The Empire Strikes Back

. . . in the heart of the old imperial capital, Saint Petersburg.

We can thank Vladislav Ivanov for the “footage.” (And I thank Grigory Mikhnov-Vaytenko for sharing it with me.) In keeping with the message of this video, if not its jocular tone, a friend in Petersburg just wrote to me, “Tomorrow we are going for a ‘walk’ on the Nevsky. It was already flooded with police and National Guardsman on Saturday. It’s scary. But we try and overcome our fear, taking our cue from the younger generation.” \\ TRR

 

Putin’s Base

Jenya Kulakova
Facebook
January 30, 2021

A random interlocutor told me about their friend, a Russian National Guardsman. Last Saturday, he worked the protests in St. Petersburg from 9 am to 10 pm without a single lunch break. After the elections in Belarus, his unit was taken to Pskov, where they removed all their insignia: if necessary, they could be shipped to Belarus to beat up the protesters. For a week, two hundred of them lived in a school, sleeping on mattresses tossed on the floor: “It was great way to get covid! But nobody gives a shit.”

They weren’t exported to Belarus, so they went home. The friend makes 40 grand a month. [40,000 rubles is approximately 435 euros at the current exchange rate.] “Do you think he loves Putin? No. But he took out a mortgage, and he has to pay it back.”

I wonder: do they really do what they do for forty thousand rubles a month and humiliating “working conditions”? Or do they do it out of conviction?

But they are now being forcibly vaccinated, and so the friend is thinking about quitting. Not because he has to harass peaceful fellow citizens, mind you.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

Dmitry Gudkov
Facebook
January 30, 2021

All day I was planning to write about the awful things that the regime has done, but every time it seemed that they couldn’t do more and go lower, it turned out that no, they could, and then some. So, now I will summarize what were probably the most egregious things that happened during the day to remind you once again that we are not dealing with “police,” “judges,” and “prosecutors,” but with people (?) who are ready to commit any crime in order to preserve their power, salaries, and AMP license plates.

In Tver, the security forces came for the deputy coordinator of Navalny’s local HQ, Pavel Kuzmin. When he refused to come out, they cut off his electricity and internet, and then grabbed his fiancee. He surrendered.

In Yakutsk, the security forces came for Sergei Tikhy and Viktoria Postnikova, a couple who support the shaman [Alexander] Gabyshev and have a large family. The security forces shined a laser in their windows (apparently they had the family in their sights), and it seems that they still have not left.

In Moscow, the security forces came for the editor-in-chief of Mediazona Sergei Smirnov when he was out walking with his young child. Now he is in the holding cage at the Tverskaya police precinct, a place I know well. He is accused of participating in the demonstration on January 23, although at the time he was at home coordinating his website’s news coverage of the event.

In Nizhny Novgorod, the security forces came to the special detention center to visit the coordinator of Navalny’s local HQ, Roman Tregubov. They threatened him into reading on camera a text renouncing the protests (which he has now disavowed). I should explain that Roman had every reason to take the threats seriously: Nizhny, which is only three and a half hours from Moscow by train, is known for the insane torture that the local “anti-extremism” police practice. They made one guy sit naked on an anthill, and then for a long time publicly mocked him on “anonymous Telegram channels.”

The security forces in Nizhny also came for my friend Mikhail Iosilevich, who had already been charged with two felonies for cooperating with Open Russia and for not informing the authorities about his dual citizenship. Terrible crimes! Today, a court changed his pre-trial restrictions and remanded him in custody to a pre-trial detention center, and in this case too they hastened to mockingly report this fact on an “anonymous Telegram channel.”

It was after her apartment was searched as part of the case against Ioselevich that Irina Slavina set herself on fire and died.

This story is very personal to me. I know Ioselevich and knew Slavina, and I like visiting Nizhny. Mikhail was always willing to help me and local activists, and he had fun founding the local branch of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Church. But only cops—angry, offended, and embittered—can “have fun” in Russia nowadays.

I used to appeal to the reason of the “other side,” but now I understand that it’s like admonishing a mad wolf to go vegetarian. It’s useless. The conversation is over, and the wolf, no longer a man, has pounced.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Trailer

Ilia Kazakov
Facebook
January 25, 2021

Konstantin Selin is a born cameraman! He worked all Saturday in the epicenter of the largest protests in recent years in Petersburg, miraculously avoided getting shoved into a paddy wagon, and brought back the best video. I don’t know how he does it every time, but it looks like a seamless trailer for a documentary film, something for which Kostya deservedly gets awards the rest of the time. Only in his footage can you look into the eyes of a young man in the police cordon, hear what is being said in the crowd, and look at the faces. And what an ending! There is no need to read a dozen news stories and analysts, just set aside five minutes and watch this video once.

All in a Day’s Work

TV Rain has made the following list of people and places in Moscow raided and searched today (January 27, 2020) by the Putinist security forces. Thanks to Darya Apahonchich for the heads-up. \\ TRR

We made a list of all police searches today. As of now, we know that the security services have raided the following:

    • Navalny’s apartment in the Maryino district of Moscow
    • An apartment rented by Navalny near the Avtozavodskaya subway station
    • The Navalny LIVE studio
    • The Anti-Corruption Foundation’s offices
    • Lyubov Sobol’s apartment
    • Moscow Navalny HQ coordinator Oleg Stepanov
    • The apartment of Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh, who has been transported home from a special detention center for the search
    • The apartment of Anti-Corruption Foundation employee Georgy Alburov, who has also been transported home from a special detention center for the search
    • The apartment of Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina
    • The apartment of municipal district councilor Lusya Stein
    • The apartment of Anastasia Vasilyeva, head of the Alliance of Doctors: she has been detained and taken there for the search
    • The apartment of Nikolai Kasyan, aide to municipal district councilor Yulia Galyamina
    • The apartment of Yegor Yefremov, a member of the Libertarian Party of Russia (LPR) and Civil Society
    • The apartment of the mother of Sergei Smirnov, editor-in-chief of Mediazona

Translated by the Russian Reader

Be There or Here or Be Square

“Free Navalny! 12:00 p.m., January 31”

Thanks to Leonid Volkov for the image. Appropriately, this is my 1,801th post on this website. If you enjoy reading news and views from the other Russias, please consider making a donation via PayPal or Ko-fi to help offset the costs of my labor and the work of my occasional guest translators, as well as for internet hosting (which amounts to a few hundred dollars a year). If you are unable to make a donation, you can help out by encouraging comrades and colleagues to check out our coverage of grassroots Russia. My readership grew by leaps and bounds last year, I’m amazed to say, but it still has a long way to go before it makes a proper dent in how Russia and Russians are seen by the outside world, so any way you can support my project and make it more visible is greatly appreciated. \\ TRR

It Might Sound Dodgy Now, But It Sounds Great When You’re Dead

It must be said, too, that although [Nikolai] Obukhov devoted most of his life to composing his “The Book of Life,” and therefore thought naturally on a huge scale, he was also master of the miniature. His sets of pieces like “Revelation” are sure and original, and will, hopefully, be revived one day. The set of songs published by Rouart, Lerolle and Cie, dating from 1918, are among the most curious products in all music. The singer is required to cope with indications such as “crying with extasy [sic],” “groaning and shrieking,” “in the anguish of death,” “with the dread of remorse,” and “with ecstatic horror”; and this is all within one short song! The atmosphere is that of a hothouse (Figure 21.4). Another setting asks the singer to whistle, followed by “suffering, regretting with a hoarse voice,” “convincing, with an insane smile,” “with malignancy,” and “suffering furiously.” A kind of rhythmic speech is employed.

Obukhov’s early influences were undoubtedly Scriabin and the poet Bal’mont, but gradually he moved further and further into the realm of an extreme mysticism. He saw himself as a channel through which some divine force was composing his music. “The Book of Life” was based on a ritual symbolic form. It was Scriabin’s convictions pushed a step further. It is Obukhov’s masterpiece, a sacred work meant for performance in a specially constructed temple of symbolic design (executed by the painter N. Goncharova), and intended (like Scriabin’s “Mysterium”) to effect a mystical union of Man and Divinity. Sabaneev ascribes a more secular meaning to the music:

‘Obukhov’s “Book of Life” is also a “Mystery,” and, like every self-respecting mystery is “revealed” to him from above. Unlike Scriabin’s, which was designed to bring about the end of the world, and which, happily for its inhabitants, he did not succeed in completing, Obukhov’s mystery has a political purpose – the restoration to the throne of the last Russian Emperor, who is supposed to be alive and well, but in hiding.’

There are also stories, possibly apocryphal, that Obukhov, in the throes of fanatical and ecstatic composition, would write the bar numbers in red, using his own blood. Obukhov worked on this opus all his life, and the main work has a number of subsidiary pieces stemming from it, sometimes in multiple versions. The total work, covering some two thousand (!) pages, has apparently never been presented, although fragments have been played by conductors such as Koussevitzky, and French Radio has broadcast some excerpts. A film made by Germaine Dulas on the subject had some distribution in France and Italy in 1935.

—Larry Sitsky, Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900–1929 (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 257, 259

The Croix Sonore is an early electronic musical instrument with continuous pitch, similar to the theremin. Like the theremin, the pitch of the tone is dependent on the nearness of the player’s arm to an antenna; unlike the theremin, the antenna was in the shape of a cross, and the electronics were inside a brass ball to which the cross was affixed.

It was developed by Russian born composer Nikolai Obukhov who lived and worked in France from 1918, and built by Michel Billaudot and Pierre Dauvillier in Paris; they developed a prototype version in 1926 and demonstrated an improved version in 1934. Along with many, including Maurice Martenot, Obhukov was present at a demonstration of the thereminvox by its inventor Lev Termen (Leon Theremin) in 1924. Obukhov composed several pieces for the Croix Sonore, in duet with piano, in ensemble and as solo instrument with orchestras. The Croix Sonore was played by Marie-Antoinette Aussenac-Broglie, who was a student of Obukhov’s.

Source: Wikipedia. Thanks to Alexei Stavitsky for the inspiration. // TRR

The Helmets Come Off

The Helmets Come Off
Alexander Skobov
Grani.ru
January 24, 2021

Alexander Skobov. Photo: Anna Plitman/Grani.ru

Ksenia Sobchak has equated the cruelty and violence against a woman who was kicked in the stomach by a riot policeman with the violence and cruelty against a riot policeman’s helmet, which was kicked around [during Saturday’s anti-Putin rallies] by “radicals.”

“This is all, or almost all, that you need to know about Ksenia Sobchak’s mental makeup,” writes Igor Yakovenko. It’s almost everything, because Sobchak’s short text contains another interesting tidbit. She also argues that resistance to tyranny is not only futile, but also harmful, because it pushes tyranny to get tougher. The “unbroken generation” will simply have to be “broken.” The bloodthirsty lady recommends relaxing and having fun.

In some ways, however, it is worth heeding Sobchak. We should not, indeed, hope for a “thaw,” for concessions from the authorities. The Putin regime is organically incapable of this, for the whole thing is built on criminal grandstanding. The very flesh and blood of the “new Putin elite,” Sobchak knows what she is talking about.

The criminal grandstanding is just a shell. The bottom line is that Putin’s regime  carried the germ of fascism from the get-go, and now this “alien” is finally hatching from the egg. The ruling class abhors liberal democracy, with its rule of law and its prioritization of human rights. It hates everything that limits its power over the serfs, and now it is trying to finally tear off the “hybrid” liberal-democratic bunting.

A riot policeman in Petersburg kicks a woman in the stomach when she attempts to ask why they have detained the young man they are escorting, January 23, 2021. Video: Fontanka.ru. Courtesy of Mediazona

Of course, the regime will respond to the protests with a further tightening of the screws—with new criminal cases, with new pogroms of opposition organizations, with new repressive and prohibitive laws. It will try and break the unbroken generation broken. I’m afraid that the new generation will not manage to avoid having this life experience. It must firmly understand that the current regime is an enemy with which compromise is impossible, and so everyone is faced with an extremely simple and tough choice of what way to choose in life.

One way is to capitulate, relax, have fun, and eventually become an accomplice of riot policemen who kick women in the stomach. The other way is to stand up for your own dignity, despite the price you have to pay for it, to resist by all available means, and ultimately to overthrow Putin’s fascist regime. And not worry about the fact that, meanwhile, some people are kicking a riot policeman’s helmet around.

The prospect of such a tough choice scares those who are used to living according to the principle voiced by a character in the epoch-making TV series Gangster Petersburg, a corrupt cop who was fond of saying, “I’m mean, but in moderation.” The fascist system increasingly and imperiously demands that they go beyond the moderate meanness that they are used to deeming permissible for themselves. And they feel uncomfortable about it.

Hence Sobchak’s long-standing complaints about escalating confrontation and mutual bitterness, about black-and-white thinking that admits no shades of gray. She now has to solve a truly existential question: who is she? A woman, or a riot police helmet?

Sobchak has not said anything fundamentally new. She has consistently defended the Putin regime from revolution. After all, revolution is worse than when a woman is kicked in the stomach. Revolution is when a riot policeman’s helmet is kicked around.

Protesters snowballing riot police on Tsvetnoy Boulevard in Moscow yesterday, January 23, 2021. Courtesy of Ksenia Larina’s Facebook page

The power of today’s protest was far from enough for revolution. Its reserves of strengths are unknown. In any case, it proved much more powerful than those who believed Fukuyama had expected. No one can predict when and why Putin’s autocratic fascist regime will be overthrown, and who will overthrow it. We must be prepared for a long period of resistance under a repressive dictatorship.

To avoid coming apart during this period, we must nurture in ourselves not only faith in the beautiful Russia of the future, but also a hatred of lies, meanness, and violence—a hatred for the powerful scoundrels who have trampled law and justice to death, a hatred for riot police who kick a woman in stomach, and a hatred for their helmets.

Five days ago, Alexander Skobov reported on his Facebook page that he had been summoned by the FSB for questioning at 2 p.m., January 27, 2021, at its Petersburg headquarters. Translated by the Russian Reader

Don’t Let Strangers Wreck Their Minds (Putin’s Palace)

“Protect your children. Don’t let strangers wreck their minds and their lives.” Screenshot of a social media post by the Udelnaya Library of the Vyborg District Centralized Library System in Petersburg. Courtesy of dp.ru

“Protect your children”: Smolny launches mass posting before rally
Delovoi Peterburg
January 21, 2021

On January 21, the social network pages of Petersburg’s district administrations, as well as of municipal schools, libraries, and educational organization, published the same message, appealing to parents not to let their children attend the rally urging the release of politician Alexei Navalny.

“Protect your children from being dragged into destructive actions that can lead to psychological problems in the future, but also to unpredictable consequences in their lives today,” the text of the mass posting says. It stresses that the upcoming rally is a “blatant provocation.”

A search for the phrase “protect your children from being dragged into destructive actions” yielded around a hundred hits on the social media pages of municipal organizations. At the time of writing, the post had been published on the VK pages of the Kolpino and Vyborg districts, as well as the press services of the Shuvalovo-Ozerki, Posadsky, Kronverk, and Sampsonievsky municipal districts, and dozens of schools.

Earlier today, First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Gorovoy said that the Russian Interior Ministry has “all legal grounds” to charge with misdemeanors those who “in person, on the internet, [or] by sending written appeals” call on people to attend the rally [sic]. The Prosecutor General’s Office ordered the blocking of websites containing posts with calls to attend the [rallies].

Alexey Navalny recently published a large-scale investigation dealing with the construction of a grand residence on the Black Sea. The Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) founder claims that the palace was built for Vladimir Putin. Navalny and his FBK team have called on their supporters to come out to protest on January 23. He has been supported by bloggers on Instagram and TikTok who have over a million followers.

________________________

Alexei Navalny, Putin’s Palace: The Story of the World’s Largest Bribe, January 19, 2021. [There were over 51 million views as of 1:00 a.m. Moscow time, January 22, 2021]

The printed text of the investigation, including all relevant documents, is here: https://palace.navalny.com/

Navalny recorded this video before his return to Russia, but we immediately agreed that we would release it after he returned: Alexei did not want the protagonist of this investigation—Vladimir Putin—to think that we were afraid of him and that we were telling his biggest secret from abroad.

Today, you will see something that is considered impossible to see up close. Along with us, you will go where no one is allowed. We will go for a visit to Putin’s house. With our own eyes, we will see that, in his craving for luxury and wealth, Putin has completely lost his mind. We will find out whose money has financed this luxury and how it was done. And we will learn how, over the past fifteen years, the biggest bribe in history was paid and the most expensive palace in the world was built.

Alexey was detained at the airport [in Moscow], where he arrived after five months of medical treatment in Germany. He went to Germany after Putin tried to kill him. On January 18, Navalny was illegally arrested and placed in a pre-trial detention center.

Alexei has always fought for our rights, and now we have to fight for his. Vladimir Putin must answer for all his crimes.

At 2:00 p.m. on January 23, go to the central streets of your cities. Don’t stand on the sidelines.

Here is a link to information about the rallies in different cities (this post will be updated): https://navalny.com/p/6454/

Translated by the Russian Reader

“Free Navalny! 2:00 p.m., January 23.” Image courtesy of navalny.com

Ilya Shakursky: “Now and Then the Flame Dies Down, but Solidarity Is a Stream of Sparks”

ILYA SHAKURSKY, an antifascist political prisoner in Russia, appeals to you in this interview to write to him, and to others imprisoned in the infamous Network case. Please see a note at the end about where to send messages.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 19 January, is the anniversary of the assassination of antifascists Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov, who were shot dead in broad daylight in central Moscow in 2009. People will gather – in Moscow, to lay flowers at the place where they were killed, elsewhere online – and we publish this article on several web sites simultaneously, to express solidarity.

The Network case began in Penza and St Petersburg in October 2017, when the Federal Security Service (FSB) started detaining young anarchists and antifascists, who had supposedly participated in a terrorist group. The security services claimed that the young detainees were preparing terrorist acts, aimed at the presidential elections and the football World Cup in 2018 [which was staged in Russia].

It soon became clear that this “Network” had been dreamed up by the FSB, and the confessions extracted from the alleged participants with the use of the most barbaric tortures. Details of the methods used, including electric shock batons, were published widely before the defendants were tried.

Nevertheless, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced – in January 2019 in Petersburg, Igor Shishkin, to three and a half years in prison; in February 2020, seven defendants in Penza, including Ilya Shakursky, to sentences ranging from six and 18 years in prison; and in June 2020 in Petersburg, Viktor Filinkov to seven years, and Yuli Boyarshinov to five and a half years.

In October 2020, an appeal by the Penza defendants was heard and rejected. An appeal by Viktor Filinkov is in progress.

All ten defendants are included in a list of 61 political prisoners compiled by Memorial, Russia’s largest human rights defence group.  

This interview with Ilya Shakursky, who is serving a 16-year sentence, is by Dmitry Semenov. It was published by Free Russia House, an “alternative embassy for Russian civil society” based in Kyiv, and by the Rupression collective that supports the Network case prisoners. (The questions were sent via Elena Shakurskaya, Ilya’s mother, and answers received, via Elena, in written form.)

Ilya Shakursky, speaking at Anticapitalism 2013

Question: Do you feel the support from outside the prison system, and how important is it? Could you say something briefly to our readers and to people who support you?

Ilya Shakursky: It feels good to realise, every morning when they call out my surname and hand over letters I have received, that people remember me and continue to support me. At those moments, the grey monotony of imprisonment is broken up by different colours. It doesn’t matter whether the letter is a couple of lines or goes on like a whole essay. Just getting some news gives me strength and happiness. When I see photos of solidarity actions all over the world; when I read interviews with well-known people who speak about the absurdity of the criminal case against us; when I hear the drums and voices of friends [demonstrating] on the other side of the [prison] wall; when I think of the concert, at which the whole hall sang “This Will Pass” [“Vse proidet”] (a song about the Network case by the Russian punk group Pornofilmy), or of the rap-battle, where verses were read in support of our case, or of the street artist who used graffiti to speak out about repression in Russia today – I feel like it wasn’t all in vain.

Continue reading “Ilya Shakursky: “Now and Then the Flame Dies Down, but Solidarity Is a Stream of Sparks””

Azat Miftakhov: Six Years in Prison for Not Breaking a Window

Lev Schlosberg
Facebook
January 18, 2021

Moscow State University graduate student Azat Miftakhov has been sentenced by the Golovinsky District Court in Moscow to six years in prison in the case of [attempted] arson at a United Russia party field office in the Khovrino [district of Moscow]. He was convicted based on testimony given by two secret witnesses, including one who died a year ago. The real arsonists, who pleaded guilty and testified that Miftakhov was innocent, were sentenced two and four years of probation, respectively. Miftakhov is a political activist and scholar. [In rendering its verdict,] the court copied the indictment filed by the prosecutors, who had requested exactly six years in prison for Miftakhov.

2021 has begun with trials attesting to the final destruction of the courts in Russia. This is the real “constitutional reform.” The destruction of the courts as an independent authority eliminates the possibility of protecting human rights and freedoms. A state dominated by disempowerment and rightlessness has been molded. And this will eventuate its complete political collapse.

Azat Miftakhov

Ekaterina Nenasheva
Facebook
January 18, 2021

As soon as the news flashed in my feed that a graduate student at Moscow State University, Azat Miftakhov, had been sentenced to six years in prison for breaking a window in a United Russia party office that he did not break, I began to get hysterical.

I had a good cry, and I will cry again, of course, but I really want to remind you that even newsfeed stories of this sort are a form of immense psychological pressure that even in this shape rattles us and skews our psyche. Of course, this is the effect that the system wants them to have on us.

Please remember that it is normal at a time like this to express any and all emotions. And it is important to express them by screaming, crying, running for several kilometers, or wherever they take you. It is very important not to keep your feelings bottled up inside.

If you have a psychologist or psychotherapist, then be sure to talk to them about it. If this is not the case and you need one-time support on this issue, please contact me: I will find you help, and I will be happy to talk to you myself.

Discussing such stories in the therapeutic space is very, very important. Our will is harder to break when we know how to handle our emotions. This skill is an absolutely political skill to have in this country.

I hug everyone who is in a lot of pain right now and send a thank-you to Azat’s absolutely heroic support community.

I hope he gets out early.

_____________________

Dmitry Gudkov
Facebook
January 18, 2020

Azat Miftakhov: six years in prison.

There have been mass arrests at the courthouse. (I have already lost count: Alexey Minyailo has just been nabbed).

At the same time, Navalny’s court-martial has been taking place right in the Khimki police station.

They are neither courts nor police, but uniformed people guilty of varying degrees of criminality.

Ulyukaev, who now knows everything about the “courts,” was wrong: there is no bottom [to their lawlessness and corruption], neither a fragile bottom, nor any other kind. They are in free fall.

They smashed the anarchists and anti-fascists, capable of direct action and forceful protest. They smashed the “peaceful, unarmed” opposition. Who’s next?

That’s right, institutionalized liberals, you guessed it. And you “equidistant” oligarchs, too. For whom, in your opinion, have the courts been broken? For you, that’s who. Because the sanctions over Navalny and all the other amazing adventures of the regime will deal a blow to [the Russian economy], there will be less money to go around, and you are to blame in advance for the fact that the security forces want to eat.

Don’t say later that you hadn’t been warned. People have been warning you for many years, but to no avail.

And somewhere out there, in the fog, lies hidden the abyss into which all these “courts” and “police” and the regime will fall. “Hidden” is the right word. The question is how many more people will die before the scoundrels fall into it.

Photo courtesy of Lev Schlosberg’s Facebook page. Translated by the Russian Reader