The New Normal

Is life in Russia still normal?

Dmitry Vakhtin • Lives in Russia • Jun 3

Life in Russia is a “new normal.”

Shops are full of food, but no Nespresso capsules (I still have some for a couple of months).

Stores are still selling printers, but not ink cartridges (I had to re-fill the used one last week).

There is clothes in shopping centers, but stores I used to go to are closed.

European countries still formally issue visas, but not really, although they might, but probably not, and getting there by air costs the same as becoming a space tourist.

Some countries are still open, but flights abroad are few and expensive and airbnb doesn’t accept payments from Russia, so I have to ask my son living in Germany to pay for our Summer trip.

Speaking of my son, I still can transfer money to him, but sometimes it takes weeks and sometimes they never get through, though sometimes they do, and you never know.

Speaking of the money, I still get my salary, but sometimes it is delayed because transferring money to the right bank account in the right currency in time makes our financial team prematurely gray-haired.

Speaking of the salary, our high-tech company is still working, but neither electronic components, nor equipment, nor people can cross borders, although sometimes they can, and then they don’t, and you never know when and why, and nobody knows it.

I keep reading and watching Youtube videos about the war every day, although it has all become a routine, and I hate myself for that, and I did protest but stopped because it’s all pointless and dangerous, though it isn’t, but it is, and we are all cowards, but it doesn’t matter, though it does.

I want Ukraine to win this war, and I don’t feel as if I am betraying my country but rather that my country is betraying me and itself, and this is probably the only crystal-clear thing in my life.

Yes, life is still normal in Russia.

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Source: Quora


“Blue Eyes,” who physically assaulted Ksenia Tamurka, escorts her around the police station. Photo courtesy of SOTA

SOTA correspondent Ksenia Tamurka was detained along with the other attendees of a solidarity event for the defendants in the so-called Tyumen Case. The event was held at Open Space, an activist co-working space in Moscow The journalist was beaten when she refused to show her phone to men who had their faces covered. Despite this, Tamurka did not succumb to pressure and for several hours defended her rights to police officers. We publish this monologue by our correspondent, from which you can learn how to talk to the security forces and what you must do for your own safety.

Masked security forces officers [siloviki] burst into Open Space, and I started filming. I was either knocked down with a chair, or I tripped over it when I was pushed. I dropped my phone, and they put me face to the wall — they told me to stand like that. People around me were knocked down and thrown on the floor. They were not allowed to turn their heads; they could only look at the floor or at the wall. A Narcotics Anonymous meeting was being held in the basement of the premises, and one of the [recovering drug addicts] was asked what he used and how long he had been going there. They found some kind of book on LGBT topics in his possession and the siloviki read it aloud. In the process, they made nasty jokes about the guy. They said that there was no such thing as a former drug addict, and reproached him for being so young and already hooked. They collected everyone’s phone and papers, including mine and my press pass.

One guy begged them to let him call his mom. When these masked me with no insignia on their black uniforms had broken in, he thought it was a terrorist attack and had written to his family about it. The boy was very afraid that his mother would be worried, but the siloviki laughed, saying, Come on, how could you confuse us with terrorists? Why are you scaring your mother?

Then one of the Center “E” officers [eshnik] — the nastiest, most weaselly one — called me over because he thought I was hiding something when I was tucking in my sweater. He asked me to be a good girl and give him what I had allegedly hid; otherwise they would search me and stick their hands in my underpants. I said that I hadn’t hidden anything, that I was a journalist and had come there on assignment. He asked me strange questions, but I answered reluctantly. I said that I would only answer an investigator’s questions. For this, I was “punished” — I was made to stand with my face to the wall, although the others were sitting. When the siloviki nearby suggested that I sit down too, this eshnik said, “No, she’s being punished. She will stand.”

A couple of hours later I was summoned again. “Point your finger at your phone. Come on, unlock it,” they said. I refused because the request was illegal. Those men in uniform saw that I had Face ID, and they brought my phone close to my face, but I closed my eyes and looked away. The eshnik said all sorts of nasty things to me, getting angry and shouting. One of the masked siloviki, a man with blue eyes, grabbed me by the hair. Someone else hit me in the face and tried to open my eyes with his fingers. I was surrounded by five masked men. I screamed and cried and screwed up my face. I was very afraid to glance lest my phone be unlocked, god forbid. They dragged me back and forth by the hair. They shouted, “A drama queen! Ah, what a drama queen!” The police officers threatened to take me to the Moscow Region and talk to me in a basement.

At Open Space there is a mailbox for postcards designed to look like the bars in a jail. They punished me again by forcing me to stand looking at this box, like I was serving a prison sentence. Every police offer who walked by me thought I was backing away from it and pushed me closer. When one policeman passed by, he snapped his fingers before my eyes. When he was passing by, another policeman inserted a postcard with a beautiful picture in the box and said, “Let’s change the view — gaze at this.” Almost everyone passing by noted the pulled out hair on my clothes. Then that eshnik came up to me and tried to persuade me to unlock my phone. He asked whether I was tired, offered to deal with me “the normal way,” and said that I was delaying everything and would be the last to leave. “Just say the password, just enter it,” he said, but I wouldn’t enter it. They offered to give me a chair, to which I replied, “I’m not going to bargain with you. And bring a high chair.” They brought it. I sat down: I was comfortable, it was great, I looked at the wall. The blue-eyed man who had pulled my hair came up to me. I told him, “You beat me,” and pointed out that it was illegal, but he was like, “I don’t care.” The siloviki also tried to scare me by saying that my mobile phone would be entered into evidence and returned a year later, at the earliest, if we didn’t resolve everything on the spot.

The men in uniform constantly asked the organizers and participants why they supported terrorists and wrote postcards to them, and why the slogans on their walls were so filthy.

The siloviki asked everyone to tell them the PINs to their phones first, and then, if the person refused, they put the device in their hands and told them to enter it personally. They asked them to show their Telegram chats and film rolls and enter some other commands, like they were checking whether the mobile phone was stolen. When I asked what it all meant and why they needed my phone, they replied that they suspected me of theft, that there was a criminal complaint and even an APB out on me. I asked them to show them me and asked whether all those lying and sitting at Open Space had APBs out on them too. The siloviki replied that they would not show me anything because it was official information, and they stopped talking to me.

Everyone was photographed and searched, and their documents were photographed too — illegally, of course. They also took a picture of my father’s library card and public transport pass, although I didn’t consent to this. I was told that I was not in a position to forbid them to do anything. All the time I heard the same conversation: “We are checking your phone for theft, we are checking your phone for theft, enter the IMEI.” And almost everyone agreed to do it! Very few refused — and they were beaten, in my opinion. In any case, they were not treated very pleasantly. The eshnik asked me who I worked with at SOTA, who gave me the assignment, who I knew. He asked me about books and suggested that I read 1984. I told him to read Zamyatin’s We.

Th eshnik tried to make friends with me. He kept asking how I was feeling and complimented me, calling me a “persistent lady.” He even took my number and suggested that we discuss books later. He was constantly trying to get me to talk about “opposition” literature, bragging about his knowledge and telling me about Orwell. This man then invited me to take a stroll with him, but when he saw my face, he wimped out himself. “Well, you don’t want to walk with such scum, do you?” he said.

Ksenia Tamurka. Photo courtesy of SOTA

When I had already lost track of time, the intercessions on my behalf were conveyed to me. I was so glad when I found out that journalists had already gathered [outside], that my colleagues were there too! I was relieved because I had been very worried that I couldn’t contact anyone.

A man who did not agree to unblock his phone was beaten quite hard, judging by the sounds. We were forbidden to turn and look. One boy was whipped on his legs — the police officer made him spread his legs wider and thrashed him with all his might. It was so loud and scary.

They also promised that they would talk to me separately — I was afraid that they would just start torturing me, because I asked the policemen about it, and they either jokingly or seriously answered that yes, they would. There was a moment when everyone was really led away, and I thought, Well, that’s it — it’s about to start. But no, I was just sent to a paddy wagon.

At the station, I realized that everyone was pretty sick of me, judging by the comments that came my way. They called me a dumb broad and a pest. They said that I should be beaten with a rod. Later, in the department, they suggested that I should be “whipped with an officer’s belt in a dark room.” It also transpired that I was a dumb broad because no one was fucking me. They said disgusting things about me. I wrote down everything they said and all sorts of atmospheric details in the blank spaces in the book I had with me, [Vladimir] Sorokin’s Sugar Kremlin. The police saw it and tried to take a peek. Then the blue-eyed duded just stole it from me. They read all my notes in front of me and laughed in my face: “What? Who beat you? No one touched you. Why are you making things up?” But one of them added that I could still be beaten, because there was no other way to make me understand.

I was held separately and constantly harassed. And yet, when I asked to make a phone call, they said that it was specifically forbidden to me. When I asked to let a lawyer in to see me, that was also forbidden to me. I wanted to go to the toilet, but that too was specifically forbidden to me, while everyone else was allowed to go. They lied to me that there was no one waiting for me outside, that no one had any use for me and no one was waiting for me, although I knew that a crowd had already gathered at the station. The policemen discussed my breasts in front of me. Then they asked me my size — I cited Article 51 [of the Russian Constitution] and refused to testify.

When everyone else had already been released, they continued to drag their feet with me. The policemen kept their promise. I had to prove to them that the phone was mine for some reason. But if they had confiscated it from me, they should have known whose phone it was! It was their problem that they didn’t follow the legal procedures and forced me to deal with the consequences of their negligence! Moreover, my phone was the last one. The cunning eshnik and the blue-eyed devil finally decided to punish me too for my perseverance and entered the wrong password many times so that my phone would be blocked.

While we were waiting for the on-duty officer, the fool who dragged me by the hair ran out through another exit. Today I will file a complaint regarding the theft of my book and the actions of those police officers. I also went to the emergency room — I feel that it hurts me to touch it [sic]. I had the assault and battery documented there. The trauma specialist told me that it was an “industrial” injury because I had been on the job.

By the way, the slogan “The people’s trust is the police’s strength” was written on the wall of the police department.

Source: “‘The police threatened to take me to the Moscow Region and talk to me in a basement’: The story of the assaulted SOTA journalist,” SOTA (Teletype), 25 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. The original article contains three embedded Telegram posts featuring video footage taken during the events described above.

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