Olga Nazarenko, a lecturer at medical university in Ivanovo, got involved in protests supporting Ukraine back in 2018. Since February 24 of this year, she has gone on an anti-war picket almost every week. Over this time, five cases have been opened against her for administrative offenses. Recently, Nazarenko was fined 150 thousand rubles [approx. 2,350 euros] for an anti-war picket. Only a few people in Ivanovo support the lecturer, so she usually stands alone with a placard. There are incomparably more people in her city who disagree with her position. Once, when Nazarenko was returning home, a passerby doused her face with spray paint on a dark street. People have written the Z symbol and the words “Ukrainian scum” on the associate professor’s mailbox. Nazarenko paints over the insults with yellow and blue flowers.
Nazarenko spoke to Radio Svoboda about her resistance to the war.
– What was February 24 like for you?
– I didn’t believe until the last moment that war was possible. I can describe my reaction to the news about the outbreak of war with Ukraine only with obscene language. That same day, I went on a solo picket with an anti-war placard, and the next day too. Since then, I have been going on pickets every week, sometimes once every two weeks.
– You have already been convicted once for “discrediting the armed forces.” Why do you risk being prosecuted?
– My conscience won’t let me do otherwise. In the twenty-first century, problems in interstate relations are not solved by war. It’s barbaric. This war is an injustice on Russia’s part, and I cannot remain silent when I see injustice. A [solo] picket is now the only way to voice one’s stance publicly. Yes, most passersby do not voice their opinion in any way while I am picketing. But at each picket I see that two or three people support me. I understand that it is vital for each of them to see that they are not alone. Also, I have friends and acquaintances living in Ukraine. I worry about them, of course, and I know that for them my support — at least in the sense that I am not silent — is also vital.
– What was the trial at which you were fined 150 thousand rubles like?
– On February 27, I went out with a placard that read, “I’m a Russian citizen who opposes the war. Send Putin to The Hague!” Half an hour later, I was detained after a disgruntled passerby denounced me to the police. In April, the court recognized that my right to a defense had been violated due to the fact that my lawyer was not given the charge sheet to sign. The police appealed this decision, and the court found me guilty under Article 20.2 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code for, allegedly, “organizing a public event” and fined me 150 thousand rubles. I told the court about my anti-war stance and that our courts are cemented into the power vertical, and so they make the rulings that the Russian authorities need them to make. I also told the court that Russia is waging an unjust war against Ukraine, that people are dying, and that I opposed it. In my opinion, the judge’s ruling had been made in advance.
– Do passersby often react aggressively to your anti-war pickets?
– Of course, there are people who react aggressively to my position. They drew the Z symbol and wrote “Ukrainian scum” on my mailbox. I painted over the inscription with yellow and blue flowers, making it beautiful. Once on the street late at night, a young man doused my face and clothes with spray paint. Fortunately, my glasses protected my eyes from injury, while my clothes turned a golden color. My down jacket even became beautiful, iridescent, but only on one side, sadly. Once, at a picket in support of the boys from the Network Case, a man came up and said that people like me should be shot. He tried to take my placard away and hurt my finger in the scuffle. But I kept him from getting my placard.
– At what point did you decide to go on pickets?
– I have been actively voicing my position since 2014. I was outraged that Russia, at a difficult moment for Ukraine, committed a treacherous act against it by annexing Crimea. This was the first thing that angered me, and the second was the lies that supported it. I realized that in such circumstances I could not remain silent. At first, I went to various protest rallies and marches. But they were held rarely and I wanted to voice my civic stance more often. At first, I was bashful about going out on solo pickets. But on social media I saw that people were doing solo pickets. At some point I decided to try to picket too and got sucked into it.
I have been going on pickets in support of Ukraine since 2018. A friend of mine and I protested for the release of the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. After all, a hybrid war had essentially been waged since 2014, and I had always opposed it. I was brought up on the principle that you couldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you, which also applied to international relations. Crimea is Ukrainian by all international standards. I could not approve of Russia’s interference in the affairs of a sovereign state, and from that moment I took an unambiguous stance. On February 24, everything became completely transparent.
– I believe that the FSB now holds all the power in our country, because Putin is from the FSB. So, the FSB lets itself break any law and torture people with impunity — such as, for example, the defendants in the Network Case. I think it important to voice my negative attitude to this. The banner hung for about half an hour until police officers arrived and tore it down.
I was detained right there and taken to the police department, where they took my statement and released me. This is not the first time I have publicly condemned the actions of the FSB. For example, I picketed against the Network Case outside the FSB headquarters in Ivanovo.
– Aren’t you afraid to publicly criticize the FSB?
– Yes, that organization has a lot of power, but I have no respect for it.
– I know that you sued Center “E” last year. Please tell us how that happened.
– I was doing community service at the zoo for a video in which I had talked about the problems of our region and called for peaceful protest. I was charged with “organizing an unauthorized event” for these actions. Right when I was cleaning the bird cages, a Center “E” officer came and videotaped me without my permission. The video was posted on the Telegram channel “A Cop’s Life: Ivanovo,” along with what they imagined was a funny comment. I decided that the Center “E” officer had violated my right to privacy. I filed an administrative lawsuit against the Interior Ministry, but my suit was dismissed.
– Not long ago, you were accused of resisting the police because you tried to help a friend at an anti-war picket. What did you do then?
– A female acquaintance decided to go on a picket on February 24 and asked on a chat for support. I responded to this request and arrived at the picket site. As soon as the young woman held up her placard, a policeman approached her and tried to detain her. She was opposed to being detained, so I got between her and the policeman. Consequently, we were both detained. The next day, I was taken to the police department, charged with resisting the police, and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. I’ve already done them. But soon I will have to do another 180 hours for a fresh administrative offense related to publicly voicing my anti-war position.
– How do the heads of the medical school where you work look at your pickets and court hearings?
– They are still relatively friendly to me at work. The bosses said that I could do anything as long as it was not during working hours. I never engage in activism to the detriment of my work: I don’t lobby anyone in the classroom. So I have no problems at the university now. For the time being I can juggle work and activism.
– Does your family support your anti-war position?
– My loved ones worry about me, but they don’t try to dissuade me. My husband and I try not to talk about politics. His point of view runs counter to mine, and we don’t discuss politics to avoid spoiling our relationship. As it is, there are so many situations in which I have to get harsh to defend my position, but at home I want to live in peace and tranquility. My little son and adult daughter worry about me and support me emotionally.
– How are you going to pay the 150 thousand ruble fine?
– Friends and friends of friends helped me to pay the previous fine of 75 thousand. I don’t know yet how I will raise this amount. I’ll probably have to turn to public organizations for help.
– Putin recently passed laws that give [law enforcement] even more possibilities to crack down on grassroots activists. Aren’t you afraid to continue going on pickets when this is the reality?
– It’s too late for me to be afraid. If the security forces want to sanction me, they have enough material against me. I have already passed the phase of being afraid.
– Do you think your numerous pickets have affected the attitude people in Ivanovo have toward the war with Ukraine?
– Everything in society has only gotten worse over the years. In the big scheme of things, such protests cannot change a thing. They matter only to the person who does them and to people who think the same way, as well as for those supported by them.
– Why are you taking such a big risk in this instance?
– I just act on the principle that you do what you have to do, come what may. This is how I was brought up as a child. I realize that there could be unpleasant consequences for me, but I don’t think about it.
– But many Russians have read those books. Aren’t you angry that so few Russians protest publicly?
– I am a little annoyed, rather, that people cannot act in keeping with their conscience. And I realize that if more Russians had openly voiced their position when it was not less dangerous, the situation would be slightly different now.
Most people let their personal interests outweigh [other things], and this is normal. My instinct for self-preservation is a little dull, and perhaps this is not entirely normal. I don’t condemn Russians, but still I think that, in the current situation, it is impossible to remain silent.
– Now, after almost five months of war in Ukraine, many Russian activists complain of burnout and fatigue. Do you have such problems?
– I don’t have burnout and depression, but nor do I have any hope that things will change quickly. Perhaps in a hundred years our great-grandchildren will be able to change something — if we manage to raise our children the right way, and then they raise their children the right way. At some point, there will be enough people to change things here. But my generation won’t live to see it.
– Are you not planning to leave the country if a criminal case is opened against you?
– I’m not going anywhere. Russia is my country: it doesn’t belong only to those in power and their supporters. I won’t let anyone kick me out of my own country. I’m ready for a possible prison sentence. If it happens, I will serve my time, and then I will get out and continue my pickets. I’m not too afraid of prison: people somehow live in there too. You can’t jail everyone, and you can’t shut everyone up.
Source: Darya Yegorova, “‘It’s too late for me to be afraid’: Olga Nazarenko’s solo pickets,” Radio Svoboda, 16 July 2022. All images courtesy of Ms. Nazarenko via Radio Svoboda. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader
It’s the 12th anniversary of the antifa protest in Khimki
Antifa.ru and other channels have recalled the historical date of 28 July 2010, when, at the height of its popularity, the antifa movement in Moscow was involved in solving social issues.
Throughout 2010, progressive Muscovites were extremely agitated about the planned construction of an alternate to the Leningrad Highway through the Khimki Forest in the nearest part of the Moscow Region. A lot of money was riding on the project, but responsibility for fighting the protesters was entrusted to the local Khimki authorities. Judging by their tactics, they were probably quite criminalized.
For antifa, the line was crossed when right-wing football hooligans — neo-Nazis, in other words — were involved in dispersing a tent camp set up in the forest by the protesters.
In late July, a secret concert by the bands Inspection Line and Moscow Death Brigade, popular among the antifa crowd, was advertised on social media. On July 28, Inspection Line vocalist and writer Petya Kosovo famously said to those who had come to the rendezvous point, “I hope there are no rubes here who think they just came to a concert? We’re going to Khimki!”
Several hundred young people exploded: they went to Khimki “to protect the Russian forest from Nazi occupation.”
Upon arriving in Khimki, right at the train station, they asked where city hall was, and the locals happily showed them the way. The protesters immediately produced masks and a banner about the Russian forest, and the crowd of about 400 people headed to the hated city hall, cheerfully chanting as they marched. On a video that circulated at the time, you can clearly see a police jeep fleeing from the determined young people.
It was the weekend, so the protesters were not able to talk with the local administration. The protesters decorated city hall with protest graffiti and shots from trauma pistols. They actually did very little damage to the building.
But this incident was followed by a shellacking. Only not the mythical shellacking of the Khimki City Hall, but the real shellacking of the antifa movement by the so-called law enforcement agencies.
Police raids took place all over central Russia — in Nizhny Novgorod, in Kostroma (where a whole punk-hardcore festival on a riverboat was arrested), not to mention Moscow and the Moscow Region. Hundreds of people were detained and beaten; hundreds fled Russia. Some left forever, while others returned after a year or two. But their spirit wasn’t the same when they came home: they hunkered down. And the movement — that big and formidable movement that had caused a stir in 2010, the movement that had protected workers and refugees from being illegally evicted from dorms and had defended the Khimki Forest — that movement no longer existed. The gloomy era of Bolotnaya Square and the constant stomping of protests, the era of crackdowns, was coming.
Source: Volja (Telegram), 28 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
It was a clear sunny day. When I approached the square at the Church of the Intercession[in Petersburg], I saw the following scene. Sazonov, sitting on a bench, was exhaustively and animatedly relating to Sikorsky how and where to sink the bomb. Sazonov was calm and seemed to have completely forgotten about himself. Sikorsky listened to him attentively. Borishansky sat on a bench in the distance, his face imperturbable as usual. Even further away, at the gates of the church, stood Kalyayev who, doffing his cap, crossed himself.
When I approached 7th Company of the Izmailovsky Regiment Street [currently known as 7th Red Army Street], I saw a policeman on the corner stand at attention. At the same moment, I noticed Sazonov on the bridge over the Obvodny Canal. He walked, as before, with his head held high, carrying the projectile at his shoulder. Immediately, I heard loud trotting behind me, and a carriage pulled by black horses rushed past.
Suddenly, a heavy, strange, unwieldy sound rent the street’s monotonous hubbub. It was if someone had struck a cast-iron stove with a cast-iron hammer. At the same moment, the broken glass in the windows rattled pitifully. I saw a pillar of grayish yellow, almost black smoke rising from the ground in a narrow funnel. This pillar, ever expanding, flooded the entire street to the height of the fifth floor. It dissipated as quickly as it rose. I thought I saw some black debris amid the smoke.
For the first second, my breath caught in my throat. But I was waiting for an explosion, and so I came to my senses more quickly than the others. I ran kitty-corner down the street to the Warsaw Hotel.
One hundred and eighteen years later.
Source: Aleksandr Ermakov, Facebook, 28 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader, since a copy of Joseph Shaplen’s 1931 English translation of Boris Savinkov’s Memoirs of a Terrorist is hard to come by in print and nearly invisible online. I also added the captions to Mr. Ermakov’s snapshots.
On 15 July 1904 [28 July 1904 in the reformed, post-revolutionary calendar], the notoriously oppressive and unpopular Minister of the Interior, Viacheslav Konstantinovich von Plehve stepped into his armored carriage, complete with an entourage of bicycle detectives, and set off from his dacha to the Warsaw Station on his way to regular meeting with Tsar Nicholas II, now residing at his summer palace in Peterhof. Plehve, who had already survived several attacks on his life, probably took this trip in stride, but as he approached his destination, a young man, Egor Sazonov darted towards his carriage and threw a bomb underneath its speeding wheels. Sazonov was just one of several assassins that day who were poised and ready to trade their own lives for the Minister’s. They were members of the Combat Organization (Boevaia Organizatsiia), the terrorist branch of the Socialist Revolutionaries who ultimately murdered a number of prominent political figures, most notably […] Tsar Alexander II.
Natalia Kharakoz, Evgen Bal, and Bohdan Slyushchynsky all died in March or April.
The story of Evgen Bal’s death is quite terrible. An elderly former submariner, the famous writer was tortured by the Russians over photos with guys from the Azov Battalion. They beat the elderly man with their rifle butts, breaking several ribs.
Source: We Survived in Mariupol, Telegram, 25 July 2022, 1:09 p.m. & 1:28 p.m. Translated by the Russian Reader
78-year-old Ukrainian military pensioner, journalist and writer Evgen Bal died on April 2 after being tortured for days in captivity by the Russian military. The reason for the detention and bullying was the journalist’s friendly relations with Ukrainian servicemen.
The aggressor seeks to wipe out any mention of his crimes from the face of the earth. Therefore, they kill all possible witnesses — military, civilians and journalists.
If Yevgeny [sic] Bal had not died, he could have told about the crimes of the Russian army in Mariupol and its environs.
He would talk about the inhuman conditions in which the Russians are holding captured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.
Through his articles and books, the world would know how the Ukrainian military, his friends, resisted the Russian invasion of the besieged Mariupol.
He could show how barbaric Russians behaved in the homes of ordinary Ukrainians.
Killings and shootings of journalists are a gross violation of international law. The enemy can turn a blind eye to laws, but he will not be able to close the eyes of the world to crimes. After all, honouring the memory of those who died for the truth, we will continue to tell their immortal stories.
Natalia Kharakoz, journalist, author, member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine and the National Writers’ Union of Ukraine, and head of the Azov Literary Club, died in the russian-blockaded Mariupol in Donetsk region.
This was announced by her relative, Mariupol journalist Anna Kotykhova.
In her comment to an IMI representative, Anna Kotykhova told that Natalia Kharakoz’s house burned down and collapsed. After that, the woman had to live and hide in the basement. In early April, the relatives learned about the woman’s death from her neighbors, but tried to find out the circumstances and causes of death. The lack of communication made it difficult to obtain this information.
“An author of countless books and the editor of my books, on the first day of the invasion she emailed me the draft of my next book with the postscript ‘Sending this while there is still Internet access, save it.’ I did.
But I did not save any of her books. The apartments – both mine and hers – burned to the ground along with all the books. And I don’t know if her lines have survived in at least one library, at least one museum, at least in someone’s intact house.
Now I really want to reread her short story ‘Anyuta’s Letters,’ about how Anyuta lived through the Second World War – same Anyuta after whom I was named. But I can only snatch fragments from memory,” Kotykhova wrote.
As IMI reported, as of April 29, 22 journalists had been killed in shelling by the russian occupiers since the beginning of their full-scale offensive in Ukraine.
The Russian occupiers killed Bohdan Slyushchynsky, a doctor of sociology and professor at Mariupol State University.
This was reported on Facebook by the Department of Philosophy and Sociology of Mariupol State University, Censor.NET informs.
“The Department of Philosophy and Sociology, Mariupol State University and the entire Ukrainian sociological community have suffered irreparable losses — as a result of Russian aggression, Doctor of Sociology, Professor Bohdan Slyushchynsky died.
“Bohdan Vasyliovych was the man who created and actively developed the specialty ‘Sociology’ in the industrial city of Mariupol from scratch. He managed to create a unique atmosphere at the department, when all teachers and students really felt like one family. They came to him with good news and support in difficult times, shared their victories and complained about failures. Bohdan Vasyliovych could find his own approach to each of those words. He raised many real professionals and just decent people. Scientist, teacher, musician, poet, talented manager — it is difficult to list all the talents of Bohdan Vasyliovych.
“On this tragic day, the MSU sociological family longs for its mentor. He will always remain in our hearts! Kingdom of Heaven!” said [the]statement.
Source: “Rashists killed Bohdan Slyushchynsky, professor at Mariupol State University,” Censor.Net, 8 May 2022
Every morning, Radio Russia turns on in my cell at the temporary detention center. At 6 a.m., the national anthem plays, and then the brainwashing begins.
The news items don’t differ much from one another. Russian troops have inflicted another “surgically precise strike” on the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, destroying more than three hundred “nationalists” and about a hundred pieces of military equipment. The Ukrainian butchers responded by once again shelling residential neighborhoods in the DPR with American (emphasis on “American”) weapons. A rocket hit a kindergarten. Miraculously, there were no casualties.
Audio letters to the editor then come on the air. “Maria from Saratov” or “Elena Nikolayevna from Kirov” read out their original poems dedicated to our heroes who, fighting in Ukraine, have put themselves on a par with the “veterans of the Great Victory.” For dessert, there are “songs of the Russian spring” — amateur ensembles twanging about Mariupol’s return to its “home port” or about the crimes of the Maidan.
And so on — wash, rinse, repeat — every single day. Sometimes I feel like the character in the movie A Clockwork Orange who is seated in front of a screen, his eyes held wide open with clamps. It seems to me that the UN should deems forced listening to such broadcasts a form of torture.
But seriously, my observations suggest that fewer and fewer people are taking this brainwashing at face value. Surprisingly, despite the aggressive war propaganda, I haven’t encountered any manifestations of hatred on this side of the bars at all. Quite the opposite. A detainee escort guard, snapping the handcuffs on me, whispers “Hang in there, Ilya.” The woman on duty at the temporary detention center gives me an extra blanket, “so that at least you can sleep more comfortably.” A bailiff in court thanks me for my video about Kadyrov. Such moments reinforce one’s sense of being morally right.
Even now, sitting in a cell facing the threat of a ten-year prison sentence, I understand that my decision to stay in Russia was the right one, although it was a very difficult decision. Because it knocks out Putin’s main trump card about the opposition’s foreign affiliations and that we would all flee at the first sign of danger. But now people see that we are not fleeing, that we are standing our ground and sharing our country’s fate. This makes our words weightier and our arguments stronger. But the bottom line is that it leaves us a chance to get back our homeland.
After all, the winner is not the person who is stronger right now, but the person who is willing to go all the way to the end.
Source: Ilya Yashin, Facebook, 26 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Russian authorities have launched a criminal case against Ilya Yashin, one of the last [prominent] opposition figures remaining in the country, for allegedly spreading false information about the army, his lawyer said Tuesday.
“I got a call from an investigator — they are beginning to search his home,” lawyer Vadim Prokhorov said on Facebook.
Prokhorov was later quoted by Russian news agencies as saying the probe was launched because his client spoke of “the murder of civilians in Bucha” on his YouTube channel on April 7.
Russian forces have been accused of committing war crimes in the Kyiv suburb after civilian bodies were discovered there following their withdrawal.
Another of Yashin’s lawyers, Mikhail Biriukov, said a search had been carried out at his home and that Yashin was taken out of prison to attend.
In June, Yashin, who is a Moscow [municipal district] councillor, was sentenced to 15 days in jail for disobeying police. He was set to be released in the early hours of Wednesday.
Yashin has been a prominent opposition figure in Russia since the mass protests against President Vladimir Putin in 2011-2012. He has denounced Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.
He is an ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and was close to Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.
After Putin sent troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russia introduced legislation imposing prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading information about the military deemed false by the Russian government.
Writing on social media earlier Tuesday, Yashin, who turned 39 in jail, said he was supposed to be released at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday (22:20 GMT Tuesday).
“Maybe they will let me out. Maybe not,” he said. “What do you think?”
I dreamt that all wars had ended and a united humankind was amicably celebrating good’s victory over human nature’s age-old curse.
Since my dream took place in Petersburg, the warships had been turned in recreational vessels, equipped with swimming pools, gyms, spas, dance halls, hotels, bars, restaurants, etc.
The towering masts were outfitted with convenient spots for those wishing to photograph the city’s river embankments from above. The deck was dotted with deck chairs, and the holds, instead of rockets and shells, housed barrels containing every variety of alcohol from around the globe!
I remember strolling around one of these ships, shooting a reportage about the triumphantly heavenly lives of its inhabitants, but I was not able to finish the dream. As always in the morning, the cat’s meowing and the children waking up on time woke me up. Otherwise, I would have been late for my next photo shoot.
I never would have thought that I would speak out in defense of the Soviet Union. But now I am forced to do it.
I grew up in a small village in the middle of Russia. The adults in my life did not read samizdat and tamizdat, nor did they oppose the system — they just lived their lives. But from their conversations, loose talk, and slips of tongue, I was able to draw conclusions. I realized that I didn’t have to unconditionally believe the agitprop posters and the folks on the TV. Life was more complicated and, apparently, worse than the picture that the big bosses were trying to foist on us.
And yet there were certain things I took for granted. I knew that my country had clear, intelligible notions of good and evil, of how everything should work, and I considered them correct. Socialism had to emerged victorious. We didn’t seem to be doing everything right, but we knew what we were supposed to being doing.
To a large extent, of course, this belief was also based on a complete ignorance of how people actually lived outside the socialist bloc. There were simply no people in our midst who had seen it and could tell us about it. In our village, perhaps the only person who had visited this capitalist hell was my grandfather. He was in Vienna when the war ended. But he died before I was born, and besides, as my elders told me, he was a taciturn person and did not like to reminisce about his life.
I knew — just like Leonid Brezhnev, the guy on TV, who had fought in a real war — that it was wrong to even hint at using nuclear weapons. Nuclear war was terrible and the end of everything.
I also knew that we would never attack anyone. The Soviet Union had a militarist bent, and a sense of the coming war’s inevitability filtered into my childish mind. But there was only one possible scenario: the enemy would come to us, maybe even occupy our country, but then we would throw them out, win the war, and clean up the motherland. There was no other way. We wouldn’t attack first.
The Soviet Union, by the way, was bashful about its wars. It concealed its involvement in conflicts abroad. Only the Afghan War broke through the curtain of lies. I don’t know whether it was because of the magnitude, or because the giant was on its last legs and had even forgotten how to tell a fib.
Modern Russia is not shy. Go to the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces in Patriot Park. It is worthwhile and instructive. There are mosaics depicting Russian soldiers and heroes — the heroes of the Battle of Kulikovo, the Patriotic War of 1812, the Great Patriotic War … and a huge panel depicting the heroes of the wars that the Soviet Union waged after the Second World War. The figures in the foreground are easily identifiable as “Afghans,” but the picture’s authors quite clearly hint that it’s not just about veterans of the war in Afghanistan.
Soviet ideology was putrid and phony, but there was also a real humanism in it that filtered through the rot and falsity.
Modern Russia doesn’t even have this going for it.
Source: Ivan Davydov, “An apology for the Union: which USSR Vladimir Putin is resurrecting,” Republic, 21 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Archbishop Pitirim of Syktyvkar has called on his parishioners to rally not around Christ, but around Putin, calling the West “the enemy of the human race.”
“After [hearing] the appeal made by His Eminence the President (on supporting the war – ed.), I considered it my duty to appeal to all the clergy, monastics, and God-loving laypeople of the Syktyvkar Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as to all the patriots of our Northern Region, to rally even closer around our supreme military and political leadership and our valiant army, which, as in the years of the Great Patriotic War, is defending our earthly Fatherland from the insidious enemy of the human race.
“Only by joint prayer and tireless military efforts will we be able to contain the enemy and erect a strong barrier to the West’s aggression.”
It should be noted that “the Great Satan” is Iran’s traditional name for the United States. Meanwhile, the Head of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of the Russian Federation, Mufti Albir Krganov, invoked the same metaphor in a speech he made during Eid al-Adha.
Previously, Pitirim (who had already taken holy orders) expressed his pride at being awarded the rank of Cossack colonel.
Source: Sota, 11 July 2022. Photo courtesy of Sota. Translated by the Russian Reader
The officers who raided Father Ioann Kurmoyarov’s home reportedly seized his mobile phone, a laptop, two icons, a cassock and a wooden cross.
He was taken to a police station in St Petersburg, and allowed to make one phone call to his family.
He told them he had been arrested.
Father Ioann is believed to be the first priest imprisoned under laws introduced in Russia to punish those who spread information countering the Kremlin’s narrative of the war.
“I am a prisoner of conscience, suffering for my beliefs. I consider the charges against me and my detention to be illegal,” says Father Ioann now in a statement he dictated to his lawyer in St Petersburg’s Kresty Prison.
Father Ioann adds that he is a Christian pacifist whose moral views are entirely based on the commandments of the Gospel and canons of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God,” and “Thou shalt not kill,” are among the quotes he includes in his statement.
On 12 March, just over two weeks after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, Father Ioann uploaded an eight and a half minute video to YouTube.
In it he said that those who unleash aggression would not go to heaven, and that in this case it was not Ukraine that attacked Russia but the other way around.
“You are the aggressors who attacked and killed civilians. You will not be in any kind of heaven, you will be in hell,” he says of the Russian leadership.
In his video Father Ioann goes on to compare the Russian invasion with violent “jihad” suggesting that bloodthirsty leaders in Moscow should have converted to become “militant Islamists”, a theme that he kept returning to.
“We worried but we just didn’t expect that he would be arrested,” says his brother Alexander Kurmoyarov. He tells me that Father Ioann is currently serving an initial two month detention and is then likely to face trial.
“We thought maybe he would be given a warning by the police, but now we are worried that he will get 10 years in prison,” he says, referring to the maximum sentence Father Ioann could receive.
The only visitor to have seen Father Ioann in Kresty Prison is his lawyer Leonid Krikun who says his client appeared to be in good health and also defiant.
“I told Father Ioann that if he pleads guilty he will probably get a shorter sentence, but he refuses to say he has committed any crime,” Mr Krikun says.
“He says that he would rather serve a longer sentence than admit any wrongdoing and if that happens he will preach to fellow inmates.”
Father Ioann has shown before that he is unafraid of speaking out. He was suspended from the church in 2020 after calling the newly-built Church of the Russian Armed Forces a “pagan temple”.
The Cathedral in Moscow was the brainchild of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and was due to house frescos that featured President Putin and Josef Stalin as well as scenes that celebrated the Crimean occupation.
In a social media post, Father Ioann said Mr Shoigu should be arrested for offending religious sentiment.
But what makes Father Ioann’s story all the more unusual is that before he got in trouble with the Russian state, he also had a brush with the Ukrainian security service, the SBU.
Ioann Kurmayarov lived in Vinnytsia in central Ukraine for most of his life, his parents having moved there after his father retired from the Russian army.
“Even as a child he was always very outspoken, always searching for the truth,” says his brother Alexander who speaks to me from Vinnytsia.
“It was in the church that he found a place where that search for truth was satisfied,” says Alexander.
But in 2017, Father Ioann made the news in Ukraine for an act of defiance.
With Crimea annexed by Russia and parts of the east occupied by Russian-backed forces, Ukraine expanded laws banning Soviet symbols.
But Father Ioann posted pictures of one of the most controversial of them, the St George’s ribbon.
He was taken in by police for questioning and the SBU brought administrative charges against him.
“He was not radically pro-Russia, he was standing up for freedom of speech and simply believed the authorities were doing the wrong thing by banning displays of the ribbon,” says Alexander.
At the time Father Ioann said he was prepared to pay the fine, worth around $100 (£84.50), but said he would then openly wear the ribbon seeing as he had now paid for the privilege. The Ukrainian case against him was dropped.
He soon moved to Russia where he is already paying a much higher price for speaking out against curbs on freedom of expression.
In April he was defrocked by the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate, though members of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) say he has been accepted by them.
More pressing is that he remains behind bars at Detention Centre Number One in Kresty Prison with the prospect of staying there for years. His initial detention period ends on 6 August after which his trial date is due to be set.
“I want him to be found innocent, as a Christian who was talking about Christian values,” says Alexander.
“But I worry about what is going to happen now and I worry about his future.”
There are tens of thousands of refugees from Ukraine in Russia. Some of them are trying to leave Russia for countries in Europe or the Transcaucasia, while others remain in temporary accommodation. Both groups are being helped by Russian volunteers. One of the informal leaders of this movement in Petersburg is Grigory Mikhnov-Vaytenko, a bishop of the Apostolic Orthodox Church and a member of the St. Petersburg Human Rights Council. Farida Kurbangaleyeva spoke with him about why he is not afraid of the Russian security forces, why Ukrainians are being taken to the Far East, and why the Russian Orthodox Church failed to oppose the war.
— How did you start dealing with the problem of Ukrainian refugees?
— In the very first days of the war, we thought about the Ukrainian nationals already living in Russia. According to various estimates, there were from eight hundred thousand to two million such people. We assumed they might have problems. I proposed to the Human Rights Council that we set up a hotline for Ukrainian nationals, and all my colleagues [on the council] supported me. Immediately, there was a large number of inquiries from people trying to leave Russia. In fact, if people’s papers were in order, there was nothing complicated abut the situation. But while we were figuring it out, refugees from Mariupol reached out to us. Som of them wanted to leave Russia, while others wanted to stay. But all of them were asking for legal assistance.
— Could you have imagined that Ukrainians would be brought to Russia?
— To be honest, no. Although it didn’t surprise me. I don’t want issue any judgements now—for this you need to be inside these events. But if you believe what the people directly involved have been saying, there was no possibility of organized evacuation anywhere except to Russia. At least, that’s what these people were told. And yet, when it is said that these people were taken to Russia by force, this is a somewhat inaccurate way of putting it.
— When I spoke with refugees from Mariupol, they said they had wanted to go to areas controlled by Ukraine, but that was tantamount to death—the humanitarian corridor was being shelled all the time.
— I don’t question what they said. I accept it as a fact. There was a humanitarian corridor to Russia, and, apparently, it was quite safe. I know that some people also left for Ukraine, but mostly at their own risk and mainly those who had vehicles. There was no way out on foot, as far as I know.
— But isn’t this violence on Russia’s part?
— When we talk about forcible removal, what I see in my mind’s eye are stills of German shepherds and people being struck in the back with rifle butts. There was no such thing [in this case], of course. But as far as I understand, people were not offered much choice. So, there was an element of there being no alternative. I personally am not ready to speculate about why it happened. I was not an eyewitness myself, and I have not seen any documents in this regard. I have only heard stories.
But it would be much worse if people who found themselves on Russian soil were legally subjected to forced detention, if the authorities prevented them from moving freely. According to my observations, they have not been prevented from doing this. Those who do not want to go to the proposed temporary accommodation facilities can safely go wherever they want.
It is another matter that these people have no money, that they have telecommunications problems, problems with paperwork. In this sense, the Russian state has not been providing them with anything. Ukrainian nationals could not cope without the volunteers who have been helping them obtain papers, board trains, and buy clothes and medicines, including prescription medicines, because there are people with chronic diseases among them.
— But why do the Russian authorities tell Ukrainian refugees to evacuate if they cannot provide for them? Is there no Pharisaism in this?
— I think there is an element of Pharisaism. But, again, now is not the time for making judgements. Now is the time for action. For example, I need to find a place for refugees to spend the night. Here we are talking, but at the same time I am corresponding on a chat, because another family is waiting for help.
The point is that what happened on February 24 is a crime—a crime against humanity, the unleashing of a war of aggression. Period. Everything else is a consequence of this crime.
We’ll figure out a bit later who is a hero and who is a scumbag. But now everyone should do what they can where they can do it. Journalists should write stories, human rights defenders should defend human rights, and caring people should make moral decisions by sharing their apartments, cars, or their own time. Not helping a refugee—even from the point of view of a book called the Bible—is a very grave sin. As the saying goes, “for you were strangers in a strange land.”
— How many Ukrainian refugees are currently in Russia? And how many camps are there?
— There are no official statistics. There are figures from different departments, and they radically contradict each other. The Russian authorities cite certain fantastic figures that are impossible to believe—860,000 people. I don’t understand where they came from, because there are much fewer people in Mariupol. Are they from the Donetsk region? But there seemingly hasn’t been a mass evacuation from there.
I think that these figures, as they pass along the chain through different departments, get zeros and ones added to them. I think that around one hundred thousand people have actually arrived in Russia from the war zone. Several thousand of them have already left, while a certain number of others are planning to leave.
We know of around five hundred temporary accommodation camps. That sounds scary, but you have to understand that there are places housing literally between fifty to seventy people. They’re like small boarding houses. There are probably only a few large camps, like the one near Petersburg, where 550 people have been accommodated. Or, for example, there are around three hundred people at the camp in Vladivostok.
— But why have refugees been taken so far away? Do you have an explanation?
— To be honest, I don’t see any special malicious intent in this. Apparently, somewhere in the presidential administration there was a request to all regions of the federation to ready sites for taking in refugees. And each region reported how many people it could take in. They are still trying to place these people in more or less normal conditions. These are not tent camps or barracks in the taiga.
The regions were also tasked with providing jobs and papers to the people who wanted them. It is clear that no region in the European part of Russia is ready to take in one hundred thousand people and give them jobs. Where would they find them? So, they began spreading people [around the country] as thinly as possible. Taking into account the size of the country, it turned out the way it turned out. We should be grateful that the most distant reception center is in Vladivostok, not Kamchatka.
— The buzz on social media is that this is another [mass] deportation.
— I don’t want to use words lightly. And, since the phrase “special operation” was introduced, words don’t function anymore, they’re finished. The safety of people has been ensured, and tickets from Vladivostok to Moscow, Petersburg, or Tokyo cost no more than money. Of course, this is all redundant. But what can be solved with money is not the problem.
— Can people who have no papers at all leave Russia—for example, if they burned up during bombing?
— Refugees can receive a temporary document called a “Certificate establishing the identity of a foreign national or a stateless person.” It’s a very valuable invention. It is issued at police stations, and features a photo, a seal, and three signatures. With this document, a refugee can leave Russia.
To apply for this paper, a person must confirm their identity in any way. They can even submit an electricity bill, or provide witnesses. For example, a family leaves [Ukraine]: five of them have their papers, but the sixth does not. Cases when an entire family does not have their papers are rare. Besides, there is an analogue of Russia’s Public Services Portal in Ukraine, so in ninety-nine percent of cases it won’t be difficult to confirm a person’s identity.
This document was introduced several years ago. As far as I understand, it was championed by the human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina and her Civic Assistance Committee—because there were a large number of migrant workers in Russia, and their cases were different. Some people had lost their papers. Or, a person, for example, worked in Tyumen, but their country’s consulate was in Yekaterinburg.
Clearly, the nearest Ukrainian consulate is located outside the Russian Federation. Fortunately, the Russian border service understands this, so [Ukrainian refugees] face no particular difficulties when leaving [Russia].
There are more complex dilemmas. For example, there are infants who were born in the now-infamous Mariupol maternity hospital and did not have time to receive any papers. I met a couple here: the dad and mom are legally married, they have plastic biometric cards, but the child’s only ID is the tag it had on its hand or foot.
— Have you baptized any refugee children?
— I was asked to baptize two children, but at that moment there was no room ready. When I asked for a room to be readied, the baptism was postponed. I think we’ll go there in a week. God willing, we will baptize them.
— Who are more numerous—the people who want to leave or the people who want to stay?
— The overwhelming majority (and among them there are people who are absolutely pro-Russian) say that their greatest desire is to get home. You ask, “But isn’t everything wrecked there?” They reply, “That’s okay, we’ll rebuild it.” We’ll set aside how they imagine reconstruction from a political point of view—it’s not about that. The point is that people want to return [to Ukraine]. And they will do so the first chance they get.
That’s why, by the way, the vast majority of refugees do not apply for the fast-track Russian citizenship they are offered. They get either a temporary residence permit or a residence permit. Even those who don’t want to go to Europe and say “We’ll stay here for a while” still regard returning home as their ultimate task.
— How ethical is the offer of Russian citizenship under such circumstances?
— If we set aside February 24, it is something that is done within the concept that the Russian authorities have proclaimed.
— But we cannot set aside February 24, can we?
— That is why it is an outrage. But within this outrage, there may be things that are completely beyond the pale, and there may be things that, from a humanitarian point of view, make it easier for a person to live at a particular moment.
— It seems to me that this is like torturing a person and serving them cake during the breaks.
— But it’s a slightly more complicated scheme if they are told, “Eat cake and we’ll let you go.” Purely practically, there are people who gave the orders to start shelling, others who set up a humanitarian corridor, and still others in the federal migration service who offer fast-track citizenship. All of them together constitute the state apparatus. But individually, they are different people—who, by the way, also have different judgementsd of what is happening.
A very great misfortune has come into our home. But now, I repeat, is not the time for judgements. Now is the time for action.
If a person asks you to give them underpants, a t-shirt, and a toothbrush, you don’t need to ask them who they voted for in the previous election. You have to give them what they ask.
— If martial law is imposed in Russia, will refugees become more vulnerable?
— Such a turn of events would affect everyone. It’s another matter that I have a rather low opinion of our government’s administrative willpower. In Russia, things are usually loudly announced, but come to naught.
I strongly doubt that the authorities would impose martial law. Most likely, they will again make do by adopting hybrid measures so as not to call things by name, because the level of support for this whole business is quite low. In 2014, all the cars were decked out with Saint George’s ribbons and everyone shouted joyfully, “Crimea is ours!” But now we see the letter Z only on Russian National Guard vehicles.
— What about the opinion polls?
— In an authoritarian country that is smoothly segueing to totalitarianism, the worth of such polls is quite low. People are well aware of what answers are expected from them. By the way, the latest poll by the Levada Center says that support for the war has decreased ten percent in a month. This is quite a serious drop, despite the fact that hysteria is being whipped up.
Yesterday, we sent abroad a [Ukrainian] family who had arrived from Astrakhan. They got to Petersburg by train without concealing from others who they were. They did not hide the fact that they were leaving our blessed country. People gave them food, and money, and toys. This is a very important indicator. All the people they met tried to make amends to them.
— Many volunteers also say that they do not go to protest rallies, but help Ukrainians because they feel guilty.
— Now is not a time when you can change the opinion of the authorities with a protest rally. Now there is a flesh and blood problem—the people who have ended up here [in Russia]. And a lot more problems will start to emerge, because the war does no one any good.
I have an appeal on my hands from two hundred families of conscript soldiers who, as you can guess, wound up in this war without any desire or legal grounds for it. But now the high command won’t issue them papers stating that they were involved in hostilities [and are thus owed veterans’ benefits].
Some of them were injured and need long-term rehabilitation and treatment.
It’s called a “ruined life.” A man goes into the army to serve the Motherland and comes home without legs. But he is told, “Actually, fellow, you’re nobody, and we didn’t send you there.” I’m not even talking about those who came back in zinc coffins. War benefits no one except the idiots at the very top.
— If we go back to the statistics, the Ukrainian authorities say that about 200,000 children have been taken to Russia. It turns out that these numbers also don’t jibe with yours?
— Unfortunately, the situation is so monstrous that I am not sure that there is even one agency that can responsibly cite exact figures about the refugees. Imagine: it is a war zone. Management at each individual site belongs to the operational command located there. From there, people are sent to a variety of pretrial detention camps in the Rostov and Belgorod regions, and so on. And from there they are sent further on.
How well are the records kept there? How systematic and accurate are they? Or do people cross the border and that’s the end of it? If I understand correctly, the Russian border service should, theoretically, have more or less accurate data. It should also be borne in mind that among the refugees there are people who managed to get DNR-LNR passports, and people who managed to get Russian citizenship. Some are even citizens of third countries. My data revolves around the number I cited. Perhaps it is already larger. But in any case, it is tens of thousands of people.
— And what is happening in Russia with Ukrainian children who have been left without parents?
— This is the most important issue we are trying to deal with. Fortunately, so far we have not found documentary evidence of such cases. We know that a few days before the war started, an orphanage was evacuated from the DPR. As for all the other children from Ukraine who are in Russia, if they are not with their parents, they are with legal guardians—meaning grandmothers, grandfathers and so on. So we’ve read a lot of stories about total orphans, but we haven’t encountered them yet.
— Do you know what to do if such children turn up?
— Theoretically, we do. In the interests of such a child, a lawyer would represent them with the consent of its legal guardians. This is a difficult job, because the Ukrainian side would have to be involved. I think we would solve the problem somehow.
— You now communicate a lot with children from Ukraine. They say that a child’s psyche is supple, but surely war leaves an irreparable mark on it?
— Of course it does. We can do a deep dive philosophically and discuss when and how to talk to a child about death—what to do if its hamster has died. But what to do if a loved one has died in front of the child? Today, we helped a family travel on to Estonia. The father and grandfather were killed [in Ukraine]. The grandfather died in the arms of his grandson. The boy was barely eighteen years old. And his two younger sisters saw it. Words and tears fail me. This is monstrous.
— How do you find the right words for them?
— I don’t try to find the right words. I try to behave in such a way that, perhaps, they themselves will feel like talking. Of course, post-traumatic syndrome is a very difficult situation. Very often people need to talk to a person who inspires confidence. But I’m not unique in this. All our volunteers are caring, empathetic people. And they all tell their own stories about the refugees.
A few days ago, we had a difficult case getting a family out of the country. The eldest son, who is seventeen years old, has a severe form of cancer. We carried out the evacuation along with the Ukrainian League of Oncologists, because the boy was scheduled for surgery in Switzerland. That was why the family was evacuated directly there, via Warsaw. One of the younger children, a three-year-old boy, has a shrapnel wound. That is, out of four children [in this family], two are in serious condition.
Naturally, this family communicated with our case managers. Our volunteer asked them a completely standard question in the chat: “Do you have pets? Do you need carriers?” And the mother of these children replied, “No, we don’t need anything: our parrot was incinerated along with our apartment.” Such details reveal the degree of horror that has been occurring there.
Yes, a child’s psyche is supple, but we know that young prisoners kept their memories of Auschwitz for life. Many of those who survived have lived thoughtful, fulfilling lives. But this does not mean that they [the Ukrainian children] will forget everything. A lot will depend on the environment and the circumstances in which they find themselves. This is supremely hard work for many years to come.
— I can’t help but ask you as an Orthodox priest: how do you feel about the ROC’s position on the war in Ukraine?
— I feel bad about it. This stance was the basis for my leaving the ROC clergy—because I’d been seeing this position since 2014. Let’s set aside all the theological chatter and just say it outright: the ROC is a public organization with members in two countries. Naturally, this public organization has all the levers it needs for getting involved in peacemaking and bringing people together. Instead, the organization a priori takes one side: these guys here are right, and those guys there are wrong.
This is no dialogue. This is the clerical habit of preaching from the pulpit, from the position of “I teach, and you listen.” This has facilitated only one thing—a decline in the ROC’s authority among the faithful both in Russia and Ukraine and around the world. Read what Pope Francis had to say about his conversation with [Patriarch] Kirill: [he called him] “Putin’s altar boy.”
— But why does Patriarch Kirill support this war?
— Kirill is a man of the system. He has his assignment, and he is carrying it out. His assignment is to support the party line. He is part of the Russian leadership. Recently, a friend told me that there is Rosneft [the Russian state oil corporation], and then there is Roschurch, the state corporation in charge of spirituality. Rosspirituality is probably the right name for it.
That’s the wrong way of doing things, guys. In any case, [Patriarch Kirill] is the head of a powerful organization. It has tens of thousands of regional branches—let’s call them that. It has tens of thousands of rank-and-file clergy. I’m not even talking about the millions of believers in Ukraine. And Ukraine is a much more religious country, a much more “observant” country than Russia. That is, they are people who don’t go to church only out of obligation. Many people in Ukraine now say, “Yes, we are parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Moscow Patriarchate. But, of course, it should stop communicating with Kirill. Of course, Kirill should no longer be our leader.”
I’m not even talking about the huge number of people in Russia who say, “That’s it, we’re not setting foot in that church.” [The ROC] doesn’t have to condemn or anathematize Putin. But it can and should clearly explain the difference between killing and peacemaking.
— Does this mean that Orthodoxy as a whole is losing its reputation?
— The reputation of religion generally will be greatly devalued by this war. Because religious leaders, unfortunately, do not have sufficient resources for peacekeeping missions. Yes, I know a number of clergymen in Ukraine—they are not necessarily Orthodox, many of them are Protestants—who are working in the war zone, evacuating civilians and helping the wounded. This is the Church’s business.
But the Church cannot make political decisions nowadays. Its word doesn’t have the weight it did in the Middle Ages, when wars were stopped and started because the Pope said so. It has no such resources. And there is no Sergius of Radonezh in Russia nowadays who could seal off the churches in Nizhny Novgorod.
One could, of course, do a performance. I could go to Red Square and seal the doors of St. Basil’s Cathedral. It would get written about, but it would be forgotten in five minutes, because [the Church] has now sway over minds. Society has long been de-Christianized.
— But the Pope has spoken out against the war, hasn’t he?
— I have a lot of sympathy for Pope Francis. But the Catholic Church is not just the Pope. There are also a huge number of people who should have worked even more vigorously. Now, unfortunately, what the Pope says is not heard by those to whom it is primarily addressed. Putin does not hear [the Pope], and Kirill does not tell him what the Pope says. We have reached a dead end. This is the trouble with ecclesiastical diplomacy and the Church’s influence.
— Do you cooperate with the Catholic charity organization Caritas?
— I don’t have any prejudices about anyone at all, especially when it comes to humanitarian cooperation. People can be atheists to the fourth degree or Catholics to the eighteenth power, but I say, “Lord, what a blessing that there are people who care.” Basically, we are willing to work with absolutely everyone—with the police, the border service, the Defense Ministry, the FSB. If it can be of real benefit to people, I say let’s cooperate, let’s look for a solution. If people are sitting and talking it’s always better than when they are looking at each other through the sight of a gun.
— Some of the volunteers helping the refugees have now become targets of harassment. Aren’t you afraid of this?
— I’m definitely not afraid of bullying. I didn’t experience it in 2014, when I supported Ukraine. Although I was asked a lot of puzzled questions. I think that the events that are happening now with the volunteers have to do with the fact that one of the heads of the regional special services isn’t quite up to his job. He misunderstands the state’s goals and objectives.
I talked to the big bosses in Petersburg and got their full agreement that everyone who wants to leave [Russia] should be sent away as soon as possible. This is in the public interest. Because otherwise we end up with an unmanageable number of socially disadvantaged people who still have personal ties to Ukraine and may have grievances against the Russian state.
Today, they say they want to live here, but tomorrow? Are we sure? Maybe we should get them out of her faster? And if the state does not have the material resources to keep them here and send them off, then thank God that there are volunteers who are willing to help these people go quietly and calmly wherever they want. [The officials] thought it over. They said, “This is an approach that suits the state.” I replied, “Well, you see.”
— Is it true that volunteers do not unite in one big movement and instead operate as discrete partisan detachments intentionally so that the authorities don’t harm them?
— We don’t have time to unite in one big movement. We would start spending time on organizational work, on electing a chair—on nonsense. Now there is a simple task: a man arrives at a train station [in Petersburg] and writes, “I have three bags and four kids.” He needs to be helped through simple efforts.
You can even just stand at the Moscow Station in Petersburg holding a sign that says, “I am driving refugees to Ivangorod.” That’s it. If you seem basically trustworthy, [the refugees] will approach you.
I am very happy (if I can say that at all nowadays) when I see thousands of volunteer chats. All my hopes rest on this.
People ask me, “Aren’t you afraid that half of [the people on the volunteer chats] are officers in the special services?” If that’s the case, then I’m doubly happy that they see and read everything. A person with the remnants of a healthy psyche cannot help but reach the right conclusions. It is a lot of fun to press a button and destroy an abstract opponent from afar. You listen to [pro-Putin TV talk show presenter Vladimir] Solovyov and go into battle for denazification. But when you come across people who have nothing to do with it at all—such as the dead grandfather [that Father Grigory mentioned, above] and the dad, who worked as an engineer at the Azovstal plant—you get a completely different picture.
— Aren’t you afraid of being named a “foreign agent”?
— I am a foreign agent by definition, because I abide by the the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation. This does not mean that I would deliberately and maliciously violate the laws of the state. But there are primary laws and secondary laws. The primary laws are: do not kill, do not steal, and so on down the line. So it is shameful to be afraid.
I don’t believe that I am violating the law by doing what I do. I obey it scrupulously. The law does not stipulate that the phrase “no war” is a crime.
Nor do I think that these words discredit the armed forces. I believe that they are words that any sane person would say. War is something that should not be part of humanity in the twenty-first century.
— Now you are you refraining from judging what is happening. When can we make this judgement?
— First of all, the fighting must end. Secondly, all refugees must find a home. It is clear that everyone won’t be getting home anytime soon. And considering such dangers as the use of nuclear weapons, this whole business could drag on for a very long time.
But that day will come. Someday a peace treaty or an act of surrender will be signed. The guns will stop talking. Not only analysts, but also historians will start talking. Sooner or later, judges and prosecutors will have their say. It’s a very sad spectacle. Of course, I would have rather that Russia had avoided this shock. But that didn’t happen.
Source: Farida Kurbangaleyeva, “‘I am a foreign agent by definition, because I abide by the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven’: how a Petersburg priest who left the Russian Orthodox Church has been helping Ukrainian refugees,” Republic, 10 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Five months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there remains a startling lack of understanding by many Western policymakers and commentators of the economic dimensions of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and what it has meant for Russia’s economic positioning both domestically and globally.
Far from being ineffective or disappointing, as many have argued, international sanctions and voluntary business retreats have exerted a devastating effect over Russia’s economy. The deteriorating economy has served as a powerful if underappreciated complement to the deteriorating political landscape facing Putin.
Maxim Katz, “How the economy of Russia is dying,” 21 July 2022: “Today we’ll talk about the branches already affected by the upcoming crisis. We’ll talk about the automobile industry and real estate, cinemas, and air traffic. We’ll also discuss why China is not going to help Russia” (with English subtitles). Mr. Katz was declared a “foreign agent” by the Russian Justice Ministry on 22 July 2022.
For Russian President Vladimir Putin, a two-word phrase sums up the current state of world geopolitics: “golden billion.” Speaking this week in Moscow, Putin declared that the “model of total domination of the so-called golden billion is unfair. Why should this golden billion of all the population on the globe dominate over everyone and impose its own rules of behavior?”
The golden billion “divides the world into first- and second-class people and is therefore essentially racist and neocolonial,” Putin continued Wednesday, adding that “the underlying globalist and pseudo-liberal ideology is becoming increasingly more like totalitarianism and is restraining creative endeavor and free historical creation.”
For most readers in the United States or Europe, a “golden billion” probably means nothing. But in Russia, this phrase has been around for decades as a doom-saying shorthand to describe a future battle for resources between a global elite and Russians. And since February, the Russian government has been deploying the theory to argue that Russia’s isolation after its invasion of Ukraine was not because of its actions — but because of an inevitable global conspiracy against it.
These complaints about inequality may seem rich coming from a man who has led an invasion that could help partially restore an empire, who has clung to power for decades while banishing his biggest opponent to prison and whose personal wealth wasonce estimated to be$200 billion. But at least some members of the Russian government seem to sincerely believe in the ethos behind these theories. And it may not just be Russians who find the idea persuasive.
Putin’s vague allusions to a golden billion over recent months obscure a far more conspiratorial history. The phrase comes from an apocalyptic book published in 1990, just as the Soviet era came to a crashing halt. Titled “The Plot of World Government: Russia and the Golden Billion,” the book was written by a Russian publicist named Anatoly Tsikunov under the pen name A. Kuzmich.
Tsikunov described an end-times conspiracy against Russia, with the wealthy Western elite realizing that ecological change and global disaster would see further competition for world resources, ultimately rendering the world uninhabitable for all but a billion of them. This elite realize Russia, with its natural resources, immense mass and northern location, needs to be brought under their control by any means necessary for their own survival.
This thesis was a twist on the widely disputed fears about global overpopulation developed by British cleric Thomas Robert Malthus in the late 18th century. However, it’s been given a modern, Russocentric update. In his 2019 book “Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy After Socialism,” New York University scholar Eliot Borenstein writes that the idea fits into a broader, paranoid history.
The golden billion “gathers together many of the most important tropes of benighted, post-Soviet Russia (the need to defend the country’s natural resources from a rapacious West, the West’s demoralization of Russia’s youth, destruction of Russia’s economy, and destruction of public health) into one compelling narrative, a story combining historical touchstones (the Great Patriotic War) with science and pseudoscience,” Borenstein wrote.
Tsikunov died in unclear circumstances a year after his book was published, only adding to the mystique. But his idea was soon popularized by the anti-liberal Russian intellectual Sergey Kara-Murza, who stripped away its stranger edges and wrote in the later 1990s that the golden billion meant the population of higher-income democracies like those in the OECD or G-7 who consume an unfair proportion of the world’s resources.
More than two decades later, the theory is everywhere in the Russian government. Despite its conspiratorial beginnings, high-ranking Russian officials like former president Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have repeated it in public settings since the Feb. 24 invasion.
Even wild theories can have tactical uses.When Putin speaks about a golden billion, he uses it to tie Western exploitation of Africa and Asia recently with the backlash to the conflict in Ukraine. Though Putin has long presented himself as a voice of global conservatism, the righteous anger of anti-colonialism is no doubt a more potent force globally.
“Of course, this golden billion became golden for a reason. It has achieved a lot. But it not only took such positions thanks to some implemented ideas, to a large extent it took its positions by robbing other peoples: in Asia, and in Africa,” Putin said Wednesday. “Indeed, it was like that. Look at how India has been plundered.”
In South Asia, Africa and Latin America, stories of anger against domination and colonialism find a receptive audience. And these are three regions where countries have so far failed to rally behind Western efforts to isolate Moscow.
But the contradictions in Putin’s logic could undermine his story. Another tale of colonialism and domination is playing out now in Ukraine, which Putin has suggested is rightfully Russian land. As The Post’s Robyn Dixon reports, Putin is moving rapidly to annex and absorb the parts of Ukraine it currently holds, “casting himself as a new version of the early-18th-century czar Peter the Great recovering lost territory.”
Source: Adam Taylor, “The apocalyptic vision behind Putin’s ‘golden billion’ argument,” Washington Post, 22 July 2022
Finlandization 3.0, apparently, involves joining NATO to keep the Russian imperialists at bay while simultaneously issuing as many Schengen visas as possible to Russian shopping tourists, who are totally clueless, of course, as they make their triumphant return to the hypermarkets of Lappeenranta, the setting of the hit Nordic noir series Bordertown. Its on-the-spectrum protagonist can barely keep his head above the bloodbath routinely unleashed in the town, which in real life is utterly peaceful and lovely. What is not lovely is the utter cynicism of Lappeenranta’s political and commercial elite, who are, strangely, much more like their fictional counterparts than the real town is like its lush but murderous onscreen double. ||| TRR
Russian shopping tourists are now coming by the busload to a border town in Finland, waiting weeks to make the trip: “It’s about time”
The effects of the border’s [re]opening are already visible in Lappeenranta. The number of Russians is nowhere near the record years, but they seem to have purchasing power.
A Sovavto bus from Russia turns in front of the Lappeenranta bus station.
There’s a full load of people exiting the vehicle. One of them is Andrei Kolomytsev of Petersburg. For him, a trip to Finland is a dream come true after a long wait.
“Two and a half years of waiting. It’s about time, ” he sighs.
Last Friday, Russia lifted travel restrictions that it had imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak last Friday.
Kolomytsev had been one of the first to arrive in Finland in his own car. However, his trip was halted at the Russian border in the morning, because Russia unexpectedly opened the border only at 1 p.m. Kolomytsev had already turned around and headed back home.
Now he’s happy to step off the bus.
“I’ll go to a cafe, and buy cheese and other high-quality food. I’ll have a look around after a long time,” Kolomytsev outlines his plans.
He also plans to visit a local car dealership specializing in Volvos to ask about maintenance prices. This is because it is now difficult to get car spare parts in Russia due to Western sanctions. As a result, car maintenance has also become more expensive.
Buses full Buses to Finland from Petersburg are now fully booked. For example, the Ecolines booking portal has no tickets available from Petersburg to Lappeenranta until August 16.
Another bus company, Sovavto, has no seats available until July 26.
The return of Russian shopping tourists to the shops is already visible in Lappeenranta. There are clearly more Russian cars with long plates on the streets and in parking lots.
The number of Russian customers has also increased, for example, at Lappeenranta’s branches of [Finnish hypermarket chains] Citymarket and Prisma.
“The number of Russians has increased since Friday. While it used to be a matter of lone customers, now we are talking about numbers in the dozens,” says Antti Punkkinen, Prisma’s director in Lappeenranta.
Ari Piiroinen, the storekeeper at Lappeenranta’s Citymarket, has a similar message.
“The number of Russians has increased steadily since the weekend, ” he says.
But there is still a long way to go to return to the state of affairs before the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is absolutely not possible to talk about numbers like they were in 2019 or earlier,” Punkkinen says.
He stresses that it has only been a few days since the border opened, so it is still too early to draw conclusions about the future number of Russians.
They’re not visible everywhere However, the increase in Russian shopping tourists is not visible everywhere in Lappeenranta.
For example, the opening of the border has not been felt in terms of shoppers at the IsoKristiina shopping center in the downtown.
“I haven’t noticed any significant change. The number of shoppers is about the same,” says Matti Sinkko, IsoKristiina’s manager.
They’re buying what they used to, and they seem to have money According Antti Punkkinen at Prisma, the contents of the Russian shopping basket appear to have remained more or less unchanged.
“They’re mainly buying foods: cheese, coffee, and baby foods, as well as certain detergents. As far as home and speciality goods are concerned, Russians have been interested in clothes during these few days,” Punkkinen says.
The contents of the shopping bags of Vladimir Vapilov of Petersburg, strolling the aisles at Prisma, seem to bear out Punkkinen’s words.
“I bought jeans and sneakers and cheese and chocolate,” he says.
According to Punkkinen, the Russians also seem to have enough money.
“The Russians seem ready to buy,” he says.
Source: Kalle Schönberg, Yle, 21 July 2022. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the link. Translated, from the Finnish, by the Russian Reader, who wonders why the residents of Bordertown were not out in droves picketing Russian shoppers.
The Ukrainian authorities would never control the liberated areas of the Kharkiv region again, said the head of the temporary civilian administration of the Kharkiv region Vitaly Ganchev.
“We will receive comprehensive assistance. That is, Ukraine is not coming back here. And every time I am asked whether the Ukrainian authorities will return, whether we can feel calm, I […] tell everyone that no, none of those Nazis will be coming back here, we are going to build a decent life,” he said.
Source: TASS, Telegram, 20 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
The behavior of some Western countries is comparable to the behavior of these puppies. When the special military operation in Ukraine began, everyone seemingly barked in unison, spewing columns of flame and, periodically, sanctions. Realizing the futility of their actions, silence momentarily ensued, and then a plaintive whining was heard. All their supposedly noble efforts had played a cruel joke on them.
Thinking before doing is a luxury beyond the reach of some Western leaders. Who would have thought that an unprecedented number of sanctions against Russia would do absolutely nothing. The people are not rebelling, gasoline prices have not soared, and store shelves are chockablock with a variety of products. The analogy with the feckless barking of small puppies is more than apt, although it is an invidious comparison.
Source: Ramzan Kadyrov (“Kadyrov _95”), Telegram, 20 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Truly revolutionary transformations are gaining ever greater momentum… These colossal changes are, of course, irreversible. Both at the national and global levels, the foundations and principles of a harmonious, more just, socially oriented, and secure world order are being developed — an alternative to the unipolar world order that has existed so far, which by its nature, of course, has become a brake on the development of civilization.
The model of total domination by the so-called golden billion is unfair. Why should this “golden billion” dominate the entire population of the planet, impose their own rules of behavior based on the illusion of exclusivity?! It divides peoples into first and second class, and therefore is racist and neocolonial in its essence, and the globalist, supposedly liberal ideology underlying it has increasingly taken on the features of totalitarianism, restraining creative endeavors [and] free historical creation!
One gets the impression that the West simply has no model of the future of its own to offer the world. Yes, of course, it is no coincidence that this “golden billion” became “golden,” that it achieved a lot, but it took up its positions not only thanks to certain ideas that it implemented. To a large extent it took up its positions by robbing other peoples in Asia and Africa! That’s how it was! India was robbed so much! Therefore, even today, the elites of this “golden billion” are terrified that other centers of global change could present their own scenarios!
No matter how much Western and supranational elites strive to maintain the existing order of things, a new era is coming, a new stage in world history!
And only truly sovereign states can ensure dynamic growth, set an example for others in standards of living and quality of life, in defending traditional values, lofty humanistic ideals, and models of development in which the individual is not the means, but the supreme goal!
Sovereignty is the freedom of national development, and therefore [the freedom] of each individual. It is the technological, cultural, intellectual, and educational viability of the state — that’s what it is! And, of course, sovereignty’s most important component is a responsible, industrious, and nationally minded, nationally facing civil society!
Source: Andrei Kolesnikov, “Vladimir Putin spun the turbine at GES-2,”Kommersant, 20 July 2022. I have removed Mr. Kolesnikov’s editorial asides and insertions from the text of the monologue quoted, above. Translated by the Russian Reader