Region Governor Alexander Drozdenko has “set his mind at rest by explaining that it was not the rates for heating that were so expensive, but the payments system that was not transparent.”

“[Drozdenko] only gave a recommendation to explain to citizens why the prices are what they are. It transpires that an informed citizen is calmer than one with a full belly,” said Budarina, eliciting a first rumble of applause on the square.

“They are forcing us to live on loans,” Budarina claimed at another point, garnering another portion of support from the crowd.

“The governor argues what is happening in the Vyborg District is a systems error, but in none of his statements has he ordered anyone to get to the bottom of the legal aspects of the situation,” said Budarina, again setting off an energetic round of clapping.

The main hero of the day was neither the governor nor even the housing and utilities bloc in the government as such, of course. Over the past three weeks, so much has been written and said about high payments that demands to lower them already sound mundane, and it is difficult to find anything new to say about the conflict between society and officialdom over this issue.

The revolutionary nature of the moment was felt when Vyborg city councilman Alexander Petrov was mentioned. Petrov is considered the city’s unofficial boss, and any mention of his surname on Peter’s Square had a fascinatingly symbolic tinge to it.

Activist Budarina quoted our publication for a third time, reminding the crowd that 78% of the Property and Utilities Management Company belongs to Svetogorsk city councilman Sergei Isayev, considered a close associate of Petrov’s.

Here we should note the speaker’s inaccuracy, for, as 47News has written, according to the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, the Property and Utilities Management Company is wholly own by the government of the Vyborg District.

The crowd roared “Oooooh!” at this point.

Petrov was read the riot act on Sunday.

A woman in a purple jacket, also an activist, whose surname was Alexandrova, recalled that Petrov had been in power for more than ten years.

“Where does the money go? It has been going to Petrov for ten years, but the people have been starving. We are hostages of an executioner, our administration. We have been enslaved by criminals,” Alexandrova pontificated.

A minute later, she encroached, it would have seemed, on the holy of holies. No, not Vyborg Castle, but Formula One driver Vitaly Petrov, Alexander Petrov’s son.

“No other town in Leningrad Region could afford Formula One, but we could. Who paid for little Vitaly Petrov to race in the championships? We paid,” said Alexandrova.

People applauded constrainedly, but with a timidity that could instantly turn into desperation.

Speakers called for the clock to be wound back eleven years and for the emergence of the Property and Utilities Management Company as such to be investigated. In particular, had the tire to real estate worth sixty million rubles been legally transferred to the company? According to the speakers, in 2005, the district administration had illegally handed over property to the company’s management and had also turned the monopolist into an energy supplier without conducting a proper bid.

The only person who could compete with Petrov in terms of the number of times he was mentioned on Peter’s Square on Sunday was, of course, Konstantin Patrayev, head of the Vyborg District until 2012, and first deputy governor of Leningrad Region until November 2015.

“Sometimes you can see him on TV next our Governor Alexander Drozdenko. It was Patrayev who transferred the property. He signed the decree to put our property in this company,” pontificated activist Alexandrova, drawing a little support from the crowd.

Apparently, Patrayev has become a symbol of the regime in Vyborg, since activists could not get through this rally without mentioning him. And yet in 2005 he was not yet in charge of the district (then headed by Georgy Poryadin): he took office only in 2006. And if it is possible to see him on TV, then probably on specialized programs.

Perhaps it is not so much a matter of factual errors as it is the unconscious desire of any people to have a strong, charismatic leader. Patrayev certainly was such a leader for Vyborg, but Georgy Orlov has obviously not become one. Maybe it has something to do with the fact Patrayev’s image has already acquired immortality, just has happened with Count Dracula in back in his day.

The next forty minutes of the event were boring for laymen.

Nikolai Rachinsky, ex-chair of the Vyborg City Executive Committee and now an old-age pensioner, repeated much of what he had said at a meeting of residents and officials at the local Palace of Culture about illegal tariffs and the fact residents pay for investments: so the authorities were wrong to credit themselves with this. A women from Primorsk discussed the problems of registering the town’s property. A man in a green jacket recalled how clean the streets had been in the Soviet Union.

Around half past five, Budarina read out the rally’s draft resolution.

Those assembled noted “the dangerous and catastrophic system in housing and utilities in the Vyborg District.” They believe that “the local authorities, instead of supporting the people, have made no efforts to improve social conditions and equity in the city and district,” that “the rates for resources, as set by the Leningrad Region Rates Committee for the Property and Utilities Management Company are illegal and baseless,” that “provision of housing and utilities services is not in compliance with the Housing Code,” and that the “residential housing stock has been brought to a critical condition.”

In this regard, they demanded that checks be carried out on the legality of the creation of Property and Utilities Management Company, the legality and grounds for the rates set for it, and on its licensing.

The most important point came at the end of the resolution.

“We voice our total and profound lack of confidence and demand the resignation of the heads of the Vyborg District and its council members in connection with their loss of our trust. If our demands are not met, we will hold another, more heavily attended rally whose resolution will be, ‘We demand a personal meeting with President Vladimir Putin.'”

When the part of the resolution calling for the resignations of Gennady Orlov and Alexander Lysov was read out, the protesters repeatedly applauded and shouted “Hurrah!”

Seven minutes or so later, the square was nearly deserted.

The resolution will be dispatched to many officials, including Governor Drozdenko.

By the way, such things never happened under Patrayev.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo and videos courtesy of 47News. Thanks to Comrade SY for the heads-up.

Young Women Singing Pretty Songs to a Selfie Stick

I interrupt my usual relentless stream of grimness, chaos, crime, malfeasance, and desperate resistance for some much-needed levity, charm, beauty, and music.

Trio Mandili, “Chemi simgherebi”

Trio Mandili, “Apareka”

Trio Mandili will be performing at the Aurora Concert Hall in Petrograd on April 20. Thanks to Comrade SP for the heads-up

Greg Yudin: The Last Circle of Hell

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, speaking at meeting with relatives of miners who perished in the Severnaya coal mine in Vorkuta, Komi Republic. Photo courtesy of medialeaks.ru
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, speaking at meeting with relatives of miners who perished in the Severnaya coal mine in Vorkuta, Komi Republic. Photo courtesy of medialeaks.ru

Greg Yudin
March 3, 2016
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The transcript of Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Severstal president Alexei Mordashov’s meeting with relatives of miners who perished in the recent coal mine disaster in Vorkuta makes for hellacious reading. It is like the last circle of hell.

I won’t even mention the fact they did not want to take any responsibility for the incident, that it was their incompetence which lead to the deaths of rescuers, and that they covered for a flagrantly brutal system in which miners were forced to turn off sensors and worked like slaves.

But these people really, seriously consider themselves heroes, because they came to the meeting with the unfortunate relatives.

Dvorkovich: You know, many people tried to dissuade me from coming here and traveling here at all, because it is incredibly difficult, really difficult. Nevertheless, my colleagues in the republic and I decided we had to share this grief along with you.

I can just imagine the “many” people who tried to dissuade Dvorkovich.

“Arkady Vladimirovich, what is with you? Why are you going there? There are those stupid widows there. They don’t understand a thing, and they cannot control themselves. How are you going to help them? All the orders have been given already. They will get the money, bawl a bit, and calm down. Dmitry Anatolyevich is not insisting that you go. As it was, we were planning to order a table at a restaurant and drink a toast for the greatness of Russia and our common victory in this difficult time. Well, and we would drink a toast for the dead miners, too, of course.”

“No, I have to go! Of course I know it will be hard for me, very hard. I must show the country’s leadership is mindful of the common people and shares their pain.”

“Oh, Arkady Vladimirovich, what heroism! You’re a hero. It is people like you who make Russia strong.”

You get the sense they flew in from another planet. Why do miners tamper with the sensors? What do you say? They are afraid of losing their jobs? Let them find another job! We have a free labor market. Loans, you say? You cannot afford to buy an engagement ring? So who forced you to take out a loan?

Mordashov: Well, you know, coming to see you all was a personal choice for each of us. Those of us present here made this choice. We cannot force anyone else to make it.

How has it happened that Russian officials and fat cats have come to think they could choose not to come and talk with the relatives of victims, that it is their “personal choice”? I remember quite well how twenty years ago or so Prime Minister Chernomyrdin talked with terrorists to save people’s lives, but nobody reported that it was his “personal choice.” Because it was his job.

But now a billionaire from the Forbes list and a guy who has spent the better part of his life as a government minister say with a straight face that after a disaster involving dozens of victims it is okay not to come and explain themselves, and that basically they are doing people a favor by traveling from Monaco or wherever they live and stopping by this godforsaken mine.

Actually, it isn’t difficult to understand why these bastards consider themselves heroes. Because hiding behind them is a man who sixteen years ago, when the Kursk sunk, was so frightened he went into seclusion for several days, but then called the widows of the drowned submariners “paid whores.”*

Since then the country has been ruled by men and women incapable of sharing the grief of their own people in a way that at least would appear convincing, because they fear and despise the people.

Translated by the Russian Reader

*The new Russian president grew particularly irate early in his tenure when the submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000 and Russian television aired tough reports about the government’s slow response and dishonest public statements. Even state-controlled Channel One, under Berezovsky’s control, broadcast critical segments, including interviews with the wives of Kursk sailors distraught at the way the situation was being handled

Outraged, Putin called personally to rail about the report and accuse the journalists of faking it. “You hired two whores … in order to push me down,” Putin exclaimed, as former anchor Sergei Dorenko remembered it. Dorenko was taken aback. “They were officers’ widows,” he said, “but Putin was convinced that the truth, the reality, did not actually exist. He only believes in [political] technologies.”

Putin’s anger boiled over at a closed-door meeting with relatives of the crew six days after the submarine sank. When fuming relatives shouted him down, saying they knew from television that the Russian government had initially turned down foreign assistance, Putin bristled.

“Television?” he exclaimed. “They’re lying. Lying. Lying.”

Peter Baker and Susan B. Glasser, “Nuts and Bolts of Project Putin,” Moscow Times, June 8, 2005

Striking Russian Truckers: A Call for Solidarity

Truck Drivers in Russia Urgently Need Your Solidarity

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Striking Truckers’ Camp in Khimki. Courtesy of antiplaton.info

In Russia, despite crackdowns against independent labour union activists, a group of truck drivers organized themselves in mid-November of last year to defend their labor rights and livelihoods. Their goal is to found a nationwide union of truckers that would be run on a non-hierarchical basis by its members. For the last three months, these truckers have been on strike against a draconian new system of cargo haulage tolls that would make it almost impossible for workers like themselves to earn a living.

On December 3, 2015, truck drivers organized a protest camp in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, that has served as a coordinating center for all striking truckers. At the moment, around ten thousand drivers are taking part in a nationwide strike, and since February 20 of this year, more than ten other protest camps have been set up in different regions of the country.

The truckers would like to keep striking until the so-called Plato system has been abolished. The Plato system has introduced a new set of tolls for long-haul trucks, and it directly benefits the corrupt businessmen and officials who have profited the most from fifteen years of misrule by Vladimir Putin and his cronies.

Russia has not seen such widespread and serious labor protests since the 1990s. The striking drivers are supported by many other downtrodden groups in Russia. In the course of the protests, new networks have emerged through which the truck drivers have issued other demands such as reforming housing policies and reinstating benefits for pensioners as well as abolishing the transport tax. In addition, many wage earners and other precarious groups have been inspired to join the new union of transport workers or form their own new associations or labor unions.

Despite broad support from the Russian public, the Khimki camp is now in dire straits in terms of resources. Above all, the strikers need financial support for publicizing the strike and providing for their families, as they have no sources of income at the moment.

Therefore, we are asking for any kind of solidarity (media, material or other kinds of support) from the international anticapitalist movement, and labor and trade unions around the world.

If you can and want to help us, please write to: solidarity_trucker@yahoo.com

Yours in solidarity,

The Striking Truck Drivers of Russia

For more information, see my previous posts on the strike and antiplaton.info (in Russian). TRR