Anna Tereshkina: At Viktor Filinkov’s Remand Extension Hearing

Anna Tereshkina
Facebook
March 21, 2018

I went to Viktor Filinkov’s court hearing, where his motion to have his remand in policy custody changed to house arrest was reviewed.

I arrived at the Dzerzhinsky District Courthouse by 10 a.m., already hungry although I had eaten breakfast. Outside the subway station, I bought a pasty and put it in my backpack.

It turned out there was no need to arrive fifteen minutes before the hearing was scheduled to begin, because they kept everyone stewing for over an hour before starting.

I was able to draw my girlfriends as they languished in the stuffy court building.

tereshkina-filinkov-1

Then a tall, skinny court bailiff herded everyone to the end of the hallway. Viktor was brought in, and everyone raised their arms and focused the cameras on their smartphones. There was a round of applause.

I was somehow expecting a huge ovation, but then it hit me, mournfully, that there were not very many of us, something like fifteen to twenty people, I think. Or is that a lot? Or was every other person monkeying with his or her camera?

We were not let into the courtroom immediately.

Everything seemed quite dicey, as if at any minute they might never let us out of there.

My hands were shaking, so my only drawing of Viktor did not come out very legible.

tereshkina-filinkov-2

Viktor himself looked liked a man who had not lost hope.

I noticed his shoes were tied with strange laces. Were they fashioned from plastic bags, as he had described, or did someone give him white laces for the hearing?

The judge’s voice was unexpectedly kind and polite, like the voice of a school guidance counselor.

We were kicked out of the courtroom, of course, while the court deliberated whether to hold the hearing in chambers or not.

After waiting for an hour, I took out my pasty, which had gone cold.

The lanky bailiff was tormented. He would try and drive everyone away from the passage to the courtroom, the walls, and the doors. But the people who had come to the hearing reacted to him as if he were an annoying fly. The only thing that interested them were the big wooden doors and what has happening on the other side of them.

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I sketched the bailiff, wondering whether he beat his wife and kids.

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Finally, he called another bailiff, who had bangs and wore ordinary jeans instead of the trousers issued with his uniform. He stood by the door more calmly.

Suddenly, a fresh breeze wafted through the hallway. It was workers carrying furniture. Two massive wooden benches, a wardrobe, and a whole suite of judge’s thrones adorned with crests. One of them had no seat at all, as if its makers had wanted to use it as a toilet at the dacha.

The bailiff with the bangs got distracted and stepped away from the door. One of the workers immediately dashed to our coveted Courtroom No. 9, stuck his nose in the door, and loudly asked, “Can we bring in the wardrobe?”

A clerk in a gray dress came out and said they should wait until the hearing was over.

Yes, the hearing had long been underway, but we had not even been called into the courtroom and told the court had decided to hold the hearing in chambers.

People grumbled and wrote complaints.

Nastya showed me a book, The Suffering Middle Ages, which had a chapter about how, from the twelth to fourteenth centuries, law books were lavishly illustrated with giant penises.

The tall, nervous bailiff returned and once more herded everyone to the end of the hallway.

Viktor was brought out by the guards. The applause and shouts of support were louder than the first time.

The court had again recessed for deliberation. The workers finished their unloading, and stuffiness again reigned in the hallway. Someone brought juice, biscuits, and bananas.

The bailiff with the bangs immediately popped up, saying it was forbidden to eat in the courthouse. He was probably the hungriest of us all.

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For five minutes or so, no one did, in fact, eat anything, but then we passed around the biscuits, divvied up the bananas, and poured the juice into cups. The bailiff didn not feel like reminding us again, apparently, and he said nothing.

Viktor’s defense attorney Vitaly Cherkasov came out and said we would have to wait for at least another hour. We had been sitting there for four hours as it was.

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Many people left the courthouse to have a smoke and eat lunch, so they could come back later.

I left altogether because my brain had completely melted.

I was home when I read that, at 3:46 p.m., the court had ruled Viktor be kept in police custody until June 22.

I felt a sharp pang of the suffocating absurdity that nearly everyone has accepted. But no, I hope they haven’t.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Ms. Tereshkin for her kind permission to reproduce her drawing and publish a translation of her text here. All images © Anna Tereshkina, 2018. If you have not heard about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case, you need to read the following articles and spread the word to friends, comrades, and journalists.

Ping, Ping, Ping: The Remand Extension Hearing of the Penza “Terrorists”

Ping, Ping, Ping: A Report from the Remand Extension Hearing of the Defendants in the Penza “Terrorism” Case
Yegor Skovoroda
Mediazona
March 16, 2018


Ilya Shakursky. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

Yegor Svokoroda traveled to Penza, where, over the course of three days, the Lenin District Court considered whether to extend the remand in police custody of the antifascists who, according to the FSB, were part of a “terrorist community” known as The Network.

FSB Senior Investigator Valery Tokarev blushes gradually: first the tip of his nose, then his ears, and finally the bald patch that covers half his head. He is arguing with a lawyer, insting on a closed hearing in order to ensure “investigatory privilege.” The lawyer objects.

“The case is at the evidence gathering stage. We have not finalized all the witnesses or the defendants. A number of parties to the crime have not been identified or are on the wanted list,” says Tokarev, his forehead covered with sweat.

This scene was repeated several times in Penza’s Lenin District Court, where, between March 13 and March 15, the arrest in police custody of five antifascists apprehended and charged with involvement in a “terrorist community” was extended. Time after time, Judge Svetlana Shubina closed the hearings to the public and the press.

Ordering that yet another of the accused be remanded in custody to the local remand prison until June 18, Judge Shubina time after time bases her ruling by referring to the particularly complicated nature of the case and the allegation that each of the young men was a member of a “stable, highly secretive criminal group,” and that “firearms and ammunition” were involved. Shubina notes investigators had to finish their numerous forensic examinations and interrogations, and finally indict Sagynbayev, Pchelintsev, Shakursky, Chernov, Zorin, Kuksov, Ivankin, and Kulkov.

Yegor Zorin, a fourth-year student at the Belinsky Pedagogical Institute, was the first person detained in the investigation of the “terrorist community.” The FSB has alleged its members planned, during the March 18 presidential election and this summer’s FIFA World Cup, to “agitate the masses in order to further destabilize the political situation in the country” by setting off bombs; when the H-hour came, they would lead an armed insurrection. Zorin was apprehended on October 17, 2018. There are unconfirmed reports he signed a confession, which was the basis of Criminal Case No. 11707560001000036, concerning organization of and involvement in a terrorist community, per Article 205.4 Parts 1 and 2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code.

Zorin’s time in the remand prison was not extended. He was jailed there until December 18 and subsequently transferred to house arrest. The press service of the Lenin District Court told Mediazona, however, that after December 18, investigators had not petitioned the court to extend his arrest.


Arman Sagynbayev. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

The next to be apprehended were Zorin’s classmate Ilya Shakursky and their common friend Vasily Kuksov during the wee hours of October 19, 2017. On October 27, Dmitry Pchelintsev was detained; he knew Shakursky through the leftist activist scene and because they shared a hobby: airsoft. On November 6, Arman Sagynbayev was detained in Petersburg. He had been to Penza several times for airsoft practice sessions. He was transferred to the Penza Remand Prison. On November 9, Andrei Chernov, another airsoft player and an old friend of Pchelintsev’s was detained.

A passion for airsoft and a sympathy for leftist ideas, anarchism, and antifascism were what all the detainees had in common. The case files contain videos of training sessions in the woods outside Penza, sessions during which the young men used fireworks. The FSB has alleged that the group training sessions were preparation for the insurrection, while the hikes the young men took in the woods constituted “illegal mastery of survival skills in the woods and rendering of first aid.”The airsoft teams in which the antifascists played, Voskhod (“Sunrise”) and 5.11 (“November Fifth”), were cells of a terrorist organization known as The Network (Set’). Aside from Penza, The Network was alleged to have underground cells in Moscow, Petersburg, and Belarus.*

The FSB has alleged the Penzans divided up the roles in their “terrorist community.” Pchelintsev was the leader and ideologue. His deputy, nicknamed Redhead, handled reconnaissance and recruiting, while Sagynbayev, nicknamed Andrei Security, was the engineer and sapper, Shakursky (aka Spike), the tactician, Chernov (aka Twin), the signalman, Zorin (aka Grisha), the sniper, while a certain Boris was also a coordinator and ideologue.

Redhead is Maxim Ivankin, mentioned in the court’s new custody ruling, while in all likelihood the Boris referred to by the security services is M.A. Kulkov. According to our sources, both men have left Russia and are on the wanted list.

The Lenin District Court occupies a three-storey nineteenth-century mansion whose interior has been modernized. The courtroom where the custody extension hearings take place is located in a wing of the building accessible only through doors outfitted with an electronic lock. To gain access to the hallway leading to the courtroom you have to place a card on the lock, which sets off an obnoxious pinging sound. The squeaky alarm goes off constantly. Ping, ping, ping: terrorist community. Ping, ping, ping: investigative privilege. Ping, ping, ping: extend the arrests.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.


Dmitry Pchelintsev and his wife Angelina. Photo courtesy of relatives

A broad-shouldered FSB guard escorts 25-year-old Dmitry Pchelintsev into the room, not taking his eyes off him the entire hearing. Guards just like him also escort the other detainees. Some of them wear balaclavas to conceal their identities, some wear Buff scarves over their faces. Viktor Filinkov, detained in Petersburg, and Pchelintsev himself recounted how they were tortured by men wearing such masks. Pchelintsev recalled how the officers who tortured him later escorted him to the remand prison.

“When I was tortured with electrical shocks, my mouth was full of ‘crushed teeth’ due to the fact I gritted my teeth since the pain was strong, and I tore the frenulum of my tongue. My mouth was full of blood, and at some point one of my torturers stuck my sock in my mouth,” Pchelintsev told his lawyer in order to explain why he had signed a confession.

Soon, after he was beaten again, Pchelintsev recanted his testimony about being tortured. Pchelintsev, who has thick, kinky eyebrows and slightly protruding ears, worked as a target practice instructor after serving in the army. He wears a checkered shirt whose collar he constantly buttons and unbuttons. Cautious at first, he thaws by the end of the hearing, when he manages to chat with his wife Angelina through the glass of the so-called fish tank in which defendants are held during trials and hearings.

Dmitry laughs, talking about books and Alina Orlova songs. He jokes that during the last hearing he was in handcuffs because “Arman was sitting next to me, and they thought I would attack him.”

Alina Orlova sings “I Stroll Around Moscow,” IKRA Club, Moscow, September 29, 2008

“What should I do with your car?” Angelina asks. The FSB claims to have found two grenades under the seat of the old Lada. Pchelintsev said they were planted there.

“Burn it,” says Dmitry, joking once more.

“I’m afraid I’d be arrested.”

“Yeah, you’d also go to jail for terrorism,” Pchelintsev quips. “Actually, I was told we should take it to the junkyard and sell it for scrap.”

Angelina presses her nose against the glass of the fish tank.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.


Vasily Kuksov. Photo courtesy of relatives

29-year-old design engineer Vasily Kuksov appears to be the most confused and indifferent of all the prisoners. His wife Yelena says Vasily was cheerful and life-affirming prior to his arrest. He enjoyed drawing and was into music, performing a year ago at a Vladimir Vysotsky memorial festival at the Penza Philharmonic. Now his case file describes him as an “individual who leads an isolated lifestyle characterized by antisocial behavior.”

Vasily Kuksov performing at the Penza Philharmonic on January 25, 2017

Kuksov has not complained that FSB officers were violent with him, but his friend Ilya Shakursky recalled that, when they were taken to the FSB building in Penza, first he heard Kuksov’s groan and then later saw him, his face badly mangled. Nevertheless, Kuksov avoided testifying by invoking his right not to incriminate himself under Article 51 of the Russian Constitution.

A pistol was confiscated from his car. According to his loved ones, the gun had been planted there.

Kuksov is the only prisoner whom the investigator allows to talk with his mother for a long time during the recess [sic].

As he listens to the judge’s ruling, Kuksov zips and unzips the zipper of his black winter jacket.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

“They blindfolded me, tied my hands, and stuck a sock in my mouth. Then I thought they wanted to leave my fingerprints on something, but later they attached wires to my big toes. I felt the first surge of current, and I could not hold back the moaning and shaking. They repeated the procedure until I promised to say what they told me to say. After that, I forgot the word ‘no’ and said everything the officers told me to say,” recalled 21-year-old antifascist Ilya Shakursky.

Shakursky was a classmate of the first person arrested in the case, Yegor Zorin. Both of them were studying to be physics teachers.

Shakursky is a thin young man with a shaved head and a deep wrinkle on his forehead. He is a well-known activist in Penza. He used to be involved with Food Not Bombs, and he was himself always organizing everything from lectures to trips to the woods to pick up trash. Before the antifascist rally held annually on January 19, he sent friends a letter in which he wrote, “If I were on the outside, I would definitely attend the memorial event for two great heroes, Nastya Baburova and Stas Markelov.”

Recently, relations between him and Pchelintsev had been strained. The young men had fallen out over Shakursky’s ex-girlfriend Victoria Frolova. They had fought several days before Shakursky’s arrest. The FSB officers who were staking out the alleged terrorist group were surprised to see two members of the “stable” group brawling.

When the judge reads out the ruling, Shakursky, dressed in a gray track suit, lifts his left eyebrow slightly and folds his hands behind his back.

Shakursky’s mother sobs.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

When questioning 28-year-old Andrei Chernov’s mother after her son was arrested, the investigator wondered aloud whether she knew he had a secret nickname, Twin.

“He’s had the nickname since he was a kid,” Tatyana Chernova says, recalling her outrage. Next to her is Alexei Chernov, Andrei’s twin brother.


Andrei Chernov. Photo courtesy of Yegor Skvoroda and Mediazona

The Chernov brothers studied in the same department at the pedagogical institute as Zorin and Shakursky, but they dropped out before the other young men had enrolled there. Subsequently, Andrei went to work at a factory where he assembled water heaters. He was apprehended on the shop floor.

According to his defense attorney, Stanislav Fomenko, Chernov had not been subjected to violence by the FSB. Tatyana Chernova adds that her son signed a confession after Dmitry Pchelintsev, who had been tortured, spoke with him. Chernov has now recanted his testimony.

Andrei wrote to his mother that after human rights activists spoke out about the plight of the young men and the press published articles about the so-called Penza Case, the guards and wardens at the remand prison often visited his cell to perform spot checks, videotaping everthing he did.

Chernov was finally examined by an ophthalmologist (there were suspicions he had a detached retina). The doctor for some reason prescribed him antibiotics.

Chernov smiles the most of all the defendants. If it were not for the fish tank, it would be impossible to tell him apart from his brother.

“My son is not guilty of anything. Sure, he played airsoft and studied survival skills, but lots of people are into that. I will fight for my son till the end of my days,” says Tatyana Chernova.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

No one has come to the courtroom [sic] to support 25-year-old Arman Sagynbayev, transferred to Penza from Petersburg,** and yet he is cheerful and talkative.

Arman was born in Novosibirsk, where his mother, stepfather, ex-wife, and their five-year-old daughter still live.

He has spent the last several years in Petersburg, where he was convicted of petty theft (Article 158 Part 1 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to a fine of 6,000 rubles. When Sagynbayev’s room was searched, the security services allegedly found a bucket of aluminum powder, four kilograms of ammonium nitrate, two alarm clocks, and various radio components.

After his arrest, Sagynbayev fully acknowledged his guilt. He is still cooperating with investigators. He has no objections when Deputy Prosecutor Sergei Oskolkov moved to extend his arrest.

“He has no complaints. He has not claimed he was tortured. He cooperates with the investigators and gets privileges in return for his cooperation. He was now given the chance to speak with his mother. He spoke with her the entire recess [sic]. Arman has a separate cell,” says his lawyer, Rakhmanova [sic].

In the remand prison, her client, who suffers from a serious illness, receives timely medical care, she emphasizes, without specifying what the illness is

At the beginning of the week, Sagynbayev was sent under armed guard to Saratov, where he was examined at the St. Sophia Regional Clinical Psychiatric Hospital. He is the only suspect in the case who has been made to undergo an inpatient forensic examination.

“He said lots of things to our experts about anarchy and social revolution. They said he was deluded and refused to render an opinion, recommending he be hospitalized,” Rakhmanova explains.

According to the attorney, the doctors in Saratov concluded Sagynbayev was mentally competent.

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.

* The name of the airsoft team 5.11 had nothing to do with the revolution allegedly scheduled by nationalist Vyacheslav Maltsev for November 5, 2017. According to various sources, the name refers either to a popular brand of tactical clothing and equipment or to the date when seventeen-year-old Penza anarchist Nikolai Pchelintsev was hanged in 1907. Historians Alexander Kolpakidi and Gennady Potapov write that Pchelintsev took the blame for the murder of a gendarme during a shootout, counting on the court’s mercy towards him as a juvenile, but instead was sentenced to death. His burial site in the Abrekov Woods near Penza is marked by a monument to fallen revolutionaries. Mediazona has been unable to ascertain whether Dmitry Pchelintsev is a distant relative of Nikolai Pchelintsev.

** The FSB apprehended antifascists in Petersburrg late January 2018. According to the FSB, the city was home to two cells of The Network, code-named Jordan and Field of Mars. The investigation of the Petersburg case, Case No. 11807400001000004, is supervised by FSB investigator Gennady Belyayev. After they were detained, Igor Shishkin and Viktor Filinkov confessed their guilt. Filinkov soon recanted what he claimed had been rehearsed testimony and gave a detailed account of how FSB officers had tortured him with an electric shocker. Shishkin has said nothing about torture, but doctors recorded bruises, abrasions, and a fracture to the lower wall of his eye socket, while members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission found numerous traces on his body that resembled burns made by electric wires.

Translated by the Russian Reader

If you have not heard about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and the related crackdown against Russian grassroots and political activists on the eve of the March 18 Russian presidential election, you need to read the following articles and spread the word.

 

Valery Dymshits: After the Fight

DSCN4942Poster: “March 18, 2018. Russian Presidential Election. Russian Central Election Commission.” || Graffiti: “This is not an election.” Dixie grocery store, Central District, Petersburg. Photo by the Russian Reader

Valery Dymshits
Facebook
March 20, 2018

After the Fight

I wrote so often about the election or, rather, the non-election, that it is time to sum up.

I admit I had hoped for a qualitative decrease in turnout, but it is true we did not manage to achieve this.

Of course, the feverish ideas (I heard them voiced more than once, alas) that if it were not for the boycott, the “forces of good” either would have returned a mystical 10% of the vote tally (whatever for?) or made it into the second round (yes, yes, I read such claims with my own eyes) have nothing to do with reality. The fact the turnout was a few percentage points less, and Putin got a few percentage points more, makes no difference at all to anyone.

Nevertheless, I continue to regard the boycott as the right choice. Here is the reason for my stubbornness.

It is self-evident the election—not the day of March 18, but the process—was god knows what, only it was not an election.

Accordingly, the feeling of disgust kept many people from voting. Disgust is a worthy emotion. But that is not my point here.

In so-called normal countries, candidates and parties fight over half a percentage point, and a threepercent difference is deemed a crushing victory or crushing defeat. In our archaic autocracy, the regime and the populace communicate with each other in a language of symbols. As soon as it transpired the Kremlin was planning to fight for a 70% turnout and 70% of the total vote tally, I immediately realized the Kremlin wanted fifty percent of all possible voters, plus or minus one percent, to come out and vote for Putin and—voilà!—a 65% turnout and a 75% share of votes cast is exactly 50% of all potential voters. Meaning the Kremlin’s statement was purely symbolic and qualitative. Qualitative, symbolic collective action was, likewise, the only possible counterargument. It largely did not come off, but there were no other gestures of resistance except the boycott. The attempt to talk back to the regime quantitatively—for example, Yabloko’s responding to the argument “we have half of all voters” with the rejoinder “but we have 10% of everyone who voted” (i.e., “you have 50%, but we have a whole 5%”)—was ridiculous. Now, if it had been possible to counter the claim “we are robustly supported by half of the populace” with the countargument “ha-ha, you have the support of no more than a third of the populace,” but, alas, it proved impossible.

It is clear the numerous violations, committed here and there by zealots who were not thinking straight, generated a certain stench on election day, but I don’t imagine they had a serious impact on the outcome. It was the outcome that sincerely floored me.

The issue of voter turnout, so hysterically raised by the regime, had nothing to do with a fear of Navalny and the boycott, but with the fact that in the absence of real suspense and real rivals, Russians would be reluctant to go out and vote for Putin, who would be elected anyway. After Navalny was not allowed to run, it was impossible to generate any suspense, so the regime combined the carrot and the stick. Russians were driven and dragged to polling stations by the gazillions.

I would like to make a slight digression. First of all, you can make people who are subordinate and dependent—state employees and employees of state corporations—vote by forcing them or threatening them. The state’s share in the economy has been growing continuously: in 2005, the state controlled 35% of the Russian economy, while it now controls around 70%. That means the numbers of dependent Russians have also been growing.

The Kremlin felt it was vital to drag lazy Russians to the polls whatever the cost. As for voting as they should, they would do that all on their lonesome. The Kremlin knew they would do it, but I didn’t. I thought more or less that people would feel their weekend had been ruined. They had been forced to go somewhere and then forced to report back to their superiors. How swinish! So these people would do something spiteful: vote for Grudinin, vote for Sobchak, vote for Yavlinsky, vote for a four-letter word.

No, since they were dragged all the way to the polling stations anyway, enticed with carrots and prodded with sticks, they voted for Putin.

This is an important albeit gloomy outcome. It means the regime relies on a not terribly active but quite considerable majority. It means the regime can do whatever it likes with whomever it likes, and will be able to do so for a long time to come.  Previously, it could do a lot of things, but not everything. Now, however, it can do anything. Strictly speaking, things have been this way for several years, but now it has been proven in a large-scale, expensive experiment. It is like in the Arabian tales: destroy a city, build a palace, jail a director, close a university, etc., just for the heck of it, just for the fun of it. This does not mean the regime will immediately start throwing its bulks around in all directions, but it can. A clear awareness of this circumstance should make us feel bleak.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Russian Socialist Movement: What Does the Presidential Election Show Us?

“March 2018. Russian Presidential Election: We Elect a President, We Choose a Future!” || “March 2018. Russian Presidential Election: Nice Scenery, Bad Play!” Photo courtesy of the Russian Socialist Movement (RSD)

Russian Socialist Movement (RSD)
Facebook
March 19, 2018

What Has the “Election” Shown Us?

It has shown us that the system for mobilizing dependent Russians (employees, servicemen, etc.) by management at all levels still functions, and that the managers in question (governors, factory directors, and heads of state-sector institutions) are still loyal to the regime. Putin’s personal power rests on the vulnerability of workers, who in Russia have been deprived of the right to strike. It also rests on the loyalty of the bureaucratic caste and corrupted business world, apathy and conformism, and control of the media.

In managed democracy’s topsy-turvy world, voter turnout and Putin’s total share of the vote are indices of political indifference, while boycotting the spectacle is a manifestation of civic activism. Elections in Russia have finally transmogrified into something like an oath of allegiance to the so-called national leader, which has nothing to do with a democratic expression of the popular will.

Undoubtedly, along with the administrative resource, the conservatism of a generation traumatized by the chaotic 1990s, the post-Crimea syndrome, and the careful casting of Putin’s opponents played their role. The Kremlin did its all to divide the forces of protest. Strawberry king Pavel Grudinin served as a scarecrow for voters who did not want a return to the Soviet Union, while Ksenia Sobchak exacerbated the fears of pro-Soviet conservatives vis-à-vis Yeltsinite liberals.

Supporters of the boycott were targeted for assaults and crackdowns. Despite the fact the Voters Strike did not produce a drop in the turnout (too many powerful forces were put into play for that to happen), non-participation in ersatz democracy was the only viable stance, the best option among a host of bad choices. Serving as polling station monitors on election day, we saw what props up both “voluntary” and forced voting. We are glad we did not support this well-rehearsed stunt with our own votes. Russia faces another six years of disempowerment, poverty, lies, and wars—but not in our name.

Only those people who were hoping for a miracle could be disappointed today. Grudinin, whose fans predicted he would make it into the second round, returned worse results than Gennady Zyuganov did in 2012. Some analysts expected that the candidate of the patriotic leftist camp would steal votes from Putin’s conservative electorate, but that did not happen. Nor did Grudinin convince chronic non-voters to go to the polls, since he did not offer them anything new.

Presidential elections, obviously, are not a focal point of politics and an opportunity for change. They are a mode of manipulating public opinion meant to leave everything the way it was.

We need a new politics that undermines the power structures making it possible to manipulate the populace in the interests of the elite. We need a politics that takes on the power of management over employees, the power of the patriarchy over women and young people, and the power of the bureaucracy over local self-government. Since electoral politics has essentially been banned, the democratic leftist movement must rely on nonconformist communities opposed to Putinism in the workplace, education and culture, city and district councils, the media, and the streets.

Only in this way, not as the result of yet more heavy-handed maneuvering by the regime or the opposition to fill the ever more obvious void of popular democratic (i.e., leftist) politics, can a force emerge that is a real alternative to the system. We are going to keep working on shaping that force.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Suffer the Little Children, Part 2

Sergei Akimov
Facebook
March 19, 2018

#Elections2018 #NoElections2018

A young woman with a child сame up to another observer and me.

“Where do I get the piece paper I have to photograph the kid with and send to the kindergarten?” she asked.

She showed us a photo of another child. He was holding a piece of paper a bit larger than a business card. The Russian flag, an inscription reading something like “2018 Elections,” and so on were printed on the piece of paper.

“That’s miserable and disgusting,” said my fellow observer.

“What can I do about it? The kindergarten asked for it,” the woman replied. She went off to continue her search.

To be honest, I did not see members of our polling station’s election commission giving people anything of the sort. They only handed out ballot papers.

On the other hand, we had a whole flashmob of parents taking snapshots of their (kindergarten-age) children dropping ballots into the ballot box.

Thanks to George Losev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of the Cheboksary Municipal Education Department

Alexei Gaskarov: Why the Boycott Failed

Rally by Alexei Navalny’s supporters in Novokuznetsk, Siberia. Photo courtesy of sibreal.org

Alex Gaskarov
Facebook
March 19, 2018

The boycott campaign’s objective was to keep voter turnout under 50%. This would have been a clear signal the populace regarded the election as dishonest and unfair. We lost this battle, but we need to understand that not everything was smooth and cool on part of our opponents.

The prinicipal techniques for rigging the vote were as follows.

1. Reducing voter rolls. I hung out at a polling station in a Moscow Region village for a mere half an hour, and six of the twenty-two people who tried to vote while I was there were not listed on the rolls. In my hometown of Zhukovsky, the difference between the number of voters on the rolls and the growth in the town’s population between 2012 and 2018 was 5,000 people or 7% of all potential voters, meaning the voter rolls had been pruned. The point of the trick is simple. People who are unlikely to show up to vote are struck from the rolls, thus reducing the overall numbers of registered voters while increasing the relative weight of the turnout.

2. The new possibility of using the Gosuslugi.ru public services website to pick another polling station at which to vote.  This is a cool and convenient option, but it is impossible to monitor. Theoretically, the number of voters who removed their names from the rolls at their home polling stations should have exactly matched the number of voters who temporarily added their names to the rolls at other polling stations. But how was it possible to verify this when we are talking about a country the sizeof Russia? The scary part is that two polling stations, say, are located side by side. They each have the same numbers of voters on their rolls. But in one polling station, the number of people who voted with absentee ballots is 280, while in the other polling station, it is 67.

3. The massive use of the administrative resource for ratcheting up the turnout. Did you know that a quarter of all voters showed up at their polling stations before ten in the morning? There were endless scandals over the fact they were not given some calendars or other that their children were supposed to collect for school. Officials also held simultaneous polls to rate public amenities in which they used ballots with people’s names printed on them. People photographed their ballot papers at polling stations. And, of course, everywhere there were exhibitions about the great outdoors in Crimea, fairs offering cheap food, pop music, and patriotic songs about our beloved president.

The problem is that, despite the administrative resource, participating in this farce was also a choice. If people had refused en masse to follow the orders of their bosses at work to vote a certain way, they would not have been fired or deprived of their bonus pay. But the distance between the value of elections and the discomfort caused by taking a brave civic stance is, for now, so huge, it is somehow ridiculous even to appeal to it.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Taxi

Elena Rykovtseva
Facebook
March 19, 2018

I was riding tonight in a taxi driven by someone with a surprising name: Nasimjon. I was watching Solovyov’s show on my telephone. His guests were voicing the warmest feelings of devotion to the winner of the race.
“He got so many votes not because he had the administrative resource behind him, but because people love and respect him,” said Andrei Maximov, presenter of the program Duty Officer for the Country.
My [sic] Nasimjon was silently listening to this splendor with me. At some point, moved by the emotions of the people speaking, he voiced his own.
“I was so scared today.”
“What was wrong?”
“I typed the question, ‘How much did Putin get in Moscow?’ into Yandex. The answer I got was eleven percent for him, and seventy-three percent for Grudinin. I was frightened.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Because the situation in the world is such that where would be without Putin? Look what’s going on around us: England and America again. Who else can deal with them?”
“Why do we need to deal with America?”
“They dream of ripping us to shreds. They kill everybody. They occupy everybody and kill them.”
“Who have they killed?”
“Iraq, Afghanistan. They organized the coup in Ukraine.”
“Did you hear that on TV?”
“No, my passengers told me. Plus, the Americans think everyone else is stupid.”
“Who told you that?”
“My Armenian friend. He’s lived in America for twenty years. He says that in the textbooks over there it’s written that Americans are smart, and everyone else is stupid. But Putin has made everyone fear us.”
“That’s a good thing?”
“It is.”
“Maybe it would be better if we were respected and liked?”
“It doesn’t work that way with the Americans. We have to make them fear us.”
“So, how did this thing with Putin end? You believed the figures were real?”
“Yes, I did, and that’s why I got scared. But then I turned on Business FM Radio, and it turned out it was the other way around, that Putin had seventy-three percent, and Grudinin, eleven percent. So now everything here is going to be fine.”
“What’s going to be fine?”
“Putin’s friends have already had their fill of stealing. If new guys had come to power, it would have started all over again.”
Ugh.

The author is a presenter on Radio Svoboda, the Russian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo of the cast of Taxi courtesy of Asian Image

P.S. “What the taxi driver told me” has long been a common genre in Russian social media, especially the Russophone segment of Facebook. In most such stories, whether true or fabricated, the taxi driver is a stand-in for (debased) popular wisdom, for the Russian folk (russkii narod), meaning “ordinary,” “rank-and-file” Russians, whom the Russian liberal intelligentsia have historically imagined as a benighted, homogeneous mass.

The twist in this particular variation on the yarn is that the taxi driver’s name, Nasimjon, indicates he is clearly not ethnically Russian, meaning he hales from the Caucasus or Central Asia, or he was born in Moscow, but his parents moved there from one or other of these regions.

Even with this “politically correct” update, the genre remains problematic. It is more a symptom of the liberal intelligentsia’s failure to account for its own role in generating and maintaining the successive tyrannies that have plagued Russia since the nineteenth century, when the intelligentsia per se could be said to have been born as a kind of social subclass or metaclass, than it is a window onto the world of the “common people.”

To put it less murkily, if you stop talking to “taxi drivers” and listen to what actual Russians of all shapes, sizes, colors, and classes have to say and find out how they have either adapted to the Putinist tyranny or resisted it, you are as likely to discover resistance and clear thinking among supposed members of the Russian folk, among the people whom liberal Russians contemptuously refer to as “philistines” (obyvateli), as you would among the self-identified liberal intelligentsia.

Over the last several years, this website has featured many such inspiring stories of grassroots, working-class and lower middle-class resistance to the current Russian despotism, including the saga of the country’s fiercely militant independent truckers and the tale of the so-called partisans of Suna, a group of pensioners in Karelia who camped out in their beloved local old-growth forest to protect it, its environment, and their own humble livelihoods from local officials and developers, who wanted to build a road through it and turn part of it into a sand quarry.

Of course, there have also been many tales of similarly fierce, thoughtful resistance by Russians who by virtue of their educations and professions could be classified as intelligentsia. It is just that the vast majority of such intelligenstia militants are too clear sighted to sink to the vulgar sociology and flagrant mythologeme that would blame uneducated, poor, downtrodden, disempowered, and mostly invisible Russians for the country’s problems and Putin’s long-lived and wholly engineered “popularity.” TRR

Militarism Is Fascism

Vadim F. Lurie
Facebook
March 19, 2018

An endless stream of Muscovites and out-of-town visitors headed to the concert marking the anniversary of Crimea’s “annexation.” And only the lonely voice of a man, heard by a few and jotted on a piece of paper on Tverskaya, quietly resisted the general hysteria.

Photograph by Vadim F. Lurie. Thanks for his kind permission to reproduce it here and translate his annotation. Translated by the Russian Reader

“We Are Racing into a Huge Pit”: The Small-Town Russian Businessman Who Publicly Opposed Putin

All that is left of the anti-Putin leaflets posted by Nikolai Korshunov

“We Are Racing into a Huge Pit”: The Businessman Who Spoke Out against Putin
Аlexander Valiyev
Radio Svoboda
26 February 2018

In the town of Verkhny Ufaley, Chelyabinsk Region, police have torn down posters cataloguing the “brilliant” outcome of Putin’s reign from the outside walls of several shops. The posters were hung there by a local businessman, who has already had occasion to fight the authorities in this way. 

Nikolai Korshunov owns six small shop in this company town 120 kilometers from Chelyabinsk. Police paid visits to Korshunov’s shops on the eve of Fatherland Defenders Day, February 23. The businessman told Radio Svoboda what happened.

Николай Коршунов (в центре) с сыном и родственником на Забастовке избирателей в Москве

Nikolai Korshunov (middle) with his son and another relative at the Voters Strike, Moscow, January 28, 2018. Photo courtesy of Nikolai Korshunov and Radio Svoboda

Nikolai Korshunov: I am very active civically. I always serve as an elections monitor during elections. I own six small shops. We sell the basics: bread, milk, etc. The stores are my venue for voicing my opinion about current events. This takes the shape of handmade posters, information leaflets.

My argument is that, since the stores are my property, I have the right to post any information whatsoever in them. The Constitution gives me that right. But I have run into opposition from law enforcement and the city hall in our town. It also happened before the 2016 Duma elections, in which Verkhny Ufaley famously voted only four of the twenty United Russia candidates into the local parliament. People read my posters very carefully. Naturally, they regard anything that is not propaganda as out of the ordinary. It is interesting because if they, say, live in one part of town and the neighborhood dairy plant has shut down, they still remember that, but if, say, a timber plant or infant feeding center has ben closed on the other side of town, they might not have heard about it at all, because it does not affect them.  But when they read the entire list, they think to themselves, “What a lot of things have happened in our town over this time.” Even since the 2016 Duma elections there have been colossal changes for the worse in Verkhny Ufaley: total poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness.

An excerpt from one of Korshunov’s information leaflets. It lists by name the Verkhny Ufaley plants, companies, businesses, and services that have closed during Putin’s eighteen-year reign. Photo courtesy of Nikolai Korshunov and Radio Svoboda

​Radio Svoboda: What was on the the posters?

I have lived in Verkhny Ufaley for a very long time. I was born and raised here. In the run-up to the presidential election I decided to make a list of things that have changed in our town during the eighteen years of Putin’s administration. What businesses and factories have closed? The town’s main employer, the Ufaley Nickel Plant closed [in December 2017]. The Metalworker Factory closed. The open hearth and wheel spring shops closed. Then all hell broke loose: the sausage plant, the dairy, the furniture factory, etc., closed. There are thirty-four items on the list, including the children’s hospital and the railroad’s inpatient clinic. Then there are the plants that are barely hanging on. I wrote about them, too, for example, the metallurgical plant where five thousand people once worked. Now it employs a maximum of five hundred to seven hundred people.

Do you think people have suddenly forgotten about what has been happening in town?

Of course they know, but it is just another reminder, a way of saying, Hey, guys, you say that Vladimir Putin has raised the country from its knees, but I don’t think that is the case. I think we are racing into a huge pit at enormous speed. I cannot answer for the entire country, but as a resident of a small industrial town, I see what has been shut down, what has been destroyed, what has been dismantled, what has been pilfered. When you go and vote, people, think a bit before making your choice.

The continuation of Korshunov’s list. Photo courtesy of Nikolai Korshunov and Radio Svoboda

​How many votes do you think Putin will pick up in Verkhny Ufaley?

He will win for one simple reason. Our town is small: everyone knows everything about everyone else, and everyone tells everyone else about everything. I will give you an example. At the employment office—our town has terrible unemployment, by the way, because everything has shut down—the boss gathers his underlings and says, “God forbid you don’t go and vote. If you don’t, I won’t pay you bonuses.” This is more or less what goes throughout state sector. So a huge number of people, maybe even dissenters, will naturally go out and vote in order to keep their miserable jobs at places like the employment office. No one will buck against the bosses. So, Putin will definitely win. Because he has the administrative resource behind him, and huge numbers of people are incapable of thinking.

The administrative resource can compel people to turn out for an election, but people go into the voting booths alone. 

They have their tricks. They can ask people to photograph their filled-out ballot paper on their telephones and send them the photos. We have been through it before. It happend during the 2016 Duma elections, and during the 2012 presidential election, when I was a polling station monitor. It’s all elementary. It’s not a problem at all. But most people have, of course, been hypnotized by television. They cannot reason, think or compare facts. When it comes to them, what the TV says definitely goes, although it is flagrant, mendacious, aggressive propaganda.

I am sure people have asked you, “If not Putin, then who?” People do not see an alternative. How do you counter them?

В таком виде полиция оставила стену магазина после своего визита
The wall of one of Korshunov’s shops looked like this after a visit from the local police. Photo courtesy of Nikolai Korshunov and Radio Svoboda

There is no alternative for one reason and one reason alone: all of politics has been purged by the administrative resource. Anyone who could compete against Putin would never be allowed to run in honest, alternative elections under any circumstances. That’s why there is no alternative. Putin’s only “opponents” are people who have definitely been appointed to the role. They stand for nothing and no one, and compared with them Putin looks like a superhero. On top of everything is the propaganda and hypnosis that reinforces the message that Putin is the most respected politician in the world, and we are the world’s mightiest country.

Do people in Verkhny Ufaley know about Alexei Navalny, his exposés, and his call to boycott the presidential election?

Most of them don’t know, of course. A particular segment knows, young people mainly, of course, because Navalny has access only to the internet, to YouTube, which is largely viewed by young people, by schoolchildren and university students. Elderly people know nothing about Navalny, naturally. They know only what the propagandists on TV tell them: that Navalny is an out-and-out thief, scoundrel, and so on.

What about middle-aged people?

Middle-aged people are probably more thoughtful, but not so very thoughtful at the end of the day. Our town is basically a village. We live in a kind of swamp. Middle-aged people are averse to risks. They work somewhere in the state sector, earn ten thousand rubles a month [approx. 142 euros], and are up to their necks in debt. When they sit around chatting in the kitchen, they support Navalny, of course. But they cannot voice their opinions actively, because they would be fired from their jobs in two seconds flat. People primarily think about themselves. Their political views come second.

A photograph of all thirty-four factory and other closures in Verkhny Ufaley during the Putin years, along with the message, “Think hard! What will become of the town between March 18, 2018, and March 2024? || March 18: Not an election, but a fraud. Don’t let yourself be fooled. Don’t go [and vote]. The Voters Strike.” Photo courtesy of Nikolai Korshunov and Radio Svoboda

How have the authorities reacted to your protests?

Our mayor is also secretary of the local United Russia party branch. During the 2016 election campaign, I hung up leaflets in my shops saying United Russia was the party of crooks and thieves. The United Russians came running and blatantly tore down the posters. Many locals approached me afterwards and said, well done, I had done the right thing, because the United Russians were high-handed, arrogant, and had lost all sense of measure. During this campaign, they have reacted differently. First, they sent young women who work in lowly positions at city hall to photograph the leaflets in my shops. Then city hall put pressure on the police, who showed up on the eve of Fatherland Defenders Day, February 23. The leaflet had been up for around two weeks by then, and from time to time I had added information to them. They showed up when I was not there and tore down everything. In one shop, they tore down a big piece of fiberglass along with the posters. There were five or six of them. They intimidated the cashiers. They took statements from them and drove away. That happened in five shops. They showed up at the sixth shop the next day. There, however, the cashier is a serious woman. She did not let them tear down the posters and called me. I arrived, and we hashed things out with them for two and a half hours. There were two neighborhood beat cops and an investigator. They were unable to tell me what laws I could have violated. I imagine they are quite unfamiliar with the Administrative Offenses Code. From time to time they would call the dispatch center for instructions. I know there is nothing illegal about my actions. Nothing will come of it, just like last time.

There was no pressure on you after the Duma elections? You were not tormented with surprise inspections of your shops?

No, there was nothing of the sort. I was written up for an administrative violation, but apparently the magistrates told the police there was no law covering leaflets. So nothing came of it, nor was any pressure put on me.

Are you planning to file a complaint against the police?

I did not complain last time, and I will not complain this time, either. It is a waste of time. There is honor among thieves.

Will you put the leaflets back up?

Yes, definitely, they are already up in some shops.

What are your plans for March 18? Will you vote?

I completely agree with Alexei Navalny. I’m going to boycott the vote. I even traveled to Moscow on January 28 for the Voters Strike. But I will definitely go to some polling station or another on election day to help prevent vote rigging.

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

Tortured Petersburg Antifascist Viktor Filinkov Transferred to Remand Prison in Leningrad Region

Staff at Remand Prison No. 6 (Gorelovo, Leningrad Region) celebrating Fatherland Defenders Day, 23 February 2018. Photo courtesy of the prison’s website.

Yana Teplitskaya
Facebook
March 16, 2018

We just visted Russian Federal Penitentiary Service Remand Prison No. 3 and learned that Viktor Filinkov was transferred to Remand Prison No. 6 the day before yesterday. Members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission have no access to this prison, because it is located in Leningrad Region.

There are one hundred inmates per cell in Remand Prison No. 6, and there have been many complaints that “pressure cookers” are employed there.*

There are reasons to believe that Viktor may be tortured again.

UPDATE. Alexander Gennenbereg and Anna Osnach, wonderful members of the Leningrad Region PMC, have been to Remand Prison No. 6. Viktor is still in “quarantine,” a cell for sixteen inmates. There were no signs he had been beaten, nor did he say he had been beaten. Prison staff told the PMC members Viktor would be transferred from the quarantine cell on Monday.

We do not know the formal grounds for his transfer to another remand prison.

At Remand Prison No. 3, members of the Petersburg PMC were told that the papers for the transfer (“a decision by the court or the investigator”) were located at Remand Prison No. 6, but when the members of the Leningrad Region PMC visited Remand Prison No. 6 they were told the transfer was due to “optimization” and the directive for the transfer was located at Remand Prison No. 3.

In fact, Viktor was transferred yesterday morning, not the day before yesterday.

Unlike Remand Prison No. 3, it is impossible to protect inmates in Remand Prison No. 6. In Remand Prison No. 3, the cells are designed for two inmates and there are CCTV cameras everywhere, while Remand Prison No. 6 contains barracks designed for one hundred inmates. (Incidentally, unlike Petersburg’s remand prisons, there are often more inmates in Remand Prison No. 6 than there are beds, and the inmates take it in turns to sleep.) We get a large number of complaints of beatings,  hazings,** and so forth from Remand Prison No. 6. It is impossible to monitor the place.

We have to get Viktor out of there.

* My translation for the Russian prison slang term press-khata. According to Wiktionary, a press-khata is a “prison cell in which the wardens, with the help of cooperating prisoners, create intolerable conditions for inmates they do not like. ◆ ‘Cell No. 45 was considered a pressure cooker. The most notorious, murderous “bitches” were locked up there. If it was necessary to break someone’s spirit or just kill him, they were the people to turn to, since it was inexpensive. Often, a few packets of tea sufficed.’ Yevgeny Sartinov, The Last Empire, I: The Coup.”

** My translation for the Russian prison slang term propiska, literally, “registration.” Various Russian prison hazing rituals are described in the relevant article in Alexander Kuchinsky, A Prison Encyclopedia (1998).

Translated by the Russian Reader

If you have not heard about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and the related crackdown against Russian grassroots and political activists on the eve of the March 18 Russian presidential election, you need to read the following articles and spread the word.