This coming Sunday, December 4, new Last Address plaques will be installed in St. Petersburg.
At 12:00 p.m. a plaque in memory of Pavel Markovich Tsesinsky, an accountant at the Red Triangle factory, will be mounted at 47 Bolshoi Prospekt, Petrograd Side. Tsesinsky was arrested on September 21, 1937 and shot less than a month later, on October 15, 1937. His wife Bella and five-year-old son Volodar were exiled to the Arkhangelsk region, where his wife was arrested and died, and his son was sent to an orphanage. Another son, Ernest, who was only six months old, was adopted by relatives. The brothers were reunited only eighteen years later. Pavel Markovich’s eldest son is now ninety years old.
At 1:00 p.m., at 15 Tchaikovsky Street, relatives will install a plaque memorializing Solomon Borisovich Davidson, head of procurement at the Bolshevik factory. He was first arrested in 1935, but released a year later, and the case was dismissed. He was re-arrested on July 26, 1938, and shot on October 8, 1938, on charges of espionage. His wife Elizabeth died in 1942 in the Siege of Leningrad, but their daughters Irina and Mariana were evacuated and were able to return to Leningrad after the war.
Pavel Tselinsky was exonerated in 1957, while Solomon Davidson was exonerated in 1964.
We invite you to join the installation ceremonies.
The Last Address Team in St. Petersburg
Source: Last Address in Petersburg email newsletter, 27 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Solidarity Zone is a new initiative, established by anti-authoritarian activists. Anarchist Black Cross Moscow is cooperating with the new initiative, and we encourage everyone to support it.
Solidarity Zone is a horizontal initiative supporting those persecuted for anti-war actions. We came together in the spring of 2022 to help those left without attention by human rights organizations.
Everyone is worthy of defense and solidarity. And we stand in solidarity with people who have spoken out in word and deed against state violence. We are against the existence of prisons, states and war — for self-organization, equality and the abolition of oppression.
We are ready to support those who speak out against war and resist militarism, with the exception of people who practice discrimination on national, gender, social and other grounds. At the same time, our project team consists of only a few people, and we do not have enough resources, so we are currently working on a small number of cases.
We would like to point out that we don’t pay any fines or compensation for damages caused to the state. We also do not help people who voluntarily testify against others. Pleading or not pleading guilty is not a limiting factor.
Our objectives are:
Establish and maintain contact with detainees and their loved ones;
Find lawyers whom we trust;
Arrange parcels or packages for prisoners;
Share information about the cases and addresses for letters with the consent of those who are persecuted.
You can share information about prisoners who need support by writing to us. You can also direct your questions about current cases that our initiative is already working on. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
DONATIONS REQUIRED We have no permanent source of funding and do not get paid, so the support is being provided thanks to your donations. We encourage you to support our project financially, if you are in a position to do so.
This is a message from Obada Zekra, the team leader of the White Helmets center in Maret Mesrin in northwest Syria.
With winter fast approaching, my team in northwest Syria is working around the clock to tackle an outbreak of cholera that has already claimed 12 lives here and threatens tens of thousands of displaced families living in tent camps in dire conditions.
We are repairing camp water infrastructure and digging hundreds of drainage channels to prevent torrential winter floods mixing with sewage and spreading the deadly virus. White Helmets ambulances are transferring suspected cases to hospitals and women volunteers are making daily tours of tents to provide primary health care.
In the middle of the cholera outbreak, early on November 6, Russia and the regime bombed sleeping civilians in six overcrowded camps, including with internationally banned cluster munitions, turning their last refuge into a hell. Ten people were killed, including four children. Our team rushed to rescue the injured, but we felt totally helpless when our colleague, the White Helmets volunteer Hassan Bakir, lost his baby son Azzam in an attack on Maram camp where he has lived since he was displaced.
After the attack the White Helmets evacuated families to other camps as the area was littered with unexploded ordnance which our specialized UXO teams had to clear. But even on days when there are no Russian planes in the skies we are in a constant race against time to prepare for winter: building roads, making health visits to elderly residents, and conducting hundreds of public health information sessions as we predict a fresh wave of both COVID and cholera over winter.
Each of our 19 White Helmets centers responding to the cholera emergency needs $1100 worth of water chlorination equipment to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
• A $20 donation will contribute towards setting up field clinics in tents
• $100 would pay for a 100 liter plastic tank to store clean water
• $300 would buy a new water pump
Donations of any amount are urgently needed as our COVID response taught us how fast infectious diseases spread.
Nearly 1.8 million civilians, the majority of them women and children, have been displaced from their homes by years of attacks by Russia and the regime and now live in camps in northwestern Syria in desperate, cramped conditions where they continue to be targeted by bombs and missiles in violation of international law. The international community continues to fail them and every six months the UN even requires Russia’s approval to renew vital cross-border aid deliveries, which many rely on to survive. People here dream of the day they can return to their homes and towns. Instead, residents of Maram camp suffered a massacre this month that stole the lives of their children.
Digging a pit?
Fell in the pit?
Down in the pit?
Need a ladder?
Wet in the pit?
How's the head?
So you are safe?
Well, okay then, I'm off!
Putin last week took part in a meeting with the mothers of soldiers killed in the war in Ukraine. The title “soldiers’ mother” carries a lot of influence in Russia — and Putin was famously humiliated by a group of soldiers’ relatives in his early years as president. Unsurprisingly, Friday’s meeting included only those trusted to meet Putin and the gathering passed off without awkward questions. Putin — who now rarely communicates with anyone outside of his inner circle — once again demonstrated a complete detachment from reality.
The Russian authorities have been nervous of organizations of soldiers’ mothers since the mid-1990s. During the first Chechen war (1994-1996), in which the Russian army was humiliated, the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers was one of the country’s leading anti-war forces and held the state and the military to account.
For Putin personally, any encounter with soldiers’ mothers stirs unhappy memories of one of the most dramatic incidents of his first year in the Kremlin. In August 2000, the inexperienced president was subjected to a grilling by the wives and mothers of sailors who died in the Kursk submarine disaster. The transcript of the meeting immediately appeared in the press and a recording was played on Channel One, which was then owned by Kremlin eminence grise Boris Berezovsky. Presenter Sergei Dorenko subsequently claimed that, after the broadcast, Putin called the channel and yelled that the widows were not genuine and that Berezovsky’s colleagues “hired whores for $10.” Ever since that encounter, the Russian president has avoided in-person meetings, favoring stage-managed gatherings with hand-picked members of the public.
This time, of course, there were no surprises. The Kremlin carefully selected the soldiers’ mothers who were invited to attend. At least half of those at the meeting turned out to be activists from the ruling United Russia party and members of pro-Kremlin organizations.
The most striking speech at the event was close to parody. It was given by Nina Pshenichkina, a woman from Ukraine’s Luhansk Region whose son was killed in 2019. Pshenchkina later became a member of the Public Chamber of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic and has attended almost every official funeral and official celebration. She told Putin that her son’s last words were: “Let’s go, lads, let’s crop some dill” (in this context, “dill” is an insulting nickname for Ukrainians).
Putin’s speech was also striking. First, he told the assembled mothers that Ukrainians were Nazis because they kill mobilized Russians soldiers who did not wish to serve on the front line. Then he embarked on a long, strange discussion about why we should be proud of the dead. “We are all mortal, we all live beneath God and at some point we will all leave this world. It’s inevitable. The question is how we live… after all, how some people live or don’t live, it’s not clear. How they get away from vodka, or something. And then they got away and lived, or did not live, imperceptibly. But your son lived. And he achieved something. This means he did not live his life in vain,” he said to one of the mothers.
Why the world should care
It would be an error to assume that Putin has completely abandoned rational thought. However, it is instructive to watch him at meetings like this, which provide a window onto the sort of information he consumes. At this meeting with fake soldiers’ mothers he quoted fake reports from his Defense Ministry and, seemingly, took it all seriously.
Source: The Bell & The Moscow Times email newsletter, 28 November 2022. Written by Peter Mironenko, translated by Andy Potts, and edited by Howard Amos. Photo, above, by the Russian Reader
Father Death Comes to Berlin — Silence Russian War Propaganda on Our Streets!
On November 29, the “Russian House” Berlin invites to a “festive lighting of the candles” at the Christmas tree in front of the building in Friedrichstraße. In a kitschy video, this event is also advertised by the Russian Embassy.
However, we do not feel “festive” at all! On the contrary. We are angry that such a propaganda action can take place without problems in Berlin. Because while in front of the Russian House “peaceful Christmas” are staged, Russia leads a brutal attack and conquest war in Ukraine, in which whole cities are bombed. The main target is the civilian population, which is exposed to permanent terror by Russian attacks.
The Putin regime is thus continuing a tactic that it has already been testing since 2015 in Syria, where even refugee camps are being attacked by Russian bombers. In Syria, Russian attacks have killed more than 2,000 children in the last eight years, and in Ukraine, nearly 1,000 children have been killed or injured so far as a result of the Russian war. There is no “peaceful Christmas” for these children!
The Russian House has so far refused to take a clear stand against the wars of the Putin regime. It gives itself the outward appearance of a non-political “cultural institute”. In fact, however, it is part of the regime’s propaganda machine and is supposed to convey the image of a peaceful and friendly Russia.
The right-wing Alternative for Germany is also occasionally given the opportunity to hold events in the Russian House. Thus, the Russian House also fulfills a function in the Putin regime’s strategy of promoting right-wing and far-right parties and organizations worldwide.
According to research by Tagesspiegel, the Russian House is “run by the Rossotrudnichestvo organization, whose head, Yevgenii Primakov, is a Putin confidant.” The organization is directly under the jurisdiction of the Russian Foreign Ministry and has been subject to European Union sanctions since July.
We ask ourselves: Why is the Russian House in Berlin allowed to continue to act unchallenged and to spread the “soft propaganda” of the Putin regime?
Join us on 29.11.2022 at the Russian House in Friedrichstraße and show your protest against the unspeakably hypocritical event “Father Frost comes to Berlin”!
We demand the immediate closure of the Russian House! Against the propaganda of the Putin regime in Berlin and everywhere!
Source: Facebook. Thanks to Harald Etzbach for the heads-up. I took the liberty of inserting the YouTube video and the photo, above, as well as incorporating the links to articles in the German press into the text. God knows that if I were still living in Berlin, I would be attending this protest. ||| TRR
In 1914, when his native Finland was still part of the Russian Empire, he traveled around Samara province and recorded music of traditional fiddlers from local Erzya Mordva villages on wax cylinders. These recordings have been preserved in the Finnish archives.
The album Erzyan Morot (“Erzyan Melodies”) presents those tunes played by modern Russian fiddlers as close to the original as possible .
The number in the brackets after each melody is its number in the collection Mordwinische Melodien (“Mordovian Melodies”, Helsinki, 1948) compiled by Väisänen.
Sofia Balueva (tracks 1-4), recorded August 14, 2021 in St. Petersburg
Sofia Fayzrakhmanova (tracks 5-10), recorded at the same place
Tatyana Yamberdova (track 11), recorded on October 23, 2021 in the town of Velikiye Luki
The idea of the project by Ksenia Goncharova and Andrey Davydov.
Source: Antonovka Records, Facebook, 25 November 2022
Armas Otto Aapo Väisänen (9 April 1890 – 18 July 1969) was an eminent Finnish scholar of folk music, an ethnographer and ethnomusicologist.
Väisänen was born in Savonranta. In the early twentieth century he documented, in recordings and photographs, traditional Finnish music and musicians. With a scholarship from the Finno-Ugrian Society Väisänen traveled to Russia in 1914 to collect Finnish folk melodies. He made field trips to Mordovia, Ingria, Veps, Russian Karelia. His activities also marked the a new stage in the history of collecting Seto folk songs in Southern Estonia. After the first trip in 1912 he made 6 field trips to Estonia between 1912 and 1923.
A. O. Väisänen’s dissertation was presented in 1939 on Ob-Ugrian folk music in German: Untersuchungen über die Ob-ugrischen Melodien: eine vergleichende Studien nebst methodischer Einleitung.
Between 1926 and 1957 Väisänen hold the position of the head of the folk music department at the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland. He was the professor of musicology at University of Helsinki from 1956 to 1959. He died in Helsinki, aged 79.
Despite its declared war on “satanic” western values, Putinist Russia continues to slavishly imitate all the worst the mythical west has to offer, including “Black Friday,” as exemplified by this image from an email flyer sent to me earlier today by the major online retailer Ozon, featuring the pop singer Dmitry Malikov. Nor has Putin’s “proxy war” with the west stopped the pidginization of the Russian language, as seen in the second-to-last piece in this grim holiday collage. ||| TRR
The expected tourist flow from Iran may amount to approximately two thousand people a week starting in the spring of 2023, director of the municipal tourist information bureau Yuri Bogdanov said on November 24. According to him, relevant negotiations are underway with air carriers.
“We are negotiating with airlines that want to provide direct flights between Iranian cities and St. Petersburg. We hope that there will be six flights per week with an average number of around 300 seats on board. This is already about two thousand people a week. We expect that, beginning in the spring, these airlines will supply their airplanes,” TASS quoted Bogdanov as saying.
The expert clarified that there were more flights before the pandemic and six thousand tourists used to arrive from Iran every week.
According to Bogdanov, the flow of tourists may return to its pre-covid levels in St. Petersburg by about 2026, but at the same time primarily due to guests from Russia, and not from foreign countries. According to the figures he cited, in 2019, about five million Russians and 5.5 million foreigners visited the Northern Capital, while 6.4 million Russians and 150–200 thousand foreigners visited the city in the first nine months of 2022.
“We have reformatted the priorities for domestic tourism — we want to reach the same 10.5 million tourists a year. There is every ground for this to happen,” Bogdanov opined.
Earlier, the State Duma Budget and Taxes Committee recommended that St. Petersburg be included in the list of regions that charge tourists a resort fee.
At least 58 children, some reportedly as young as eight, have been killed in Iran since anti-regime protests broke out in the country two months ago.
According to Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA), 46 boys and 12 girls under 18 have been killed since the protests began on 16 September, sparked by the death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody.
In the past week alone, five children were reportedly killed by security forces as violence continued across the country.
Speaking at Kian’s funeral on Friday, his family said security services had opened fire on the family car, where Kian was sitting next to his father. Iranian security services have denied responsibility for his death, blaming the shooting on “terrorists”.
Iran’s mounting child death toll comes amid escalating violence in cities across the country, with protests showing no sign of abating.
Young people have been at the forefront of anti-regime protests, which started after Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police. She had been arrested for not wearing her hijab correctly.
The deaths of two teenage girls, Nika Shakamari and Sarina Esmailzadeh, both allegedly beaten to death by security forces for protesting, provoked further outrage.
Videos of schoolgirls across the country protesting against their killing by removing their hijabs and taking down pictures of Iran’s supreme leaders went viral on social media, leading to raids on schools where children were beaten and detained. According to Iran’s teachers union, another 16-year-old girl, Asra Panahi, died after she was attacked by security forces in her classroom in the north-western town of Ardabil on 18 October.
The attacks on children in schools is continuing, according to Hengaw, which said a 16-year-old girl from Kurdistan is on life support after throwing herself from a school van, having been arrested at her school last week.
HRA says more than 380 protesters have been killed since the protests began and more than 16,000 people have been detained, including children. The figure is disputed by the authorities.
On November 21, the opening of the food hall [fud-kholl] Vokzal 1853 took place in the building of the former Warsaw railway station.
It is the largest gastronomic space in St. Petersburg and, so its creators claim, in Europe.
So far, not all the establishments in the eater have opened — the launch . The event zone [event-zona] is designed for to accommodate 2.5 thousand guests and have 4 thousand seats, while the entrance to the second floor is still closed.
The cost of renovating the former railway station exceeded 1.5 billion rubles. The Vokzal 1853 food hall [fud-kholl] is a project of the Adamant holding company and restaurateur Alexei Vasilchuk. In total, as stated earlier, more than 90 restaurant concepts [restorannykh konseptsii] will await visitors, and the total area of the food hall will be about 34 thousand square meter.
The company plans to open a concert venue, craft [kraftovye] shops, and a coworking [kovorking — sic] in the space.
Earlier, DP reported that its creators had conceived the decoration of the premises to suggest the atmosphere of nineteenth-century railways stations, and visitors would find themselves in the “epicenter of a bustling creative life.”
Ukraine continued to reckon with the fallout from Russia’s air strikes on its energy infrastructure, with much of the country still struggling with blackouts. Residents in Kyiv, the capital, were told to prepare for more attacks. Russian missiles damaged a hospital on the outskirts of Zaporizhia, a Ukrainian-held city not far from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, controlled by Russia. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia was heavily shelling Kherson, the southern city recaptured by Ukrainian forces in early November. Local officials said that strikes killed seven people in the city on Thursday.
Source: The Economist, “The World in Brief” email newsletter, 25 November 2022
This is a wildly disappointing exercise in sophism and self-deception by the usually much more lucid Maxim Katz. Russia has arrived at its present murderous and self-destructive bad end not through rigorous and ruthless totalitarian indoctrination and psychological manipulation, as suggested by Katz’s invocation of Ron Jones’s 1967 Third Wave experiment in a California high school, but through a chaotic, consistent indulgence of opportunism, consumerism, escapism, ressentiment, hipsterism, “westernism,” capitalism, cynicism, nihilism, and thuggery by the elites and the much of the so-called intelligentsia, thus almost completely overwhelming the decent, democratic, and egalitarian impulses and undertakings of differently minded and empowered “other Russians” from all walks of life and all parts of the country. It has been one of the missions of this website to bear witness to both these tendencies in their extreme and trite manifestations. You’ll find vanishingly little of what Katz describes in my chronicles of the last fifteen years here and on The Russian Reader‘s sister blog Chtodelat News. You will find, however, plenty of stories of brave grassroots resistance and movement building blunted and, ultimately, murdered by a police state whose PR wing has urged Russians to trade their freedom for food courts. ||| TRR
We have begun supporting Vladlen Menshikov, accused of anti-war sabotage on the railways.
On September 30, pro-government mediareported the arrest of 29-year-old Vladlen Menshikov by the FSB in the Sverdlovsk Region. Investigators claim that Menshikov installed short-circuiting devices on the railway at the eightieth kilometer of the stretch between Rezh and Striganovo, along which trains carrying Russian military equipment run.
During an interrogation, which FSB field agents recorded on video, Menshikov said that he opposes the war and supports overthrowing the current government. He also discusses methods of sabotaging the Russian army’s railway supply lines.
Solidarity Zone was able to establish Menshikov’s identity and locate the pretrial detention center in which he is detained. When we contacted him and offered our support, he responded positively. He asked for legal assistance, and also said he would be glad to receive letters.
We are currently working to start providing full-fledged legal assistance to Menshikov.
We would note that Vladlen is currently being held in solitary confinement, so letters are especially important for him.
Address for letters and parcels:
Menshikov Vladlen Alexeyevich (born 1993)
4 Repin Street
Pretrial Detention Center No. 1
Ekaterinburg 620019 Russian Federation
(It is possible to send letters through the FSIN-Pismo service and Zonatelecom, as well as throughRosUznik, a volunteer-run resource.)
To support Solidarity Zone financially, so that we can continue to pay lawyers, send parcels to prisoners, and help cover other expenses, you can use the follow payment methods:
Source: Solidarity Zone, Facebook, 21 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will not be able to use the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service’s FSIN-Pismo service or the privately run Zonatelecom. It is also probably impossible or nearly impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. But you can send letters — translated into Russian (if you don’t know a competent translator, you can use a free online translation service such as Google Translate) — to Vladlen Menshikov (and many other Russian political prisoners) via RosUznik. You can also ask me (email@example.com) for assistance and advice in sending letters.
So much for the idea of not giving a platform to out-and-out fascists like Alexander Dugin, whose “academic” credentials are borne out by serious-sounding nonsense like the following, as found in Last War of the World-Island and translated by John Bryant:
In all the principal parameters, the Russian Federation is the geopolitical heir to the preceding historical, political, and social forms that took shape around the territory of the Russian plain: Kievan Rus, the Golden Horde, the Muscovite Czardom, the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union. This continuity is not only territorial, but also historical, social, spiritual, political, and ethnic. From ancient times, the Russian government began to form in the Heartland, gradually expanding, until it occupied the entire Heartland and the zones adjoining it. The spatial expansion of Russian control over Eurasian territories was accompanied by a parallel sociological process: the strengthening in Russian society of “land-based” social arrangements, characteristic of a civilization of the continental type. The fundamental features of this civilization are:
• conservatism; • holism; • collective anthropology (the narod is more important than the individual);
• sacrifice; • an idealistic orientation; • the values of faithfulness, asceticism, honor, and loyalty.
Sociology, following Sombart, calls this a “heroic civilization.” According to the sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, it is the ideal sociocultural system. This sociological trait was expressed in various political forms, which had a common denominator: the constant reproduction of civilizational constants and basic values, historically expressed in different ways. The political system of Kievan Rus differs qualitatively from the politics of the Horde, and that, in turn, from the Muscovite Czardom. After Peter I, the political system sharply changed again, and the October Revolution of 1917 also led to the emergence of a radically new type of statehood. After the collapse of the USSR there arose on the territory of the Heartland another government, again differing from the previous ones: today’s Russian Federation.
But throughout Russian political history, all these political forms, which have qualitative differences and are founded on different and sometimes directly contradictory ideological principles, had a set of common traits. Everywhere, we see the political expression of the social arrangements characteristic of a society of the continental, “land-based,” heroic type. These sociological peculiarities emerged in politics through the phenomenon that the philosopher-Eurasianists of the 1920s called “ideocracy.” The ideational model in the sociocultural sphere, as a general trait of Russian society throughout its history, was expressed in politics as ideocracy, which also had different ideological forms, but preserved a vertical, hierarchical, “messianic” structure of government.
Five persons unknown abducted and tortured Dmitry Karimov, a 22-year-old resident of Krasnoobsk (Novosibirsk Region), in order to get him to confess to burning a banner in support of the Special Military Operation. The young man told the Telegram channel “Caution, News” [which has 1,443,493 subscribers] about the incident.
According to Karimov, on the morning of October 14, five men in mufti attacked him and pushed him into a vehicle. “I was screaming, calling for help, and they used a cattle prod on me,” he said, adding that they immediately accused him of setting fire to the banner, a crime which he did not commit.
Then, according to Karimov, the men took him to the forest, handcuffed him, strangled him, threatened to shoot him, and offered to convey to his parents his last words if he did not confess to the arson. Karimov confessed under duress. He was taken home, where a search took place, during which the security forces seized electronic devices and a jacket.
The detainee was then taken to the police station. Karimov said that during the interrogation he tried to tell the truth, but he was threatened with being sent to the war in Ukraine, and due to fear and coercion, he confessed.
The detainee’s mother Ekaterina Mikhasyonok said that her son is a third-category disabled person: he has been diagnosed with an organic lesion of the central nervous system, and has hearing and speech problems. She added that when her son did not return from school, she began looking for him. At about nine in the evening, she went to the police station, where she was told that Karimov was there.
Karimov was charged with “intentional destruction or damage to property by arson” (per Article 167.2 of the Criminal Code) and released on his own recognizance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday named several supporters of the war in Ukraine to the presidential Human Rights Council in a shake-up of the body which appeared to purge members who have publicly expressed doubts about the war.
War correspondent Alexander Kots and two other prominent supporters of the war were added to the council, while 10 members, including the well-known television host Nikolai Svanidze, found themselves removed from the body.
Kots, a journalist for the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid who also runs the popular Telegram channel Kotsnews, has risen to prominence during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as he has been embedded with Russian forces throughout the war.
While he has reported on Ukraine since 2014, he has faced repeated accusations of being a mouthpiece for the Kremlin since the start of Russia’s 2022 invasion, most notably for his claim that the massacre of Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha was staged by Kyiv.
Also added to the body on Thursday were Yulia Belekhova of the All-Russian People’s Front, an organization that raises money to support pro-Kremlin separatist forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region, as well as Elena Shishkina, a member of the Free Donbas party in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
The 10 members removed from the body include Svanidze, who has increasingly voiced his concerns over Russia’s invasion and who called for curbs on the death penalty in the Donetsk region in an open letter to Putin in August.
Prominent rights activist Igor Kalyapin and leading anti-xenophobia researcher Alexander Verkhovsky were also removed from the council in Thursday’s shake-up.
Russia’s Human Rights Council, which was established by presidential decree in 2004 to guarantee and protect human rights in Russia, has been criticized for failing to challenge Putin as members have been ousted and replaced with more Kremlin-friendly figures over the years.
The council has been chaired by journalist and war supporter Valery Fadeyev since 2019.
Every Wednesday we tell you about an article that has proved the most interesting to one of our staffers.
Yulia Holtobina, manager of the Subscribers’ News project, has shared an article with us today.
Does modern society need cultural goods? In my opinion, they are simply necessary for people to grow spiritually and achieve inner harmony. Culture is the environment in which the life of the individual and the life of society take place. Culture makes a person a personality.
In our difficult time, people increasingly want to distract themselves, to get away from fatigue and the problems that have piled up. Theaters, cinemas, and museums are the cultural spaces where they can relax, feel joy, find positive energy and inspiration, and return to a stable life.
Delovoi Peterburg thus writes that the preferences of Petersburgers have not changed. People still enjoy going to theaters, museums, exhibitions, and St. Petersburg’s other cultural spaces.
Source: Delovoi Peterburg email newsletter, 16 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Theatergoers south of Moscow were held “hostage” and shot at by actors playing Ukrainian soldiers during an immersive play that glorifies Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, local media reported Tuesday.
Opening scenes from the production titled “Polite People” showed actors dressed in Ukrainian military uniforms violently capturing audience members and shooting them with what appeared to be prop assault rifles.
One female captive can be heard screaming “it hurts” and “let go” as the actors drag her onstage.
“Polite People” is a euphemism for the Russian soldiers without insignia who occupied Crimea before Moscow annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.
“The creators wanted to immerse the audience into the atmosphere of what Donbas residents had experienced for eight years,” the Kaluga region’s Nika TV broadcaster said, using the term for eastern Ukraine’s separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Actor Vilen Babichev, who portrays one of the Ukrainian troops, told Nika TV the play aims to show Russian audiences “the nature of the enemy that invaded our territories eight and a half years ago.”
President Vladimir Putin has justified Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine with unbacked claims that Kyiv is committing “genocide” against Russian-speaking residents of the Donbas.
“Polite People” is funded through a 10.1-million ruble ($165,000) Russian presidential grant.
Its author, Luhansk-based musician and film studio director Roman Razum, said the project aims to “create positive content to counteract negative content that carries an immoral ideology and counters the Russian cultural code.”
“We show that these aren’t just Ukrainian [soldiers], but fighters fully trained by NATO and supplied with weapons for many years,” Razum told Nika TV.
The play premiered in Kaluga on Monday following dates in occupied Luhansk and four Russian cities in late October and early November. It is expected to go on tour across a handful of other Russian cities until late November.
Is there room left in life for celebrating and if so, for what kind of celebrating? DP found out how the preferences of consumers of culture have changed this year.
The Social and Artistic Theater (SHT) told DP that its new season had got off to a good start. “I would say that audiences are going to the theater more, but the decision to go is made at the last moment. Our productions of Anne Frank, The Émigrés, and Cynicsare now quite popular. Our classic production is still WITHOUT [An idiot], based on F.M. Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot,” SHT director Alina Korol said.
No scarier than covid
The Bolshoi Puppet Theater (BTK) said that its audiences did not have any particular new preferences. There are traditionally sold-out performances at the theater, and less popular ones, but they have not noticed any new trends.
“After the start of the SMO, there was a drop-off in attendance that lasted a couple of months, maybe one and a half. If anything has changed post mobilization, it has been insignificant. But when a new wave of covid started in mid-September, many people began to get sick and the flow decreased,” the BTK’s sales department emphasized.
“People want to return to a stable life for at least a few hours, so they go to the theater. We almost always have full houses, and preferences have not changed,” commented Tatiana Troyanskaya, a public relations specialist at the Studio Theater. Among the favorites at the Studio are productions by the theater’s artistic director Grigory Kozlov (The Elder Son, Tartuffe, The Days of the Turbins, Quiet Flows the Don, as well as comedies (Our Avlabar; Dreams of Love, or the Marriage of Balzaminov), and productions for children.
Vladimir Kantor, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Petersburg Theatergoer and the head of the literary department at Saturday Theater, did not notice any new trends in the theater.
“I am familiar with the repertoire of other theaters, but I haven’t noticed any serious changes in audiences. Autumn and winter are the times when people traditionally go to the theater. I cannot mention any changes in the repertoire that can be described as trends. There were enough productions about war before the start of the SMO, as well as dystopias. I can’t name any productions about the new emigration at all,” he commented.
DP also sent requests for comment to several state theaters, including the Young People’s Theater (TYUZ) and the Alexandrinsky Theater, but did not receive responses. Meanwhile, the Alexandrinsky has removed Boris Akunin‘s name from the announcement of the premiere of One Eight Eight One. Akunin wrote the play specifically for the Alexandrinsky, but his name disappeared from playbills at the behest of the Ministry of Culture. Back in August, the audience received an email with a reminder about the upcoming premiere of One Eight Eight One — as “staged by Valery Fokin, with music by Vyacheslav Butusov, to the text by Boris Akunin.” A similar situation occurred in Moscow, at the Russian Youth Academic Theater (RAMT), where there are four productions of plays penned by the writer.
Akunin himself is aware of what has happened and does not condemn the theaters. “I sympathize with the heads of theaters… If a person has decided that the cause you serve is more important than damage to your reputation — this is a difficult choice from which you yourself suffer, but not your team and not your audience,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.
According to the writer, he has not demanded that uncredited productions be removed from the repertoire. On the contrary, they can go on until they are finally banned and even with no compensation to him. As Akunin noted, the Alexandrinsky Theater cannot pay him royalties due to sanctions.
Among private institutions, Beyond the Black River Theater and the City Theater declined to comment. On October 20, a performance of 1984 was canceled at the City Theater — as noted on its social media accounts, “for reasons beyond the theater’s control.” On October 31, the same production was presented to the audience in a new way: in a video format and featuring an encounter with the director and the actors. The theater’s management clarified that “this is probably the last time it would be possible to see 1984.” The theater also said goodbye to the anti-war production A Red Flower, based on the stories of Vsevolod Garshin.
Alexander Prokopovich, editor–in-chief at the publishing house Astrel SPb, says that readers’ preferences had begun to change even before early February, during the pandemic, but the trends have persisted. According to him, classics and so-called longreads [longridy] — that is, literature that is demand at all times — have remained relevant, while speculative texts and fashionable literature [sic] have been losing ground.
“Readers reared their heads, rather, by remaining true to their interests in new titles; perhaps for obvious reasons, interest in new titles from the translated literature segment has increased. I have not encountered any restrictions. Writing is a strategic activity: it can take years to create a book, so it is not worth waiting for a sudden change in the subject matter of the fiction we publish. It is another matter that the events [of this year] are so emotionally charged that many authors have simply stopped writing. It is not our publishing housing that is in demand, but the books which we publish. Nothing has changed here: demand for them is determined by the quality of the texts. This has been the case in the past, and it will be the case in the future,” Prokopovich said.
Some authors claim that their works have disappeared from bookstores — for example, collections of poems by the poet Vera Polozkova. She left Russia in March. Over her fifteen-year career, Polozkova has written five books, published in a total of 280 thousand copies. On her social media accounts, the poet noted, “It would be strange to expect them [the authorities] not to touch the books after everything I’ve said and done.” She believes that she will be able to publish abroad either through crowdfunding or self-publishing [samizdat].
On the other side of the cultural barricades is RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan. A month ago, the TV channel presented a collection of front-line poems, Poetry of the Russian Summer, but a few weeks later it transpired that Russian publishers were not willing to publish a book with the letter Z on the cover. Simonyan, on her Telegram channel, called it “a verdict on us all.”
Cinema depends on the weather
Cinemas were reluctant to comment on the situation. Aurora and Rodina did not answer DP’s questions, but Lenfilm did give an assessment of attendance factors. The cinema center’s management said that Lenfilm is difficult to compare with mass multiplex cinemas. “We show festival films, auteur cinema, and retrospectives. Therefore, aside from a general decrease in the number of viewers, the situation has not affected us so much, since our repertoire has stayed the same, and our audience has remained our audience. We are more dependent on the weather. After big news days, the attendance drops at first, but then it more or less levels off,” the studio commented.