Be Careful What You Wish For

“An Alt-future map where Russia is divided. Could be Post-WW3 or after collapse due to economic sanctions etc.” Source: Reddit

Re: the “volunteer battalions.” Many people, including me, have spoken out quite harshly here [on Facebook] about the irresponsible fools who have posted map[s] of a “collapsed Russia” on the web. The centripetal forces in the country will be more powerful than the centrifugal ones for a long time to come, and if Russia collapses, those daydreamers will definitely not be involved. Nevertheless, work on its collapse is in full swing in Russia itself, and the country’s authorities are leading the effort. Understand me correctly: I am sure that Putin and his friends do not want disintegration, because Russia has become and will forever remain their only available feeding trough. However, heedlessness, as always, trumps vested interest. As in the case of covid, what the center does not cope with, it sloughs off on the regions. But if this was relatively harmless when it came to covid, it is not so harmless when it comes to the “volunteer battalions” being formed on a regional basis. When the “volunteers” return — and some of them will return, inevitably — a small but cohesive and extremely angry force with combat experience and, most likely, access to weapons, will emerge in each region. Precisely due to its local identity, it will become a convenient tool for factions seeking local power. During a social and political crisis, this desire can be realized, but not without a local armed force. And such a force will be there for the taking. The infamous Girkin proved in practice in Sloviansk that even a small group like this can easily take power in a medium-sized city if it encounters no resistance. It will be both easy and pleasant for local security forces to negotiate with “veterans” if such agreements are sanctioned by the “elites” in the towns and villages, but especially in the ethnic republics. A scenario in which Russia will break up into 80+ independent countries cannot be precluded. These countries, however, will not be benevolent democracies in the European orbit, but gangster autocracies. And Russia is being pushed in this direction not by its real or imaginary enemies, but by its own authorities.

Source: Grigorii Golosov, Facebook, 11 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. Professor Golosov’s most recent book is Authoritarian Party Systems: Party Politics in Autocratic Regimes, 1945–2019 (Singapore: World Scientific, 2022).


“A Map of the Free States of Post-Russia. Decolonizing and Restructuring Russia. It’s Time for Indigenous Peoples and Regions to Take Back Their Independence and Sovereignty.” Source: We Survived Mariupol, 25 July 2022, Telegram

Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov meeting on 11 August 2022 with his military commanders. The meeting is conducted in Chechen with occasional infusions of isolated Russian words and phrases.

Western intelligence services have never really disguised their plans for our country. Their dream is Russia’s complete collapse and, in fact, the enslavement of its peoples. Our country has always been and remains the West’s number one target. The fact of the matter is that the Russian Federation’s multi-ethnic peoples have never accepted an alien ideology and have historically maintained their identity, mindset, and age-old principles.

And if at one time entire foreign institutions tried to achieve this goal by unleashing two wars in the Chechen Republic, later there were attempts to achieve it via South Ossetia and even Syria. Nothing came of them.

Now the West has played the Ukraine card. But here, too, all their efforts are doomed to utter failure. And I am very glad that the new tactical actions used by our combatants during the special military operation in the Donbass are bringing great success. I had no doubts about this initially. Today it is already obvious that the results have exceeded all expectations.

On Thursday, I met with the commanders and fighters of our detachments involved in the SMO. We once again had a warm conversation in an informal setting, discussing the successes we have achieved. We also discussed in detail the issue of improving the material resources for units from the Chechen Republic, of additionally supplying and equipping our fighters with modern weapons, equipment, and gear.

The most important thing is that [our] warriors are in great fighting spirit. The lads are clearly aware that they are fighting for the sake of all straight-thinking humanity and for the triumph of law, order, and justice. That is why, even after returning home, almost all SMO combatants are eager to go back. They have only one desire — to go all the way alongside their comrades. This is true patriotism, which means that victory will be ours! Absolutely! There is simply no other option.

Source: Ramzan Kadyrov, Telegram, 11 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Peace Out

A Petersburg developer asked not to use the name “Mir” (“Peace”) in advertising its [new] residential complex. The company decided to refrain from using the word, which had “taken on additional meanings.”

The screenshot of RBI’s request to shutter the name “Mir” (“Peace”) for its new residential complex on Mirgorodskaya Street (Mirgorod Street) in central Petersburg. Ironically, the street itself is named for the city of Myrhorod in Ukraine. Several other streets in the same neighborhood are named after Ukrainian cities, including Poltava, Kharkiv, and Kremenchuk. It should be pointed out that “mir,” in Russian, also means “world” and “peasant commune.”

RBI’s official website still identifies the residential complex as “Mir,” and this is the case on some other real estate resources as well. And yet, for example, one of the largest industry websites, TsIAN, already refers to it as the residential complex “On Mirgorodskaya, 1.”

Our source at the company told Rotunda that the advertising campaign for the complex had not yet been launched. And that was why they asked their partners — i.e., real estate agencies — “to refrain from directly advertising the sites before the official start of sales.”

Officially, RBI had only the following to say about the meanings implied by the word “Mir”: “As for the word itself, ‘MIR’ in this case refers to the location of the house, as well as to the World of Art [Mir iskusstva] art group.”

Source: Rotunda, 8 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


MIR Club House is a world for connoisseurs of beauty in the very heart of St. Petersburg, a striking house featuring original, artistic architecture.

Compositionally, the complex consists of two buildings: a building of varying heights (six, seven, eight and nine floors) containing 243 apartments, and a small six-story building containing 20 apartments. They are united by a street-facing arch and form a closed courtyard.

The apartments offer picturesque views of Feodorovsky Cathedral, the famous “Kremlin wall of Petersburg,” the historical center, and the new business-class quarter.

Sales start soon: https://mir.rbi.ru/

Source: RBI Group, YouTube, 7 July 2022. Annotation translated by the Russian Reader

Graduation Day

The two-week accelerated tactical and weapons training courses for the latest group of volunteers at the Russian Special Forces University @ruspetsnaz in Gudermes have ended.

The soldiers, who are from various regions of Russia, are full of determination and ready to join the battle for truth and justice on the territory of Donbass and Ukraine.

One more flight headed for the site of the special military operation from Hero of Russia Akhmad-Khadzhi Kadyrov Grozny International Airport.

Our dear BROTHERS — Chairman of the Parliament of the [Chechen Republic] Magomed Daudov @MDaudov_95, Deputy Prime Minister of the CR Abuzaid Vismuradov, Secretary of the Security Council of the CR Apty Alaudinov @sovbez95, Deputy Interior Minister and Police Chief of the Interior Ministry of the CR Aslan Irakhanov, and Head of the Grozny Transit Police of the Russian Interior Ministry Ali Tagirov — had parting words for the volunteers

They noted that fascism and Banderism had to be eradicated from the land of Donbass, [and] that [the volunteers] had been given the honorable mission of being part of the force that would bring about the triumph of justice and victory over evil.

We wish our soldiers a successful hunt for Banderites, Nazis and Shaitans! May their joint efforts, courage and heroism bring victory to Russia and freedom to Donbass! AKHMAD IS POWER!!!

Source: Kadyrov_95 (Telegram), 8 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The terminal building at Grozny Airport. The inscription over the entrance reads, “My weapon is truth, and all armies are powerless before this weapon. A[khmad] Kadyrov.” Source: Wikipedia

[…]

According to investigations by Novaya Gazeta and human rights organization Human Rights Watch, as a person in the inner circle of Kadyrov, Daudov often carries out his “special instructions”.

In 2014, according to a Novaya Gazeta investigation, Daudov participated in the torture and beating of detained president of Assembly of the Caucasian people, R[uslan] Kutayev.

In 2015, Novaya Gazeta reported that Chechen authorities were concerned about “true news” about the republic, claiming that bloggers writing about Chechnya in a manner viewed as “incorrect” by the authorities were illegally pressured and forced to apologise. Daudov was mentioned in this context.

On 16 and 17 January 2016, Daudov made posts on his Instagram account that contained insults and veiled threats against members of the Russian opposition, including journalists and right activists (Alexei Venediktov, I.A. Kalyapin, K.E. Merzlikin, A.A. Navalny, L.A. Ponomaryov, M.B. Khodorkovsky, V.I. Shenderovich and I.V. Yashin. Editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow A.A. Venediktov said: “Magomed Daudov’s statements [addressed to the opposition are] a serious threat and inadequate reaction to inconvenient issues of murder of Boris Nemtsov and a question to investigation and Chechen authorities”.

In a 12 October 2016 Instagram post, Daudov again made veiled insults against I.A. Kalyapin, chairman of interregional public organization Committee Against Torture. Gregory Shvedov, editor-in-chief of online newspaper Caucasian Knot submitted an application to the Investigative Committee of Russia, trying to bring Daudov’s publication under corpus delicti under article 144, part 3 of the Criminal Code of Russia. The Investigative Committee of Russia investigated but chose not to open a criminal case against Daudov.

Press articles covered Daudov’s conflict with the acting Chairman of the Supreme Court of Chechnya T.A. Murdalov.

According to some journalists, on 6 October 2016, Daudov came to the Supreme Court of Chechnya accompanied by security, entered the office of acting Chairman T. A. Murdalov and began to beat him, demanding that he write the resignation letter for health reasons. Murdalov refused.

According to media and human rights activists, Daudov participated in the prosecution of homosexuals in Chechnya and “played the key role in cleaning of the republic from gays, which was approved by republican management Journalists provided evidence that Daudov personally went to secret prisons in Argun and Grozny and managed the transfer of detained gays to relatives.

[…]

Source: “Magomed Daudov,” Wikipedia

Hellbent

Hellbent on having fun in the midst of a terrible war — a frightening panorama of Petersburg by virtuoso photographer Alexander Petrosyan. Source: Alexander Petrosyan, Facebook, 7 August 2022


As Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds into its fifth month, Moscow is a city doing everything it can to turn a blind eye to the conflict. It is a champagne-soaked summer like any other in the Russian capital, despite the thousands of dead and many more wounded in a war increasingly marked by acts of savage brutality.

In Gorky Park, outdoor festivals, cinemas and bars were all jammed on a recent evening, with young couples twirling to ballroom dance music as others stopped for selfies along the Moscow river nearby.

“Yes, we are having a party,” said Anna Mitrokhina, one of the dancers at an outdoor dance platform on the Moscow river, wearing a blue-sequin dress and heavy eye-makeup. “We are outside of politics, we want to dance, to feel and have fun. I can’t worry any more and this helps me forget.”

Walk through the city or switch on a VPN to scroll through Instagram or Facebook and you might not even know the country’s at war, a word that the Russian censors have banned from local media and that, even among many friends, has become taboo.

A lifestyle Instagram blogger with more than 100,000 followers who was opposed to the war said that she had consciously decided to stop speaking about the topic — because of the official restrictions but also the backlash she received from subscribers.

“Nobody wants to hear about the war, the special military operation, any more, they tell me to stop talking about this and get back to normal topics like beauty and fitness,” she said, asking that her name not be used. “Every time I mentioned it I would get so much hate in my messages. It hurts me, it hurts my business. I stopped mentioning it. It just doesn’t exist for many people.”

“What hurts the most is it is not really [because of the law], there is just no desire to talk about this,” she said. “People are turning off.”

[…]

Source: Andrew Roth, “‘People are turning off’: Muscovites put the war aside and enjoy summer,” The Guardian, 30 July 2022

Happy Birthday, Dmitry Ivanov!

Today, Open Space Moscow celebrated the birthday of a political prisoner Dmitry Ivanov, the administrators of the Telegram channel Protesting Moscow State University, with cakes, stickers, candles, and merch.

In addition to Ivanov, who is on trial for disseminating “fake news about the army,” the evening’s organizers remembered other people currently jailed under Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code who are not as well known, in particular:

Olga Smirnova, a Petersburg activist with Peaceful Resistance, who has been prosecuted for writing post about the war in Ukraine and burning a cardboard letter Z.

Vladimir Zavyalov, a businessman who hung anti-war price tags in a supermarket.

Ioann Kurmoyarov, a priest who said on YouTube that hell awaits the soldiers who attacked Ukraine.

Igor Baryshnikov, a Kaliningrad activist who wrote about Bucha on Facebook.

Source: SOTA (Telegram), 5 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

“Dima is in jail for words”
A merrymaker at Russian political prisoner Dmitry Ivanov’s birthday party writes him a postcard.

Victor in Broad Daylight

Victor in broad daylight.

My roommate Victor is a completely unique person. He is sixty-seven years old and an absolute image of our Soviet life from the 1970s to the 2010s, with all the paradoxes peculiar to the time. He is a fervent [Russian Orthodox] believer and yet he believes everything said on the radio about the atrocities committed the Ukrainian army. On the other hand, he is perplexed how military operations were launched without consultations. Victor worked as a driver, but also played music in bands. He knows all the western groups of the 70s and all the stars in both the West and Russia. He has seen every Soviet film and remembers all the scenes, all the actors, all the songs. A lot of happy memories are consolidated in him, as well as a lot of regrets about the past. Basically, he’s a typical chip off the old Soviet block. In him you have the songs, you have Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones and Alla Pugacheva and Eldar Ryazanov and [Leonid] Gaidai and Muslim Magomayev and everyone else, down to the last detail. You might say that he and I are living in the USSR from Khrushchev to Putin. It’s funny, but interesting. It’s Russia.

Source: Anatoly Zaslavsky, Facebook, 5 August 2022. Mr. Zaslavsky is a well-known Petersburg painter currently undergoing treatment at the city’s Botkin Hospital. Victor is his roommate at the hospital and has already featured in earlier social media dispatches. Translated by the Russian Reader

____________

The folding seats clapped,
The October’s curtains came down.
The rider finally galloped
Off toward the radiant dawn,

Faded show bills on the wall,
Blue ticket stubs on the floor.
Dusk on Nevsky had almost fallen
As we came out on the corner.

The jeans were Polish, the beret a sham.
Wow, we had enough for Kagor.
We had to live. Return bottles and pass exams.
To live and live till we got to here.

5 August 22

Source: Vadim Zhuk, Facebook, 5 August 2022. Mr. Zhuk is is a well-known Russian actor, screenwriter, TV presenter, and poet, whose poem “A Skeleton in the Closet” was published here last month. Translated by the Russian Reader

____________

On March 18, Irina Gen, a teacher of English in Penza, made an anti-war speech to her eighth-graders while explaining why they would not be able to travel to competitions in the Czech Republic. She told them about the shelling of the maternity hospital in Mariupol and the downed Boeing. One of the pupils recorded the teacher’s speech on a dictaphone and sent the recording to the security forces. A criminal case was opened against Gen ten days later. Today she was sentenced to five years of probation with a ban on teaching for three years. She had [originally] pleaded not guilty.

Source: Dmitry Tkachev, Facebook, 4 August 2022. Mr. Tkachev cites, in the comments, this article about Ms. Gen’s case, published in Mediazona the same day. Translated by the Russian Reader

Mission of Burma

“The US risks repeating the fate of the Soviet Union. Currently, the greatest threat to America comes from within, argues Donald Tramp.” Screenshot from the TASS page on Telegram. Read the whole story on their website.


“Cooperation between Russia and Myanmar is based on a solid foundation and is not subject to political trends, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin.” Source: TASS (Telegram), 3 August 2022


Kyaw Min Yu, a pro-democracy leader and writer in Myanmar widely known as Ko Jimmy, who rose to prominence in 1988 during protests that helped galvanize political forces opposing military-led regimes for decades to come, was executed with three other activists. He was 53.

In total, Ko Jimmy spent more than 20 years in prison. While detained by the state, which had been under absolute military rule for decades, he worked on literary projects. One surprise bestseller was his translation of a self-help book, which was seen as a manifesto of personal empowerment rare in a country known for its unyielding repression.

Myanmar’s military regime announced that it recently carried out the death sentences, but did not specify when the executions took place at the Insein Prison in Yangon. The junta was strongly denounced by rights groups and governments around the world. But the country’s rulers remained defiant as they seek to crush dissent and political allies of ousted civilian leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

[…]

Source: Brian Murphy, “Kyaw Min Yu, Myanmar activist known as Ko Jimmy, executed at 53,” Washington Post, 26 July 2022


Mission of Burma, “Academy Fight Song”

Ramil Niyazov: This War Didn’t Begin Only Eight Years Ago

Ramil Niyazov, protesting next to the Abai Qunanbaiuly monument in Almaty in July 2019 with a placard that reads, “‘Glasnost exposes the paltriness of authoritarianism,’ N. Nazarbayev, 1987.” Photo courtesy of Vlast (Kazakhstan)

What, for so many centuries, has your soul been seeking here, Rusich? / You have so much land that you cannot embrace it all.

My heart has grown rooted to these bare gorges and cliffs. / So why have you come here to die again?

Khas-Magomed Hadjimuradov, “New Year’s Eve in Grozny” (1999)

You can point to various dates: fourteen years ago, when Russia invaded Georgia; twenty-eight years ago, when Moscow went to war in Grozny; thirty-one years ago, when the Kremlin got involved in the conflict in Moldova. Or we could quote Timur Mutsurаyev, who sang that “We’ve been three hundred years at war with Russia…” This would also be true, though that is a whole other story, of course. But for me, a person known in Russia as a khach and a churok [common Russian racial slurs for Central Asian, Caucasian, and dark-skinned people], it makes the most sense to say, “Dear Russians, welcome to New Year’s Eve in Grozny! We’ve been waiting for you. It’ll last forever for you, until it ends. And it’ll definitely end soon, and then it will be a New Year.

What is this “New Year’s Eve in Grozny” on a symbolic level? It’s not just a tragedy. It’s the beginning of History, which, according to Francis Fukuyama, was supposed to have ended already. The tragicomedy is that the “end of history” didn’t occur in 2001. It occurred—as we can see now—in 1995, with the start of the First Chechen War, which painfully resembles the one underway right now in Ukraine. For examples, see here, here, and here, as well as this, of course:

“Grozny. Aleppo. Mariupol. Kharkiv. Fascists Z Murderers.” Image courtesy of Radio Svoboda

But why was the continuation of the Russian Federation’s terrible, bloody, and inhumane war against its former colonies on February 24, 2022, such a shock for me, a Kazakhstani and, I’m sure, for many of you?

The simplest and most correct answer lies in the fact that its previous phases did not affect us. It all happened (I have in mind primarily the Chechen Wars) somewhere else, and involved non-white Muslims, gangsters, and terrorists. It was Russia’s internal affair, to which all so-called progressive humanity more or less gave its blessing. Well and what do you expect? It would hardly have befitted the US, after the Gulf War and in the midst of bombing Iraq, to stand up for Muslim Chechnya. But not everyone let Russia off the hook and forgot about this. The first foreign volunteers in unrecognized Ichkeria were, in fact, not Arabs or Afghanis but Ukrainians (see the interview with Aleksandr Muzychko, a.k.a. Sashko Bily). But even I (as, again, a Kazakhstani) thought before February 24 that if Russia were ever going to change, it would be due to civil war rather than military defeat. And so much more terrifying is the irony in the fact that people who previously didn’t care about the fate of Chechnya massively reposted an interview with [Dzhokhar Dudayev], the first president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, in which he predicted this war with Ukraine a full twenty-seven years ago.

But the reasons that prompted me to write this text have nothing to do with a foreigner’s apparent decolonial attack against white masters, one full of ressentiment along the lines of “Did you really think that the slaughter in Bucha wouldn’t happen after the ‘mopping-up’ (this term actually first came into use then) in the village of Novye Aldy? Did you really think there wouldn’t be a strike on the Kramatorsk train station after the missile strike on the Grozny central market? Did you really think that Russian soldiers wouldn’t commit war crimes if, after two wars in Ichkeria, only two people were convicted of war crimes—Budanov and Lapin? If all the people who gathered evidence and conducted investigations (Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova, and Stanislav Markelov) were murdered, all three of them?”

No, not at all. First and foremost, I want to repeat for everyone in Central Asia, the Baltics, the North Caucasus, and Eastern Europe who hasn’t yet understood it (and there are fewer and fewer of these people with every passing day): our life didn’t just change into a “before” and “after” on February 24. Those thirty years since the collapse of the USSR took shape as History. That whole viscous, formless time—in which we had led our private lives, built nation-states, felt that we were, as Sergei Timofeev’s poem has it, “the underbelly of Europe” (or Asia), and watched wars in the Middle East—that whole time the History of the post-Soviet space had been going on outside of our private lives. Every attack by Russian officials on various minorities and every minute of propaganda TV broadcasts (as we all found out after the war was continued) were not just a way of consolidating the electorate of Russia’s ruling party, which allegedly had no ideology. No, they were all drops in the ocean of Russism, as Dzhokhar Dudayev called it, something with which we all collided on February 24, 2022. For thirty-one years it had been growing and maturing, and all of our hopes (including my own) for decolonizing Russian and Russia without a military defeat in a monstrous war, were lost. Future historians will describe this time as “the years of Russism and the struggle against it.” While we thought we had been living in an era of local conflicts, nation-states, and gradual democratization!

I thus declare with confidence that the most decolonial (in all senses) decision right now for everyone, for the whole world, is to completely support Ukraine. Because if it’s permitted to bomb even white Christian Europe, then it’s okay to “not sweat it” like China with the Uyghurs and just build concentration camps in downtown Paris. For anyone you want.

To sum up, I want to quote a poem by the Soviet poet Vladimir Burich, who was born in Kharkiv (cruel irony)—a poem we can all feel right now with our whole bodies:

The world is filling up with

postwar people

postwar things

among my letters I found

a bar of prewar soap

I didn’t know what to do

wash

cry

The prewar era is 

a lost Atlantis 

And we

the miraculous survivors

Our prewar era has truly gone under, and we are its last witnesses. Just as the Second World War turned the Great War into the First World War, the thirty-one years between the collapse of the USSR and the bombing of Kyiv on February 24, 2022, have crystalized. Our political philosophy, historiography, and humanities will change. Our whole understanding of social reality will change, whether we want it to or not. History, as is still often the case, is unfolding before our very eyes. Better not blink and miss it.

Source: Ramil Niyazov-Adyldzhyan, “This War Didn’t Start Eight Years Ago,” Sibir.Realii (Radio Svoboda), 8 July 2022. Mr. Niyazov is a Kazakhstani poet. Translated by the Fabulous AM